Art Theory

where you will find thoughts on theory, reference to past theory and commentary, source material on art criticism and aesthetic theory. All of that type of stuff.

 

I have to admit one of the reasons it took so long for me in life to focus on and get deeply into art is it’s relevance. I never fully understood what art was, why it mattered, and what to do with it. Generally, as much as it is and was part of my own character, I was blank regarding art.

 

I’ve since grown to reach a few revelations regarding art and how I relate to it. The most recent is that it holds a power to actually slow time in a unique way no other art form can accomplish. Life moves as it moves and never ceases to remind you and I that time is ticking. To the nth degree in this country and the world we now know moving at it’s incredible speed. The speed of information, internet, advertising, work pressure, etc. Films as an art form have their duration during which you are taken into the film for it’s duration and when it ends it ends. An allegory to death exists in this. The duration inside of the film may give a capacity to experience an extension of the real 2 hours or so that we give it, but it still moves in it’s own duration as a film. In the reality world, it retains a finite element. Life itself holds that finite element. Music, the same but generally in a shorter frame. A painting has no time element inherent to it. Other than it’s own degradation. I recently assimilated this and became fascinated by it while living amongst 2 of my own works in my room. They grown in my eyes as I look. It’s different than when I am working on them in the studio. More natural time around them allows me to look. And in time, my looking grows and I see more that they might be, or more that they are, or both. When a work achieves only growth in absorbing and none in the looking, then it is truly and purely timeless. Is such a thing possible? Probably not, for fear of the individual (not the work), ceasing to move.

Because of the stillness of a painting, I believe that gives it the potential to be timeless. Which is not to say it guarantees it. A painter can make many missteps, many of which will not even be regarded as missteps depending on the tastes of it’s era, that can diminish the timelessness of a work. And it is undoubtedly an open ended challenge to paint a timeless work. Timeless is forever. To paint a “forever” is, I would say with bareness, not possible. But the challenge exists, and endless degrees of timelessness are possible with the culmination of that prior absolute. I have purposefully sought to avoid what I perceive to be missteps for myself. Including direct correlation to a prior era’s aesthetic, following current taste too closely, social and political commentary, fashions of the day, and so on. Even defined gender, race, and belief can be missteps in this pursuit.

Along the same lines, in my personal experience the strongest memories are the most vivid, most ideal, most exciting. Simply put, the most memorable moments in my life. Painting allows a window into this, perhaps a parallel to this. A beautiful memory may be all that remains of a whole era of one’s life years and decades later. The more time that passes the more that every small fades from view. And strong memories may not hold their setting, their smells, sounds or sights, but they still hold some form of imprint that does not leave completely. The truth of an era of time, can we see it in what is written or photographed from the time? Can those things be entirely trusted to translate the life of that time? But the beauty of a painting, it just doesn’t seem to melt away from the years the same way. Timeless again, but in this way in reference to the most beautiful and most painful memories of our lives being essentially what our lives amount to as the past recedes.

 

Another fascinating element is that the canvas itself is potentially the most free realm available. Nowhere else can a person be so ultimately free to envision anything they desire. Without restriction. That means something in the world even if painting has passed it’s due date as a relevant practice. It’s relevance, in and of itself, is a freeing aspect for those who desire to see it as such. Now art serves no master. Which makes it a bastion of the individual, if chosen to be so. Where el;se in this world and in life can one choose so freely what is and is not theirs.

Following from the previous Cat and Mouse Game post.

Part of the issue with such hypocritical appearances as those I appear to put forth in my work and my writings, and which I described in the last post, is the ongoing search for a delicate balance. All things in the world we know achieve or attempt to achieve a balance, and portraying art faithfully and at it’s height, to me, is achieving that same balance.

One of the most pressing issues of modern art and it’s current state is the process by which art has arrived where it stands today and inherent concerns within that lineage. Such concerns have the potential to afford us a truthful vista upon why it is art has developed in the directions it has.  The modern history of art has been ruled by newness, new isms, new movements, artists from all corners of the earth and all walks of life attempting to make their mark both literally and figuratively. This history and those who assist it’s human borne evolution intentionally or unintentionally have long placed increased value on originality and originators of new and unexplored territories. This is a trait of modern art, a consequence of the pursuit of a creativity beyond the boundaries of realism, imitation, and social utility, which were traits of the former art preceding the industrial revolution. All work which is, perhaps unknowingly and perhaps not, predicated on the strength afforded to them by the vehement denial of what preceded them. Forged on the publicly eviscerated flaws within the vision of the artists who laid the groundwork for the new in every movement left behind and the movement that followed. Destruction, to put it more strongly. Tearing down the old to make room for the new.

Context is important in such an understanding, as a metaphor came to mind that will help illuminate this. If we are tearing down to make room for the new, think of art as a bustling city, and refer to the vein of construction work in which tearing down is a bare bones physical reality. I need to make a physical metaphor of this phenomena of visual art, as art is not only about written theory and mental and spiritual constructs. Everything must be placed in the physical model to be understood as a part of the entire scope of the art we experience and create.

In such a hypothetical living city, assume construction tears down the old to make room for the new. It is important to note at this point that in this world there is a literal quantity of room (space) for all the new humanity could ever create, without tearing down the old (but still useful) constructs (we will not refer to the old and no longer useful constructs, as they are not remembered in their destruction or are torn down over time by nature itself). The context of the room needed and the nature of that need (where and why), the setting of the process, is more important and illuminating to the social process behind this deconstruction than the space itself needed in which to build. In this way the nature of the creators and destroyers trumps the resultant product. Why something is done runs deeper than what is done. Another example of how the artist must have the art follow the self and not the other way around, as it mirrors the social constructs we enact on a daily basis.

The problem lies in that in finite spaces such as our specific city, room is limited. So while the wide world has ample space that can house all the newness that could ever be built while allowing for the natural degradation of the old, and rest assured the natural (non man-made) world functions in this manner of natural degradation, the world of humankind, this concrete paradise, has exalted and may very well continue to exalt the new, and hold it above the old purposefully. This construct (and those who it is created by) may destroy the old and put the new in it’s place, with the direct intention of highlighting the contrast between the two.

The old is torn down to have new in it’s place, with the intention of not only replacing the old but contrasting it’s progressions and highlight it’s “superior” properties to what was in it’s place. The new rises in place of the old with a somewhat sinister and vampiric purpose. To make the new more than what it would be if it was simply new on it’s own. In part it becomes new, and more important, because of the weight of what it destroyed or what was destroyed to allow it’s presence to take it’s place. The death of the old, premature or not and deserved or not (as well as credible or not), feeds the grand reputation of the new with it’s death – and more finitely put, the social energy generated in the act of killing (this is the seed of shock art I propose). Quite possibly artificially sustaining the new with this charged energy, beyond the true merit something new might achieve by merit alone. This is a widespread social action in the life we see around us. New is thrown around without regard to weight of content, giving life simply from it’s novelty. But every day in this world is not a Spring day.

The setting of the stage for old vs. new is not to be overlooked as a key element in sociological desires for creation and innovation. The setting shows the motivation of the creators as intentionally thrusting forward, a subconscious beacon of what we have learned as a second nature to call progress. “Progress” has existed and gained strength on the death of tradition. It must. Otherwise it risks a lack of interest or understanding, a lack of necessity amongst those it attempts to enlist for it’s support corps, or a simple revelation that perhaps what is new is either not so new at all or not so grand as it may seem without that intoxicating and yet entirely anti-functional “new car smell”. Or that perhaps the average soul is likely to accept the present terms put forth by his or her immediate surrounding life, rather than press forward to discover new terms. It is a fine line between a necessity for forward growth, and the desire of the few to move their own interest forward. Therein lies the necessity of finding a balance in this.

I call progress foolhardy, used as it has been to trumpet the new without a deep examination of merit. Yet somehow it seems so unavoidable for the world of progress to proceed in this fashion. For one, such examination of merit has no patron. Not the average person nor the few who create out of personal interest. Beyond that, imagine a lone skyscraper meant and designed for the NYC financial district, erected in Antarctica. Who would fill it’s floors? Who would pay it’s bills, and why? Without it’s place, where it’s natural use exists, why should it exist then? In this way the social construct is forced to move forward by such erected projects and forced to a great degree to accept the terms laid out by progress without any choice other than to accept the terms or abandon the equation. Good questions.

Often times history itself calls for an answer and progress provides that answer. Whether or not the answer holds forward moving merit can be placed in secondary position to the need for anything at all to step forward and fill a gap. Maybe in a new world, a world we may be entering, where the immediate confines of physical space are suspended and the limitations of the connections of the physical world we have known are growing more inconsequential, growth shown by things such as the internet and the gifts of the information age, a world in which setting and forced progress has loosened it’s grip on the nature of necessity will be revealed. Then we can see whether or not merit in new creations can exist without an artifice of progress as support and the purported necessity of progress due to restrictive settings to buoy it’s youth.

In the same respect as revering the new at the mortal expense of the old,  it makes no sense to keep and revere the old in order to push out the new to a setting or context in which it no longer functions and has lost it’s purposes. Neither absolute is truly correct, though it seems so necessary that some allowance must be made for a legitimate answer of some kind. Between two options, neither of which are entirely correct, where do we find a truth? With no answers we have no direction, this lack of constructive response implies a meaningless question. We have no purposes at all in that position and fall toward a tendency of repetition, of doing for the sake of doing as we remember the action of doing in a look at yesterday. Therefore we continue doing today because it is familiar. I must say that resembles a self examining postmodernist view all too much, reminiscent of the self relating art of the twentieth century. Looping endlessly amongst itself having abandoned questions entirely, perhaps due to an easy reconciliation between the frustration of an inability to answer such questions and the sight of the world continuing to move forward and act without such answers. Answers at the very least, whether we have them or not, imply questions in their act of being sought. Ultimately without such questioning I would say any progress is impossible no matter how shiny or shocking it may be.

Let us return from the world of metaphor back to the question of art. The modern history of art has increasingly built itself on the foundation of destructive action. Tearing at and tearing down the predecessor in order to establish the new mode of seeing. One act of destruction is not all that we suffer in this. In this line of action we suffer the eventual destruction of everything. Producing this art and this theory which needs so desperately the blood of the predecessor on which to float it’s innovation has an unexpected effect only a person of foresight can be made aware of. A succession of destructive art and theories produces an accumulation of destruction and little else but the remnants of it. Everything eventually has it’s day at the gallows. Accepting the death of the old with the glory of the new, and then doing so again and again, renders everything once new later destroyed. So everything becomes dead, and that is the only definitive end that can be reached other than a continual thirst for newness which becomes the only validity available. What is placed in the new position grows to be invalid, valid only by nature of it’s placement as new. And so works and theories and movements themselves no longer matter, only that they are considered new. New becomes art, and art successively becomes nothing.

Which is where we are. What we have today in art is a mirror of the world of the humming function of production without principle, direction, true originality, everything that art at it’s most idealistic (the time of the expressionists and symbolists) strove against. And we have remnants of the old art, pieces which are no longer distinguishable as pieces of any whole we know or remember, like so many eroded relics of a former mind. In the construction metaphor, they would be tattered bricks from what was once a building. Once in a while you will come upon a work of modern art which is akin to a dated cornerstone wrenched from it’s building, revealing more than the ordinary work, but still only a remnant in a memory. In these bricks and artifacts nothing of what was the structure from whence they came is held. Nothing more than archaeological curiosities. Modern art is nothing more than the production of individually advertised archaeological curiosities. Nothing more than home businesses pumping out tourist souvenirs of the artistic perspective of artists to whom art has evaded finding a stature of meaning. Some would call this very thing progress. And that such work, if it’s validity were greater, would withstand the test of time and last through the ages. Well, I would call that a shallow view. The strongest greatest architectural masterpiece one could imagine would not remain standing by virtue of it’s artistic and philosophical mastery when a wrecking ball is swung into it’s walls. The reasoning behind the presence and purpose of the wrecking ball is not the responsibility of the wrecking ball itself. In layman’s terms, progress can only be called progress if it is progress. Just because old is destroyed for new does not automatically validate it is as an act of progress, and the greatness of the old does not save it out of it’s sheer greatness.

Jeff Koons has answered to this, and if he has not done so directly or intentionally it doesn’t really matter. Making gallery works of souvenirs, artifacts, or any other pop culture items that symbolize these ideas of production, newness and detachment would not be very far at all from Koons work. I’m sure there are artists out there to take up this flag and fly it, though it’s not for me. I feel within every ounce of my artistic being that there must be a better answer to the questions of the modern art and the inherent deep issues, other than to mock it or continue to remove simple, basic artistic pursuit until there is nothing personally creative left. As any other, Koons’ answer follows the same line of response which has brought the Western art to where it is now. Mockery is tearing down, allegory is indirect, and exalting assumed progress and circulating newness is not all there is to creation. Mocking or attempting a reversal of newness and originality, as some have suggested Koons does, is the same destructive act of his predecessors. It offers no conclusive answer, and in it’s defense, promises none whatsoever.

I have to believe that there is the potential of a better way to be found in a balance and the knowledge that truth is a subjective matter of perspective, until it bears down to rule the individual. If there is no truth to be universally found, at least I, as an artist, can have the potential to find and materialize my own undeniable truth. My theory, and my life, is that answers and purpose are to be found in a balance of all things. This includes the purposeful destruction of what is aged beyond it’s ability to offer strength, not suitable, or outmoded, along with the acceptance of past work which held a true measure of quality and has been unjustly replaced with a new inferiority. As well the progress toward a clearer view toward the flaws of the past coupled with the quality a new perspective can afford the world of today. A balance which to be seen must consider truths and falsities in all things, where they lie, for what they are without an individual or collective bias. And therefore requires a vantage point which allows the seeing of all things in a complete picture of the world of humans and sociological action past and present, as naturally discoverable as the rotations and rhythms of the natural world itself. I believe the access to that complete picture can be discovered in simply raising sight to another level entirely.

If I continued the metaphor a bit further, know this. An argument can be made from any number of perspectives highlighting any side of this argument. Old, new, both can be made to be absolute, both can combined in any percentage. It is all a matter of seeing from one view or another. Long ago I assumed to myself that no real answers are to be found in unanswerable places. And that no answers lie in things that can be argued infinitely without end. Such arguments are not questions as they are never destined to be more than arguments if no definition can be achieved. The answer, and there is only one, is not much of an answer at all. It is more of a revelation. The understanding of what I described above. That any number of arguments can be made, that any number of views can be put forth and hold some measure of truth. That the only way to achieve a complete measure of truth is to accept all of the possible arguments and see them all for being a balanced collection of incompletions as they will always be. The complete picture is nothing more than accepting all of the incompletions and holding the vantage point of the process in it’s state of action. And a true balance is nothing more than seeking loyalty to all things through acceptance, and loyalty to no things through acceptance of the self as the only answer to the individual life one individual truly possesses, with the uninfluenced and undiluted self as the ruling article in any question and answer session. Or in this case, to the individual art.

On a related note, I recently felt the necessity of balance in the use of elements in order to portray their opposite. The opposite of a visual element can be achieved in it’s sensory perception of it’s presence, and not necessarily it’s direct portrayal. Often times a stronger sense of something is achieved through it’s opposite, and that opposite works this way when it finds it’s balance.

A canvas covered in blood shows blood. We see the blood, we feel the blood, we recognize the simple physical object of blood. It acts directly, shallowly, and obscures the power of action – literally and figuratively – giving only the presence of blood, and blood having been spilled. After that initial reaction perhaps more intricate perceptions of action or meaning can follow. But the first impression is bare and simple, and rules the work. Everything that follows falls under that initial rule and is subjugated by it. Assume this to be mathematically considered a number meaning all, just for the sake of making a point. This would be the distant past of art, canvases covered in the imitated forms of portraiture, of life, but so heavily reproduced that there is living action in the work. And yet they reveal little to nothing of the true nature of the forms they represent, of the depth of unknown possibility within the forms of their subjects.

A microscopic photograph of blood painted on a canvas does not show blood at all. It detaches entirely from the action, acts entirely indirectly, and relies on great external supports in order to return the viewer to it’s nature and meaning. It may show an organic nature, perhaps it portrays life in some distanced fashion, but not at all the action of living as people know it when they engage in that action. Everything that follows from this first impression of such a picture has to be gleaned in the same way in order to connect with anything resembling life.  Assume this to be mathematically considered the number zero, for the sake of the same point. This would be the present of art, modern art engaged in deep examinations of minutiae of understanding and expression which are so deep into understanding that they have detached from the living state of reason and purpose. They are divorced from a connection to a humanity which art needs in order to retain connection with humanity.

A world of art which is in danger of distancing itself from humanity, due to it’s lack of necessity, would be well advised to attempt an art less likely to need great efforts on the part of the recipient in order to be understood. Simplicity of understanding would be the order of the day, if such a day were accepted to be a threat. At the very least, if great seeking is required to receive such art it should at least offer great rewards. “Oh, that’s what that is! Huh..” is not a reaction that usually implies the receipt of great rewards.

Somewhere in between none and all, we attempt this: A negligible but visually understandable spatter of blood within a setting of action shows life. It is the same object, the same product, but reducing it’s use to a more balanced application and visually introducing it’s nature through it’s action (redness will not afford it the consideration of being a spatter, action must be represented as well, i.e. the spattering) inspires an entirely new set of perceptions that reach the artist and the viewer in a way in which we understand it best. It gives an immediate sense of life and death, the presence of such things in our own lives. The spatter implies the course of the life we are in, and the living action within it. It strikes a balance of possibility that allows connection. And on top of that, it is through the implication of an opposite we receive it’s opposite. Loss of blood implies death, yet it is capable of creating a sense of urgency of life.

A totality of one thing only reveals the nature of that thing as it’s object, and reinforces the object nature of a physical artwork. A balance of elements creates something more than an object, it creates a mass of symbols done with effect. There is a language to that balance, and that in my view is the language of my artistic vision and purpose.

A series of random notes and addendum to existing posts.

The cat and mouse game within my works and writings.

You’ll often find what appears to be inconsistencies, possibly even blatant hypocrisies, across my writings and in the unassembled (when viewed without explanation and viewed outside of a sensible chronology) content in my works. Certainly you’ll find it all appears disjointed and I can tell you that such structural issues are a result of having way too much to consider with very little established aesthetic foundation to move forward from. That lack of foundation is a natural result of a search for a true permanence of understanding. In many cases in my writings you will find that I am outlining a process and commitment that seems both painfully simple and entirely unclear at the same time. Stated so firmly in the words, words with crisp edges and upwardly jutting solid form on intellectually concrete foundations like ideistic skyscrapers (or at least presenting the mindset of such strength), and yet barely defined if at all like so much mental mudslop.

I never really say what exactly I am going to create and what it is I am following. This is a cat and mouse game that I am not intentionally playing (but that perhaps is intentionally, and fittingly, playing me – as such is often the true nature of life and it’s bittersweet dualities), and that I am caught up in equally deeply as you are in being exposed to it.

That’s just the nature of the beast is it not? Tomorrow holds what it holds, and that can never be truly defined. Such is the nature of time in this world – tomorrow never truly comes until it is today, and in being today it is no longer tomorrow. This cat and mouse game is a bit of the reason why I find the need to create description and explanation of the same basic concepts from innumerable angles. Why my writing style has taken on that repetitive quality, hammering home the same vague notion of forward pursuits as if I am speaking to a dullard. Don’t take any of it personally, as in many ways I am speaking to myself. Alas, I am that dullard if there is one. These works, these writings, they are a record of my own artistry, and I build on top of what I have passed through. I must cement all of the same vague notions so that they become my reality. The repetitive quality serves to create a tightly knitted interconnection, and over time those connected strands can be weaved bit by bit into a far more cohesive statement. The repetition helps pluck the chords that play true, leaves the rest, and over time the foundation grows. In that same time, a primordial present time, each bit and piece of the great void of possibility that the mind touches upon is illuminated for the falsity or the truth it holds. The same holds quite true for my art. Over time, the images weave themselves together to become more cohesive visions. And every cycle through the same general set of forms creates a new level of consideration. This cycle, this repetition is a closer approximation to the real state of learning we all experience. Ever read a factually based book, and find you absorb so little of it by the time you are done? Read it again and see and find new things you recorded so little of the first time through that they seemed as if they were newly written the second time through? In my work, in my life, I read the same hypothetical book over and over. The only way to fully learn, and with a full understanding, only then is it productive to move forward and onward.

What needs to be heavily considered in regards to the appearance of inconsistency is that it is nothing more than a temporary appearance, an illusion of the highest order. Life is a state of work in a state of progression as much as a life is a work in progress. The present is the penultimate definition of the work in progress, and the present is the crucial element of my work (and in my professional artistic opinion, the only truthful element of life), where everything worth doing gets done. I have accepted the possibility and likelihood that this art career I pursue may very well have a “forgive our appearance, we are remodeling” feel to it for quite some time. It’s natural, for it’s simple nature I applaud the possibility it may be remodeling itself forever. In many ways the polished, perfect, flawless (and thus unliving in so many ways) aesthetic the art world holds so dear and so deeply is in direct opposition to the art I crave to emerge from me. In it’s philosophical treatment. The fine polish in aesthetics alone, in the physical product, is something grand any artist should hope for. Such a shine carried over to being a facade of the life in which we lead and are led is an egregious error for it’s unfaithfulness to who we really are every day, looking in the mirror as we do (and in the toilet, as we (all) do). If, in this way, my art admits not only what I desire in the height of my dreams, but also what I am at the depths of my naked flesh and bone for better or worse, as they are, today or tomorrow) then by all means and any means necessary I will suffer incompleteness and inelegance as long as it moves my true living form forward truly.

Such a professed polish without it’s bare honesty stands in opposition to the process I am committed to in every possible way. So be it. I feel it is far more important for art to take on a long standing truth within humanity it now strives so strenuously to deny. That humanity is no more glorious than a work in progress, from now until the end of time. Art should be the Oscar winning film – the fine polish, AND the behind the scenes reality show – the ugly truth. I am not separating the two from each other, any polished ugliness is capable of perfection, as is any ugly polishing. At least, at the very least, artistry cannot be claimed if such things are not visually clear. Such a polish is hypocrisy if it exists to reflect seeing away, to hide, unless it is intentionally so and with purpose. That polish and shine is only a front when revered within art above all else and at the expense of all else.

That shine is best reserved for the special days in this world we are all gifted with when all things converge into searing moments when life itself shines through us. When we do best to not exist in a moment in time, when we can be blessed to leaves ourselves long enough to be ourselves, only to be there absorbing what unfolds from the flower of life and it’s beauty.

The rest of the time we have is devoted to one vast monolithic, gently rumbling tangle, and our comically inept untangling of it. I equate the desire of past artists to achieve that polished perfection of aesthetic in single works as an attempt to capture that shining moment we have always known but never have been able to hold onto. A trained eye who knows this nature of our lives must know that while there are true masterpieces in this world there are infinitely more quality works, mediocre works assailed to be master works, and a veritable sea of artistic failures on which the rest float. The ocean – the real physical ocean – we know is only the visage of it shined on by the light of the sun. The shimmering surface molecules which light reveals. Underneath that image of the ocean that our eyes perceive is an infinitely larger collection of identical molecules upon which the glory of the sun does not shine, which support those precious few who find the surface. Which salt molecules give the ocean it’s smell? Only the ones that find our sensory reception. Which do we taste, the water buried deep at the bottom of ravines on the ocean floor or the precious thin and clear bits that kiss the shoreline? We assume the ocean, assume art, for what precious bit of it that has touched us, but so very few have a sense of the true scope of the whole that brings to us the bits we know intimately. Knowing only the bits we receive gives us only an assumption of the locality of a salty taste, a straight line on the horizon, and a fishy odor. Knowing only the polish and acknowledging it only, gives us only a minimal glimpse of the creation in which we are participants every moment of every day.

Why should my art be any different than the world we know and we are? Though I aspire, not unlike any other artist with aspirations, to have them all, the moments, the works, be masterpieces. In the end, proclaiming them to be so with an aesthetic or hiding that they are not will not make it so. My devious little plan is to make them all into one work, and for that work to be a masterpiece, a living shadow of my life. As long as my faculties remain with me, the faculties I need to work, then every work I produce will be the same work as the last, only better. I guess it is all in the perception of what we are doing, how and why.

As is the case in so many ways, that desire for aspiration has been distorted and convoluted by the years and the influence of unaware souls until the polish only remains, and the reason has left us (if you could definitively say it was ever truly present, then now we can say it has left). The ugly road I trek (back?) to the dream of living all of life in a state of astonishment or perfect harmony, and not only the sparse moments in which we are swept up or we find the strength to lose our strength long enough to let go, holds aside the importance of polish in deference to the necessity for transformation. A transformation which not only holds no guarantees of success, but whose nature may never allow such successes, for it would be akin to forever altering the nature of truth and the unaccepted truths of nature. Truths which reveal both sides of dark and light, a nature that resides deep within us and may very well be forever unalterable.

Transformation can easily create inconsistency or rather the appearance of it. Form following function holds true. Present art and present belief must be held aside to make room for a development of a potentiality which is far more important in the grand scheme of things. The big picture, being whatever it is, may easily turn out to be an ugly one today. I say good bye to polish knowing it is still something greatly desired as an end but only possible when the means allow, and the more the world covets it today the more I know for certain the means of today no longer allow such half truths to stand as wholes.

At one time, at the height of renaissance art, representation through the artist’s hand was the glorified center of artistic creation. For extensive times before and after, representation has been viewed and worked as that center. Only in the last 150 years, coinciding with the birth of the industrial age, abstract art and art construed as “non-representational” has taken a prominent place in the world of artistic creation.

A great fallacy held within this “modern” understanding is that everything that is art, is by nature representational. Any object of art is a conjured and created manifestation holding potential for representation, and any non-object created in order to stand as art represents in an artistic sense something other than the objects of art which still communicates an artistic message.

What had originally arose as a concept of the reversal of the idea of representation of the object has filtered down into an imaginary tale diluted from it’s original meaning. The Symbolists reversed the representation within a work. Moving away from the faithful execution of an object, which at the time had become stylized (impressionism and post impressionism) but still in it’s execution centralized on the strength of the object, painted with feeling. Moving into the feeling painted, in which the object becomes secondary to the stylization, feeling, or underlying emotion. Color overruled form, movement overruled compositions, and feeling overruled setting.

Over time, and over repeated movements that carried with them further abstractions and reductions, representation has appeared to either disappear altogether or to become so secondary to a work that works have lost content in the same respect that the original idea of representation vs. non-representation has lost structural meaning. As is often the case in today’s media and concept driven world, many things such as this artistic idea drift so far away from their original meaning that a concept can thrive with it’s basic understanding in theory, purpose, and meaning no longer resting beneath it.

The senses and mind are designed for representation, the creation of an organized whole through sensory input. Art cannot escape the destination of a viewer’s perception, and the viewer is bound by the laws of being what the viewer is. A person. With eyes that see, ears that hear, senses that receive, and a mind that creates a whole from these and other innumerable pieces. That organized and arranged whole, whether sense is made of it or not (sense versus nonsense is a philosophical and psychological question, not a theoretical concern per se, at least not in this discussion) is a representation of a sum of available parts. Whether the organized form the mind creates is a reality we know, an image of ourselves, or the perceived course of our lives, the mind and senses create form in order to foster our understanding of the life in which we exist. Creating representation, receiving perception in order to build a foundation of structure, perhaps order (but whether it is order or chaos or anything outside or in between is a judgment of a specific sum, not applicable to this theory unless an example were examined specifically – same as sense versus nonsense).

Artworks that do not directly represent a figure, a landscape, a still-life, or any known and seen element of the life surrounding us still represent something. Whether that something is a culled element of the whole, a parcel of a dissected larger picture, a break from the direct approaches to creation, or a concept that cannot be represented directly with the artist’s desired effect. Modern art that claims to be non-representational can be a representation of the qualities of paint (as it has been for the abstract expressionists), used differently than to organize a recognizable image. It can be indirect, to place a commentary on our selves or the art which we participate in. Or in a greater sense any of the human action we participate in, expressed through the use of art (as in action painting, performance art, happenings, temporary works, etc.). Whether it only represents light, space, form, a facet of life, an individual, an action, a process, a structure, a system, all works continue to represent something no matter their variance in execution. There is no such thing as a work of art that represents nothing, and even works that attempt to consist of nothing are created in order to represent something in doing so. Representing nothingness is under the umbrella of the act of representing.

There is no such thing as a work of art (good or bad) that does not represent anything at all, not even a formless work by the simplest child’s mind. Nor an empty void, which in this existence exists only in theory. One cannot make nothing. The act of making, by itself, consists of more than nothing. Nothing cannot exist in existence, as existence consists of things that exist. Not things that do not.

Rather, all works of art represent many things at once. Should the artist attempt to represent one thing, this task becomes impossible the moment a viewer opens the work up to examination and finds the possibility of many things. In this way it is not the work that represents anything, it is the perception of it. (Perhaps there is the answer to the age old question, “if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound.” Yes, it does, But that sound means absolutely nothing as it exists outside of perception, and therefore is not a “sound”. So, no. It does make a “sound”. Nor does it make a “noise”. It does what it does, but has no form or meaning in doing so other than an unperceived exchange primary to existence.  We create form and meaning in our minds. What existence deems the tree to be doing we cannot know. It engages in an exchange entirely exclusive to it’s own existence, therefore you would have to be able to ask a tree what it does in the forest when it falls without a human witness, or ask the surrounding air what it felt in response. What it does is it’s own business, between itself and the other trees and all the other elements of natural existence upon which it may have had an effect. It had no discernible effect on a human being, therefore it cannot sensibly (through sense) be interpreted or understood by humanity.)

Anyone who has sought out a work of art or heard an artist speak about his or her work has likely heard the artist speak of the work as if it can be interpreted in many ways based on the viewer’s perception. Not only is such a thing true, but I daresay it is no accomplishment to engineer an artwork to be this way. All works, without judging their quality or validity, can be perceived as such. The uniqueness of the individual viewer does this work for the artist, to give the artist credit for this is comical. To give credit to the first artist to see this and highlight it consciously may have some definite merit, beyond that there is no merit in it. After the originator, it becomes a question of an artist’s individual ability to tweak and provoke the possibility within the viewer of seeing more, and seeing deeper. This is a significant problem in the modern art world. After there are no true originators left (which is an entirely other ball of wax – stating truthfully who are the originators, if there are any at all), the quality of the artist’s work and ability to create perceptions is all that is left to be judged.

Pic examples to be added later:

Pollock – sea of people, Abstract expressionism – use picture examples, O Keefe – sexuality

Even the most obtuse abstract art leads the viewer to receive something, something tangible that represents something. Maybe it is the misuse of a misnomer that I am arguing against, and I am simply nitpicking words at this point. Similar to the watering down of language these days, the idea of “non-representation” as a generally accepted and unexplored passing sweet nothing has the potential to damage perception or skew a future path. Simple misconceptions can take hold and carry greater meaning in their destruction in the silent erosion of common sense and fundamental connection, scattered to the four corners of the earth. Even the greatest minds can fall prey to following their line of thought from a trusted yet mistaken point of entry, skewing everything that follows. The artist has an inherent opportunity to provide clarity and understanding through sight. The power of seeing as believing is within the scope of influence of any artist, and no power has greater influence in creating understanding.

The deconstruction of art through abstraction over the modern age does leave behind a representational art without the bells and whistles, without the limitation of one general direction. Abstraction opens up the possibility of indirect representation. That is definitely a good thing if viewed as the widening of the scope of art and seeing. Without the birth and proliferation of abstraction and all that followed art may have continued as it was, seeing itself in only a narrow definition. One direction, directly representational only.

But to have adopted the assumption that new approaches have destroyed representation is unfounded and in vast error. If anything it has in it’s own beautiful and whispering way affirmed (and reaffirmed) the strength of representational art as the center of artistic creation. No visual art, abstract or otherwise exists without the barest idea of representation, and oddly enough the nature of abstract so-called “non-representational” art proves this. If all art continues to represent, then art that does so directly is true to the ultimate nature of art in many ways.

As an aside – meaninglessness may not only be valid now in art, but it must be considered that it always was. When representation was the glorified center of art, did it necessarily make art any more needed? For what purpose? For religion, for entertainment, to spur trade? Outside of the needs of the artist, which are wholly personal and individual, the world has never needed art more or less than it has needed anything, utterly extraneous or dearly vital. Whatever purpose art had or has in any era is no more or less necessary than any other purpose for anything. If you would question “why art?” through it’s utility, then by all means question “why food – why shelter – why clothing – why live?”. In my mind, either we do what is possible or we do not. And nothing, ultimately, is more or less necessary than the next thing based on it’s interpretation of it’s necessity according to whom it is necessary to and why. And if we choose “do not”, then question why not simply die.

We have a rough idea of what we deem necessary based on the tangible world around us, in animals and other life as it is lived outside of us. These things are the inescapable workings of the world. But that arena of judgment changes according to the living being making that judgment. Some artists, as individuals making individual choices, may feel that the presence of art and their work is far more necessary than food, or clothing, or shelter. History is littered with stories of geniuses who forgo sleep, health, eating, in order to obsess over work. It is littered with stories of minds and lives which suffer for the sake of works and work in innumerable ways. Choice creates the depth of necessity in a given life. We cannot escape entirely what other life is, as being the nature of what rules us – life, death, food, sun, warmth, love, etc. However we have the power to place necessity as we see fit in a loosely defined set of parameters, based on choice. If we will not accept such things as necessary, nothing truly is. And if we cannot see that there are different judgments to be made based on individual choice, then we are not fit to understand judgment, and therefore are not fit to make any.

Beyond that, whether humanity is capable of more is a valid question. Whether it is possible (and following that, worthwhile) to be more is not as much a question as it is a choice. That choice is the same for art. Art is clearly possible. It is no more or less necessary than anything else, and never has been. Either we do or we don’t.

There is no circumstance in which the eyes and mind will not create a perceived reality out of an image. Even in minimalism which by it’s declared nature is a wholly minimal expression in art, in which the mark and through it the intimate knowledge of the artist’s presence and personal reality is virtually absent, there is a clear and rich evocation found. All art is representation.

Modern art is representational on an even more direct level than before, as much as it attempts to break from this connection. The most abstracted and unrecognizable works, because of the nature of the approach of the modern artist, are thoroughly representational. By nature of the modern artist heavily focusing on one aesthetic and working that vein exclusively, the work becomes representational of that individual more than ever before. In this manner, an obtuse abstract work bearing no recognizable represented form, is a beacon of that artist as vibrant with life as a handprint on a canvas. The “brand” is representation of that artist’s work at it’s height of bareness. Taken to mean representation, as an agent would represent an actor. In the modern art world, an artist’s work as his or her brand is the agent for that artist’s vision.

What is a true non-representation? It cannot be art, whatever it may be.

Following the same line of understanding as the previous post on the artist filling the depth of a work through self and choice, I want to address the notion of possibility. More specifically, how does an artist, or any person for that matter, navigate the world of possibility? And how does an individual navigate that possibility in the face of an acceptance (previously examined in earlier posts as part of my method) that all roads are not only possible, but that all roads hold a validity of possibility in their place. That any way an artist chooses to express him or her self holds the potential to be valid. In the natural progression of the theory I presented in the last post, all possibility in art becomes available.

One cannot know everything. Attempting to be a vast store of all things, holding them in memory or practice is simply an impossible task for anything but a perfect all encompassing machine. If it is futile to attempt to be a conscious record of all things, then it is equally futile in essence to pursue the recording of those things on any level. Pursuing that record is in it’s essence the futile attempt at completing it, therefore the action becomes futile. How does a person, or an artist learn to make use of everything without directly focusing learning on anything specific? It seems and sounds ridiculous and as if what at first seemed impossible just became literally impossible.

Or perhaps it is quite simple.

Understand my previous assertions regarding minimizing the weight of the physical product of art, and maximizing the weight of the source of that creation – the artist and the artist’s progression. An assertion that the art is not as important to focus on as the artist. Artist as product. All that must be done is to apply the same philosophy to the world of possibility.

I do not want to attempt to directly know what is possible in all it’s facets. In this world, such a thing is not fated to be. Time is only truly existing in one place, for one individual – which is now. However deeply now widens into the picture of the past or the estimation of a future, all of it cannot be accessed at all times in a conventional sense. Knowing all things, now, is not a part of this reality considering what the human condition is. But being able to communicate with and open up to that world of possibility at the artist’s discretion and based on need and it’s relation to the present moment is a perfect work around. The change of approach is not in what is done but how it is approached, changing the conventional sense of possibility into an unconventional approach. This is the seed of performance art, and action art. In this way all art becomes the performance of an artist’s life and the action of engaging the roadways to open creation.

What I want in the face of all open possibility is to foster an ability to see and understand that range of possibility, in the empirical sense. And to forgo the specifics unless they relate to the specifics of a question. So that when choice is necessary or a question need be answered, the spectrum of choices is simply available and the answers are reachable as needed. To give a metaphor, we can relate it to one of the burning questions of art today. If art is a product, let us say the possibilities artists face is a store. Does it make more sense to attempt to open a store that carries every product known to man, or to choose a location to live or be that affords a proximity to the widest available range of products in nearby stores? Addressing possibility (and addressing modern art in turn) can be effectively done by addressing the artist’s location in the midst of the art world, not the artist’s personal collection of commentary or statement.

In past art the artist is trained to have certain considerations become second nature. Considerations such as material, technique, skill, an understanding of context, etc. And the artist is looked upon to move forward with such considerations as far and fast as he or she can. The higher and deeper an artist reaches into the advanced levels of work and learning, and the sooner an artist can work with the fundamental levels of artistry as second nature practice, the better.

In many ways it has become a test and a race, and I am in no way excluding the idea that such a test and race matches the state of the world in which we live. Life itself has become a test and a race. Do those facets define it as the practice of art? It has become product, shallow and focused on individual facets of imagery. Does that pursuit define art as it pertains to the true work of an individual? The simplest individual on earth is exceedingly more complex within than that. If artists are taken to have their task to be visually representing life in any way, then today’s art is clearly an abject failure at doing that on the individual artist’s level in communication with his or her own work. Should the work be pursued in that fashion. If artist’s are not taken to have visual representations of the live around us be their work, how in any way are they visual artists? At that point they become exactly what they have become – individual dissonant offerings of meaningless product. Personal factories engaged in thoughtless utilitarian production. It’s no wonder and no accident Warhol branded his studio “The Factory”. The problem with a production approach in art today is that while production is repetitive and utilitarian in nature, art is in no way utilitarian. Creating individual unique works without direct use for consumption under a method that is a polar opposite is nothing short of a perfect hypocrisy. And a failure in it’s theory on a cellular level.

On the collective level art can only represent life, and yet only as a mirror as to what life is, without direction or purpose other than the sum of disparate parts not functioning as a whole. Opening possibility on an individual level holds the potential of the creation of art far more true to the true nature of the individual. And far more telling as to the true nature and power of a collective in which all individuals remain individual, but a common method in the pursuit of choice and possibility exists across the spectrum of the function of that collective.

To deal with endless possibility it is only necessary to deal with one aspect and the way it relates to the artist. We simplify and make impossible possible by bringing everything under the umbrella of one thing which touches it all. And that is choice. If we refine and train our ability to create a control and spectrum of understanding (breadth of sight) over conscious choice, we capture the range of possibility and the range of application in any manifestation we may encounter. We foster the ability to create a continuous state of openness to possibility to the point where it becomes second nature to reference what is possible and the ability to answer to it with every question one is faced with in the process of creation. The questions artists have always faced regarding technique, form, context, practice, etc. do not really change at all. Their use and place changes entirely. They follow the artist rather than seducing the artist into being a follower of them.

Getting lost in specifics will drown you quite easily when any art can be pursued, and any art holds the potential of validity. The aim is to know the method of being fluid enough to be able to see all things instead, and that method is choice. The methods I have outlined seek to reorganize the artistic pursuit under a far more functional and sensible approach, in regards to theory, foundations, meaning, purpose. By reorganizing the central focus of the artists themselves.

I am at a point where an understanding of possibility with the basics is shifting. Now is the application of that possibility, with choices. Ideas can reenter the range of my vision without the betrayal of the previously established self in it’s way. The obstacles to action have faded off into a basic enough understanding to function within what I know and function outside of what I know by understanding possibility and the ways in which to learn and create the possibility of choice. Learning how to learn is crucial, far more than learning a trained path and then later attempting to break off of that path. This is where the method of the self shines through – in being capable of moving with the necessity of what is being accomplished today, and being free to discover a tomorrow through the art of learning.

This post is a lateral continuation of the Full consideration in the working process of art (1) and (2) posts, with some notes mixed in:

“The aim is to only be an artist. Be. Not necessarily focus directly on the byproduct of that state of being, which is the art and paintings.”

When art lost it’s social utility through the advent of photography and advanced printing processes, what was once a glorious and necessary product became a byproduct of a continued practice with a severely altered meaning. In this sense, Warhol’s work regarding the absence of the artist in a world of production was actually long overdue. The alteration of the end product of art is not a new concept in art, many veins of modern art highlight the act of creation of art as opposed to the end product. Whether it is temporary works, performance art, happenings, installation art, works that purposely resist archival practice, and many others.

“This process I am outlining is to focus directly on the self, through to the work. It transforms art from being a mirror for viewing into the self, to a lens focusing the self.”

The relationship between the two is hashed out in the previous posts. This post deals with the search for art, and finding it in the self above the finding of art in the artistic (by)product, the works.

“I do not seek to see my self through a reflection.”

The reference to reflection is best represented as art and it’s use as a tool to discover personal identity or to reflect a sector of artwork far more than to reflect the part of the artist which the work interacts with. Nor do I seek to utilize art as a mere tool, for fear of what I know that leads to as alluded to in my arguments of the last post regarding the use of tools throughout history and their meaning.

“I seek to see myself within myself, the only place where the truth without reflection resides. My intent is capture. To find, see, and show a truth captured faithfully. To recreate and extract through alterable and fluid dimension and form, rather than reflect flatness of self.”

It would appear at first study the canvas is a perfect medium for a mirroring of the self, being a 2 dimensional surface. The painting is a two dimensional medium and it’s flatness is of importance.

With this I must disagree as it’s flatness is only it’s barest self in concept, without the application of the artist to that blank plane. The flatness of a canvas exists only in it’s untouched state and only in concept. At a molecular level there is no 2 dimensionality in anything in this 3 dimensional world. “Flat” is only relative to how we conceive it. (As an aside, to describe a surface as “flat” upon which artowrk is created is and of itself condemning. This does not bode well for the work to be done upon it. Describing as a container for art would be illuminating in a greater way. But it is exceedingly difficult to change such conceptions, they are ingrained in the perception of art as a whole.)

Without interaction from the artist, or theoretically the viewer as well, the conceptual 2 dimensional nature of the canvas is clear. It is the artist that 3 dimensionalizes the flatness of the painting. Not in the respect of how it has been considered in the past, with the whole figural 3 dimensional representational work vs. abstraction and flatness ball of arguments. But the idea that any work an artist creates on a flat panel (or brings to life through real world creation without the panel) is a 3 dimensionalization of that artist into a 2 dimensional plane of existence.

You are, I am the added dimensions to a single plane surface of artistic embellishment. Not the fabric and wood, not the whiteness of the ground, not the method for the brush, not the style or the execution. None of that. The action of making more than blankness, the action of making form of something, that is the depth to be sought and in that respect all art is the conversion of a 2 dimensionality into a three dimensionality. All visual art is the rendering of a concept that is brought into existence by an artist’s vision. Before it’s existence it is conceptually without more dimension than a planar concept in the mind. It is flat, without the artist to breathe life, and therefore form and dimension into the work.

In this sense, all art is conceptual art. All art before it’s rendering is no more or less than a blank canvas, and all art after it’s rendering is no more or less than representational and bearing depth. This both accepts and destroys postmodernist concepts such as the separations between representational and non-representational art, transforms all art into conceptual art and through adjoins with all other types of art into facets of one “art”, and allows painting to be as valid or wholly invalid as any other ancient and extinct, or cutting edge “world of tomorrow” art. All art is any art, how the world judges it is the only definition of it’s place in the strata of history, context and execution beyond the vision of the artist.

To start, we undo the notion that a painting in it’s physical state is in fact a 2 dimensional plane. That plane is a figment of the imagination. It is a 3 dimensional physical object as any other in existence. It’s depth may be essentially zero for posterity purposes, for perception purposes, but it is a physical object in the world we exist in. There is no such thing in this physical world as a 2 dimensional object. That is only a concept provided in order to complete the understanding of dimension. Adding the fourth dimension to it would be adding the artist, based on the realist’s assumption that the 2 dimensional flat panel is a literally 3 dimensional object. Whether or not there are more dimensions the way science sees it, or whether or not time is a 4th dimension, these things are of no real consequence in this argument. Any of those dimensions are perceived and do not exist without human perception of them. So in that respect they are the living being, come from the living being, come from the artist.

Art without life, without the realities of life, does not hold those dimensions. It becomes flat as a result of it’s hollow treatment. Creating art without truth – no mistakes, no reflection of the truths of a real life, that is a slippery slope which leads to where it has headed. Postmodernism by nature flattens all art. When something dies it sinks toward flatness, physically in the most literal sense. And spiritually in the most figurative sense, and every way in between.

What does it take to undo the flattening of art, and the death of painting? A bigger question that would answer the smaller one is – is the human collective a mirror image of a single life? Or a soul? What are we the image of – animal (evolution) God (creation), both, neither? Art can reveal our true image if pursued truthfully. Has art truly died, or simply feared to tread into the next world for fear of what will be discovered? This particular facet of the article is continued in the soon to be posted post about “Why did painting run toward death?”.

What are the steps necessary to undo this? I can only tell you what I do that I perceive to be answers to small questions that move in a general direction toward the theory and understanding of what I have outlined.

The true pursuit of art to me, that means being open to any possibility for any art to be any art. To be open to all things, and incorporate all things in their place, with their assigned meaning. In order to communicate freely and fully the depth all an image can hold. And to aspire to perfecting my ability to utilize anything and everything that visual art can portray.

This is virtually impossible in the grand scheme of things. Should one day come when I have been dubbed by god and life a master of all things and free to openly create anything and everything using a completely open mind and a perfect hand, within the ideal Utopian workspace, this is possible. Come on.. Anyone looking for that and the absolute perfection of it is looking for a loony bin.

What I am after more is what I like to call risk aversion bohemianism and the self exploration of the canvas. Now, that is a term I coined thinking one day of my life and why I live the way I do. In essence, I am in pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment of the single forward (forward in time) life given to me, but driven in that pursuit by avoiding what I cannot tolerate at every step. I am not going to go deeply into that as it applies to my life, but for this discussion I will lay out what that means to me within the artworks.

I follow a method of avoiding direct source material as much as possible in order to avoid the other things that come along with it. You know, the catch. The largest catch to source material is the possibility of a dependency on it as an artist. As opposed to consistent study of source material, which I do obsessively. But not for specifics and not for dependency. It is for answers to questions as they come, with the intention of accomplishing the aforementioned fluency. I believe such fluency can only theoretically be achieveable by feeding the desire for progression as it naturally occurs over the course of time. Not by forcing, and as much as possible by self reliance. Remember the artist is the method, not the work.

I want to make certain I remain creative, and that part of my work maintains the creation of the source material of my imagination. The more real material I use directly, the more likely my work is to be already in existence, or capable of already being in existence and therefore possibly saying less of what is within me and my untouched mind space. Even the use of source material with alteration in order to achieve a measure of originality still risks only slight originality. Think about it – if you work with source material and seek to alter it slightly in order to be original or make your own statement, then it is only slightly original. If you seek to alter it greatly, then why use it? At the point of severe alteration, it really holds little use as source material and you are already as an artist, using more of your imagination to fill in the blanks than you are relying on the evident reality.Why not go all the way and remove it, have some courage about it. In another respect, instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, why not keep the traditions alive in the use of source and study material while staying faithful to the imagination. By using the intensive study of source material indirectly.

I also want to avoid direct devotion for too long a period of time to one method, theory, or subject. I am seeking a fluency I can utilize. The longer I spend in one structure, the more that structure overtakes my work. What makes the most sense in this is to stay in one direct devotion long enough to satisfy the questions that brought me to that vein of work. And thne be able to see that when the purusit of that vein of work no longer is satisfying the growth of the artist behind the work, it is no longer of use to the growth of the work.

Rather than devote myself in one place, I stay in that one place long enough to overcome the obstacle presented to me when I sought that question’s answer. When the next question or obstacle presents itself I leave the last behind, finished or unfinished. Even if the previous question is unresolved the new question has signaled I am no longer mentally available to take any more from the previous question’s pursuit. This is how I hope to maximize my progression and to achieve the unachievable fluency in art.

For example, there is no way I have become a master of color just because I have asked myself what it is to use color effectively in a certain way. So I seek to master the portion of the use of color that applied to the particular question. To stay too long attempting to resolve more than what I asked for stands in the way of the next question’s arrival. A particular question of color may not lead to a deep study of color, it may very well lead to a composition issue or a flaw of form in that specific bit of work, to continue with color at this point now becomes a non-productive mistake. Color cannot undo the flaw in the form or composition. The next step is to resolve those arising questions and put color down for now.

The questions that art poses, and the possibilities of what I may or may not be capable of quietly take the place of linear devotion to a style or method, a set of source material, or a particular statement. As an artist, this is what it means to exist as a natural element rather than a man made element. Fluid vs. rigid, as a student of art and life. Three dimensional vs. linear, and the idea of existing within the work of being and not just doing.

If I did stay in that one place too long, when the time came to act upon a question art posed to me the question will pass by. These questions we ask one after another as we drift through life, they are fleeting. The answers are even more delicate and fleeting. Should I devote to a singularity, a question, then another, and another, and another passes until I have deeply formed my abilities within whatever particular method I have clung to. But they have stunted any future growth in other methods, in other statements, and in other abilities. They have condemned the possibilities in an unknown future.

I become set untethered and free to follow the whispers of what is true creation, while at the same time exposed to a much greater degree of uncertainty and dissatisfaction with my growth and skill. I accept the trade off. The ugliest part of this pursuit of beauty is that I know all the way deep down and upward to the very highest surface of my mind, and everywhere in between, that this process is a lifelong devotion in which there is quite possibly no discernible pinnacle. There is no day in the future when it all comes clear. There is no perfection, no epiphany. I do not see this as a condemnation at all. With that lifelong devotion, there is also no peak and thus, no fall. There is also no day where my light fades, no stale day, no life passing me by. There is no single day of clarity, but rather all of them contain more clarity than the last. No perfection in the artwork, but through that devotion perfection is fulfilled within me as an artist instead. This is the artist as the third dimension.

Art and painting have undergone a massive deconstruction in the past 100-150 years, the rough beginning of which coincided with the industrial revolution. This deconstruction runs concurrently with the social revolution that is the industrial age and essentially ending with the beginning of what I would call the technological and computer age of the past 40-50 years. As per Warhol’s work, once art (painting) became aware of it’s ties to production for better or worse, it ceased an effective and influential reign as a social force of significance.

In search of it’s unique identity in a modern production obsessed world which no longer needed it for producing any value based product, painting was sent into the wilderness of discovering it’s own purpose. Some would say this culminated with having found that it had none. Postmodernism would generally purport no purposes, and state that this is a new perspective. Art and painting become a tool for exploring curiosities, or a curiosity unto itself. At best. Rather than explore the notion of it’s purpose much (having explored that in other posts far more extensively) this article is going to address the effects of deconstruction.

Painting finds itself (and the painter) now potentially caught in a Humpty Dumpty effect. The deconstruction that has taken place had littered the art world with so many works of deconstruction that any true direction of painting is in many ways no longer readily visible and has not been for some time. Sadly, also no longer visible to a group of individuals (the artists themselves) whose purpose is in large part, to understand and reinterpret the world of seeing. What began as an exploration of what is possible beyond a very direct Western representation, with beginnings mostly centered around Cezanne and Picasso’s work, became an exponentially increasing reduction of work on the easel. It became an increasing search for new ways of seeing, new ways of expression, new considerations for what can be art. A search for new, above anything else. It’s culmination is now assumed to be it’s own death. This seems like a clear waste of all that exploration to me. Some may say painting served the world, revolutionized seeing in the process, and it’s time has passed on having fulfilled good service to the world. I say that is not nearly all there is to be seen in this.

max ernst l'ange du foyer

Take the work of Max Ernst, and specifically this piece called “L’ange du Foyer”. The surrounding landscape is clearly represented as what it means to be. As to the figures, does it really look like a frog and a figure jumping or dancing? If broken down into it’s pieces and constructed directly? Not even close. Beak, hands, limbs, licks of clothing look more like the waves of a sea than truly represented folds of cloth. Those waves impress upon the viewer movement, but in relation to the real world and a direct representation, it is in no way a moving frog or a jumping figure of someone you know or have once seen. The compression of the figure helps suggest this, and the green nudity of frog suggests frog. These are small pieces of the essence of painting, Cezanne’s true intention. To alter a reality as to the painter’s wishes. To create a greater work, a greater and truer picture with carte blanche in regards to what the artist sees and is capable of presenting as a convincing yet creative reality.

What could not be found in the perfection of a moment in time and the offerings of nature (the conditions an artist must both control and hope for in relying on the outside world to align for a perfect picture) all of a sudden became possible in a studio with a brush and easel. Call it the twin image of photography. A photographer manages and controls the conditions of the world as much as his or her tools allows, and also waits for that world to offer a perfect snapshot. It’s expression is not in remaking that world, but making it more than plain and greater than it’s pieces by manipulating what it offers. The artist, Cezanne’s artist, controls the conditions of the studio and in lieu of the limitations of the world’s offering simply moves and shapes lines and forms to his or her whim as needed.

Cubism and Picasso are known to have introduced a world of expression that was before unseen, but in trade that art and art like it of the era obscured and buried into history the true intent of Cezanne. To refine the painterly picture. The true art of painting, which has never been returned to on a large scale and certainly has never been successfully resolved, fully, with the intent of moving forward with the powers of the painterly artist. At least not in a remotely traditional sense. I am not claiming traditional work was abandoned, nor am I saying that artists have not wielded the creative powers opened for them. In fact I am not saying one thing does not exist in this. Meaning I am not decrying nor is it my intent to decry any artist’s work as less than valid or fully responsible for the fall of painting. What I am saying is that resolving this means marrying it rather than topping it, rejecting it, or moving away from it to find something new. Marrying it to an enriched future for the painter has never been successfully approached, not even remotely.

What followed this movement in art was a rapidly evolving pursuit for newness. Picasso’s work is a further breakdown of what Cezanne broke down enough to make it his. That further breakdown helped lead art down a road where the breakdowns themselves became the forward pursuit, and not a tool in the artist’s repertoire.

A desire to search, and find more and more ways to top and add on to the discovery of an artist’s freedom. There may have been many artists along the way who attempted to use what Cezanne most plainly introduced, enriching their creative worlds with small notations of the artist’s power to alter and magnify an image into a vision. But the important point is that they are not what took hold in the situation. What took hold and moved the evolution of art was the deconstruction aspect. The newness aspect. Art did not build from this artistic possibility of Cezanne’s inside of the frame, it reduced. Outside of the frame, art and painting expanded greatly. But in a negative reductive sense. (when I refer to inside of the frame and outside of the frame it means – inside the frame = revolutions in the work itself – outside of the frame = revolutions in the world of art and it’s direction)

Who can argue with the course of history, standing there in the past as an immovable monument to what has occurred. It cannot be changed, history stands as tall as time itself. I will not attempt to argue that and say that history is wrong. All the things that have been discovered in art as a result are crucial. That descending reduction, designed to sate a full human understanding, is not wrong. Surrealism, Dada, Abstract expressionism, automatism, minimalism, and the rest. Without that downward force into understanding the simplest essences of art, art is not what it is today. But what art is today need not be a decimated “everyone for themselves” mess as it might seem upon first glance.

For someone who finds simple problems with what art has become today (and more specifically painting), why would I celebrate anything about it? That’s easy. It is full, in the very least that much can be said about today’s art. That deconstruction in history may have been the death of art on the painted canvas, but it leaves the artist of today with a glimmer of the greatest possibility. Cezanne’s gift of alteration, accompanied with the full understanding afforded by a full deconstruction having gone so deep as to decimate art itself and eradicate the artist from the sight of the world. The problem is that the challenge of enacting that possibility lies beyond what can be seen by continuing to follow what has already been done. Deconstruction.

Now that the deconstruction has evolved so far as to fully hide the purpose of the painter, and amount on a mass scale to the desperate hunt for originality over any pursuit of expression for the sake of progressing art for the artist, deconstruction continues into more and more microscopic explorations. Mostly of things that amount to no consequence other than to stake a claim in the art world for the place of the individual. A claim of a solitary moon crater, holding no life, no point and no reason. At what point does deconstruction become so minute that it becomes ineffectual? Or worse, indistinct from the minute bits it is attempting to deconstruct. This is a problem I have with much current abstract art, which clearly resembles directly or lightly altered microscopic photography. It is in many ways indistinct from both the art of photography on that miniscule level, and the reality on that level. It can be viewed the same as a painting, as a photograph, and through a microscope in real time. The only differences are how it is sold and why it is made. Why it is made is an important question in this, and has the potential to redeem this art, but alas it does not. It is made to be nice to look at, to be decor, to be visually arresting, and to be sold. All of which can be done with a blown up photograph equally effectively, or a projector trained to a petri dish whose lit image is hurtled at a white wall. I would argue that the projected art germs are actually more interesting – it’s a mildly original idea that at least offers an ever changing if not totally unrevealing look at abstract form, and is a reflection on a living state. As paintings, those molecules not only die in a static state but they effectively support the death of painting both symbolically and directly in the process.

And yet painters forge on, with or without consent and with or without their own awareness, in consistently standing in front of their own work straining somewhere deep inside for the purpose Cezanne merely suggested. The outward style, the art movements, hide the true work.

Salvador Dali is a good example of this. Surrealism is not what makes his greatest works great. Fantasy art and pop surrealist art have grown from his and his contemporaries’ seed. His showmanship is an aspect of art that has taken great and deep roots as well in today’s art world. Koons, Hirst, and the art of shock. The art of the sale.

But is that truly where his art found itself? Look beyond the showman, look beyond the dreamscapes, and you will find great care in preparing images. You will find in communication with one of his canvases, the meticulous man in front of his easel without wildly unstructured dreams or hyped up mustached bullshit. You will find renaissance like treatment, fantastic study and structure, masterful execution, and deeply thought out form. You will find high prayer to painting underneath it all. Without it the work is nothing and becomes nothing. The shock, the show, the dreams, and the nightmares all have no soapbox to spout from without the artist’s masterful form and function holding them up.

In the deconstruction of the artist’s form and function, art loses it’s entire framework. Without form and function – reason and purpose – there is no foundation with which to prop up an idea. There is no credibility to art in putting forth anything of value at all. Some would say putting forth things to explore their value is no longer the realm of art, and those pseudo post modernist people simply would not understand the full scope of art, or their own philosophies. This is a failure of seeing. Like I said previous, it has been the artist’s task to put forth seeing. Once the artist ceases to do so, does seeing cease? Perhaps, in general. Definitely, at least within that artist’s world of art.

In my own work, I find no particular danger in deconstruction and seek to move forward from this force of history. In my dreaming mind deconstruction has been a starting point, not a crevasse into which I unknowingly fall for the search for something which cannot be found in pieces. Nor do I follow the course of history only hoping to find a small place of newness for my own work to squirrel away my molecular pieces of a personal reality.

That is rather Frankensteinian if you think about it. Unfortunately, there is no life in a separated heart, a lone capillary, a solitary DNA molecule. Art currently lives without life in homeostasis (it appears as death to others, suspended animation to me) waiting for the understanding to arrive that while a a separated heart, a lone capillary, and a solitary DNA molecule exist as what they are and beg for examination, it is only in their relation to the full living being that they hold any function. As Dali’s show and dreams fall apart without incredibly executed artistic form, a capillary is nothing without it’s host. Their examination for the purpose of a molecular understanding lends only an understanding which is lifeless and fruitless unless applied in their exacting place in existence. That is the power of order, and order is the realm of purpose. Postmodernism, eschewing purpose and reason, has no order. In art, in science, in everything in this postmodern void, it is the purposeful application of what has been discovered that has been lost, lost in the wilderness of Humpty Dumpty’s shattered cocoon of the deconstruction of awareness.

Deconstruction is meant to be aimed at achieving an understanding and awareness. At least in my mind, that is what makes bare sense. That understanding never arrives if the deconstruction is a decimation that is never returned to illuminate a meaningful structure. But the possibility, the great and wonderful possibility, is that the meaningful structure that can be illuminated is far greater than it could have ever been without an expansive deconstruction that explores the ins and outs of every nook and cranny of a structure. Whether that structure is a dream, a show, a being, or an artist’s world of seeing.

A Challenge to art

I would like to put a challenge to art (and through that, it really is a challenge to myself) One artist out there, once, make one work of beauty that anyone can be touched or moved by. A work that is universal, truly painterly (not necessarily painting, but painterly – as in the perfect management of all the facets of image making), spans the common life that we all share enough to communicate with any living soul.

In my mind that is the ultimate challenge for art. And the ultimate reason for the creation of art. That is my goal, open ended as it may be and impossible as it may be to accomplish definitively.

It is no easy trick to accomplish, not in the least. This may be one of the most challenging things an artist or any living person could undertake, in any pursuit. Considering the open ended nature of the creation of art, the possibilities are endless and yet the accomplishment would be decidedly finite. The choices that must be made through the creation of a work of art render the outcome very finite. In concept, to do this is to find a needle in a vast field of haystacks. In concept it is equal to the task of seeking and finding the first atom that began the universe.

In thought of this I begin to consider what would be necessary within this ultimate work of art. Universality without a doubt. It must be something all beings know in sharing a life on this world. Be it a physical object, such as the sun, moon, a setting without borders. Are there people out there who have ot seen the sun, the moon, who have not depended on them? Actually, that is possible, in another way than a literal one. There may very well be beings out there who have not thought of the sun, moon, or any setting in any way that is significant to that being. The only true setting without borders is the inner world.

It must have simplicity as well. It must be accessible enough to be known by any mind. That simplicity may be found in the strongest of feelings we all share. Pain, love, fear. Shown clearly and simply without restriction. And yet that simplicity must contain a complexity that can engage any level of higher mind.

There are proponents out there of the idea that art absolutely must be intelligent and self aware, complex and nuanced, in order to follow the art that came before it and to address the complexities of life and vision. What is assumed to be too unintelligent (a thoughtless expression that is openly evident) can instead be quite intelligent, but simple and universal at the same time. Is the Sun stupid? It must be since every living thing can understand it enough to live with it’s presence.

These needs within art are very true, and very flawed as well. Any great art should have that complexity, nuance, and should have a fitting place in the world of art. Total acceptance is a mistake, and yet denying the art world entirely in a state of total rejection is equal to that mistake. The “perfect art” must walk the line of both, and neither. It should be in the world of art as now, present, and as the past and future. And it should be none of those directly, for it must be it’s self to be new.

Much of the art we know today is lost in a depth of understanding in regards to itself that is locked into being accessed only by those who create it or suck off of that creation. This is the self referential nature of art I refer to often, and the self commentary running through it. Art that refers to past art, that continues a line of commentary on past and current art. Art that seeks to further the existence of current art trend and statement, not further the self, not further seeing, not further being, and not necessarily further life outside of the world of art only. This is a trap. This is a path that diminishes as it is traversed. There is only so much left to say about what is already known, this immediately to repetition. Pointless repetition. And discovering smaller and smaller pieces of what is unknown as an alternative to that is a trap as well. Smaller and smaller pieces only reveal smaller and smaller truths. The smaller they get the less important they are. If art follows this it becomes a representation of what is less important. Of innane discovery.

And of course there is the proponent sect out there who would proudly declare art absent of this entire search, of any searching, set free to be meaningless or to be an act of trade. Does this response exist for the desire to move art forward, or to abandon what some artists feel frustrated about, in that it could not be accomplished? There still exists and always will exist a great challenge in making meaningful art, with deep and yet simple beauty of feeling. The artist understand this great challenge, even if the world of art disappears. There still exists the true art of painterly pursuit. Leaving it abandoned does not leave it non existent. Out of sight out of mind may be true. But out of sight does not equate to out of existence, and it certainly does not foster the growth of sight. Out of sight means the artist loses sight, and therefore loses the inherent value of art to the artist. I would postulate that the value of art to the artist is the funnel through which art can gift it’s value to the world.

At any point in history has any artist been able to truly transcend his or her time, his or her medium, the possibilities within his or her own conscious sight, his or her own present self to create something truly universal and revealing about the human self, one and whole? The perfect work? If not (and even the greatest works fail at this – they cannot succeed), then a search is available to continue. Oddly enough and yet beautifully fitting, for the artist, the perfect work is the search. The perfect work is the possibility of an endless open free search for art.

Artists may have been able to transcend of those things, or even more than one. Artists and others have been able to transcend their time, I would not argue against that. Whether or not they have been able to transcend time itself is the next logical question to ask. Of that I cannot be so sure.

Any beautiful work that brings a life beyond the materials transcends the medium. The hext logical question to that is transcending all mediums. And then to transcend the barrier between medium and self. Art and being.

Transcending the possibilities within an artist’s conscious sight is a bit more tricky. But I would concede that such a thing has occured, at least represented by the wonderful phenomena of fortunate mistakes which have led to some great discoveries throughout history. Transcending the self can be even more tricky than that, and is much more difficult to give an example of. Creating something in history that takes on a life of it’s own, introducing such a thing by living out a belief is entirely possible. Seeing all, and then seeing nothing but the very present moment and choice is the greater challenge. Seeing it all come to life on a canvas as it would live in the world within and without is even greater a challenge than that.

The specific challenges are never the point. They are always trumped by the artist’s and being’s ability to see the scope of challenges. And in times like this, the artist and being’s abilities to eve accept the existence of fruitful and worthwhile challenges. And to engage those challenges.

The point is not whether or not accomplishing any these things are impossible. The point is to see that they are always worth pursuing. And to find them all, pursue them all, in the context of art and the vast possibility of free creation it can represent, that is valid work. Anyone with even a speck of wonder inside of them can see that speck of a seed grow from this. That is a pursuit of an accomplishment that is worthwhile for it’s own sake. And certainly enough of a challenge that no matter if it is ever accomplished in any work of art, ever, one true accomplishment of this is no reason to abandon a continued search for doing it again.

Art pursued in this fashion never needs to “forward” itself. It never needs to renew and refresh the taste of the day. It never needs to submit to being anything more specific than the work resting before the artist. It never needs to comment on life beyond what is held in it’s image. It never needs to reference the world in any way other than the smallest bit of magic it can hold within. It references the world from inside to out. Outisde to in holds the possibility of a lie, for the workings of the world can be something different to everyone in appearance. It needs nothing of what the art of today clings to so desperately, and yet the answer in this pursuit of art is not abandonment of anything art has ever been to any artist.

Painting (and art making in general) can be an infinitely complicated thing. There are so many choices for a given image or object, and so many possibilities of choice within that image or object. Completion is an arbitrary decision, it is done when the artist decides to move on and only then. The completion is defined by the plan the artist has for the work, and the satisfaction of that plan. That arbitrary choice is no different in every step along the way than it is in the moment of completion. This network of choices leaves the entire pursuit open.

The painterly pursuit has only been moved forward a negligible amount in comparison to it’s true possibility. The problem with it’s relation to the world is it’s reason. These days it can only be something an artist seeks, the world will not seek it for need, the world does not need painting as a force of production or work. Not in the same way as it needs oil, or farming. And the representation of painting or art as production (commerce) can only a temporary comment on this. It is not lasting and cannot be lasting, it can only be a dead reflection of the innane consumption of pointless product, ala Koons and his kitsch. In consumption terms, art is innane.

But art and painting as the painterly pursuit holds far, far more than that. The relation to the world through it can only now be an inner world, let outward. In this the world needs it whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not. And to give the world something it needs but does not know, we must endeavor to show it can be done simply, Universally. Without bells and whistles. Without confusion, extraneous possibility. Leave that possibility to others who seek it in their own art and the vision of the art gifted to them by artists with a true artistic pursuit.

Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper ca.1975

Viewed from a certain perspective, painting can be a deeply religious exercise in the respect that it can be an act of high prayer in it’s treatment and concept. The individual and the space within, in a state of interaction and discovery and operation of choices and the life of a work. A work that can parallel life and the self in every way. What follows is an interesting theory, perhaps it will always be a theory but it is interesting nonetheless.

An artist has the opportunity to approach painting as a metaphor for all that life presents, and in a religious personal sense, to be an ultimate creator at least in practice. In this way and related ways the practice of painting can be seen as the crux of human life, as crucial and revealing as any practice a being can engage in. It can be a source for the understanding, view, and sense of all that is in creation (or existence) and all that is in the self.

It has the capacity to be an entirely individual exercise. Some modern arguments against painting and hand work state that the solitary work of the individual artist is a thing of the past. Citing the likelihood that many modern works and installations can not and are not made by the artist him or herself alone. Along with other arguments, such as the social revolution brought about in the past 20 years, and the concept of hand work as an archaic practice assigned to a world of the distant past. Humanity does not consist of the solitary creatures it once did such a short time ago, nor are people responsible for the creation by hand of everything a modern life requires. And art is not the social vehicle it once was, at least not the maidenhead that was once fine art.

Viewing the individual exercise of art from a different personally derived perspective, painting (in this article I will refer to painting and art interchangeably in this post: they are meant to represent the same concept in relating to the practices of the artist, interchanging them is easier for me, being a painter) can be a mirror to how we view the most bare of moments in life. What is missing in the executions of the modern world, it’s art, and the loss of the individual place in creating art is the relationship of artist to art. A direct relationship which has now become indirect. Such an indirect relationship may as well not exist. Whether the relationship is indirect or nonexistent, it produces the same end result for the artist. If an artist is not the creator any longer, the interaction between the art and it’s artist is no longer happening. In the modern view of art, the place of the relationship of art to viewer, art to society, or art to product has far superseded the relationship of art to its artist.

The effects of such a relationship being lost can be extensive. Work does not achieve the same progression, as the artist is no longer directly engaged in the work. Without that engagement the artist is not present to have the process of working reveal truths to that artist. Work does not achieve the same purpose, as the single individual most directly benefiting from any purpose or message within the art is no longer engaged in a search for purpose or message. Any purpose relayed from an artist not engaged in seeking one is the relay of a shallow and/or previously known answer. A disconnect between the individual artist and the art is the greatest loss art can suffer, and so it is more than clear why art no longer carries (if it ever did) any discernible effect on life as we know it.

Birth, Death, catharsis, moments of clarity, joy, pain, and so on.. All of these elements within the act of living are often taken individually. Internally absorbed and assimilated into the self, they are certainly approached individually. They can be shared and such is a great portion of the beauty of life. But to each experience there is an individual and solitary felt and perceived experience that reaches deepest within. Noone truly faces one person’s fears, feelings, spirit and perception of that person’s own life outside of the self. All of these things are taken alone on the deepest levels. Art can no longer reach these levels if art and the artist are disconnected. Which explains exactly why, by and large, art is no longer about any such things. It explains why a pursuit of aesthetic, style, sales, and response driven self-commentary of art, along with other mainly shallow or obtuse artistic pursuits are the content of the contemporary art world. The artist is now standing too far away from his or her own artistic practice to generate anything of true depth and discovery.

In the same respect but applied more widely to the entire postmodern psychology, the individual stands in the same place in the relationship with the self, whether or not art is a part of the picture of modern life.

In painting, the individual has an opportunity to see the self and to tap into all of these personal individual solitary experiences in one of the most physically real ways that can be put forth. There are also myriad conditions within art (painting) that allow it to be one of the most if not the most direct practices to interact with the true and unknown self. Freedom of expression is one of those. In art, anything created is possible. Anything created is potentially valid. The only guide is the self, and the only rules are the laws governing physical reality. What has been done, what is off limits, what is copy, what is motivation, career, money, all of these things can play a role in influencing art and the direction of the artist. As the final judge the artist can choose to exist beyond any of these things in direct religious communication with a pure art driven only by the self and the constraints of a physical reality of the artworks. The undefined nature of art and painting allows the artist a truly individually defined path to that very individual. (let me remind you here that I am not proposing the discovery and creation of identity through art, such a thing is a mistake. I am relating to discovery of the unseen, perhaps the unknown. A way to interface with what is not clearly seen, but not the adoption of an identity which is the sole responsibility of the artist – before art)

On a very local level, in art, there are also ways in which the artist is relied upon to be an ultimate creator. The world around us is of no use but for study, in a painting and the practice of art. The people, trees, nature, cityscape, any objects, ideas or concepts will not relay themselves onto a canvas. They will enact nothing on their own. Nor will the internals of the mind, heart, and soul of the artist. It is the painter’s task to recreate (literally) everything seen and desired for the work. If you desire to paint a figure, you must create that figure. You must know it’s anatomy, it’s physical matter, it’s feeling, it’s life, it’s weight. You must know something important and crucial about it from the smallest piece to the largest idea. It’s material, it’s function, it’s movement, it’s meaning. It’s place and time, it’s identity and it’s absence. It’s creation is in spirit no different than any creation put forth by a religion, and any creation outlined by a science. It encompasses all the tasks of both. To be an artist is to be both a god of your work and a master of your evolution.

The true nature of god and the true nature of life can be discovered through the artist standing before the art. The artist must be in some ways omniscient of the work in order to create it. The artist holds no legitimate power but the power to amass this creation. And in many ways like a real life, it is not so much a work of influence, change, or power as it is a bundle of personal choices that shape and form a path, direction, or work of art. It is a series of choices that create an identity for a physical piece of the choices the artist has made. If a life is nothing truly more than a series of choices as it is lived, then a work of art is no different. It is the same chain of choice from which life and art spring forth.

If the artist chooses to break away from a world of representation and recreating into abstract or other types of more personally defined work, that artist still must prove a master of their path and purpose. And all tasks involved are the realm of the artist beginning to end. In this respect, a work of art is it’s own life whose creation rests in every way possible within the scope of the artist’s influence. Knowing this, the disconnect between the art and artist of the modern contemporary work is that much more troubling.

It is worth disputing the place of social commentary in art and if it belongs in art. Art at it’s purest is a personal and individual mode of efforts, an internal process. Using such a practice for outside commentary takes on a state of hypocrisy. In the practice of creation what place does condemnation, commentary, statement, and opinion hold? I offer no opinion in searching a vision, in attempting to create an unformed reality within. There is no condemnation in that. There is no purpose in that which exists outside of the practice of an individual in communication with the self, and in result communication with other individuals’ selves. Perhaps this is an argument for another post, my stance on commentary (political, religious, artistic) within art. I do not want to stray too far from the point. I am sure I can create an entire article regarding the religious nature of art and why religion has held such a prominent place in the history of art as well. After all, the very beginnings of the modern age of art (12th to 15th century) art started out with a heavy religious influence in iconography, commissioned church works, propaganda for the church amongst the many ways in which religion has intertwined with art.

That correlation has a place in this article. The application of art to religion is a corollary to painting as a religious exercise. Art has had a close relationship with religion for a large part of western art history. I am striving to connect this in a different way than most historians would. In the practice of art which so many artists have engaged in over all those years, those artists were exposed (if only for moments, or for full lifetimes) to the religion that art can be, creator to creation. The experience highlighted above, best described in a moment any artist would know. Every artist knows what it is like at some point in time to be alone, in front of a canvas (or any other type of artwork) asking for or receiving communication from the blank state before them, or the incomplete forms that need the artists attention. Whether such an experience is named, theorized, or understood, it certainly exists. One does not need to know a fully defined theory in order to feel the religious solitary experience that creating a work of art can be. Artists have felt this for centuries, and having felt this have been compelled to relate art to religion whether intentional or not. In it’s action, painting and prayer are remarkably similar. Making art and religion remarkably similar by association. What has been similar by association has become intimately related for many centuries.

Returning to the hypocrisy of commentary, the question is not what church art belongs to, to what country, to what god, and to what vein of science. Does art belong to any one loyalty above others? It belongs to the artist, to those who treasure it for showing the way to what they cannot see, and for the sharing of life experience. If the artists choice is to give commentary, then at belongs to that commentary. With every comment, the art belongs more to that statement and less to the individual and so, less to art or artist.

However art, treated in it’s most unadulterated states, can stand at the crossroads of everything that life represents, every challenge that life presents, the full coplexity that life holds and the understanding of it’s complexity. It can be a full examination and understanding of the self or the outside world. And it can be a free communication between who and what we are, and all things about our lives we have seen, are seeing, and do not yet see clearly.

In order to be truly honest in this argument, the question of “what is art?” must be addressed. To declare painting to be the end all and be all of accessing a state of godliness is no better or worse than to declare it a church and to force others to pray at this church whether or not it helps or destroys them. Declaring painting as the end all and be all of art is no better than the commentary in artwork that I have argued against. In a literal sense, art is defined in a totally different way than anything presented here. In this discussion, art is to be defined differently. It is not a specific, it is not painting (it is currently painting, for me. Same as the Delaroche assertion that painting is dead was a declaration that it was dead for him). Art is the practice of a set of those specifics. Art, in this way, is only about the method of being in a state of artistic creation. And in that is not separate from a practice of living. One cannot avoid the practice of living, no matter what one chooses within the course of that life. Choosing to explore, to see, to understand and to relate as closely to the self as possible is the essence within the execution of art, and the living of life carries that same exact essence.

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A deeper exploration continued from the death of painting

Directly continued from a previous post on my specific methods:

“Is there much more left to be done in art, in all the cracks that have been passed over and all the connections within those cracks?

That led me to the so-called death of painting. With so much left that is possible, why run toward death? That is a good question, a philosophical and psychological question of a sociological choice that has been made by the collaborative history of humanity…”

This question was brought about in my mind before and through my works regarding the deconstruction of the canvas, the frame, the paint, and their association with the life of the artist deconstructed into the moments of a life. I see a correlation. The artist lives his or her art, the shown works amount to a minute portion of the thoughts, feelings, practice and events in any given artist’s life. All the art world truly receives of an artist’s life is the works, writings, the physical pieces to serve as evidence of the work, and through the work, the artist. They reveal the vision as best as the artist could bring it into life and translate it into a language which diverges from the living of it.

For all we know, not having been that artist, the frame is the skeleton of the vision, the canvas the skin, the paint is the living time. The art is the person and that person’s visual translation of life. This inspired me to embark on my 2009 deconstructed figure pieces and to continue that concept. Along with the use of deconstruction as a tool for a greater understanding of my craft.

I cannot be dead certain, but I do not recall through the history of art the deconstruction of the frame and canvas themselves has ever been addressed. Art has been deconstructed, with the introduction and pursuit of abstraction. The painted work on the canvas has been explored in this way, all the way from everything and nothing, and back. The foundation (frame and fabric) upon which that vision has been laid for thousands of years has never been deconstructed with much interest. That foundation represents the self of the artist, in my view. Artists have explored the life and vision, the paint and image they craft. But the stoic self goes unexplored in this way. There is no grandiose art as of yet in the frame and canvas behind the painted image. And yet in a way they are as crucial as anything laid upon the surface. And they are as present as anything on the surface. Art has a serious question to ask in this – is the pursuit of images and vision in need of a dependency on what rests on the surface, or can art delve deeper and remain the bearer of visual imagery?

Something so simple and crucial, going relatively unstudied. Going relatively unattended. Moving forward through history as if it is only there to serve and to exist, yet never to be understood. Let us lay out a very abbreviated study of the changes in painting supports over the course of time. Cave walls become Plaster walls in built structures. Decoration on those walls, lived in areas, becomes decoration on everyday objects lived with. The object of beauty reveals a possibility to be beautiful unto itself without it’s utility, so then panels arrive to make the art an object unto itself. The artist finds a need for a greater theater that serves beauty better and the artist’s needs better, and so panels are surfaced with canvas, then canvas on frames. The canvas now responds to the artist in a way that rigidity never could, and so the artist becomes at work in communication with the beauty sought after. Canvas then becomes deconstructed in the way where many supports are possible for painting. Beauty becomes a created possibility existing anywhere, once art is no longer exclusively the realm of class or religion. It has become the realm of the artist, and the artist widens the gaze to see beauty in more places than those of his patrons.

And yet the knowledge and sight of the place of the traditional support is never addressed fully in a way where it is recognized for it’s importance and brought into the fold of the artwork itself so to speak. It is a fabric onto which an artist can project a vision, but with no real recognition. (You can view the outer frame an outwardly viewed extension of the hidden frame, though it serves an entirely different purpose. An aesthetic frame to support the image as the structural frame supports the physicality of the work.) You can look at the work of Frank Stella, serving to lift the canvas out of entire flatness and project it from the wall, a return to the recognition of the art as purely an object. And his work plays an important part in the picture as object rather than the picture as a mode of representation, though it as always been an object with or without conscious consent of the creators. That picture as object ties into the possibility of the object as the artist as I have outlined. Less any utility, art long ago became a pursuit of beauty or religion. Today that beauty can be beauty within, without loyalties but to the self. And that loyalty can be religion. In this we are successively returning to the artist as the representation.  Whether or not the actual image is an object or a representation, both or neither, (either way it is the life of the artist as the viewer knows him or her), it has developed into a realm of the artist’s direction.

By lifting the work off the wall through a thicker frame the flat non-representational work is projected forward as the object that it is, which is a reminder of what it is and has been more than anything. Even at a marking point in art such as this, the frame and canvas serve only to illustrate a point about the surface and the entirety of the piece, and through that, art. They exert nothing in particular on their own, except to extend the ideas portrayed on the surface and portrayed in the handling, with the paint and with the concept. And of course to spawn a generation of artists who repeat the same construction, to look better on gallery walls, to trumpet themselves, and to follow the masses with no fucking idea of what they are doing or why.

The point here is that the frame, the panel, the fabric support, the wood and linen or canvas have gone sorely overlooked as usable, functioning, living parts of the artistic expression. They hold a vast potentiality of contribution to a work, and a wide scope of meaning to a work. The question posed here is how that disregard relates to art, the artist, and society. Those elements are the foundation of the physical work. In a non-physical respect, they are the foundation of the life as the image is an image of the life of the artist. They are the core self, and the image is the surface self. The image is the present life, the today, the obsession, the present mind. In American art more than any the painted surface represents the now and the new. The superficial satisfaction of lusting after originality, lusting after visual exploration, and the repackaging of today. The frame underneath, the fabric underneath represents God, religion, purpose, meaning, deep satisfaction, and everything else fundamental to deeper truths of life and art. It represents the stoic self, the solid object of who we are which moves through life and living.

It is not so much that such a thing would appear to have gone overlooked. With a full world rife with artists exploring and desperately seeking originality in the hunger for newness, you just cannot assume this is a simple bare mass error. A much more intelligent assumption would be that the world of art chooses to ignore such a possibility or cannot see it as clear as it is, right behind everything flashing in front of the eyes. Whether or not on a psychological level the world chooses to ignore the foundations of the self or cannot see them behind the present obsessions is not entirely crucial for this particular argument. What is crucial is that it has certainly gone overlooked, and why it has is the greater question.

Here’s a point where choices are the only way to move forward. I can make my theories, you can make yours, and what is beautiful about art is that you can’t subjectively question and quantifiably answer what can only be shown. If I see a possibility and can enact it, that’s all that’s truly necessary. If the possibility has any truth it can be made real in a creation.

For theory’s sake, I will state with a personal yet unproven certainty that it is both fear and ignorance as a result of the time and place that caused this “mass error”. Whether those choices are conscious or not does not matter. It is choice, and choice determined by fear. Fear of the nature of the true self, and the ocean of untended wilderness within the true self (which ties very clearly to the void left by postmodernism). It is the same void, same ocean of feeling that is referred to in this blog from innumerable angles. And it is a consequence of time and place. The full breadth of what is possible by way of what is gone, and the full breadth of what is possible when nothing remaining is possible lays a perfect foundation for going where humanity has never gone before for everything unknown. Within, of course..

Why did painting seemingly run toward death? The clearly overlooked possibility of other work left for painting, and the clear possibility of other paths. All the differing possibilities for expression. Painting charged forward to an ultimate demise, leaving aside a true exploration of the very foundations of itself. Why? Is it because it is truly dead, gone, useless.. I cannot believe that. An argument can be made that it’s utility was gone long before the photograph. Or that it never had any utility at all. What is necessary about horses and warriors painted on a vase? Nothing. It simply could be, and having seen it done, it became. It was wanted. Not needed. Not in the respect of it’s consumption. In the respect of it’s creation, it was needed, not wanted. That is the artist driving art and painting forward, not the society. So the presumed death of painting is the artist’s death and the artist’s choice, not society.

A lack of possibility? I can argue that all day long. Even if I put aside my general lack of faith and my distaste for the exaltation of the idea, I can still come up with a million semi original ones. There are many many cracks, crevices, unturned rocks in which art can find more work. Can find more to reveal.

Fear? Now you’re talking.. The disregard for the traditional soul of a work – the support and substrate – belies a deeply rooted fear of the unknown self. It belies a craven desire for the death of painting as an alternative to the stripped bare naked facing of the unknown, which the artist does not desire to undertake. Not any more than any other human being, in fact the artist moreso than others. Because for the artist, you will see what you find with your very eyes. And the artist is alone in the searching and finding, there is little support in such a state of solitude. If I have lived a day I know one thing for certain which spans all humanity. People are afraid of their unknown selves and will avoid falling entirely into that void at any costs, including a fulfilled wish for their own demise. The artist has proven no different.

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