Jacob Willer – Wall Power

What makes a painting stand out against others? And does that quality of ‘wall power’ make it a better painting? 
Was the progress of modern painting towards Abstract Expressionism partly the result of a quest for maximum wall power in a competitive, gallery-led art market? And if so, did maximising wall power necessarily require the minimising – or eradication – of pictorial space and involved subject-matter? And did that quest for wall power, in flattening painting out, accidentally arrive at merely decorative effects – at wallpaper?

Perhaps Pop Art showed that paint itself, however bright and splashy, cannot hope to compete for attention with concrete images, let alone slogans; and thus it put an end to the formalistic – or materialistic – experiments in wall power.  
That lesson has been taken, and there are few formalist painters today. But the question remains, how are our new paintings to find any relevance – and any power – when they have to compete with so many other quicker sorts of imagery? Can they compete? And do they have to?

Jacob Willer is a figurative painter and art writer, writing reviews and criticism for cultural magazines and now finishing a book about how to appreciate paintings.