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Can we define what a good painting is.

Posted by ngwoonlam on January 23, 2008

What is a good painting?

At first I wanted to say Good Art, but I think that 100 times more complex.

So let me just retrict this topic to paintings.

When I started learning how to paint, I learnt a lot of fundamental skills; like tones, colors, light and shadows, design concepts, observation methods, space, ……. I can’t say they are rules. They are probably like a language to me. And then, I learnt to use them more and more. I find them more and more complex.

After that, in order to resolve many complex problems, I had to learn from old masters. Therefore, I learn old master painting techniques, design concepts, space construction and art history.

And there, I learnt more about contemporary art movements. And I found that all the visual language I have learnt doesn’t seem to serve any purpose because nobody could or wants to define what is good.

Hence I would like to open this discussion — Can we define what is a Good Painting?

Today either the post-modern art in New York or contemporary art in China are in rigorous movement. Everyone is talking it. I don’t see much painter skills in most of these artworks though the ideas or concepts might be nice. I have to agree that they have good historical value like pop art. Museums will collect and display them so they feature sky high prices. I can understand that.

Just have these doubts :

Do musuems collect only history; or they collect good paintings or they collect good paintings with good historical value?

Do students go to art musuems to learn just history of art or skills of art or both?

Do you go to art musuems to see skillful paintings or history of paintings or both or none of the above?

Like to share everyone’s thought. Thanks!!!

Ng Woon Lam


2 Responses to “Can we define what a good painting is.”

  1. José said

    Hi Lam,

    We could go on and pon about what is a good painting. And of course that we are always influenced by our preferences. I for insteance, like the Dutch Baroque period alot and also like to French and English Romantism, namely Girodet, a not so well known painter but of great quality.
    Yes, I like realism and even photorealism ( I know that some painters don’t appreciate this expression).
    But I can also enjoy an abstract as long as it transmits me quality and shows me that the artists knew what he/she was doing.
    Now, lets put all the ingredients in a melting pot and you know what I really like in a painting ?
    I like it when it makes me smile. There’s no better joy when seeing a painting when we feel that smile comming from inside.

    Take care,

    José Carrilho

  2. bombcat1 said

    For me, as the word painting suggests, the emphasis should be on paint. The other stuff, as such as, balance, unity…etc is design. Tone, color, line is drawing. A good painting demonstrates a command of the medium of paint. There are some things paint naturally does well, better than other mediums. A good painter, which is a creator of good paintings, can use this medium fluidly to say what he desires. This is not about like or dislike that is aesthetics. There are many techniques and hundreds of technique combinations, which is another topic too. A good painter uses paint as a great author uses words masterfully. So a “painting” demonstrates a command of paint, that’s pretty objective. The term “good” is very subjective, because it is about aesthetics. So in a strict sense a good painting is a painting where the unique qualities of paint are use to express an idea.

    John Barcus

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