Sunday, January 15, 2017

An infinity of possibles

Snowbound and tired of the relentless freezing, I decided it was time to do a collage experiment. I printed up some sheets of black & white pattern, tore off some pieces, and used an old jar of liquid matte gel to glue them, completely without thought or intention, onto a small panel, just as I'd watched Robert Burridge do. I tried painting and scraping into it while it was wet, but got a little too vigorous and tore some of the paper, so I let it sit till it dried.

Next I overpainted it with transparent blocks of color, just looking for something interesting to happen.

I stared at it for a while, enjoying the starkness of the designs. I have honestly never played with collaging like this before, so most of my reaction was surprise, and my brain was jumping around, doing flips and cartwheels at the infinity of possibilities of direction. All from just one step of randomized activity.

Eventually I realized I couldn't choose which patterns I wanted to leave and which to keep, so I decided to negative-paint a silhouette over it, and worked up a mask of a hummingbird. Where the patterns got in the way, I painted them out, and where they added to the painting, I featured them.

I really like playing in this "there are no rules" place—very engaging and fun. I'm still coming around to the idea that neither a painting nor the elements in it have to make sense logically, as long as they work together visually. I think that if the parts do play off each other well, the mind will work very hard to make some kind of either feeling or thought viewpoint of the painting. The hummingbird design is instantly recognizable, and has positive associations of nature, colors, and flowers—unless you're a gnat, in which case they're scary predators—they make me think of bright summer days and gardens. So this painting became symbolic, in a knee-jerk way. I went for the quick and easy symbol. But it could have become anything, as simple or complex, emotional or logical, as you want.

Even as I was painting on it, I realized I could have started with the hummingbird idea and shaped and laid the patterns to support that, but once I get a concept in my head I start to get rigid about what I should and shouldn't do with it. Less problem with that this way, where you can put off any kind of decision-making until you're tired of playing.

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