Panagiotis Beldekos: The function of subject matter in painting

The choice of subject matter for a painting isn't always arrived at in the same way...

A visual stimulus, a random thought, a specific intent, or an emotion can lead to a particular choice. In each instance the subject matter is probably the spur for the action.


Three conditions contribute to the creation of a work: the artist's initial intent, his emotional volatility and random chance. According to how the piece evolves, the artist's emotional condition also alters.

When the evolution of the work is negative, the subject matter is cast into doubt, is oftentimes altered or set aside altogether. Consequently the initial love in the conception of the subject matter may wrap up to a lukewarm reception of the work; just as a low-key and conventional choice of subject matter may lead to an obsession with the result.

In contrast to what most viewers believe, the painter doesn't know precisely what he wants to do, or how to achieve that result. He hopes to be able to respond correctly, when faced by the dilemmas posed by the evolving work. This expectation of a correct response brings forth a passion for painting. The elements of a piece that the painter loves are those where he thinks his response was right.

From the point of view of the viewer, however, things change. The sense of work is created by two components: What story does the image narrate and how was this expressed? For the viewer the image is easier to perceive. This is what sweeps up viewers' emotions and consequently the work is evaluated on the basis of the narrative of the subject matter and not by the real artistic value of the work itself.

In many instances, in fact, the viewer attempts to interpret the painter's ideological temperament through the choice of his subject matter.

The relationship between artist and viewer is as old as art itself and is self-evidently multidimensional.

In each instance the work remains the locus of an emotional encounter that is necessary for both. Semantic comments and emotional projections, which are very naturally expounded by viewers, usually find us assenting, even though they may often be completely indifferent. It is a small "guild conspiracy" so that we can feel good in ourselves and so that we can garner the requisite sense of acceptance.

The viewer's attempt to partake of the work, however that may be attempted, is a necessary condition for continuing to create. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, what the artist may seek, may be an extension of the dream and an expectation that it may continue. What all people seek in their life.


written by Panayiotis Beldekos for, 21/02/2011