Painting is a mode of creative expression, and the forms are numerous. Drawing, gesture (as in gestural painting), composition, narration (as in narrative art), or abstraction (as in abstract art), among other aesthetic modes, may serve to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Paintings can be naturalistic and representational (as in a still life or landscape painting), photographic, abstract, narrative, symbolist (as in Symbolist art), emotive (as in Expressionism), or political in nature (as in Activism).
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A portion of the history of painting in both Eastern and Western art is dominated by spiritual motifs and ideas. Examples of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery, to Biblical scenes rendered on the interior walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to scenes from the life of Buddha or other images of Eastern religious origin.
Cassie Thinking About Cubism’ by Philip Absolon
Famous artist Paul Cezanne said that, “Everything in nature takes its form from the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder.” Later this became the basis of Cubism. In this abstract art form, geometrical solids play an important role. The final product will be a blend of actual form of the object and some geometrical shape.
Today, Cubism is another style of abstract art painting. But, Cubism was a strong presence in the art world even before abstract painting became prevalent. People like Picasso, Braque, Grisetc followed Cubism and made it famous. The world of art painting would have never been the same without contributions from these Cubist artists.
What enables painting is the perception and representation of intensity. Every point in space has different intensity, which can be represented in painting by black and white and all the gray shades between. In practice, painters can articulate shapes by juxtaposing surfaces of different intensity; by using just color (of the same intensity) one can only represent symbolic shapes.
Thus, the basic means of painting are distinct from ideological means, such as geometrical figures, various points of view and organization (perspective), and symbols. For example, a painter perceives that a particular white wall has different intensity at each point, due to shades and reflections from nearby objects, but, ideally, a white wall is still a white wall in pitch darkness. In technical drawing, thickness of line is also ideal, demarcating ideal outlines of an object within a perceptual frame different from the one used by painters.
Color and tone
Color and tone are the essence of painting as pitch and rhythm are the essence of music. Color is highly subjective, but has observable psychological effects, although these can differ from one culture to the next. Black is associated with mourning in the West, but in the East, white is. Some painters, theoreticians, writers and scientists, including Goethe, Kandinsky, and Newton, have written their own color theory.
Moreover, the use of language is only an abstraction for a color equivalent. The word “red”, for example, can cover a wide range of variations from the pure red of the visible spectrum of light. There is not a formalized register of different colors in the way that there is agreement on different notes in music, such as F or C♯. For a painter, color is not simply divided into basic (primary) and derived (complementary or mixed) colors (like red, blue, green, brown, etc.).
Painters deal practically with pigments, so “blue” for a painter can be any of the blues: phthalocya nine blue, Prussian blue, indigo, cobalt, ultramarine, and so on. Psychological and symbolical meanings of color are not, strictly speaking, means of painting. Colors only add to the potential, derived context of meanings, and because of this, the perception of a painting is highly subjective.
The analogy with music is quite clear—sound in music (like a C note) is analogous to “light” in painting, “shades” to dynamics, and “coloration” is to painting as the specific timbre of musical instruments is to music. Though these elements do not necessarily form a melody (in music), but can add different contexts to it.
Modern artists have extended the practice of painting considerably to include, as one example, collage, which began with Cubism and is not painting in the strict sense. Some modern painters incorporate different materials such as sand, cement, straw or wood for their texture.
Examples of this are the works of Jean Dubuffet and Anselm Kiefer. There is a growing community of artists who use computers to “paint” color onto a digital “canvas” using programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and many others. These images can be printed onto traditional canvas if required.
Rhythm is important in painting as it is in music. If one defines rhythm as “a pause incorporated into a sequence”, then there can be rhythm in paintings. These pauses allow creative force to intervene and add new creations—form, melody, coloration. The distribution of form, or any kind of information is of crucial importance in the given work of art, and it directly affects the aesthetic value of that work.
This is because the aesthetical value is functionality dependent, i.e. the freedom (of movement) of perception is perceived as beauty. Free flow of energy, in art as well as in other forms of “techne”, directly contributes to the aesthetical value.
Cave painting of aurochs, (French: Bos primigenius primigenius), Lascaux, France, prehistoric art
The oldest known paintings are at the Grotte Chauvet in France, which some historians believe are about 32,000 years old. They are engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment, and they show horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth, abstract designs and what are possibly partial human figures. However, the earliest evidence of the act of painting has been discovered in two rock-shelters in Arnhem Land, in northern Australia.
In the lowest layer of material at these sites, there are used pieces of ochre estimated to be 60,000 years old. Archaeologists have also found a fragment of rock painting preserved in a limestone rock-shelter in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia, that is dated 40,000 years old. There are examples of cave paintings all over the world—in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, China, Australia, Mexico, etc.
In Western cultures, oil painting and watercolor painting have rich and complex traditions in style and subject matter. In the East, ink and color ink historically predominated the choice of media, with equally rich and complex traditions.
The invention of photography had a major impact on painting. In the decades after the first photograph was produced in 1829, photographic processes improved and became more widely practiced, depriving painting of much of its historic purpose to provide an accurate record of the observable world.
A series of art movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—notably Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Dadaism—challenged the Renaissance view of the world. Eastern and African painting, however, continued a long history of stylization and did not undergo an equivalent transformation at the same time.
Modern and Contemporary Art has moved away from the historic value of craft and documentation in favour of concept, leading some to say, in the 1960s, that painting as a serious art form is dead.
This has not deterred the majority of living painters from continuing to practice painting either as whole or part of their work. The vitality and versatility of painting in the 21st century defies the previous “declarations” of its demise. In an epoch characterized by the idea of pluralism, there is no consensus as to a representative.