Paul Klee, Carnival in the Mountains, watercolor on paper on board, 1924
Milton Resnick gives a good description in the quote below about what painting really is, what the act of painting is about. It has nothing to do with art movements. These art movements have resulted in the most deadened painting possible, where everything is defined before the brush ever hits the canvas. And this eliminates the transformative experience that Resnick rightly identifies as necessary to the vitality of any individual painting and to the continuation of the practice of painting.
….these moments have to do with a focusing of our two hands, two selves; and this focusing has to be done at a certain distance. It cannot be done within you. It has to be done slightly outside yourself. And where this focus falls, where the two things that are within you seem to meet, is the moment that you are brought together. And to be able to hold that as you would the finger in the flame, to endure that moment long enough for it to occur not only outside of yourself but also within yourself, is very important. It breaks down the resistance you have to the studio. And it changes your studio; its meaning, its function–whatever you think of it. An artist can be very much changed by this moment. You will have to rethink yourself as an artist if you have had this experience. And without this experience you can think anything you like; it will not suit you.
Painting is about this experience. It’s a doorway to the world of the spirit. The painter has to do down and that moment is critical when he lets go of social world and begins to get a grip on his vision. Every painter has a vision. That’s why they begin to paint…. to get in touch with that vision.
Max Beckmann also throws illumination on this.
Painting is a very difficult thing. It absorbs the whole man, body and soul–thus I have passed blindly many things that belong to real and political life.
I assume, though, that there are two worlds: the world of spiritual life and the world of political reality. Both are manifestations of life that may sometimes coincide but are very different in principle. I must leave it to you to decide which is the more important.
Beckmann quotes the old kabbalist: “If you wish to get hold of the invisible you must penetrate as deeply as possible into the visible.”
As another great painter from the last century wrote: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”