Those of you who follow my work may have noticed a change in my output. I’ve been exploring abstraction in addition to painting what has become a signature subject of atmosphere and poetry. I’m not abandoning one for the other, but more like sensing one subject as my stone and the other as a star, trying to find a balance from what I perceive as a rootedness yet letting my wings fly free. Seeking an intersection of both worlds or a refinement of one which incorporates the other–I want these paintings to be the authentic me growing and evolving and changing.
Rilke spoke about this idea with these words
Slowly evening takes on the garments held for it by a line of ancient trees. You look, and the world recedes from you. Part of it moves heavenward, the rest falls away. And you are left, belonging to neither fully, not quite so dark as the silent house, not quite so sure of eternity as that shining now in the night sky, a point of light. You are left, for reasons you can’t explain, with a life that is anxious and huge, so that, at times confined, at times expanding, it becomes in you now stone, now star.
It is a question of belonging and seeking, being and becoming.
One of the first large scale works that explored just this subject and of which I titled “gravity” is shown below. The elements that mark my atmospheric work, amorphousness, transparency, a space for breathing are all here, but without objective imagery driving it and with an expanded palette–which is a joyful change in the studio.
I also find landscapes which border the edge of abstraction particularly appealing. This piece, titled The Last Before the Far Off, is one of the pieces I feel straddles that space of landscape and otherness.
In this explorative stage I find myself often thinking about something James Lavadour, an artist from Pendleton Oregon who paints gestural landscapes, said about transition in his work. I first became aware of Lavadour’s work during a visit to Portland’s PDX gallery in 2010. The full interview is here, but these questions and answers have stayed with me since I first read this article 4 years ago.
James Lavadour speaking… The goal is always there. So it really broadened out: I broadened my palette, my composition and even my thinking. I had worked in at abstract and landscape at the same time. I called them interiors and landscapes but with being able to analyze, to spread it out a little bit over time, those two things begin to intersect. They used to go parallel, but now they integrate and intersect. That was a major technical and psychological breakthrough for me.And that happened how long ago? Well, I’ve worked very seriously at both and it was kind of like a pendulum, swinging emotionally and psychologically back and forth between the two for years and years. It wasn’t until about five years ago that they actually crossed paths, intersected or short-circuited or whatever you want to call it. How did your audience receive it? Was it a surprise? Yes, surprised, and some were disappointed. But you have to educate your audience and bring them along. You can’t take a left turn somewhere and leave them standing out where you used to be. You know, my whole perspective as to what I’m doing changed. My perception of painting changed and my understanding of it. And so you have to help whoever is following your work read the signs. And how are you able to do that? Not every artist is able to communicate about their work but it is an important part. It’s essential. Why else are you making paintings? You’re looking into a phenomenon. You’re investigating. You’re doing exploration and tests. You’re arguing and talking with yourself. You’re accumulating knowledge. Things are compounding on layer upon layer of what you know. So over a course of time you’ve accumulated a body of understanding and knowledge and data that’s kind of raw. When you start articulating it, composing it into finished pieces, it requires a certain level of acclimation for both yourself and your audience. As a painter, you have an affinity towards certain people. For every action, there’s a reaction. I think that with every action – being a painting – there’s a reaction in a receptor out there in terms of a certain portion of the public that follows painting and responds to what you do. It’s a universal energy or phenomena, so you’re going to hook up with people who have a similar aptitude and sensibilities.
James also talks about his idea of landscape here from the Missoula Times:
I use a landscape structure: horizon line, middle-ground, foreground. You throw a stain on a paper and you discover landscapes within landscapes, because that’s the property of paint. That’s what paint does: Paint is the land. It’s the same elements. It only stands to reason that it echoes what we see around us.
I think of landscape as a structure that I hang paint on. Those events of paint add up. A painting, of itself, is not a picture; it is a series of layers upon layers. Our brain actively reads those things. Our brain tries to make sense of those things. You look at an abstract pattern and our brain says, what is it? And we associate.
Painting is not about making pictures. It’s about jumping into the great unknown and bringing back things you’ve never seen before that are good to look at. And those good things are uplifting. Every little discovery is uplifting. The whole purpose of painting, for me, is to uplift the spirit, make you feel good, give you something that is good to look at and informative of some unknown thing that you never considered before.