June 28, 2004



Here's a shot of the painting I've been wrangling with for a little too long.

And wrangle is the word. Here's a few thoughts, a post-play analysis:

I've had a notion to live-blog, to blog as much in real time as possible. And I almost did that here in the beginning of this painting. But... it would be soooo pathetic for you all to witness the writhing and angst, the heat that flows before the light finally shines. A real time blog would be that only by name; the idea of complete transparency is illusory because there is so much of the rest of life not reported in this blog: private stuff, family stuff, so many fugitive notions that provide the infrastructure of the principle ideas that inform the work, political ideas and news surfing, arcane and peripheral interests. Some of them are blogged, but only a fraction. Yes, this blog has the intention to reflect the life in the studio and the life that frames, forms and supports the studio... but only reflect it, not be it. It would be misleading not to mention to you, this important caveat.

And now about the painting:

I used the images constructed from the AppleWorks paint program (shown in the earlier blogpost) as a handrail... this was a literalization of what I've always done in my head, imagining various strategies of composition, color and massing. It bears repeating that I am aware that this flies in the face of the idealization of alla prima impromptu critique of the predesigned artwork that I have mounted in the past. This I hope, is a testament to my desire not to be strident even as I tend to brandish ideas aflame from time to time. Also, I hope that I am getting across to you an intention to use both modes of thinking: on one hand... the rational, mental previsualizations that anticipate what may come on canvas and what can be variously identified as musclular intelligence, or right brain intentions*1 or intuitive actions.

There was a moment when I thought that all was lost, that the colors could not be reigned in, that what I had on my hands was a complete failure... and I shot a pic of that moment:


There were a few parts and pieces of the painting that I liked, but not enough for a saving grace. It wasn't until I had scooped up two large swaths in the center and mixed the colors together (the light green) and reapplied it that things started to look up. All of a sudden, I had edited a confusing center melange with the cuts and bridged the red and the white/blue with a middle grey tone of pale green... it hung together.


Up until then, much of the painting was a build up of lighter tonalities, a necessary preparation for the dark pigmant to come. With the introduction of black/burnt umber, the ratio of interesting, pristine details to stinky sections had gone up. A suppleness of the paint became predominant.


Then came a second build up of the starry monads*2, flings and dabs to form a base for the punctuating craters you can see in these details. The mix and squish become vivid only when they are impressed upon clearly articulated, intentional forms.


*1 While I think the BBC is guilty of intellectual hubris and listening/watching to it is to regularly punctuate my day with dread and horror... the BBC is also surprising in that it occassionally is capable of a saving grace. In this case, I recall a program about cognitive science where it was suggested that science has identified a right/left brain split where the left brain is the chatterer and possessor of that feeling of the you-are-here self consciousness. What was amazing is that it suggested that that feeling of you-are-in-control is an illusion, that the right brain (even though it's voice is a chirp compared to the operatic left side) is an active participant in directing our actions and the left brain is doing a lot of post rationalizations after the fact of actions taken by the right side of the cerebellum. Many selectively brain injured patients were used as evidence, and the everyday acts of the right's activity were flagged: driving home from work (when we daydream and sustain complex maneuvers simultaneously) or when athletes perform actions that are too fast for the left brain to formulate responses to (which touches on my favorite topic: how we first model the world in our imagination, then we verify the model with our sense organs... kinda like my old job in the Navy in Combat Information Center). Also, the classic Descartian mind/brain, soul/body issues are still alive and kicking... the Kantian (as far as I can figure, I don't claim to be a philosopher here) idea of how we model the world as we live into it are reaffirmed by the research finding that we become aware of the world a half a second after experiencing it... that we are not really living in the world in real time!

The thought that the concept of self as a fabrication, a beard for at least a duo of selves... or possibly a multiplicity of actors or agents authoring action (perhaps even our chatty narrator is unknowingly a legion itsself) is bracing. What does this do for moral accountability, I wonder? I remember a scene in the movie "Little Big Man" (starring Dustin Hoffman who plays a white child who is raised by Cherokees) wherein a drunken Cherokee goes a little gonzo, and later denies it as the actions of someone else- not himself.

*2 Funny now to be seeing so many sea urchins underwater as I snorkle here in this part of the Mediterranean. Sometimes, someone will identify the imagery in my work as a representation of the shallow underwater habitat of the sea. While I have snorkled many times in my youth (Florida, Panama, Philippines, the California coast, and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean), I in fact did not hold this image of a reef whilst I started painting this way. It's a good post facto reference, but it did not factor in my thinking overtly for many years into this project. But now, I see the spinyness everywhere.

Posted by Dennis at June 28, 2004 4:14 PM

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