On My Painting. Part One

Kazuo Shiraga Wild Boar HUnting

Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature.

I prefer to see with closed eyes. – Josef Albers

I think quite a bit about what I want a painting to be. It’s often a rough combative kind of thought that plays out with each new work I begin. But it is also a kind of lingering hum to my daily thoughts that leads to moments of distraction and day-dreaming. Those moments my friends know, where I stare past them in the midst of a conversation, I apologize every time, but more than likely it’s me dreaming smoothloomingly of what to do or make of an upcoming painting.

For much of my life while I have been painting (my ‘painting life’??) I have wavered back and forth on all matter of details of what, how, and why to paint (also where and when, but they tend to be more technical than thoughtful). Wavering is perhaps not the best word as it has been all about exploration and experimentation. So, If I’m wavering, it’s simply that I’m riding waves backwards and forwards, from out of my mind and onto a surface. All of which is I think part of growing as a painter/artist and constructing a voice and a presence in the work.

Lately though, I think I have come to a few specifically clear ideas with my work.

The first is perhaps best summarized by the quote from Josef Albers at the top of this post:

Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. I prefer to see with closed eyes.

These words keep surfacing in my mind lately. They indicate something I feel very strongly–that the internal world is of equal importance to the outer. That the inner world of experience is as vital as the outer. And in my mind they are virtually inseparable from each other.

The nature of abstraction to capture a feeling, evoke reality, and tell a story that we understand seems more powerful, more affecting and more clear to me then does a lot of painting drawn directly from observation. I see this in how abstraction penetrates to our thoughts on something rather than dictating a particular view of the world around us. Abstraction is more of a 2-way mirror than a window vantage point.

But of course, there is the idea of a painting being purely abstract to contend with as well. I think the idea that anything could be pure in that sense is just false. One can’t in my mind, be a biological being and eliminate their biological reality and all the emotions, visions, ideas that come with it.

Things of the mind are messy, and so abstraction becomes messy. That is the way I like it, and what I’m pursuing with my own painting. Not something cold and clear, but something as heated up as it is serene – alive with contradictions and clashes.

Abstraction, non-objective imagery, is to me most alive when it balances between things we feel internally and yet recalls things we understand in the visual world around us. I like when things look familiar and un-familiar at the same time, when what we see is both clearly something and yet nothing at all.

A few works that drive this idea home for me are for example, Kazuo Shiraga‘s Wild Boar Painting. This is a painting that just fucking punches you in the gut with something so wildly intense and visceral that you cannot unsee it.

Kazuo Shiraga Wild Boar HUnting

I like to compare this to Reubens  ‘ hunting paintings just to see the total difference of emotion and tone. What do you think?

Reubens Wolf and Fox Hunt

Next, I would point out the work of Kamisaka Sekka. Somehow, these Japanese artists just seem to latch on in my mind (that must be at least a whole other post?).

Painting by Kamisaka Sekka

Obviously, It is completely different in every way from the Shiraga painting. But it is totally about a view of the world that is both part of the world and not part of the world. Is it abstract? I think so, the recognizable images of flowers are converted to a graphic, non-naturalistic form and are aligned like geometry more than how one would imagine a garden to grow.  A decorative view, but of something made to be a painting, and not really a garden. The best kind of gardens I think.

I could go on with further examples, and I could go on and on about the ideas and developments behind and within my painting. But I’m going to stop myself here, and break things into a part two in the near future to talk more about the how and what of my paintings.