Friday, July 17, 2009

Peppa Pig


Back in my diploma year in college I wrote (with some help) a short essay entitled 'Objects of Desire' as part of my Cultural studies programme. I believe I took 'the Walkman' as my object then. Anyway, I can't really remember that much about the essay but the title always stuck with me.

Starting this painting project and the blog over a year ago I again revisited this idea of Objects of Desire. Why did I Desire to paint certain objects? The desire associated with objects is not a new idea and can be traced back in Art and cultural history over the centuries.

Yesterday I came across a book in the library by Julian Bell entitled "What is Painting?' Reading, I found out that in the Bible an image could be any object made by a human that looked like something made by God first. The prophets of the Old testament deplored the fact the artists, creating these secondary objects, started to revere the work of their own hands.

A Jewish text from the first century BC addresses the same issue - 'Do not be deceived by an image spotted with colours and the painters fruitless labour'. Subsequently the Jewish tradition banned all image making and this craze spread though the religions including the Muslim tradition which imposed a similar ethos throughout there empire.
The Byzantines made a concerted effort to do the same in the 8th century and the Puritans wiped England almost clean of images after the Reformation.
More recently the Taliban in Afghanistan stripped Herat city of all its televisions.

So images have been at some point and are more recently largely unaccepted in all these traditions. Why?
Plato suspected that artists make images to indulge their desires - vain desires from his view point.
However a century later Aristotle said that people make them because of their wish for knowledge. He felt it necessary that people mimic or mime to learn - ' It is through mimesis that man develops his earliest understanding'. Presumably Aristotle would have included in this children's make believe and toys - what we now call early learning aids.

All such activity, from his point of view, was a sane way of widening the mind's access to the world, with the potential to cleanse the emotions rather than to tantalize and warp them. It was play with a purpose.

That's how I see these daily paintings of objects that I make - As informative play with a much larger purpose. Unlike most still life painters I have not yet been able or inclined to bring myself to collect objects and props. That all seems quite contrived and can become quite standardized to me. Keeping it more like play I allow for a chance encounter - an intuitive response that I may have to and object or thing on any given day hence the wonderful and playful 'Peppa Pig' - todays Object of Desire.

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