Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Damned: Notes on Becoming an Artist, Part 1

What is painting? To be a painter is to enter into an infinitely chaotic conversation between yourself, the work, and the world. The problem is compounded because each of these elements takes multiple forms at different times. 

Looking, thinking, painting. Self, work, world. In practice, it’s apparently impossible to separately identify and define these terms: beacons blinking on and off in the fog.

Gerhard Richter, Ice Berg in Fog
Antonio Lopez-Garcia’s work teaches us that art emerges from what is closest to us - the small epiphanies of everyday life, the glimpses into larger things. I just looked up from these notes to see my six-year-old son perched atop a stool and when I saw the smooth, swanlike angle of his head and neck, I felt mortality, the fragility of life - a very small glimpse of the beauty and sorrow of humanity. 

Kenneth Blom, Portrait, 2000
Nothing matters except the articulation of that feeling (I wonder, must it be that image as well? Or can something seemingly unrelated embody that feeling “instinctively?” I suspect something like this is going on in many of my landscapes). 

To be an artist is to be constantly tantalized by the fruit you can almost see, touch, smell. But the truth is that you’re blindfolded, and every time your fingertips seem to touch the tender rind, it sways beyond your reach. Go ahead, form a coherent theory about what you’re doing and why! And watch as the bottom of every conceptual framework you apply falls away beneath you. And there you are, standing at the easel for another day. 

Roland Petersen, Spring Picnic, 1963