I’m not particularly fascinated by cubism. But I love the audacious spirit in its invention. To me Picasso is not necessarily a great painter, perhaps even an average one but he is a truly great ‘artist’.
Recently I visited a special exhibit, show casing Picasso’s work at the Barnes in Philadelphia. Most often when I visit museums I just enjoy the paintings as a whole. This time I felt as If I was transported into his studio.
I watched as he broke off a piece of charcoal, heard him blow the charcoal dust away from the image he had produced, tweak it a bit with his pinky finger and so on. It might have just been my hyper active imagination but if it made the experience richer then so be it!
When I was first introduced to art history, I was surprised as how dismissive the western art historians have typically been about stylized, two dimensional and decorative arts of other cultures. It seemed to me that art from cultures that ignored accurate replication of nature or did not keep perspective in mind, like in the western art culture, were quiet often classified as something that was inferior in technique and skill.
Therefore the emotive expression of a Neanderthal upon his cave walls, the highly decorative Persian and oriental works, the stylized human figures of the Africans, the two dimensional miniature pieces of my own Indian heritage are amongst the examples of work that had been classified as unrefined and entry level.
This was the predominant notion that prevailed in the western art world at the time of Pablo Picasso. However, like many open-minded artists he too was influenced by the forms and norms of other cultures particularly the simplicity of the stylized stick figures produced by the Africans.
At the time Picasso’s geometric and two-dimensional cubist ideas, was not tested nor was he famous enough to proclaim it as a new trend in the art world.
To deviate from the norm, to have a thought process that is unconventional and to be fearless of ridicule is in my mind an act of courageous innovation.
Even when I’m not a great fan of his work, by destabilizing the set mental concept of ‘right’ way to produce art, I think, he paved the way for many artists to make their own mark upon the world.
Perhaps this is why he deserves to be called a great ‘artist’.