Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Secret, Unknown Visual Language

Apartments Acrylic on paper, 30"x22"

This painting is based on an exercise set I did that reminded me of apartments in a building. I've had a devil of a time getting a good photo of it because it's on paper and not really very flat, and the acrylic is fairly reflective so it's hard not to get bright spots. Anyway, I've got it entered in the North Clackamas Arts Guild show in Milwaukie, OR on Oct. 10-12, if you're in the neighborhood and happen to drop by.

On Robert Genn's art discussion website, http://clicks.robertgenn.com/, a couple of subjects keep coming up that I really want to say more about, one is abstraction vs. realism. As far as abstraction vs. realism, I don't care as long as the painting is interesting to me. If it's realistic, it's not enough for it to be photo-realistic, no matter how technically perfect it is. I am really awed by the skill it takes to create that effect, but the colors, content, composition and what feelings it evokes in me are what make me want to look at it. I think I need paintings to leave room for my imagination for me to like them. When I do an objective painting, the better it turns out and the more realistic it looks, the less interested I am in it when it's done. Some part of my mind screams "BO-RING!" and I have to go look at something else.

On the other hand, I can look at two abstracts done by the same artist, in the same style, alike in many ways, and one of them will speak to me, attract me—and the other will not. One will feel like I know it intimately, and the other will have no meaning or interest for me all.

This phenomenon is something I've noticed time and again, and I've spent a lot of time wondering why it happens. But it is one of the reasons that I am intrigued with abstract art. When you take away recognizeable content, you can still be left with a painting that has emotional impact. I have developed this idea that the forms and colors of a painting actually stimulate various different areas of the brain when you look at it. It also happens that when memories are stored, they appear to be broken up into pieces and stored in different areas of the brain (at least if I understand the shows I watch on the Science Channel). So I'm thinking, if a painting happens to impact the same set of areas in the brain as where you have an important memory stored, maybe you get a mimic effect—without actually stimulating the memory, it evokes a phantom emotional response. Okay, it's a stretch, but it's one hypothesis.

The only other reason I can think of is that there is some mysterious capacity for non-verbal communication that is built into our mind and brains that we have not discovered yet and sometimes, without knowing they did it, an artist actually says something in that secret, unknown visual language. On one hand, that sounds fantastic and imaginary, but how different is that from the way that instrumental music can convey feelings and emotions?

The Sun-Drenched Afternoon Oil on canvas 24"x48"

I have this painting that was one of my first abstracts after I started painting seriously. It evolved from a really terrible painting that was part cheesy Kandinsky and part—well, I really don't know where it came from. But in repainting it, the new part of the painting built on that disaster and turned it into something completely different—and I love it. I named it The Sun-Drenched Afternoon because whenever I looked at it made me feel like I was driving through a sun-baked California valley with clear blue skies above, good music playing and no time pressure to do anything or be anywhere. It's been hanging on my wall for three years now, over my left shoulder right now, and it's like a member of my family. My art teacher at the time really liked it, but few others do, so it'll probably never sell. After living with it for so long, it's acquired its own personality, each shade of yellow and each little rectangle says something to me. I wish I "knew" what it's saying, but it doesn't communicate to me verbally, and I haven't figured out how to describe or convey that. It just feels good.

The funny part about this painting for me was that if I hadn't painted the crappy disaster first, I wouldn't have this painting that I really love now. Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. I LIKE IT! I like it alot, is alot one word? Hmmm I don't know.

    To add to your discussion about what attracts you to one abstract verses another; sometimes the composition works really well; it has a balance that works and that draws you in. Just another idea to toss around in your brain.