Part IV: Flat on Flat versus 3D on Flat
I prefer to deal with the artifice of the third-dimension on a flat surface, on canvas or paper. This is obvious in my images; obvious in the two works I show from yesterday's studio session.
Henri Matisse constantly dealt with this problem. Many have said Matisse's art is mostly decorative. It is more than that. Matisse himself said this: "What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or disturbing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue." That sounds like decoration to me! Matisse also said this: "Expression, to my way of thinking, does not consist of the passion mirrored upon a human face or betrayed by a violent gesture. The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The place occupied by figures or objects, the empty spaces around them, the proportions – everything plays a part. Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at the painter’s disposal for the expression of his feelings."
I agree with the second quote from Matisse more than the first. Expression is my desire too. However, I do not believe this (from Matisse): "Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner...." It is far more difficult that that. Expression is far more than decoration. It can be tough and caustic, clean or messy. I continue to research this problem.
Let me show two works of Henri Matisse. One tough, filled with three-dimension references, the other absolutely decorative, absolutely flat on flat (see below). I have tried to prove my thesis, that the artifice of the third-dimension can produce superior, more expressive art. than flat on flat. These two works by Henri Matisse are undeniably terrific and expressive. Of the two, I prefer the former. They are both decorative, but they are both bold and expressive as well. Kudos to Henri Matisse! I will continue to research self-expression through the use of three-dimensional forms on a flat canvas. I intuitively feel this method will bring me far past the expressive limitations of flat on flat. I must say is, "I am not Henri Matisse!" I admire Matisse's art, but I admire myself more.
I am framing again — this time for my Bromfield Gallery exhibit (opening is June 7). I am keeping my hand in making art — drawing. The painting "How's It Gonna End" (2019 No.2) is on my work wall in state 15; it is begging me for a major change, one that should make the composition fully expressive and fully sound. That will happen soon.
I am hoping to run. However, I am still learning to walk. Yesterday's drawing, and (actually) all the drawings of this past week, are me taking careful steps. One by one, they come slowly, carefully, deliberately. I am practicing. I am in search of the intrinsic and fundamental. Fundamental to me is form, pattern, compositional movement, variety, contrast, surface energy (created by rhythmic marks), and the dynamic of light versus darkness. This week has been weak on volume of works and the activity of painting. It has been one of low energy, but quality introspection. There is rhythm to discovery, invention, and creativity. I have great belief that living is filled with rhythm and rhyme. The idea that rhythm and rhyme can be mimed in art is beginning to be apparent in my drawing. At last! This technique of suggesting action, character, expression and emotion, by using only gesture and movement, is happening here.
Obvious to me, these drawings are prelude to my next painting, 2017 No.10. I intend to finish 2017 No.9 in the next three or four days.
I never know from where the reference comes. It must be referential. Right? Can anything be made without reference? One sees, one reads, one experiences — the references to past experiences, sensual and intellectual, have to be there in everything one creates, no matter how original it feels. Actually, writing this feels trite. Duh!
In any way I look at it, the battle within never ends. Truth and correctness are difficult to identify. The search to be true never ends. Doubt is impossible to dispel. Here I am, asking, did I referenced an image from the movie "Donnie Darko"? Did that red come from something I viewed in the immensity of other people's paintings I have seen? It doesn't matter! Does my work unravel a piece of me? Does it make my self-knowledge more lucid? Yeah, that's what matters.
When I awoke this morning I believed I would be writing about the occasional transitional failure. I thought yesterday's work had failed. Writing this blog, posting these images, has saved me from despair. These works are OK! They are transitional, yes. But, they are authentic in their enlightenment. I know more than I did the day before! I problem-solved. I made real the spatial ideas I wrote about in yesterday's blog post. I have a need to drive the artifice of space laterally, back and forth, in and out. Yesterday I tested this need. Today images crackle with the plunge into space that I so desire. Instead of the melancholy feeling of deficiency, I now feel better for the effort, and the results, I show here.
Sometimes I see my work as nothing new, nothing different, and stuck within the framework of historical standards in place 50 years ago. This is me at my most fearful. Yesterday's drawing brought this up. Competent, but unlike the work currently getting high notice by reviewers of Art in America and The New Yorker. Could be I need to change. Could be I am not open enough to my own instincts. Could be I am early on a road to personal definition. Could be I am right and the rest of the world needs to catch on.
Outside of my fears, let me tell you the way I see yesterday's drawing. I played with forms that are well known to all. I bent them till they filled the page with animation, big to little, normal to abnormal, light to dark, round to sharp, repetition of the similar versus contrast of the dissimilar. I enjoyed the labored process of seeking and finding. It was iterative: mark, erase, mark, erase, mark, et cetera. The problem was eventually solved. However, the final product does not grab the viewer with enough surprise as to engage on the deepest levels of emotion and intellect. Obviously, I need to think about my process and its outcomes. I want to engage my contemporaries. I want them to jump in, to partake in a conversation. First comes the engagement. Communication will follow. I need to work on this.
Whoever thunk it? I am a continual skeptic, full of doubt. I doubted I would ever get here, near a conclusion to Painting-01·08·2016, even though I have been through this process hundreds of times. The basic rule: Hang in there and a conclusion will occur! I write this with caution, because there may be an additional touch or two coming, but nothing so serious as to alter the mood or composition of this painting. It is what it is.
Yesterday's drawings continued my query into both approach and subject matter. There is no finality in these drawings. If anything, drawings like these make me realize that I will never find finality.
I continue to fail at perfect reproduction — this too will forever be a problem! In today's reproductions you can see that both drawings were unevenly lit: A shadowing effect occurs in the upper left.
FYI: The drawing on the left was on slightly yellow paper, with a water mark visible in the lower left.
Drawings from 11/18/2015, both pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Yesterday... Eyes have it! These drawings are representative of my current methodology. The surprise feels cavernous. I have turned-on a flashlight in a dark cavern. The light beam, radiating from my hand, is an apt analogy. The light goes just a little way, so discoveries take place with every step.
Invention, surprise, resurrection, Stanley Kubrick, Leo Tolstoy, Abbott and Costello. They all have given meaning to my life. Rumination and self-analysis has been a result. How do I get all of them in my art? There is no easy means or method, so I continue to plug away. Who's on first? The title of yesterday's blog post said, "This is What!", but Abbott said, "What is on second." The play of ins, outs, and betweens of my synapses must be leading me to comprehensive knowing, or not. The drawings shown today are me searching. This is not unusual, but I note it just the same.
FYI: The complete dialogue of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" is transcribed at the end this post.
Drawings from 11/11/2015, both pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Who's on First? by Abbott and Costello
Intelligent is not enough. Inspired is not enough. Emotionally sensitive is not enough. To be a true work of art, to be relevant, a painting has to contain all of the mentioned qualities. Of course, this is true for drawings too.
Drawings from 11/04/2015, both pencil on paper, 20X16 inches
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