Technique and Authenticity
There is nothing wrong with technique itself, but overemphasizing technique is uninspiring. Perhaps technique should be invisible unless it is part of the message, or else it should be unrepentant in its intuitive obviousness.
“The medium is the message.”
—Marshall McLuhan, Canada’s media guru
Technique is a vocabulary that adds to the breadth of your repertoire, and your virtuosity. On the other hand, as an artist I must inspire the audience emotionally. To accomplish this I must be real and spontaneous in the performance of a personal experience, and that can be the authentic and inspiring truth of my art.
Nobody likes a braggart or a kvetch, but they can be great characters in a work of art. Just like people, art can be sickening when it brags about the breadth of its virtuosity, and art can be just as putrid when exposing something gratuitous which is more than anyone needs to see to be inspired. Everybody notices an exhibitionist, but exhibitionism is distracting in a scene about poignant or dramatic grace. The windows and doors between fiction and reality are what art plays with. However, rather than having the sole goal of balance, or equilibrium itself as a role, art needs a successful mediation of technique and authenticity in order to truly lean into inspiration. To achieve it is like having walked a tightrope in a high wind, but the best of art simply celebrates another triumphant foible of this world.
“It takes courage to be a painter. I always felt I walked on the edge of a knife.”
— Georgia O’Keefe, artist
-- Al Van Mil, May 2017
Reaching For Eyes Renewed by Time
As an artist I accept constantly regrouping the blooms of time. This may sound cool, like having something special to do, but not like perfection.
When I was young and still idealistic I carved my name into a tree trunk. Leaving my mark had always been fun. Years later I went back to find it. The tree was there, but my carving had become unreadable. Nevertheless, it looked very good to me.
Consequently I was inspired to carve again, but in new ways on different kinds of trees: as an artist my expectations had become this other story. Some day I would like to look up these other types of carving with the renewed eyes of time, to see what my art has become, but it seems like Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral.
Nothing is perfect, lasts forever, or is ever finished, not even the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-sabi. In a goal oriented western culture, Wabi-sabi virtually sells itself tarnished elegance over and over again, as if usable as a tool for creating artistic eloquence.
Whatever my marks and meanings evolve into, only the perseverance of integrity will accept the regrouping of their repentances. Temporarily, I recreate an asymmetrical balance of my latest idea of beautiful normalcy. Each ephemeral moment can only be regrouped with nostalgic acceptance of Wabi-sabi itself forever ending.
All this artistic rationale is only to exist for another moment in time.
This is why I still believe that the best of my art has accepted regrouping the products of time as temporary normal fun.
In its wonderful world of change, my art has often been about regrouping, but I am still too involved to look back simply for nostalgia's sake.
— Al Van Mil, May 2017
Al Van Mil: A Summarized Biography
I was born in Holland. My family immigrated to Canada in 1952. I was originally taught classic painting technique by my father, a High School art teacher. I further studied art at the University of Guelph and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Graduating during the 1970's, I first concentrated on Conceptual Art. Among other art galleries, some of these artworks were shown at the National Gallery of Canada and The Art Gallery of Ontario.
In 1980, I co-founded a commercial art company, which I named Architectural Dimensions, that was written up by New York magazine in 1986 as one of the top three architectural model making firms in the world.
Selling my subsequent architectural technology companies in 1990, I again began making art full-time, painting in an eclectic style. Some of these works have been shown in private and public galleries, as well as at the Musee Des Beaux-Arts, Montreal.
After 1998 I began painting artworks on stage, as a Performance Artist for an inter-genre art group called Collaborations, in many live-theatre venues across Toronto, with many artists from other genres like the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.
Later, I co-designed sets for three Canadian opera productions: Die Fledermaus in 2009, La Boheme in 2010, and Falstaff in 2011. A variety of galleries presently exhibit my artworks in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.
My adventures in art have tended to be centred around the mediation of personal and cultural meanings.