I seem to go back and forth. Sometimes I burst into the void, acting in complete doubt. Other times I begin with an idea I wish to explore. The latter was yesterday's modus operandi. The result I find secure, but not grandly exciting, nothing to make me scream, "Revelation!" The consequence is this: in my first drawing today, I will challenge everything I know.
My recent life has been much about reviewing & revising — a massive effort to determine reality by querying my past. Yesterday's drawing looked back to drawing No.2 in yesterday's post. This reviewing is more about method then art-work. Questioning methodological meaning is my current modus operandi. I stoled a form from "Drawing 09·22·2019 No.2" — It's that upside-down "U" that moves from bottom right, up and around, ending just to the right of my signature. Does it work? Does it have meaning? Is this a better drawing than the one from the day before? On it goes...
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.
Now is the time when nuance is in question. Does the change in the head of the bird in the painting "Wowie" enhance this painting? It is not just the bird's head that has been altered. The silhouette of the man, and the "ground", have also been modified. The alteration in the bird was called for by the alteration in the "ground", which was followed by the change in the silhouette. Of the ground, I am sure. Yes, but does this new bird's head improve the painting? I am questioning my decision because of this reproduction. Yesterday I did the same questioning while in the studio. I altered the bird's head several times, finally arriving at the one shown here. So, should I accept this version as correct? The problem I must answer is this: Can the painting allow this more demanding version of the bird's head? The only way to answer this may be to erase the present bird's head and try again. But, sometimes I walk into the studio, look at a painting and know, "This is good!" Stay tuned.
Yesterday's drawing is definitely a good one.
There are no good words to perfectly describe the methodology of discovery that has overtaken me, so "gronk" it is! This painting is beginning to work for me, as is the drawing.
It feels good to run into this without knowing where it's going. More precisely, I am following the lead of positive intuitive feedback. It is a feedback loop, not unlike one experienced with a microphone and an electrical audio amplifier. It is getting louder and louder, squealing in pleasure and pain. I am "getting real" with myself. If I have learned anything from my recent activity, it is that I enjoy moving my line across invented forms. If this is methodology, it is one of discovery of form through seek and find by line.
Stephen King wrote several stories where the reason for tension in the story, and the reader's emotional commitment to the story line, is an artifice of ideas never fully explained. As example, this happens in his famous novel, which became a famous film, "The Shining." This kind of unexplained artifice is occurring in my recent painting, Flame. Most of my life I have been uncomfortable with this lack of known reasoning in fiction and art. Perhaps no longer. I am reassessing everything. I am making an effort to make sure one note properly follows another, but this does not mean I must fully intellectualize the reason that this is true. This brings me to something Leonard Bernstein said (see below).
The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life to make sure that one note follows another...and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.
In the June 22, 2015 issue of The New Yorker magazine there is an article critiquing the art of the German painter Albert Oehlen (twenty-seven of his works are now on view at the New Museum in New York City). Peter Schjeldahl calls Oehlen "the foremost painter of the era that has seen painting decline as the chief medium of new art."
Schjeldahl writes, "If Oehlen has a method, it is to recoil, stroke by stroke, from conventional elegance—strangling one aborning stylistic grace after another. He has said that he was fascinated, early in his career, by American Action painting of the nineteen-fifties—a histrionic mode of pictorial rhetoric, specifically imitative of de Kooning, whom Oehlen cites as a hero. (The term was misapplied to Jackson Pollack's drip painting, which exult a canny control.) Oehlen's variant—call it reaction painting—fights back toward the Master's rigorous originality. (Oehlen's one prominently lacking resource is de Kooning's forte of drawing)."
Long-time readers of this blog know that I admire Willem de Kooning's work, but find most of Pollack's work problematical and unremarkable.
I believe my work is true reaction painting, built, as is de Kooning's work, on a forte of drawing. Oehlen's work is just acting-out. His lack of draftsmanship leaves his work with little more than active play, bereft of emotional depth.
I am slowing down and watching more carefully. Call it a move toward mediative reactionism. Gushy paint is being replaced by thinner paint which allows more sensual feel and touch. This means I am still learning the provocation from which my personal craft arises. My pencil line has had this quality of sensual touch for quite a while.
This drawing took me nearly four hours to complete. It is filled with normalcy and abnormality. Nobody has a nose like the man's, but the breast of the woman looks familiar. And so it goes — I am testing the waters of abstraction versus traditional figuration. For me, this is becoming a forever problem. Besides my addressing this issue of abstract forms versus more naturally derivative forms, I would like to point out the complexity of this drawing's space. The drawing, after all, is on a two dimensional piece of paper. Wandering through its space is a deceit, driven by form, perspective, light and shadow, and line. In this drawing, and in the drawing reproduced in my previous blog post, I have used lines to create surface values which simultaneously drive and animate space. The easiest place to see this occur is on the top of the box on which the woman sits.
It is important to me that you look carefully at one minor element: the woman's left hand. I drew that over and over, till it felt right, at least five times.
To read my profile go to MEHRBACH.com.
At MEHRBACH.com you may view many of my paintings and drawings, past and present, and see details about my life and work.