At first glance, Oscar Lakeman’s Containers 461 raises skepticism. It is interesting to look at, bright and very colorful, but does not seem to me as being an example of high art. After all, all these years I have grown up being told that high art is mostly pictures of people, landscapes and scenes – it can often be bizarre, distorted and otherwise non-realistic, but there is no tradition I recall that actually holds something like this as high art. It just looks like a photograph of a few containers of paint, with paintbrushes strewn around it and lots of paint smeared all over it.
Indeed the interesting thing about it is that it’s supposed to be a painting – it looks like someone very young decided to paint about the first thing that came to mind, and they did not even do it very imaginatively, instead just drawing exactly what they saw. Of course, drawing like this will take uncommon skill, and research about Oscar Lakeman reveals new facets which I had never pondered on before. On his personal site, I find that he is interested in realism and representational art.
The Containers collection is a result of a pent up feeling of restlessness after having painted realistically for a long time. He says, “I really wanted to get my hands in the paint…. throw it, smear it, pour it….. loosen things up. I wanted something tactile and expressive. ” It is also seen on his personal site that he is a prolific painter who expresses personal as well as political realities through realism and representational art. Other sites reveal more about his work, one even opines that Lakeman is combining abstraction and realism in his Containers collection.
It reveals that Lakeman’s intention is to talk about the connection between the life of an artist and art itself. In this context, the containers full of paint and the paint brushes play an important role: “The heroic proportions of the containers of paint and the brushes represent the impelling relevance of the tools and techniques which are the heart of the artist’s world. ” Yet another website reveals that Lakeman’s collection is autobiographical in nature where “the subject becomes the painting, the painting becomes the subject. ”
Armed with this new information and after looking at the painting more intently a few more times, I reach a different interpretation. I notice how the colors seem to run into each other, and the sheer size of the containers. The tools of a painter’s trade take on vigorous and substantial proportions in the painting. The precise nature of the containers and the paintbrushes contrasts with the unrestricted flow and intersection of the various lively colors depicted by Lakeman. The colors dominate the canvas, encompassing the sheer importance of colors in an artist’s world.
Lakeman’s painting now seems to me as being beyond painting itself, a kind of meta-art that deals with the fundamental nature of art with the representation of the tools of the trade. The various shades of color dripping out of the containers signify the use that the colors are being put to by the artist. In this manner, they do not remain mere containers, i. e. they are not just meant for storage but serve the more profound function of housing that which is of the most basic importance to any art.
The way in which the blue colors seem to be doodled energetically next to the containers of red and brown paint show the life force of an artist’s will to create art, and in this manner demonstrate the relationship between what is being painted and who is painting it. This is an extremely personal yet highly relevant portrayal of what it means to be a painter. The high energy in the painting gives an idea of movement, contrary to conventional notions of storage and art supplies being static; here they attain the quality of movement, even restlessness because of the unseen presence of the artist.
It is even suggested that Lakeman has actual physical contact with the paint, without the use of the brushes. This intensifies the connection between paint and painter. I come to the conclusion that Containers 461 is a “meta-painting” that embodies the very fundamental nature of what art means to a particular artist and also all artists in general. I make this generalization confidently because the tools of an artist’s trade – whatever they may be – are central to the process of creation.
In this case they are paint and paintbrushes and often the artist’s fingers and hands, and demonstrate the vital relationship between art and the artist’s perception and way of living. In painting the containers, Lakeman has paid a tribute to the tools that help to create art, and in a larger sense, art itself. This art manifests itself in the painter’s will to paint, to create, and the painter’s engagement with the tools and the colors that he is using to create art. In a profound way, it is a tribute to the process of creation and creativity.