As much as we may love reading about the ancient world, I firmly believe we are living in the best age so far for artists. According to Stephen Pinker on his book “BetterAngels of Our Nature”, contrary to what the sensationalist mass media may want us to think, there is solid evidence demonstrating that we are at an historic low point in worldwide violence. On top of that, there has never been a better moment in history where we have been blessed with so much material and immaterial sources, from the green revolution of food production to the explosive overload of information accessible to anyone though the World Wide Web.
Detail of painting "Planet of the Apps" Oil on canvas 36" x 36" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz
Today there is still hunger, poverty, war and much social injustice but there is also a globalized consciousness and sense of humanity awakening that gives us hope for the future. To give an example, in ancient times, animal cruelty and public executions were the norm and an everyday event. Today animal cruelty can be captured in video and posted on you tube for everyone to see and even if it still goes on, it receives massive condemnation and people can unite and take action. Social injustice finds its way into social media and people empathize with the victims and raise their concerns which may become movements that can bring positive change. As the environment gets more and more attention people are starting to become aware of the consequences of their actions or inactions.
"Tempus Fugit" 36" x 31" Oil and metal leaf on panel by Patrick McGrath Muñiz
Of course there is still much to be done but gradually our collective consciousness is being awakened. This is a time of great opportunity and definitely the best time to be an artist, a Promethean agent of change. And we have all the necessary tools to make great art that reflects not only on the present but re-connects us to our past. This should be a powerful reason to make art. There is simply no excuse for conformists today. Everything happening today pushes us to have a conversation with our yesterday and to make art that responds not to a specific time or culture but to the human species and its place in the cosmos.
Detail of "MareMagnum" 48.5" x 30" Oil and gold leaf on wood triptych
by Patrick McGrath Muñiz
by Patrick McGrath Muñiz
Now, with so much technological advance and new forms of making art, from photography to Digital art and 3-d printing, the question of “why paint?” seems inescapable. But for that I have an answer. I paint because it connects me with my humanity and history. By painting I re-enact history, for painting is the creative process of re-creating history itself. The ritualistic act of painting involves the use and application of certain materials that have been around us for millennia and since the very beginning, bringing us back to our origins on this planet. This alchemical interaction of materials has the potential of becoming a ritualistic and mystical dialogue with history and therefore it is a direct reflection of time itself. Also by allowing ourselves to be inspired by the art of the past and of distant civilizations and by integrating the iconography used in the past with the new, we may convey a continuous line that penetrates time and reminds us of our own evolution and transformation throughout the ages and how the meaning we assign to images has been carried and mutated across millennia. Painting re-connects us with the past while also giving us a fresh insight into the future.
"El Loco" (The Disneyrican Dreamer) 24" x 30" Oil and metal leaf on canvas by Patrick McGrath Muñiz
On this Thanksgiving Day, let’s be thankful for painting and for the great masterpieces of the past that have survived the ages and inspired us today. Let us also be grateful for living in this moment of history when we have access to so many tools and resources that allow us to re-connect with that past while having a tremendously great opportunity to forge an even better future.