All comment about art is often based upon the same premise - the artist knows what he wants to do and can do it. The intention is realised in a straightforward way. However this is non-problematical art - quite superficial, easy to consume art, easy to describe therefore easy to expound upon. It was Larry Poons who made the point that you can go to any international city and see pretty much the same kind of art. This kind of art swaggers and is cool but it seems to be reliant upon content that is external to the actual art form presented. Younger artists learn to plan art but are less and less interested in the making of it - which has become a new small manufacturing industry these days.
Real Art is not reliant upon pre-conceived intentions - it can only appear when the artist is working at the making of the art. Real Art is in fact very closely related to sport (more than music) as it is a physical practice.
I recall seeing Seve Ballesteros hit a seven iron over an oak tree from an impossible lie (it had grace, poise and power) - the practice, skill, dedication and sheer effort required to get into the shape to be able to make this look easy is a sobering thought that many an artist would do well to acknowledge.
To return to the first point - A real artist is not able to make what he wants easily - because he has to develop his visual fitness. He has to train and train until his touch is assured and deft so the weight given to the materials is measured and controlled. (I will return to this point)
A real artist has to accumulate skills, they are not there from the outset (imagine the mess a boxer would be in that ring if he hadn't trained - there can be an subtle arrogance to artists who do not put studio hours in - which perplexes me( Makes me wonder sometimes if in fact I am just being unfashionable and even out of touch with current art practice - though I often see art as a "failure". We are driven to try to "get it right' next time - this is why Cezanne said I shall get "IT" by the simplest means. Matisse even rowed every day to keep fit for painting.
A real artist works tirelessly to develop and accumulate the stamina and visual ability to make his art with a greater grace, skill, ambition, beauty and consequentially greater intellectual force (but the delicious irony is that art cannot be made through intellectual means alone- the means in fact are visceral . The greatest quote made by an artist is Matisse's purity of the means statement. If only it was properly absorbed `I'm sure we would have a more civilised smoothly run world: As we would understand things in abstract terms - the essence of how nature works.
The majority of the art that disapoints Poons - and in fairness that can include the Turner Prize hyped up work yes it promotes debate, but surely we can debate on visual terms instead of intellectual content - is simply the flower of the same plant that the national curriculum grows from - the soil is becoming infertile and increasingly tired. 20 years of this curriculum and look at the state of the generation that it has spawned. Lowest criminal age in the developed world, highest teenage pregnancy , most drug addicts etc etc. The simple answer - it has not allowed our young to be stimulated, get interested, become curious and worse of all appreciate you have to work at something again and again - the only route to deep learning/ progress/ art practice whatever you wish to tack on the end of that sentence is "repetition and a sense of 'fear' " (practice and an incentive)
Returning to weight - a fascinating programme on TV showed the life of an autistic man who had a remarkable ability to recall information and was also astonishingly adept at mathematical calculation - he was given a challenge - which was to look at the number for pi - the 3.142.... etc etc. They played a trick on him by adding wrong numbers but well into the sequence - say 200 numbers in - he read the numbers then winced when he got to the wrong ones - he said that the membrane was ruptured - he saw pi as a membrane - I thought of Matisse's paintings from 1947 (the year it all came together for him - finally he got IT - the sequence of 'Deux Fillettes"- this is when his touch is such that the membrane of colour that made his surface was like pi - perfect with no pressure points across it - no holes (which so often even plagued the great Jackson Pollock) - just deft powerful grace - that Ballesteros seven iron.
I recall John Mclean once saying to me that painting is like drumming - we break the waters he said - that tension of surface.
All visual art could even be described as catching light - no more no less - trap it and it fails - colour is reflected light - to catch it - you need to be so on top of your game that it is often beyond the majority of us - yet we must try. Artists who do not question their practice are missing the opportunity to develop a language that is bigger than themselves (more id than ego). Picasso turned away from abstraction and Mondrian pushed forward - his work after cubism often had a mannered borrowed visual langauge - often a dazzling juggling of form but with time these works lose something - it's that drop in visual questioning and the invasion of external content that pervades. He practised yes, but you can't help feeling that it is more a case of practice makes permanent rather than perfect.
Matisse once said he wished to leave Paris to escape the bewildering cross-currents of art. Nothing it seems changes.
One last point - I think it is Cezanne - upon reflection - who has the best quote - "colour is where our minds and the universe meet". Colour and surface remain for me the only essential subjects of art (as they are the universal ones).