new-york

John Bellany

Ruth Siegel

There are two issues raised by the existentialist-realist point of view John Bellany shares with the Glasgow painters, to whom he apparently serves as a father figure: the validity of the expressionist attitude and the viability of the old painterly distortions for articulating it. The expressionist attitude will continue to make sense as long as life is “solitary,” “nasty,” “brutish,” (and for many too “short”), to use Hobbes’ words. On the other hand, it is no longer clear that painterly distortion has the carrying power it once did. This is not because it has been conventionalized—all languages eventually wear thin—but because we have come to realize that it is not adequate to the inner life it means to evoke. No amount of painterliness can convey the energy at large in the psyche, no amount of distortion can convey the thoroughness with which subjectivity colors our perceptions. An

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