We love to be surrounded by images in our day to day life. The late Ron Bloore once told me, “painting is thinking,” so you might say we love to live in an environment brimming with ideas. One of the things I like about painting is that there are so many approaches to it, something which may be puzzling for some people who haven’t invested much time or energy to enjoying it.
This “puzzling” little painting was created by John Howlin in the early 60s.
I recently had a chat with my brother, who only accepts paintings within a particular set of parameters. To start with, he has to be able to recognize images in a painting. What skill is there in an abstract painting, he proclaimed to me. These acceptable recognizable images also have their own rules, though. For instance, a painting we have hanging in our home called the Ascension of Ezekiel by Lauren Littler does not apparently qualify.
Of course this is a painting about ancient aliens beaming the Prophet Ezekiel up to the Mothership . Ancient alien
nutters proponents believe that Ezekiel’s revelation in the Old Testament is actually describing landing UFOs. Scientists refute the various ancient alien theories, and I really never gave them much thought before seeing this delightful painting. The painting was made in 1980. Interesting that today, 27 years later, there are plenty of powerful people in America, who don’t pay much attention to science when making policy – to the degree that scientists have recently marched on Washington in protest.
My brother’s flat-out rejection of abstraction reminds me of something called The Naples Manifesto, from January of 1959. It was signed by Nanni Balestrini, Paolo Redaelli, Leo Paolazzi, Sandro Bajini, Edoardo Sanguineti, Luca, Bruno Di Bello, Lucio Del seppe Alfano, Donato Grieco, Enrico Baj, Angelo Verga, Ettore Sordini, Recalcati, and Sergio Fergola. My source for this is The Bolaffi Catalog of Baj’s Complete Work, by Herbert Lust.
The Naples Manifesto
Abstraction is not art. It is only philosophical and conventional concept. Art is not abstract even though there may be such a thing as an abstract conception of art. This neo-platonism has long since been forced out of date by the events of modern science and therefore it no longer has any reason to exist.
We arrived in Naples on the morning of January 9th 1959 and climbed to the summit of Vesuvius. Thereupon, the crater heaved with fury and belched black smoke to a great height in the sky. For the salvation of our lives, we threw ourselves upon the ground and remained motionless till the fury had passed. We then raised our eyes to the sky and saw the word:
Still trembling, we rose to our feet and one of our number approached the abyss and declaimed:
“May our works be meteors, lava and stone, cosmic dust, burning carbide, orbits of violence, trajectories of the senses, radioactive intuitions, sulphur, phosphorous and mercury…”
We then threw ourselves from the crater into the Sea and swam ashore at Cuma in order to question the oracle.
The Sybil came out from her cave and her words once again gave us confirmation:
“Abstraction is rancid with age and stinks to high heaven!”
Time for a musical interlude. Here’s Lou Reed and John Cale performing Images: