The interim verdict: Your preferences lie with commercial art. No reason to get upset or angry. It is a broad notion, closer to million-dollar paintings than you might think. Let’s not dwell on the how-brow theses of experts on the subject of true and untrue masterpeaces and explain “what’s what” for a common viewer.
There are two principal issues to talk about in a painting – its representational and expressive quality. That means we should consider what’s depicted in the painting, and what and how is expressed with its help. There are paintings where you see excellent representation with no expression, like hyperrealist paintings. Whether it is a sandwich or a girl, they look as real as in a photograph, and there is nothing an artist wants to express, he just wishes to achieve best possible likeness. On the other hand, there are paintings where nothing specific is depicted, like a black square, but it means the whole new vision of art, it is supported by written works presenting the main principles of suprematism and studying the balance of basic figures in the composition, the meaning and perception of basic colours. It teaches how to use a circle and a square with the right juxtaposition and colouring to reveal quietude or turmoil. It demonstrates how you can achieve maximum expression with minimum representation. To find oneself in the avant-garde of art, to search for new expressive means and aesthetic principles you have to excel either in representation or in the expression. The best choice is to excel in both. This pioneer work will be appreciated by the chosen few, since anything new is automatically suppressed by the existing system trying to retain the status quo, and therefore avant-garde art is always exclusive. In the middle stand the artists who mastered the tradition and the existing styles of art. They experiment within the accepted limits, and so they are well-received and supported by galleries and consumers. Commercial art, or kitsch, is in the rear-guard. It is the mainstream art oriented at the large-scale audience. It does not suggest anything new; it is driven by the viewer rather than the artist; it gives people what they want – the cuteness. Sentimental subjects, a pleasing colour scheme, undisguised decorative purpose make these canvases flamboyant and appealing to simple emotions – comparable to glossy magazines and garden gnomes. Kitsch artists are masterful in what they do – whether you like it or not. Take, for instance Thomas Kinkade – a sheer joy to watch, even a kid could get it. That means that the painting does not express anything whatsoever, everything lies on the surface. And if you take it as granted and view this art as a trade rather than the high art, you will find numerous talented artists – and never mind the prestige. At the end of the day a painting you hang on your wall should be the one you like, and unless you are a Peggy Guggenheim and do not stress the point of being an art collector, you have the right to place anything you want in your living-room – be it kittens, cute kids or topless gals.