“everything in painting has been done already, so why bother to paint at all.”
It is probably the ‘realist’ paintings of today that is easy to critic. After all they’d say, what is the point of copying something in front of you, when we now have the digital camera? – To a large extent I can and do agree with that statement. What I think they missed is the point of the process of painting, one that changes the reality and why that entails a complex relationship that a painter has to develop along with the work. And not only from spending a great deal of time working on it per sé- but creating something that didn’t exist before. To understand that process fully one has to actually paint, not talk about, not write about, and certainly not curate, to gain a total understanding of why painters still paint, by hand and not by computer or instruct other people to do it for them. These new artists of the late 20th century were impatient and young, they had no time to hone a skill or tap into a natural talent, let alone develop one or need a natural talent whatsoever, what was the point when the new Art Marketing machine would triumph over Art, they said, and they were right.
“talent is not enough..” …was another banner held high by the supporting tribe of over valued culture writers at the time. The new young artists all succeeded, they all became rich beyond their dreams. They had titles and honours poured over them. They have since then, been elected into positions that were once held by Artists who, perhaps unlike them, actually deserved the accolades bestowed upon them. This was the art world environment that appalled me as a 47-year-old painter of over 20 years [in 1998] when I was given the task of seeking out other real-artists to participate in a special exhibition called Heart 2 Art – It was a project commission from the International Support Group in Sweden and the Swedish Government Estonian Trust Fund. The show was in benefit for the survivors and the families of them that perished in the Estonia Ferry disaster of 1994. It was the most important and difficult exhibition that I had ever agreed to be the lead Artist, designer and curator of. I was given the lead by the Anglo-Swedish Art Group W.O.R.K (Waxholm Organisation [for the] Reformerandet av Konst). It was a massive task and fortunately I was joined, by way of my invitation, by the late professor of Art and the Author of several renown modern art books, Nigel Whiteley (1953-2010). A person who I had long admired and read avidly in the UK Art Review magazine for several years. Together, through many meetings and discussions, we managed to formulate a philosophical criteria to help find the artists who had the right ‘artistic ethics and morals’ for the job in hand. The philosophy was realised in over 5000 words by Nigel and published exclusively for the exhibition catalogue with the title: “Affirmative Art in a Disaffirmative Climate”
It was at this time and in this frame of mind that I discovered a painter in far away [from Sweden] Argentina called Gabriel Grun. He became one of 27 Artists selected from nine countries that was finally exhibited in the Heart 2 Art exhibition in 2002 in Stockholm. The show was an eclectic mix of mediums of visual art that was to demonstrate the altered realities of humankind. And Gabriel’s work was a part of the show that visualised the link with the past and a new-vision how that link can be interpreted for the future. As the years have passed since 2002, Gabriel has been recognised in Argentina as one of their finest ‘fine artists.’ His dedication to filling the gaps that he feels have been left by the renaissance artists has, to my mind, been an impressive voyage. Yet, beyond that he has also ‘tuned’ himself from the stubborn art student who walked away from a modern art establishments curriculum in Buenos Aires, to a husband and father and a more mature artist who has perfected his craft.
“the idea behind my work is to pick the thread of the long line of visual narrative I love and cherish and give body to certain paintings I perceive somehow to be missing, to constitute gaps that are to be filled, that Rafael or Van Der Weyden just did not have time to do.”
He is not alone in his pursuit of a classical perfection in a contemporary idiom. Many artists have gone before him. Dali is perhaps a reasonable example, as is Odd Nedrum (Norway) and there are more. Grun is however unique in the way he not only portrays realism, but also in the manner in which he does it. He has described this way of working as an alphabet, one that he has had to learn and continues to learn, but he then transcribes his own visions by reforming and inventing [visual] words using that alphabet and creating new narratives. He attempts (and succeeds in my opinion) of making an image that ‘sticks’ to your eye and your mind. There is always the danger of making subjective judgements, especially where realistic paintings are concerned. As Gabriel says himself, some sort of anachronistic story telling is not his target to dynamic art creation. His art has a more direct desire, one of landing a punch packed with power. Some of his earlier works have a definite erotic tone, which could be the exuberance of youth and which, as he said recently to me, that in his current life he is not in sympathy with, nor feels that he needs to call upon, to give his work the emotional power or punch that he sought, when he was still a very young artist painting in Buenos Aires. I still keep in touch with Gabriel, and recently he told me that after a year or two or working on illustrating a book he is about to embark on a new series of paintings…I have to say I am excited to see what they will be…
©article written by Denis Taylor. Editor for painters TUBES magazine
©2015 – 2019 painters Tubes magazine all rights reserved