French Curves

Following on from a previous blog about tattoo art, another popular phenomenon is the computer generated cartoon whether in 3D form on film or on the page. These cartoons often originate from drawings that use the French curve as their guide; the outlines to the forms have a set pace, they cut through space in a neat parabola. All parts are adjusted against this compact guiding element. Much design work that is screen based in this vein also works from this blueprint. Moving the focus onto canvas- think how many paintings you see with this same kind of curved brushstroke. I am not pointing a wagging finger here as  I have been guilty of this myself at times and always now avoid it if I see it creeping in. It is more an observation.

Making a line or an arabesque has that pitfall - it never escapes it's own gestural arc.  The line or area is contained by the gesture. If you look at any of the recent - increasingly Japanese informed- little characters, the games graphics, the emoticons and the whole plethora of cute little bods and worlds they inhabit, the more you see these little creations as entities that have spun out from an orbiting ball, throwing out curves in a neat series of arcs. This language has taken root and permeates online design –the imagery is seeping into our consciousness through the  'salvation' of the Internet into the media in general, tv shows (especially for kids), adverts, blockbuster films. Nothing escapes the reach of the "icon bod". You can almost feel the mild disdain of the artist when they draw a rogue line, quickly replacing it with a conforming new one to smooth out the form. More akin to plastic surgery than drawing. These lines never ask questions of the spaces around them, rather they shut it out and occupy their own little micro-worlds, where the colours glow in a grubby-free spiffiness. A smile for the gloomiest of days and maybe even accompanied by a squeak - sounds that plot the same sorts of curve in auditory ways. Equally neat and contained; Disney gone mad.  I use a Mac - all their icons have the same slick sheen,  a gallery of "apps", an illusion of a perfect future where technology is a panacea for all ills .."isave" maybe.

Art trapped by the screen has nowhere to go apart from inwards into evermore illusory banality. New films are measured by the quality of  their illusion, young artists get ever more savvy at being ironic in their use of pop imagery and their acceptance of this virtual space as the area in which to make their art rather than the battleground to face this anger head on and get back to the surface. We are visually drowning -literally and metaphorically.

Painting, at least a tiny pocket of it will become, if it's not already, one of the last bastions of high art, (extending the water metaphor for a moment) -an art form that occupies the 'higher ground' whilst the water encroaches. For painting relies on surface. As long as this fact exists, real art is safe from the vagaries of fashion and the infantilising tendencies of technology particularly in commercial applications. Where will it stop? We can destroy civilisations with the push of a button and I'll bet that this button has a cute smiley face icon on it , winking its way to oblivion. Now more than ever we need the art of the surface,

and how colour is released through this surface into our retinas is the end result and only content. It's the only art I ever have the ambition to make. It's not my failure at not being able to complete a good painting that I mind - I suffer that with a resilience; it's the terror that I may lose this impetus one day. Art is worth fighting for. The battle lines just need to be redrawn -though no French curves please!.