What is the meaning?

20 July 2013

Like a lot of painters I have a slight aversion to the question: “What is the meaning of this painting? What do you want to tell us with this work?”
Actually, it is the same question when asking a writer: “What does your story look like? Show us a sketch”.
I can understand that an abstract painting needs some explanation, but the more realistic subjects should have to be clear of intention.

In comparison with a book, the stories of paintings are small. They are the frozen scenes of an anecdote, a fantasy, sometimes an opinion or a memory in the broadest sense (a widely known history or a dream only seen by the artist). Ok, there are millions of paintings aimed to be nothing more than decoration. Like plain realistic landscapes, that only intent to say: “I’m beautiful”. That’s the other end of the spectrum. But most paintings do tell a story as compact as a motto … and loading them with words will ruin the perception for the individual viewer.
I will explain that last sentence.

In the blog What is art I concluded that art should touch emotions. Not necessary the big ones that make you cry, but a tiny spark of inspiration is enough. That spark is different for every single person. Compare it with Cupids arrow. Didn’t you wonder why your friend had fallen for that jerk? Well, the arrow is totally personal. The link between an artwork and someone who’s touched by that artwork is totally personal too.
if I should explain my paintings, then I find I’m unbalancing the course of the arrow. My words would distract the viewer to compose his own meaning. I won’t say my words are ‘leading’, but they can be directing. And that’s not what I want.
My motive to create a certain painting is not more important than the meaning that somebody else finds in it.
What is the meaning?One example; For one person the lonely single tree in front of a crowd reminds him of his beloved mother who always was the misunderstood one in the family – but for someone else the single tree maybe means the encouragement to finally follow that person’s own path.