What is a Painting?

Art Historian Tascha Sciarone in front of the oilpainting "At the feet of Notre Dame" by Adéle du Plessis

Art Historian Tascha Sciarone in front of the oil painting "At the feet of Notre Dame" (2017)  by Adéle du Plessis

Gallery Sorelle Sciarone and paintings

Gallery Sorelle Sciarone specialises in; Romantic and Reflective Paintings that are Colourful and Evocative. This means we curate paintings that celebrate small things, intense emotions, the awe of nature and people as individuals. The paintings at the gallery are reflective of people and our societies. In short, thoughtful and meditative in its creation and themes.

We abide by the simple principle that a painting is art when it elicits a viewer's response. We specialise in colourful and beautiful paintings at first glance but have several layers of emotional, social or historical roots layered into the work. If they did not have these multiple layers, they would be quickly forgotten and therefore stop being works of art. But let us start from the beginning; what is a painting?

Contemporary Oil Painter and Sculptor Jeanette Olyhoek painting in the snow.


A Painting is born!

A painting is created when an artist puts images to a surface with their brush. A brush can be a more traditional painting brush, or their hands, a sponge, a mop, pallet knife, a digital tool or just straight dripping of paint. The same goes for the surface on which is painted.


An artist has painted images to a surface and wishes to showcase their art to the world.

This is very important. Art needs to be shared and exist in the larger world. The viewer can be a handful of people close to the artist or droves of people coming through a museum. 

This article explains the different levels or spheres art exists in.


This need for the artist to create results in a lot of contemporary painting, with varying levels of quality. Art is created when an artist paints these images with skill, dedication, emotion and thought. As art comes from a very specific angle and understanding of the world. Connecting to a contemporary art is sometimes hard to follow, and new artists work can sometimes be hard to understand or even judge the quality of if you go into it without some research.


Contemporary painting is more than an image that adorns your walls. It is a piece of the world converted into visual images. It is exceptional to find a painting that you are attracted to as art speaks to a deep level of your person and understanding of the world.


Or you connect immediately to a painting. No preamble needed. 


Buying a painting from a gallery means many people have engagged and thought about the art. The art work has evoked admiration and study. It is part of the larger art world. Because Art is so much more than paint on a surface.

Contemporary Painter and Sculptor Els Kampert in her Studio in Delft

Contemporary Painter and Sculptor Els Kampert wielding a heat gun in her Studio in Delft

What is a contemporary painting?

Contemporary vs. Modern

At Gallery Sorelle Sciarone, we focus primarily on contemporary painting. Contemporary means that the artwork is made in recent years by a living artist. Often contemporary art can be confused with Modern Art, with a capital M. Modern Art is an art movement that started roughly around 1860 and lasted until 1970. The art from this time is hugely experimental. It created a massive rift from traditional art and painting techniques. The techniques we know from Figurative and Classical Arts. Modern art begins with the heritage of painters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. All of them were essential for the development of modern art movement.

Painting is dead

In the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of installation and performative arts became more widespread. Which resulted in traditional mediums of artwork, such as paintings falling from critical favour. Cultural critics, like Douglas Crimp, wrote an essay in 1981 titled "the end of painting". Of course, this does mean paintings and painters no longer exist, but rather that we start to think differently about art. That art as a concept is more important than the actual physical object. We are no longer obsessed with technical and academic skill behind a painting or a sculpture. Something Modern Art was still thinking a lot about. Crimp's text is a critical art-historical summary of how we got to our current post Studio state. After 1970 we entered a period known as Postmodern when artists, architects, and critics started questioning Modern art's grand narratives. Postmodernism is an antithesis or sceptical critique of Modernism. 

Inbetween these two movements we had Absurdism and Existensialism.

Postmodernism in essence is that there is no one truth. There are no grand narratives. Our world is fragmented and we can hold multiple truths. Postmodernism has been officially over since 2006. Bringing us to our current period.

Post Studio Art World

We are now in a post Studio period. Gunn to my head, I do not know if there is a period between post Studio and Postmodernism. But post Studio sees creating art not as a solitary activity, which is more focused on social awareness and creating art and performances in community. Post Studio also often uses painting and drawing as an activity embedded in social or political practice. The end product is not the primary focus, like Academic or Modern Art. The activity  of creating itself, usually in a planned series of activities with political and social motives.


However most paintings are still made as a solitary activity. It is when it is exhibited then, that it starts interacting with the world.

Interactive Activities

Post studio artistic practices are meant to be experienced in a group and is often highly political. Digital art, installations and performance art are experiences and are temporary to a time and place. Usually, there are tiny remnants of the activity, except for photo evidence. These photos are often difficult to grasp without explicit, specific information. It is difficult to engage with the art post creation.


The viewer is expected to have this knowledge or to make us of critical thought when in engaging in the artwork. For a critical and informed exhibition, it is considered the norm now. After the Second World War, the importance of being a critical thinker, away from grand, patriarchal and national narratives. As we think of people in terms of highly individual persons with a detailed personal history and framework that informs their understanding of themselves and the world they live in. That needs a specific type of art and ways to explore concepts and philosophy through visual cues. You can read here about the allegory for understanding our current art world concerning art historical canon.


Real art, in our current artistic movement, is being part of the creative experience. Real art is performative and not based on the final physical form of the idea. A prime example of the idea being more important than the material or final element is the banana and ducktape sold in 2019 in Miami. The material and technique, and final product is not the art; it is the idea and the performance that creates the artwork. 


But where does that leave us?

Contemporary South African Artist Adéle du Plessis adds the finishing touches on her work in her garden in Delft, The Netherlands

Contemporary South African Artist Adéle du Plessis adds the finishing touches on her work in her garden in Delft, The Netherlands.

Why do we love paintings?

Yet, we still buy and own art. Whether we do it through cheap, mass-produce mediums or being an avid collector of niche art. Being moved by a painting or an image can be a very personal and joyous experience, but it does not always have a profound emotional experience. The images in the paint may speak to you in any way you are open to. It can match your couch or drapes or remind you of your youth or a holiday together with a loved one.


Humans will continue to create and adorn the spaces they move in. If you have some time to kill, I advise you to watch the BBC series: How Art Made the World, or read the book by the same name (I am not affiliated, but I do own the book myself and was recommended Art History course reading at Leiden University, by Professor Kitty Zijlmans). If you are looking for a shorter read, you can read here on different levels of art. A piece written by Art Historian Tascha Sciarone was heavily influenced by this book and a course about Modern Art at Leiden University by Helen Westgeest.

We love paintings!

Paintings will always be unique to the world for two reasons.


One because of their long-standing tradition of art. It lives in our very psyche. Our museums and cultural insitutions are full of classical paintings. 


Secondly the physicality of creating work. It is an active participation in expressing the human condition. Even when we do not know how to communicate it in words. Our body and mind work together to express the world around us.

Paintings in oils or acrylic, or even digital, will always be a beautiful medium that captures the human body translating the world onto a surface. 


Show me the data

Data also shows that painting comes in third place after prints and photography in terms of what people buy. Prints, photography and paintings are more comfortable to incorporate into your home and life. They are two-dimensional objects that can be trans-formative to a living or working space without taking up floor space. I suspect that is why sculptures are the least bought pieces of art—seeing as we have less space in cities.


Prints of contemporary paintings are cheap and easily accessible for the starting collector and allow for rotation and finding your style. Maybe even saving up for the real thing. It also helps the artist support themselves with a primary small income stream. Photography is also a democratic medium, and a small amount of prints allows for it to be bought and enjoyed by more people.



If you are interested to know what types of paintings people are buying? This article tracked contemporary gallery sales over several years.

Infographic Beginner's Guide to buying Art

Buying a painting

Buying directly from the artist, who may be your friend or acquaintance, would be my first advice. All that you need is to be confident to stand behind your aesthetic choice. A gallery is a third party between collector and artist, but not everyone has strong connections to the art world. So a gallery is your next best friend. Usually, they know a wide variety of contemporary artists, and you can see the work on location or a photo gallery online. This way, you can find a gallery that fits with your philosophy or visual framework. Here you can read about our mission. A gallery also actively promotes artist and their art. Here are our curated selection of artists.



Gallery Sorelle Sciarone choice in curated contemporary paintings can be a beautiful oil painting on the surface and has multiple layers painted into the canvas. These layers, when peeled, attest to the human condition or our visual world. Contemporary painting at the gallery can be oil paintings, acrylic paintings and maybe soon also digital paintings. You can read more about our art criteria here.



For now, we are an online art gallery where you can buy paintings online through your preferred method of online payment. You can also follow us on social media or leave your email to notify you when we are at an art fair near you. Due to the unforeseen impact that COVID-19 has had on the art world. All our exhibitions in the coming year will be online. 

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