Painting: The End of an Era?

The recent trending in installation and video art has overshadowed Tate Britain recently displayed works of five contemporary painters who they believe. The exhibition, Painting Now, sees the five artists taking a stand for their medium and place in the art world, to still be seen as current and relevant. But, are we seeing an end to the ‘traditional’ form of art that is painting?

Installation art has become a major contributor to the modern art scene over the past ten years and the demand for it seems to be ever increasing. The form of installation art has shattered the question of “what is art?” and given it the stern answer; anything. Although the realm of ‘what is installation art?’ can still be a very ambiguous question it has opened the minds and destroyed the restrictions of ‘generic’ art to allow artists to utilize a given space with infinite possibilities.

The Tate Modern gallery in London feels so dedicated to the new era of art that they have their own installation space, the turbine hall, to showcase works by contemporary artists that allows them to create on an overwhelming scale.

Artist Miroslaw Balka exhibited his installation, How It Is, in 2009 in the main turbine hall of Tate Modern and saw no limitations of available space. Balka erected a giant steel box that was thirteen meters high and thirty meters long and the hollow interior was lined with a matt black felt. Gallery goers were able to walk into the abyss of the pitch black, steel container, completely blind from the absence of light. On reaching the end and looking back towards the entrance to the box is illuminated from the directional light source with the silhouettes of the other visually impaired gallery goers. The interactivity of this piece is what makes it stand out and ultimately defines installation art; to allow the viewer to become a part of the work and experience new and exciting feelings.

Painting, as a comparison, does not and cannot particularly offer the same sensory experiences that installation works have to offer but does that mean that they should be shunned as a valid form of contemporary art in the current scene, seemingly devoted to sensory experiences?

As an art form painting has to be one of the most timeless techniques that has developed over thousands of years, from the primitive cave drawings of the prehistoric ages to the beautiful, emotive and technically amazing works we see today. The purity of painting allows the artist to fully engage with the work on a physical basis, with every stroke leaving a remnants of movement; applying paint to canvas allows the artist to transfer their emotions and physical expression in a way that installation does not.

Simon Ling, one of the painters exhibiting his work for the Tate Britain’s Painting Now exhibition, says “,the great thing about paint is that it still retains a sense of its temporality. So you make a fluid mark which then becomes solid. But the sense of it once being fluid is still there. That gesture you made to place that mark is held, as is the observation and the thought that prompted it.” The painter relies on his gestural use of paint as a transference of thought, emotion and expression.

In the battle between installation and painting, each have their own qualities that make them stand out. Installation allows the artist to use their technological skills in a given space to create an atmospheric piece, allowing the viewer to actively engage with their work and experience first hand a different take on reality.

Painting on the other hand is a very raw, emotive medium and has been proven itself to be a timeless, pure form of art until installation came along. The contemporary painter is fighting a battle for exposure and to still be recognized as a relevant and contender in the art world but for now it seems that it will be taking a back seat.  The painter and his work should never be discredited as one of the most technical and emotive forms of art however in this era, installations have shown viewers that they can experience art and partake in new visions of reality through the sensory feelings that evoke emotions within themselves.

Read more about the work of Simon Ling and the other artists featured in Tate Britain’s, Painting Now, exhibition at:

Read more about Mirolslaw Balka’s How It Is at:

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