Painting is Dead by mattdangler

Painting is Dead

By mattdangler

“Painting is dead”… a statement that I read recently, and has been echoing throughout my mind and soul, ever since. I’ve “meditated” on why it has reverberated within, beyond the statement’s surface level implication; (that the digital art world is taking over the traditional art world.) The fact of the matter is, I am excited about Artificial Intelligence, I am inspired by digital painting, I have enthusiastically joined the NFT world train… so where is the problem?

The answer has become clear to me; I see traditional painting as my religion. However, relating to the initial statement, I’ve also seen anxiety in the traditional art world around AI taking over. I can understand this on a commercial level, but what doesn’t seem to be universally understood; is that the physical work in a traditional painting, IS the art.

What do I mean? “Art” is in every brush stroke, the story that’s being told, the thinking involved, the time, the experience, the passion, the struggle…

Could you show me an AI “painting” next to a “traditional masterpiece” and fool me which one is which? Maybe so… but that isn’t the point for me. The finished piece just opens the door to my interests… I want to know and see what’s behind the work, the depths; the technique, the struggle, the texture. I want to experience the soul within the application, the artist’s story… that’s the real art to me.

I explore my entire self through the creating process and viewing of traditional painting. This is why I consider painting a religion, and why it will never be “dead.”

To portray and express this idea and emotions, I’ve chosen a subject matter that has a deep history within art, the Virgin Mary, using the original painting: “The Adoration of the Kings” (Monforte Altarpiece) by Hugo van der Goes around 1470, for inspiration. Also with a nod to Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of Hell, created around the same time as van der Goes original painting. I felt this was a perfect harmony in juxtaposition, using 2 masters at depicting heaven and hell, in a reimagined contemporary scene.

On a macro perspective, the scale, the technique, and conceptual design of this painting is used to convey the message that “painting” is very much not dead, and has a unique mystical presence that is formed when presented with a combination of the attributes expressed herein.

On a technical perspective, this painting was created using the most laborious and classical oil painting techniques I know of, mostly credited to the “Flemish Dutch” of the 15th century, the technique that the original 1470 painting was created. Consisting of 7 layers, with the most labor intensive area in the portrait, where glazes upon layers have created the optical coloring and gradients only seen by light passing through them (like a stained glass window).

On a conceptual perspective, the title gives nod to Nietzsche’s quote: “God is dead (and we killed him)” implying the erosion of religious beliefs. I worked into this idea to use as a catalyst in metaphorically representing the digital world killing traditional beliefs. However, the painting is also a commentary on a lack of hope, religion, contemporary times, the state of our world… Jesus who is usually swaddled in Mary’s arms is now missing. The once serene world is left feeling empty, bleak, and foreboding. The temptation of sin and surrendering to evils are presented. I felt using an image so archetypal in our psyche would help send a message that even the most sacred things are now at stake.