Since I was invited to jury a show, I've been thinking about what makes a good painting, or what makes one painting better than another one. To answer this question, I believe you have to know the goal of the work or the purpose of the painting, before you can make a judgment.
In comparing apples and oranges, which fruit is better? Neither of course, because they are not better, just different. The reason for eating one over the other is not necessarily about the fruit, although that is a factor in choice, it also depends on your desires.
So, what IS really the purpose of painting? Why DO we paint? Obviously, painting is not dead despite what post modern critics say. So, why do artist's paint? What are their reasons? This is an important question. When I look at all kinds of painted images, I am struck by the vast styles and goals artists portray when creating their paintings.
Should a painting try to capture as realistically as possible the physical world, a la a camera? There are those that judge paintings on those criteria.
Is it to focus the viewers attention on an artists direct observation, by revealing pieces of visual information cleverly sussed out and highlighted by the artist in a work? To make us see anew?
Is a painting suppose to explore the possibilities of two dimensional space? Or maybe it's purpose is to create new space for the eye and mind to wander around in?
Is the representation of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface the main purpose of a painting? What about paintings that emphasis the aesthetic and emotional use of color? Are paintings to create movement, to capture light? What then?
Oh, it is fun to push color and paint around a frame, self-expression within boundaries if you will. But, that is not enough to keep me painting for as long as I have been. Besides there are easier forms of expression, like dancing your a** off...there has to be more to painting. What then? A form of communication? A search for the beautiful, the true, the uplifting, the shocking, the surprising? What is it that might be worth the time, effort, expense and mess of creating a painting?
What is your purpose or reason to paint? I'd like to know.