The Timing of Art


We are as obsessed with time as ever. “Being a slave to our agenda” is a cliché and we are used to the fact that everyone is always in a massive rush. Life without a smartphone is unfathomable and it appears that smart watches are now prerequisites for success. As a new mom, I am still wrapping my head around some recent advice that I need an Apple watch to be a good parent… But I digress – much more interesting right now is the role that time plays in art.

Time and Artistic Production

There are all sorts of relationships between time and artistic production. For some it takes months to complete a large piece as they slowly work with oil paints. Painting with oils is usually a more time intensive process than working with acrylics. This is because oils take longer to dry than acrylics do and the artist must pause between layers of paint if they don’t want the colors to directly mix on the canvas’ surface. For Vincent Kamp and Eleni Dori, the texture and flexibility afforded by oils make the slower process entirely worthwhile.

VINCENT KAMP, Lausie , 11 x 14″, Oil on Canvas

For an artist like Benjamin Phillips who works with found materials, the process of building an art piece can take months even years. Gradually collecting the materials that he will use in the studio from the streets of London is an important step in his artistic process. But nothing about it can be planned. This creates an interesting juxtaposition at the core of his artistic practice. His materials come from the city where people’s lives progress according to schedules, specific targets, and filled agendas. His art, on the other hand, rests on a strong element of chance that compels him to slow down and take things as they come. Other artists appear to work faster and may even complete a piece in a single day. The specific time to create a given work is often a very misleading indicator though. Take Irena Orlov’s oeuvre. Characterized by gestural brushwork that rests on a perfect balance between painted surface and negative space, it may seem that each work takes very little time. In fact the speed of her brushwork is integral to the composition’s success. However, achieving that perfect balance between paint and negative space takes many attempts. The result that is that she often reworks or even discards pieces during the creative process.

Time and Artistic Value

Time has multiple roles to play when it comes to valuing an art piece. One thing to consider is how long it took for the artist to create a piece. Time intensive pieces can be priced higher because of the raw resources that they required. Time played a role in payments to painters even during the Renaissance. Records from the period show that a painter would be paid according to the number of days that he worked on the project. Of course the daily rate varied – Michelangelo was certainly making more than an unknown apprentice in his workshop! How much time has passed since the work was made can also play a very important role in its valuation. Ancient works can have more value simply because they are incredibly old and simple paintings made during the Renaissance or Early Modern periods will be priced higher than simple works made today for the same reason. Assessing the age and authenticity of a given piece is a huge topic in its own right precisely because of the great impact that time can have on the value.

Time and Art Appreciation

How long does it take to appreciate a piece of art? Now this is a million dollar question if there ever was one! It can take a split second to decide that you like a piece. You just know in your gut from the first moment that you saw it that you will never forget it. But it can also take some time for a piece to wiggle its way into your heart and memory, lodging itself there forever. Who’s to say how long you need to decide? Only you can know and it is going to be a different answer for each piece of art. But, don’t worry – at WhyNotArt there is no specific schedule and there is no ticking clock. Take as much or as little time as you need with each and every piece.
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