Making art is the art of making choices. Final outcomes are based upon a myriad of choices, some major, some minor. Choices feel minor when a work is coming to a conclusion, but they enhance the ultimate impact of a work already majorly conceived. This seem obvious, but the possibilities of directions is not obvious. I worry about this. Pablo Picasso worried about this.
There is a passage in Francoise Gilot's wonderful book of reminiscences, "Life with Picasso", where she tells a story of Picasso's desire to go different directions with the same painting. Picasso instructed her, and another assistant, to reproduce, on an identically sized canvas, the work Picasso has done on a painting. Picasso intended to take each of the identical canvases in different directions. Picasso inspected the reproduction and immediately got upset. Gilot, and the assistant, has worked for hours reproducing Picasso's work. Picasso's rage was over incongruities along the edges (Picasso was famous for his rages). Gilot said to Picasso something like this, "Pablo, you must be wrong, we were very careful to exactly copy your original work. It is not our work that is wrong, so the canvas must be wrong." Picasso thought for a moment, then ordered Gilot and the assistant to measure the canvas to make sure it was identical to the original. It was not. It was slightly different. Picasso's precise vision had detected the subtle difference made on the composition. He turned his outrage to the manufacturer of his canvases.
I told you this story because of my desire to go different directions with the same idea. This problem never ends. I do it through daily work, as did Picasso, and every other substantial artist. It is the development of a core idea that is occurring. In the end, it is easy to identify a work by Picasso, or Monet, or Van Gogh, or Cezanne, and it gets easier if one views the late works of these masters. Leo Tolstoi believed every great man has one great idea. Perhaps this is true. It is the variations on the solutions created in stripping away, it is the passage to identifying the great idea, that makes a great artist's work fascinating in spirit, and rewarding to the soul.
Tomorrow I deliver just two works to the AVA Gallery Juried Summer Exhibition. Just two! This is a problem. No work is perfectly conceived, nor definitive. They are little failures along the road travelled on the quest for self-understanding.
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