This one is a bit unexpected. Since I always try to surprise myself – which is part of what keeps me going – I expect to come up with something I haven’t done before. This is completely unlike #8, which was completely unlike #7, at least in terms of technique. #7 was all lines, and then I more or less colored it in. #8 was all shading and no lines, and B&W. This one is all color, and no lines.
This is a good way to work for me, except it would be better if I’d already mastered lighting, shading, modeling, perspective, anatomy, and so on. I’ve studied them all, but mostly just wing it. If you follow this series you might know I do practice paintings in which I just copy some other painting, usually a still life. In doing this it forces me to be highly observant of the aspects of naturalism, and to find ways of replicating it. Here’s an example:
Not only does it look like the eggs and shells: it looks like the painting. I think this simple practice is helping my painting.
And when I first discovered some of these still life paintings, I really marveled at the technique. As I get better at it I marvel less (though I’m NOT doing it in oils, and am just copying), and particularly I realized just how safe this kind of painting is. Not so with my images.
#9 is a bit out there. I don’t know if people can see that or not. It occupies a different sort of terrain of the psyche than I’ve seen before. The weird yellow&black train, tractor, skull dude, with the mouthing coming out of his mouth, is not really like anything I’ve seen before, nor is the mask skull with 2 sets of eyes and a red worm bowl on top. The snake coming out of its mouth is deliberately not realistic. The eyes don’t belong on the top of the head, but on the sides. But somewhere I’ve seen an old painting that mis-painted snakes this way, and so I’m referencing that. It gives it more of a dreamy, hallucinatory feel.
The title refers to some of my favorite philosophical maxims. It means that if you are seeking truth, or reality, it may not be what you anticipate, and you may not like it, unless, of course, what you like is discovery or peeling back the layers of reality.
I was thinking about this today in connection with a YouTuber making a video about Sam Harris, if you know who he is. I half like Sam, and half don’t. I enjoy his clear, rational thinking, but he’s a reductionist, and he believes that a logical argument is synonymous with reality. Thus, because of what he believes is an airtight argument, he concludes that we do not have free will. This is along the same lines as elaborating an argument, the conclusion of which is, “I don’t exist”. Rationally, the argument may be impossible to defeat, but, subjectively, we know we exist. It’s the same problem with the “determinism” arguments. We exercise our free will at every moment, but, people like Harris position themselves as fashionably edgy by declaring we don’t. I have a long article I wrote in which I dissect what’s wrong with his and others arguments if anyone wants to debate me. If you think you have a case, read my follow-up article before launching missiles. Harris also has some reductionist ideas about Islam that are a bit of an embarrassment. Richard Dawkins, with his “selfish gene” was another wonderfully clear thinking who nevertheless succumbed to reductionism.
Beyond those scientists who think everything can be understood via science, including the human psyche, the general populace at this time, in America, seems to have polarized itself into two opposing camps with near opposite conclusions on every question. Neither side, when you present them with an uncomfortable fact, will back down off of their adherence to their chosen narrative. Both the far left and the far right are driving me nuts.
But in this piece I’m most likely thinking about myself, my search for meaning, new understanding, or new vistas of imagination. There’s always a battle between ones ego and reality, and ultimately, the ego attenuates as apperception of reality grows. Even with these things kicking around in my head, the piece is an aesthetic image for contemplation. I never minded when the Abstract Expressionists compared their art to music. Recently I was listening to some Beethoven .OK, it was the Appasionata. Not only did it knock my socks off, but I felt like I was listening to a philosophical treatise. Purely instrumental music can make arguments of sorts in conjuring realities that no other medium can create. The same goes for images. I don’t think this piece could be translated into some other medium. But what I’m getting at is that the purely formal aspects, or the meld between them and the subject matter, is its own content, and more important than any interpretation, or how ever much anyone cares about said interpretation.
And here’s something else I’ve been thinking about. There’s all the rhetoric surrounding conceptual art, and the idea that it’s “radical” and all that. I watched an interview today with Chris Burden, and he was saying that if great painters of the past were alive today they’d be doing what he’s doing. He’s actually flat out wrong about that. They were painters, and he wasn’t (though he is may favorite conceptual artist so far). He might as well have said that if Beethoven were alive today he’d be doing conceptual art. Anyway, there are different ways of doing something different in art. One is to NOT do painting. And the other, which is the challenge I’m much more interested in, is to do it with painting (or other kinds of visual imagery). What I want to say to conceptual artists when they get all pretentious and think they are Leonardo da Vincis of the present, is, “Let’s see you do something radical and amazing in painting”. I mean, shit, if you aren’t even a painter, you can’t pretend that whatever else you are doing is better than painting, anymore than I can pretend making some digital painting on my computer using my imagination is somehow superior to anything anyone is doing with musical instruments, or by writing fiction. These are just different mediums.
There’s another piece riding on the tails of this one that I will finish tomorrow or the next day. I worked on both at the same time until I decided to take one to the finish line.
Here’s all 9 pieces in the series so far in a slideshow.
Or, if you prefer, you can see them in a click-through gallery:
To see other posts about other pieces in this series, go here.
Thanks for checking out my art and my blog. Check back in a few days to see what’s next. It’s going to be a good one, which I know, because it’s about 85% finished.
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