I have fought and fought. I did not easily accept truth. I never simply believed in documented truth. I had to put it to a test. I made myself work, test after test! I made my viewers work. I failed. Now I know. Acceptance of truth is necessary. Truth is not always clear and easy to perceive. However, a visual statement much engage by directly engagement of the viewer. The artist must not screw around with in hope the viewer will want to enter his artwork. An artwork must grab the viewer. An artwork must have an "in-your-face" engagement. The drawing I show today is an "in-your-face" image. It engages the viewer, immediately. The viewer comprehends its declaration, easily. Is this the greatest drawing ever made? I will not say that. I will say it is a successful test of my doctrine: I accept tried and true reality, as illustrated by generations of great artists, including my mentor, Philip Guston.
Philip Guston never fought the truth that I accept today. In fact, his late figurative work always engage with in-your-face images, one after another. As examples, take a look at three late works by Philip Guston (below👇).
Going home is going back to one's roots. I am doing this. In fact, I am returning to the roots of classical art. I have tried, repeatedly, to defeat classicism. Picasso accepted classicism as truth. Picasso gave into the reality that classicism had determined the best way to engage the viewer. Classicism was centuries old before Picasso got here, even older before I got here. Classism had challenged many ways of presenting imagery. Picasso accepted that classicism had succeeded. The invention, and the success of Modern Art, is not about compositional challenge; that had already been done. No matter the degree of distance Picasso put between his images and naturalism, the force of his compositions always accepted classicism's compositional dictates. Every image Picasso presents is "in your face," "straight ahead," composed to engage by laterally depicting his images within the defined rectangle. No matter the wildness of Picasso's forms, his compositions do not disturb the viewer's natural way of digesting an image. The wildness of Picasso's image are attenuated by his acceptance of pure compositional classism. I am now doing the same. It took me longer to get to here, to this insight, then it did Picasso (or Van Gogh or Matisse or Philip Guston or Willem de Kooning, for that matter). Those five (Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Guston, de Kooning) are my heroes, my main mentors. Four of them were my mentors from a distance, but Philip Guston mentored me in person.
Take a look at today's drawing. I accept classical composition. Why, I ask, has it taken me so long? This acceptance frees me to invent via form, color, scale, shape, and space. It frees me because I accept the basic rules that are classical composition. No more will I fight the tenets of classical composition.
Below I show you two daring works of art. They do not challenge "Classical Composition." The do challenge how we see. Both of these paintings creating a reality that challenges our visual world through imagery, not through composition.
Understanding is slow to form, but when understanding is accomplished, it is resilient, and consistent. My favorite painting of Leonardo da Vinci's is his unfinished St. Jerome. As with all things I love at first sight, I did not immediately comprehend the reason for my instantaneous love. It is the overall organization of the canvas I relish so much. Here is an incomplete list of reasons for my visceral enjoyment of St. Jerome: (1) the rotation of lion's tail mimicking the overall rotational dialogue of the entire image, (2) the intriguing negative space between Jerome and the lion, (3) the thrust of Jerome's outstretched arm being parallel to the lion's torso, (4) the semi-circle of the lion's mouth ensuring consistency in rotation, scaled small to large, (5) all the rotation is in contrast to the central pin of the composition, firmly set by the vertical thrust of the St. Jerome's right leg. I enjoy this image deeply, relentlessly, with great satisfaction. My visceral connection, both emotional and intellectual, to Leonardo's St. Jerome is because of its compositional structure. Acknowledging Leonardo's accomplishment is an important insight in my journey to making my own work more satisfying. I can draw form as will as Leonardo, but I continue to labor to fully comprehend compositional structure. I want my art to be fully satisfying, intellectually and emotionally satisfying. I want my viewers to fall in love with my works of art at first sight, just as I did with the painting St. Jerome.
Yesterday's drawings are efforts in the right direction, toward full compositional satisfaction.
Looking for nirvana never fails to fail. This drawing is a start in the right direction. Seek and I shall find. This drawing finds merit in directness coupled with complexity. Here are large individual forms, within the large forms complexity is found. This is not the perfect accomplishment. It is a finding; not conclusive, but a verdict of merit that is preparation for my next step.
I received a gift of a calendar for 2021. It contains 365 art images, mostly paintings. Its cover shows Vincent Van Gogh's Still Life with Irises (one of Vincent's greatest masterpieces, completed in the last year of his life, 1890). You see one of my inspirations in this painting. Vincent used simple color, simple large forms, but then playfully created a complexity of lines, shapes, and value contrast within the irises. Van Gogh's Still Life with Irises is satisfying on many levels. I absolutely adore this painting. It is a treasured lesson in emotional truth telling.
The drama and solidity of this composition tells me, "I am here! Here, at last!" Getting to the here and the now, with complete honesty as the tag, makes this moment real. It has not come easy. Can I sustain it? Why not? Philip Guston sustained it, and he was no less human than I. This is the most important part of Guston's mentoring. If not for Philip I could not have understood this as the most important component of making art.
Energy in movement is reentering my work — BIG! I have missed it. There is wonder in me of where things go in the interim between search and find. I search for nirvana in personal mindfulness, yet I often wander through a maze of ideas in my hunt for pure, blissful, truth telling. These drawings do speak loudly of the importance of being present while drawing, present as one is in the energy of one's mind. These drawings speak of me and not of ideals or delusive inquires into those who have come before me.
Adolph Gottlieb has instructed me; simple contrast can create complex, emotional images. Yesterday's drawing was one experiment in that direction.
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!
As elegant as yesterday's drawing is, I feel it is missing an element I seek. More clearly: It is missing the center of the element I seek. This drawing lacks a nucleus! Perhaps I do recognize there is a nucleus within its negative space. Is that enough? I don't believe it is. I require a positive nucleus to feel my work has become appropriately and properly me. As example, I show you a work by my mentor, Philip Guston. In his most abstract period, Guston (unlike his buddy, Jackson Pollock), understood the need for a painting to have a focal point. All-Over is not conducive to viewer involvement. All-Over is a cop out; it denotes a loss of interest in topic (as abstract as that topic may be). The painting I show you below, by Philip Guston, has a title relevant to today's discussion as well: "Zone", The title is unnecessary because its relevance is in its obvious visual nucleus.
There is a certain moment in the Oeuvre of every artist I admire, a moment of transition, out of messy questioning and into disciplined clarity. This is my moment!
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