Measured judgements

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Measured judgements

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005

Greg Scheckler wrote:
One of the most heinous crimes against the vitality, intellect and rich diversity of art approaches and ideas of artists like Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo is today's anti-intellectual approach to assessing visual art by saying "I know quality when I see it" or "The proof is in the pudding" and so on – all losing the contexts, the critical measures of beauty and proportion, the profound conceptual harmonies that were as much a concern for Renaissance artists as the craftwork.


Heinous crimes? Who's going to buy that?

Whereas the artists you mentioned understood what they knew supremely well, their understanding of these things was on a sense level before it ever reached an intellectual level. The intellectualization came after the fact, if at all. These people were trained as artists in childhood, with the eye (the mind's critical faculties) as the instrument for measuring. Of the three artists you mentioned, only one, Leonardo, ever attempted to express any of these issues in writing, and that only after he had understood them well enough for enough years on a visual level that he could then examine them analytically and put them in comprehensible form in words. The other two expressed what they knew of them through their art, visually only. That is sufficient. I doubt very much that one can reach as complete a working understanding of these things by approaching them from an intellectual perspective first. One might well be able to reach a point where he or she can discuss them and sound knowledgeable, but not master them where the actual application is concerned. We can see where it got us when intellectual/philosophical concepts reigned supreme as the most important aspects of visual art, over intrinsic appeal of the works themselves on a visual level. That string played itself out years ago, and I see little for art to gain from trying to resuscitate it and play through it again. We are talking about visual art, which addresses things that words can only nibble around the edges of, and more often serve to confuse rather than clarify. That works in the academic world, as that world is verbally oriented, but visual art is another world. Indeed it should be. Where minimalism ought to be introduced into the issue is on the wordy end of it rather than on the visual end. It is a matter of visual impressions, and that's all it needs to be.

Virgil Elliott