The poetics of a
OLIVERA Smiljkovic proposes a new poetics of still lifes and landscapes, which she transcribes, with oil on canvas, in
the unrestrained, blissful spontaneity of a fairy-tale naivete, grafted with a classicl touch of harmony and rhythm, that
produces a distinct painterly idiom, writes Dr Nadia Anaxagorou.
“Her compositions are an invitation to a novel view of nature and a tribute of thanksgiving to Mother Earth, for
the invaluable gifts of fecundity, portrayed in an endless array of crops, plants and flowers.
Mimosas, daisies, hyacinths and chrysanthemums, placed within or around pots and vases, pumpkins, berries, peaches, apples,
pomegranates, and other fruit, whole or half-cut, stand against intense, dark grey-green, cobalt-blue or earthly monochromatic
backgrounds and occasionally contrast a shimmering tonality of the turquoise and the ochre, she adds.
Thought a meticulous study and a close observation, she evokes countless details of the natural world, employing several
kinds of brushstroke to render the specificity and uniqueness of each of its constituent parts.
Paint is applied, in some places more thickly and, in others, in numerous tiny dots that capture the infinitesimal molecules
with utter subtlety and devotion to precision, emblematicqally embodied in the motif of the almost imperceptible, little red
spot of a ladybird, cropping up as a repetitive, signature point of reference in her recent work.
The pure colours, straightforward lines and forms and the emphatically stated contours, bring about the effect of a graphic
stillness that, also, pervades her panoramic vistas of meadows and fields, delineated in horizontal, diagonal or vertical
planes, in a thorough exploration of a vast range of green and orange gradations, interspersed with a yellow or crimson-red
pointillistic luminosity, bestowing a sense of profusion and death to vegetation.
A fascinating engendering of volumes, in an expanse of vineyards and plains in full bloom, imparts space with a sublime
infinity and a transcendental ambience, creating an idyllic universe of euphoria and contemplative serenity, devoid of human
presence and mundane harshness”.
The Thin Veneer
Keith Walker is exhibiting at the Art Cafe in Polis from Saturday, May 3 to May 18. The exhibition will be opened by the
Commissioner for the Environment, Charalambos Theopemptou, on Saturday, May 3, at 7 pm.
“This present series of work has come about as a consequence of a number of factors, and to some extent is autobiographical”,
says the artist Keith Walker.
And he adds:
“At art college in the Sixties I was producing work provoked by civil rights demonstrations in America. In the Seventies,
at the height of the Cold War, I painted The Bomb Burst Like a Flower. At around the same time, during the Vietnam war, I
produced a piece called Bird of Prey, a shimmering mirage of a fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier prior to take
“Homage to Van Gogh and Lust and Mortality were some of the first paintings executed at my studio gallery in the
village of Lasa.
“The events of 9/11 gave rise to two paintings. The first, God Bless America.con (Yes, to con!) is in a private collection
in the UK. Soon after I produced Pandora’s Box, following the Enron and Anderson scandals in America.
“More recently last year’s Art Attack competition coincided with work Ia was doing on environmental and human
“Lest We Forget is a consequence of reflecting on the 200 years since the abolition of slavery. Yet the abuse continues
unabated in various forms, including the trafficking and exploitation of women in the island’s cabarets. That particular
painting is currently on tour.
“The Web of Life was another entry in the same competition.
“Throughout history, literature, the performing and visual arts have played their role in documenting and bringing
attention to the issues that confront each generation. In my humble estimation there are truly only two. The first is the
environment, which sustains all life as we know it, and the other is respect for the human.
“The truth is that poetry - indeed all art – accepts contradictions; it is an irrational activity whose only
object is to seize and enhance the objects sensuous elements of life in a reality which is organic, and not in a wholeness
which is logical” - Herbert Read. A Coat of Many Colours, 1947.
“Sixty years ago, December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimbed the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
“The preamble recognised the inherent dignity and “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human
family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
“Change, inevitably, is the only constant, so as we slide down the banister of life perchaps the best we can hope
for is that most of the splinters are facing in our direction of travel!!”.
No great artist ever had a degree
By Dr Michael Paraskos
PARENTS have a natural desire to see their children do well in education.
They want them to go to a good schools, take the best examinations and end up in the best universities. All of this sounds
very sensible. Unfortunately, it is an approach that does not always work, especially when it comes to art education.
The fact of the matter is that no great artist has ever had a university degree. To be fair, degree courses in art have
only existed for about 50 years, so perhaps we are still waiting for a great degree course artist to emerge. But even this
should give any prospective art students pause for thought. During the centuries when Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio,
Turner, Matisse and Picasso were working, degree courses in art did not exist.
A thousand years ago, when the monks of the Roman Empire were creating astonishing church icons, no one said their work
would be much better if only they had gone to university. And thousands of years before that, when the ancient Greeks, Babylonians
and Egyptians were producing works of art that still take people's breath away, no one thought a degree course in art was
a necessity. So why has gaining a degree in art become so important in the last 50 years?
The answer is quite simple. A degree is a means to prove the value of someone.
We live in an age when it is extremely difficult to be certain of the value of a particular artist, especially if that
artist possesses no apparent talent or skill.
For a long time now, the fact that someone cannot draw, paint, sculpt, organise pictorial space, or even say anything particularly
interesting, has not been a bar to being an artist.
Indeed, the ultimate achievement of our civilisation is that a lack of talent no longer holds anyone back. Yet the unconscious
fear remains that one might be so useless at art that one is worthless, and this feeds a desire to gain some kind of validation
for what one actually does.
The result has been that art students now seek out degrees to prove that what they make has value. So strong is this desire
for personal validation that art students not only want Bachelors or Masters degrees, but PhDs in Fine Art.
It is as if they are saying that you might not be able to see their work is as great as a Michelangelo or a Picasso, but
the fact they are qualified means it must be as great.
Yet degrees in Fine Art are not a good idea. If you are not really an artist, a degree course will not turn you into one.
It might gain you a qualification that will allow you to become a school teacher, but if you really want to be a school teacher
you would be better off going to teacher training college.
Of course, students sometimes want to hedge their bets, and applicants often say to me that they want to see if they can
be an artist, but if they cannot they can at least go into teaching. Such people will never be artists, however, as they lack
real ambition. Equally, I pity the poor school children taught by these bitter, failed artists.
If you do have some talent, a degree course is likely to stifle your creativity.
Degree courses are designed to force students to follow a particular path, even of that path is not appropriate for them.
In Britain these paths are called 'Benchmark Standards', and they exist to ensure that a degree from one university is similar
to a degree from another university.
In a subject like medicine most people would welcome this type of standardisation, as we want all our doctors to know the
facts about a range of illnesses and treatments. In art, however, every student should follow an individual path, so the idea
there can be a common standard of art education is ridiculous.
Every single art student should be on a different art course, each one tailored to the individuality of that student. This
is impossible within a degree course system that was designed not to foster individuality, but conformity to a particular
The result has been the depressing fact that if you visit an end of year art show at any university in Britain or Ireland
today the students' work all looks very similar, and you can easily forget whether you are in London or Leeds, or Dublin or
With 120 Fine Art degree courses in Britain one would imagine there would be some room for originality. Unfortunately the
degree course system requires standardisation, and so each one is like everywhere else.
No great artist ever had a degree because no great artist was ever like anyone else.
In Cyprus, we are in the middle of a process of developing education, and inevitably this means adopting degree courses
for some subjects.
But for others we need to have the courage to say a degree course is not appropriate. We can still look to other parts
of the world for evidence of this, and see that many of the greatest international art schools still do not offer degree courses.
This includes the Royal Academy in London and the Students' Art League in New York. There must be a reason for this, just
as there must be a reason why most music conservatories and acting schools across the world do not offer degrees. That reason
is surely that they want to help their creative students to be highly individual.
Equally, we can look to the experience of art education in Britain, where a terrible experiment has been conducted over
the past 40 years to force art schools to offer degrees and become part of the university system.
As the British say, art students are now treated like meat in a sausage machine, and the lifeless art that comes out of
Britain is a direct result of that policy. As we try to formulate a new art education system in Cyprus, the evidence we should
accept is that when it comes to art degrees do not work.