The What is Painting? Project: Featuring Bruce Thorn

What is Painting? Norbert Marszalek

I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.

This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.

What is Painting?
Featuring Bruce Thorn

The question “What is Painting” can only be answered by asking other questions: What is paint, what are its qualities and attributes and what is unique about it? Must a painting be made of paint? Is everything made with paint a painting? Are all paintings two-dimensional or could they also be three or four-dimensional? What is the function of a painting? Why would an artist choose to work with paint rather than some other medium? I don’t expect too many artists to agree upon the answers to these questions.

In my own practice as a painter I’ve become particularly engaged with notions of essence. What is the essence of my message and goals? What is the essence of paint? Why bother at all with art making? How is choice of medium pertinent to one’s goals? In short, “Why paint?”

Increasingly, I find it most interesting to work with paint “as paint,” letting the material have it’s own life and attributes. I’m bored with illustration, deluged with images, self-promotions, egocentric edifice, proclamations of spirituality, decorations, displays, novelties, identity politics, one liners, banal humor and obfuscating art speak. These things are not the essence of painting.

Many contemporary artists make paintings using a plethora of materials other than paint. That is all good, there is no need to limit the visual arts when the possibilities are endless. However one decides to make a painting, I find it most interesting to let the process and material qualities of the medium create a journey of exploration and invention rather than a predetermined statement.

I work with paint because I’m fascinated by its possibilities. I want to make objects that couldn’t be made with any other medium and to do so as well as possible, to make the paint dance, sing, whisper, shout, speak, cajole, fight, swim, love, hate, smile, cry, drip, splash, walk, run, jump and recede. I want my paintings to have a heartbeat, to breathe with vitality and mystery, to ask all questions big and small and to offer up answers hidden within like a heuristic prophet.

Bruce ThornBruce Thorn, Heuristic Prophet, oil on linen, 76 x 51cm, 2014

Bruce Thorn earned a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1975 and an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1987. His works have been exhibited in the United States, Czechoslovakia, Canada and the Netherlands. He was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Grant in 1994 and was one of three artists included in the Subconscious eye exhibit at Chicago’s Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in 2013.

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