July 28, 2005

Admin/MailCall/Bill Gusky

(While my comment engine is in the shop for repairs, I'll have to blogpost the correspondence that has the kind of content that should be shared with you all. I'm sure the broken comment buttons will be fixed soon enough.)

Bill Gusky has a few questions for me:

Hi Dennis,

I greatly enjoyed learning about Gerard Smulevich on your blog, thank you.
Also it was fun and fascinating to learn about monads as you present them,
as they are seen in your work.

I had a personal relationship with those spiky objects, and it's great to
learn your own conceptual motivations regarding them -- I realize this is
just a small glimpse.

I had some questions, and I know you're busy, but maybe if you feel so
inclined you can share some answers, and if not, so be it.
1. Monad relates to a variety of philosophical concepts -- biological too,
if I recall correctly. Is the presence of this object in your work, this
monad, which I realize is a separate entity from the variety of monads in
philosophy -- Do you see the presence of this object in your work as being
illustrative in any way of a philosophy that you adhere to?
Probably the worst thing I could do is to illustrate philosophy.

Secondly, I am careful when I tread in the philosophical realm. I'm a painter, an architect, I was once a sailor, I'm a husband, a son, a brother, a friend to many (an enemy to a few? nah, I don't want to be that), a Californian, a Yankee and a wannabe European... I might be a scribbler (I struck out "writer"), but I'm not a philosopher.

I prefer to keep my hat in hand and listen more than speaking when it comes to philosophical matters. There may be times when the hat goes on my head and my arms go akimbo and I begin to exhort proclamations. Please tap me on the shoulder and remind me of this blogpost, if that should ever happen.

Thirdly (and firstly), illustration is not painting.

Fourthly... even so, there are evolving worldviews that manifest themselves in the things we make... so yes, there is a connection there. It just feels so craven and perverse for me to sollidify them into anything beginning to resemble a manifesto. Maybe it is this very blog that will be the tool to grapple with the consequences of what I have done and thought over the years.

Fifthly, (enough squirming, Dennis...) I first learned of Monads in undergraduate school. What stuck in my mind was my understanding of Leibniz's treatment of monads as partly allegorical/partly literal evocations of the world as composed of individual entities. Spherical, mirrored, self contained and empires unto themselves; the problem is how one does one overcome the containment and commune/communicate with the others? Vibrations. Like tuning forks, the vibration of one sympathetically vibrates the others. The picture of it all was vivid in my mind.

2. This sounds like kissing up but it's not -- you are SO philosophically
rich, at least as it seems from your writings on Chinese painting, these
monads, and a variety of other things you've blogged in the past year. A LOT
of thinking is going on. Yet, when I read your "Ahora" posts as you work, I
gather the impression that each addition to your work is a response to the
work itself at that stage in development. I gather that, although there is a
lot of writhing involved, as you put it, the work itself has a good deal of
immediacy. In other words, you don't approach the canvas with a strong
preconceived idea, to which you then give flesh. I've come to value this
fleshy kind of immediacy in your work. BUT -- am I wrong? Do you see your
work emerging, painting by painting, more from this rich bed of
philosophies, than from your intuitions and the properties of the materials?

When I used to teach architecture design a few years ago, I would tell my students that the design process is like a NASA spaceship. The rockets are the conceptualizations and the payload is the architectural experience (I'm gambling that this is true for all art forms, in this case, painting ). The big Saturn thusters take us up off the launch pad and by stages, smaller thrusters push us into orbit until ultimately, little maneuvering rockets are all that's left.

Usually, at this point, I would check to see if the student gets the point (the "aha lights" in the eyes) that the objective is the ability to realize an architectural experience. Concepts are tools, used to achieve objectives (experiences?).

This little ditty from a studio instructor's toolkit has its problems but in general, but it's meant to direct a student to keep the role of conceptualization in its' proper place. In architecture school it's easy to see when a student is getting hung up in the clouds of ideas and not being able to find traction in the very demmanding medium of architecture. It seems to me that art schools in general forgot over the years how demmanding media (in the fullness of the term) can be.

I need an idea, a strategy, an inspiration, an intuition, some-mental-thing that propells me into the making of a painting. The writhing comes from (firstly) selecting the best of several ways of conceptualizing and entry into a painting and (secondly) the desire to push (ideas+paint) towards another level, some kind of metamorphosis, some kind of consequence, a surprise, an evolution, something more than the baggage I started with.

An arc.

As for the connection between a philosophical worldview and the practice of an artform like painting... perhaps like the monads of Leibniz that I had described earlier, the world of thinking (ugh... painting is thinking, Dennis... how about the "world of letters"?) and the world of mushing paint together communes through a kind of sympathetic vibration.


I was searching the web for an image of a circus rider standing on two horses (but alas. someday, we'll have an image based Google search capability)... this mental image at least, is my answer to your last question. There are problems with this duality, however. I have an idea of how to address it, but it will have to wait for a later blogpost.

Thanks for your time and for blogging out your work.
It's much appreciated.

Bill Gusky

A usted, se?or.

I remember an impression I had of the ideas of Benedetto Croce. I'm probably misinterpreting his ideas, but I remember his account of the origins of intuition. Intuition comes from an intermingling of ideas sunk deep within us. I'm not sure how this relates to Freudian theory (structures of ego and consciousness), but my impression was that if a rich trove of ideas were to be sunk deep within us, the roots of those ideas would comingle at a level beneath our conscious awareness and eventuallly surface as an emergent intuitive moment. The goal therefore is to be as widely learned as possible so as to have a rich bed of knowledge for the comingling to be as fruitful as possible.

I liked this account of intuition, rather than the airhead reputation conveyed by conventional wisdom.

Postscript II:
Nice turns in the studio, I see:


Posted by Dennis at July 28, 2005 9:17 PM

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