I always love painting. If not mine, then somebody’s.
When I’m off track with my own work, I look at Rembrandt and Goya, Vermeer and Matisse. I look at Gorky, Rothko, Morandi, 17th century paintings from China and cave paintings from forever.
In the past two years, the path I’ve been following for quite a while was no longer yielding new glimpses and I couldn’t find a way. From years of working, both as an artist and an instructor, I understood that as long as you court experience, there can be no failure. When you work, you see. Watching what’s there as you flounder and sink provides you with new ways of seeing what you thought you saw before. Vistas open.
Scared and hopeful, I gave myself a two-part assignment with very strict parameters. Since drawing is my basis and has always provided my clues, I’d go back to the beginning and draw from life using a variety of sources. Each source had to yield at least a hundred shapes before I could go to the next. An enriched shape vocabulary might offer a new glimpse. The second part of the assignment permitted me, simultaneously, to re-enter painting using only black. Black is primal and would keep me closer to drawing than the distraction of color would allow.
For many months I did many paintings, all of which looked like black versions of earlier works minus the aliveness that discovery conveys. It was a difficult time, but I clutched the hope that my frustrations would eventually drive me right over the edge and that, falling, I would see something new. It did and I have.
I am landed in another realm inarguably linked to my earlier, but also very new. I move in an atmosphere of shadow and shape where nuance abounds and possibility seems endless. Emerging from the dark are somewhat abstracted processions of bottoms, breasts, flora and fauna in musical and intriguing conjunction. Yesterday’s doubt has transformed itself into today’s delight and instead of dragging myself into the studio; it’s become difficult to drag myself out.
So I think about this process and I wonder what it means. Maybe it means that if you want a new world, you must persist in its invention. And that armed with that persistence (and living long enough) you will get there, at least for a while.
Right now, I’m there and it seems to be working.