It is fleeting, this feeling that I know what I am doing. Safety is not an option. Discomfort is all there is. I hope this is temporary nervousness. Can I blame it on Covid-19 and our dystopian politics? I think not. This is me. This is my struggle to express fully and adequately. Discomfort instigates the next step. Yesterday's second drawing feels better than the first. The first came stiffly; as if I knew the investigation I wanted to make. The second flew, created like watching a mystery unravel. It came mindfully, me watching carefully, yet the task spilled out with robust tenacity of purpose, full of courage, accompanied by audacity. I believe the higher quality of the second drawing is obvious.
Adolph Gottlieb's works have always fascinated me. I know why. I am struggling fro self-expressive potency; my images never fully satisfy me. Gottlieb's works use a simple formula, over and over. Gottlieb uses a round, cleanly organized shape in contrast to an explosive, jumbled shape; in addition, his images exude positive-shape intensity against supportive, residual negative space. The positive shapes are rich, the negative space lends them fierce interest. This contrast, of shapes and space, sings a potent, emotional message. I do not make flat shapes. My complex, three-dimensional forms have greater opportunity to sing emotions than do Gottlieb's simple, flat shapes. I will stay my course. Gottlieb's simple formula educates; his formula lends charge to visual imagery; his exude husky, emotional responses. In this regard, I believe I can go further than Gottlieb. Adolf Gottlieb's limited formula has instructed me; simple contrast has great possibilities; obtaining more accurate self-expression is possible!
Feeling a lot in the making of visual art means pushing the possibilities that marks and forms allow; this is done in order to approach the craziest of emotions while sticking to the time-honored definition of a rectangular plane's ability to be seen properly by viewers. Communication is engagement; engagement would not happen if the images created are far afield from the recognizable. A viewer must be somewhat comfortable in order to enter, then explore. It is in the exploration that art is made and art is seen.
Yesterday's drawing is one more effort to bridge the gap between all that is known and all that I know and feel. I am working hard to keep myself, and the images I make, centered. "Centered" is full acceptance of me in the world. All is possible if I limit myself to real possibilities, not to a wish list based upon fiction and fantasy.
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.
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