Comparisons in Art are difficult; Art's range of content runs the gamut of human emotions. Today I give you a comparison of my drawing from yesterday to a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). This is not an easy comparison. To me, it is apt; it represents my struggle to be true to myself. I am drawn to Basquiat's extreme, forceful content, but... I am me and he is he.
The one simple and obvious connection I make with this Basquiat painting is its organization. Basquiat slams you into its center panel; he grabs the the viewer with color contrast, as well as formal centering because of content that are complex and patterned shapes. Basquiat painting is a lesson in classical compositional organization. There is no getting around the effectiveness that is centering the viewer's attention through any means possible, which include large forms, strong color, obvious shapes, interesting patterns, and high value contrast.
I spent much of Saturday November 21st looking at, then thinking about, the art of Peter Saul. I saw many of his works, perhaps 30 to 40, at the Hall Art Foundation in Reading, Vermont. It was a retrospective. A friend, who saw the exhibit with me, later called the work, "tawdry." I have to agree. The other person I saw the exhibit with said, "He is acting out, like a spoiled brat." I also agree with this assessment. If you do not know the work of Peter Saul look at the reproduction of one of his works at the end of this post
This brings me to personal assessment of my work. Yesterday I was tired. I limited my time in the studio. The work came easily, energizing me as I went along. I can say this: it bothers me that I do not make art like anyone else. Henri Matisse said something similar. However, it is the work I must do. My own work fascinates me because it is revelatory.
Drawings from 10/24/2015, all 20X16 inches, pencil on paper
I am writing about two upgrades. The first is in my art. The pictorial content of my art has recently expanded in variety ― there is a more brazenly accepted use of imagery. The second is an upgrade in my commercial website (you are currently reading my educational, not-for-profit, web blog, i.e. a .org site). Yesterday MEHRBACH.com added e-commerce! Items available are limited, but will soon expand to offer everything my art has produced, if available for sale. This will include original paintings, original drawings, and high-quality Giclée Prints of every image on the website (plus reproductions of my work you may have seen in galleries, museums, or private collections ― I own copyrights to all of it).
Today's drawings are exceptional. Their images are both representational and abstract, while staying true to my love of three-dimensions being depicted on a two-dimensional surface. These drawings accept my interests. They do not fight my interests. They are introspective, mindful, and revelatory.
Drawings from 9/13/2015, both pencil on paper, 20X16 inches
It is true. I have discovered that the playful wanderlust of the line, the invention of form, and the feel of atmosphere, appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities. Yesterday's drawings exhibit nascent possibilities. I am excited by the potential, the range of choices, of this action plan.
The problem I now have is my desire to explore has exploded. I do not want to take the time to manufacture stretched canvases. So today, taking a cue from my mentor, Philip Guston, I will manufacture a painting wall designed to tack up canvas straight off the roll. My current painting wall is designed to hang stretched canvases. I have never worked this way before. But, if the plan works, I will be able to place canvas on the wall and begin to paint within seconds. New problems will arise, e.g. how do I store the very pliable, newly painted, canvases, as they come off the wall? I'm going to stop now, as pre-planning never solves a real problem in the best possible manner.
Drawings from 06/10/2015, both pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
I dream every night, a lot! The subject matter of last night's dreams were different. Instead of being a hodgepodge of various scenarios, last night's dreams were dedicated to art, painting in particular. I remember viewing paintings by artists I admire. These were artists I invented. Their art was the kind I am driving toward, but more thoroughly realized. The paintings had figures and forms among abstractions invented through brush strokes and the energetic use of paint.
It is beginning to feel more like contemplation and less like intellectualization. Yesterday's drawing shows me going back and forth between my contemplative-acting intuition and my question-asking intellect. The first drawing is me producing a casually flowing drawing, which ends with an intellectualized, verbal question. This conflict may exhibit problems that occur when the id and the ego are in combat. The second drawing is straightforwardly about combat. The transition from drawing #1 to drawing #2 may exhibit this mental confusion, but it may also be about the world's combative confusion. The strongly male component that instigates present world combat is apparent. Thus the extreme maleness of the figure in drawing #2. Artistically, the figure plays against an abstract background. This is more important to me than any contemporary, or classically mythological, message I am trying to convey.
BTW: Today's reproduction of the painting, Lava, is the closest I have gotten to the original. In yesterday's blog post, Lava's reproduction is too color intensive, i.e. it is more color saturated than the original.
Drawings from 5/24/2015, pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
So... I feel like titles are now appropriate, but, as always, I don't want them to interfere with the viewer's emotional and intellectual response to the painting. So... "Asparagus" seems appropriate for this new painting. I think that is a sprig of asparagus the main character is holding.
Reproducing a painting at this stage has its difficulties. The grays of the acrylic marker are more accurate than in yesterday's reproduction, but the colors don't play as well as they do in the real painting. In reproduction there is so much white to consider. As colors fill the canvas the interaction of one color against the other colors will become more accurate.
Can you see where these are going? I can not! Back and forth, and all around, they go from figurative to abstract. Consistent is their interest in form and composition. The one obvious is my struggle for authentic expression. Most gratifying is their high quality. It is my search for a simple means to accurate expression that forces upon me the letting go of the falderal. These drawings are moving me toward the point, to the reason, for making drawings. This seems odd to convey, but looking back, I believe most of my artistic career, and perhaps most of my career as living being, has been dedicated to activity as education, not activity as self-expression. There is a hump in one's path. It is the impediment to becoming an expressive entity. That hump is education. I don't mean education as simple information gathering. Good education is trial and error, a colloquy of learning. If successful, one's education gives one the means to decipher the particles in the cloud through which we walk in our daily existence. Most of these particles are required for simple sustenance, but it is those of the metaphysical that are really interesting to me. Mere sustenance can muddle, and even obscure, that which is truly important to understanding oneself. It is my job, as artist, to move through the cloud, to inspect the individual particles that are the cloud, to grab and place in my arsenal those particle that sing truly the language of myself. The rest of the particles are there as support, like the sunshine. Without sunshine we could not exist, but sunshine does not express the metaphysical angst that is the reason for waking up every day and screaming, "We exist for a reason!"
If nothing else, the reproductions are denser, more informative, since I have gone to photographing in RAW Format. I write this because the divide between where and whence and now and here is narrowing, but, as usual, I am impatient. I will take satisfaction anywhere I can get it. That said, there is much satisfaction in yesterday's one drawing. This last sentence may appear confusing, since I have complained about the presence of a divide. Complaints have their degree of correctness. Mine here may be shallow, but it is annoyingly true. I'm thinking about the inherent confusion which I carry because I have a desire to meld my need to continue to think figuratively with my need to express abstractly. Stepping back, observing yesterday's drawing, is informative. The top half of the drawing is abstract in form and in its quality of execution. It felt right to stop with sparsity of line. This barely-rendered, igneous boulder, plays directly over a much more refined image of a reticent, guarded, reluctant man, who cowers in his confusion. Thus an abstract form plays with (and against) the concrete figure. Apt it is. It speaks of me tackling the great divide with wonderment and respect.
I don't care about straight lines on the page, but I do care about getting there directly, without straying too far from an authentic path. Here I am in another struggle to keep on a line to self-expression. This is about clarity and correct measurement, and not about skill and being true to form. Yesterday's drawing feels off. It is too ornate and confusing. It looks like a weird being from another planet is encountering a strange fruit from another planet (the objects may come from two different planets — who knows?).
Today I am back at it again! (Lately, I seem to be loving those exclamation points!!!)
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