stephen warnes philosophy
stephen warnes philosophy

I have always felt that high-quality painting as a medium still has plenty of scope for development and continues to be relevant. Within the bounds of the rectangle of canvas or paper there is still a lot of scope for expression and visual exploration. Once finished, a painting becomes an artefact with an historical context and a point of cultural reference. Good paintings continue to be worthwhile investments, both for the way they can enhance your life and financially as tradeable objects.

For many years now the focus of critical acclaim and media attention has been on other kinds of art forms. For myself, it's not that I don't like conceptual or minimalist art - I do- but when you have had lectures and seminars on Giotto in the Arena chapel, on Piero della Francesca in Arezzo or Turner in the Tate, then some of today's art seems lacking in ambition or purpose. It has become 'Hello' magazine or 'art dealer's' art. Often to me it seems to be 'one idea' art - you recognise it as a clever concept but then you think 'okay what's next?'. It is not art to linger long over , or spend a lifetime contemplating. I have always aimed to have some philosophy and depth in my works - I would aspire to be more John Ruskin than Tracey Emin!

Perhaps the fame of today's artists does reflect the materialistic and media-dominated nature of our times - in particular the overwhelming but essentially vacuous cult of celebrity. It would seem all too often though, they design to shock or outrage, rather than provoke thought or inspiration. I don't blame the artists - if you can earn thousands of pounds telling your assistants what order to paint the coloured dots on a painting - who wouldn't pursue that for a while? But let's face it, it isn't an approach that has brought the majority of the public along with it. At a time when society need art's uplifting capabilities more than ever to counteract the inanity and dross of much of today's mass culture, splatter paintings done on a rotating wheel don't exactly deliver. "This man was hired to depress art" wrote Willaim Blake on his copy of Joshua Reynolds 'Discourses' For me, some of the Turner Prize entries and Brit Art artists have alienated ordinary people in droves, doing art a disservice in the process.

I am pleased that my exhibitions have proved genuinely popular with a wide cross-section of people. Some have sid they couldn't live with the more extreme Surrealist compositions, which is fair enough, but almost everyone has recognised that my work has skill and integrity. The best thing anyone has written about about my paintings was in the visitors' book at my retrospective, which was "This exhibition has restored my faith in modern painting".

Only history will judge if any of my works have any lasting merit. If, in a hundred years, there is a paragraph and a couple of illustrations in the Thames & Hudson 'History of Turn of the Century British Art' I would be highly satisfied. If not - well that's the way of the world. All I would say is that over the years, I have worked trying to capture the experiences of my human incarnation, showing respect for the hard-working lives of others and in my landscapes, searching for the beauty and spirituality that this planet still has to offer. As Radiohead say - "Do the best you can - the best you can is good enough". I hope this is how my work will be remembered.