"One thing Vincent and Gauguin had in common was that neither had had much formal instruction as a painter. They had picked it up from other artists and, in Vincent's case, from life classes at which he tended to clash angrily with the teachers. Essentially they were self-taught, and that made them more open to innovations of every kind: stylistic, spiritual, technical." The Yellow House-Van Gogh, Gauguin and 9 Turbulent Weeks in Arles by Martin Gayford
There's room for all forms of art in painting, whether the artist focuses on stimulating the senses, on ideas or on developing the purity of the art form. Scott McCloud, a scientist/artist specializing in comics art, explains how every artist can fit somewhere between these points. Check out his Ted talk on that.
I like the quote at the beginning from "Yellow House" because it reminds me that it's OK to do things differently, that artistic tradition serves me better in the form of inspiration than it does as a itinerary of shoulds, and that there's nothing wrong with trusting your intuition.
Have you seen the article in the New York Times, "It's Not Dry Yet" by Roberta Smith ? It blows apart the myth on the 'death of painting' and shows the trend of a new generation of artists who favor mixing abstraction and representation. If you love symbolism, art history, or have rebellious tendencies towards cramming your vision into modernist thought, then you'll whoop with victory when you read her arguments.