New Art: (#38) With Arachnids

#38 With Arachnids, 20×30″ @300 dpi. Digital drawing. 8/17/017.

As I finished up details on this image I was listening to news. And I’ve been trying to listen to news that I don’t agree with, in order to make sure I’m hearing both sides, or rather multiple sides of issues. And the more I do this the more clear it becomes that various groups are each peddling a one-sided narrative, seemingly reasonably, seemingly reflecting common humanity, and with God (at least metaphorically) and history on their side. The problem is ideology, by which I mean subscribing to a particular worldview, which comes packed with an agenda, and usually an “us versus them” mentality. And each side accused the other of blatant ideology, while its anti-ideological statements apply to itself equally. And as I was showering I was thinking again about how art and ideology have become fused in recent years, so that art must serve a political cause, and a certain political cause. And I realized this bothers me a lot because art is the window, perhaps the only one, where I can escape ideology.

This sort of image is fun to produce because it works with the imagination, the subconscious, and doesn’t follow strict rules of naturalistic representation. The two arachnids, for example, look like spiders, aphids, hermit crabs, weevils, and assassin bugs. I’m actually a bit of an expert on spiders because I collected them as a kid and kept them as pets. Let’s just say I wasn’t rich, and there’s only so much you can do in the cement back parking lot of an apartment building to keep yourself entertained. But the point is I did a lot of research on spiders, know how many legs they have, and their various anatomies. Just yesterday I let a jumping spider loose that I’d kept as a pet for a few days because I wanted it to be able to explore and not be confined. But here, I never even bothered to count the legs, or segments of legs. It doesn’t matter. I want the creatures to read as arachnid, but not specifically. There’s no need for specificity. I want the general impression, or mood.

Similarly, I can draw a hand, but here I don’t care how many fingers, where the thumb is, or any of that. This isn’t an anatomical illustration, it’s a drawing, which is also on some levels abstracted, and the overall composition is fused with the imagery and technique to produce a whole.

There are four conspicuous faces in the image. If you haven’t seen all of them, you haven’t looked carefully. Try looking in the negative space.

I like the freedom of this kind of drawing to produce just about anything, and unexpectedly. It can be textured, flat, and modeled at the same time. The legs of the arachnids are simultaneously legs and abstract lines.

Via these avenues this image is a kind of language. Surely it says something, but what? Because it issues so much from the subconscious, which is not language based (as in terms of words and sentences and meanings derived from which), the meaning doesn’t exist in words, is not translatable into them, and may not be accessible via them. I don’t know what it means within spoken/written language, don’t have an interpretation, and don’t want one. You can no more translate a visual image into words (especially one that is abstract, abstracted, or non-naturalistic) than you can a Beethoven piano sonata.

There is a sense in which visual language is a check (as in “checks and balances”) on the tyranny of spoken language, as is music. They are other ways of representing and interpreting reality. In such cases I feel interpretation is a superimposition, and inappropriate. Which is not to say that I don’t do images where I do have an interpretation. But here I don’t. This is that window onto the ideologically free, or less ideological at least. In harnessing the unconscious or subconscious, I don’t exactly take credit for the imagery. To do so would be similar to taking credit for a dream or nightmare, when your experience of it (assuming it wasn’t lucid) was that your were captive to it. The stuff I dredge up from the less conscious may not be my exclusive property, let’s say, for example, if it were to tap into the metaphoric reptilian brain, which aesthetics may in fact do, as biology and the body is not divorced from the brain when it comes to conscious experience.

Nevertheless the image seems coherent. I suppose it might make some people uneasy because they don’t know how to interpret it. Is it on the right or wrong side of history (see first paragraph)?  It’s clearly a statement of some sort, and one could read all sorts of bullshit into it, but it’s really a form of non-verbal expression outside of that territory.

If an alien were to discover this drawing, the one thing they would be sure of is that our species has an imagination and a subconscious. And I suppose it is more THAT documentation that I find of interest. It’s a type of cognition.

Related to that I’ve been writing my dreams lately. I know, I know, we all go through these phases. But I’m also going through a phase of rediscovering psychology, and investigating consciousness. Dreams can be quite fascinating to observe as conscious phenomenon. I’m not so big on interpreting them unless one is conspicuously ripe for the picking. The other day I had what I’d consider a bad dream. I don’t even remember what it was, so let me go look it up.

Oh Gawd! That was a bad dream. There’s a point. Hang in there. In this dream I was leaving a public library at a university and they stopped me and asked to look in my bag. I said that I had a gun in the bag, so they’d know. I’ve never had a gun, or wanted one, or to use one, just so you know (if this is a “trigger” issue for you, just put it aside for now). Then they asked me to empty my pockets and out came the gun in a plastic bag with something else in it, maybe a stash of weed. And then they showed me surveillance footage of me harassing people the night before. I said I must have been doing a prank, like a YouTube prank. I don’t go around harassing people, but I do like YouTube pranks. In the video I was standing by some lockers and I said something, and a man struck me very violently across the face, and then back again in the opposite direction. I ended up on the floor and people were dragging me. I was vomiting green, and saying, “What the fuck!”. However, I didn’t remember any of this, presumably because I had been uber drunk or something. That was a rough dream. But what was interesting to me about it, and made it kind of good, was the interesting element of watching myself on a surveillance camera, and the overall texture of the dream. There is a certain quality to dream reality.

Don’t worry folks, I have much better dreams, including lots of flying type of dreams.

What I’m getting at is there’s a certain proclivity to reduce everything to language and arguments, and to then file those within a system of thought, world view, meta-narrative, paradigm, or ideology. For the last century art has been largely ensnared into the service of doing this. Visual language has been eaten alive by spoken language, even in the arts, and it’s been heralded as a revolutionary achievement of the visual. That sort of art certainly has a place, but I’m rather inclined to not make an object in the service of an argument furthering an agenda or advocating or substantiating a system of thought, but rather create something that’s outside of that altogether. One doesn’t learn about visual art by reading or talking about it so much, though that can help, but by looking at it, just as one learns to appreciate music by listening to it.

Rather than subsume the visual to spoken language, I prefer to speak with visual language, which expresses not the same thing, but a different kind of awareness or consciousness. At least in this sort of piece. People make at for all sorts of reasons, and so do I.

Usually though, I am expressing visual language, and while I accept the more conceptual and political practices, I don’t accept the attempt to stamp out visual language. This image is the opposite sort of “stamp”, not stamping on something, but stamping a symbol of non-verbal consciousness and cognition.

~ Ends


Here’s all 38 pieces in the series so far in a slide show.

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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.

See a video about my first 25 pieces in this series here.

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7 thoughts on “New Art: (#38) With Arachnids

  1. Eric,
    I love the use of negative space, I do that quite often as well. For some reason I really like your black and white paintings.

    I don’t remember most of my dreams. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night I will remember a dream, but by morning it’s usually gone. I could try writing them down immediately like you are doing for a week or two, to see if anything interesting is going on in there:)

    As far as politics goes I try not to get caught up in it. I’d rather spend my days trying to be happy. Neither side is trying to understand the others point of view so their can be no rational conversation. The old saying- if you don’t know history your doomed to repeat it- seems wrong to me. I think history is always repeating, what you need to do with the knowledge is not be in Berlin on the Krystal night if your jewish. That’s just an example, I’m not blaming anyone for not getting out. I would have a hard time leaving America if the writing was on the wall for me. But as a citizen in a place where rational thought is gone knowing history could save you. It seems their are plenty of people willing to die for their beliefs. My beliefs change all the time, why would I die for something I probably wouldn’t believe in tomorrow?

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    1. Hi Matt:

      I thought you might like that one. Anyone who likes Van Gogh, Bacon, Auerbach, Nolde, and can tell why some of Adrian Ghenie’s paintings are derivative of Bacon without being as good as Bacon has an eye for a certain range of painting. Which is just saying something like I rolled out a moldy peace of cheese for connoisseurs of cheese. But, yeah, this particular style does really allow me to work things like negative space (which in this case forms a big head in the middle).

      Here’s the thing on dreams. If you don’t write them down, most of them will be lost forever. If you do write them down they become an addition to your life experience. The reason I got into it is I had a whopping powerful dream on my last vacation, which might have to do with sleeping fitfully in a new environment. Oh, and then I had a dream where I’d unintentionally taken some psychedelic and was tripping balls and hallucinating in the dream, which was a unique mental experience. I am not that great at documenting them or being lucid, but what I’d like to be able to do is observe them better. If you start writing them down and get into it then you’ll remember lots of them. Try watching “Waking Life” for inspiration. I also kind of lost my momentum because we’ve has a month of loud construction waking me up and interrupting my sleep in a not good way. Carl Jung obviously got a lot out of his dreams, and it’s available to all of us, and I’d think of serious interest for those who work with their imaginations.

      “My beliefs change all the time, why would I die for something I probably wouldn’t believe in tomorrow??” Good one. True, If your ideas are in flux and developing, than you may not have the commitment to go fight for your cause. Politics are getting increasingly toxic. I regret writing about it, and on my “to do” list for the last few days has been “don’t write about politics”. Things are getting so ramped up in the States that even if one puts forth a very fair, balanced, and reasonable argument, if it’s outside this or that ideological framework, it’s considered the work of the enemy. Therefore there’s no use in trying to be reasonable or fair or whatever. You either are with them or you are the enemy. I’m considering taking down any of my earlier political posts, which may have served their purpose, and instead opting to not try and interject reason, but stay the F out of the insanity.

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  2. Your composition is also great on this one. It feels like a giant circle is at the center of the painting and everything is kind of on the edge of it, except the y shaped figure that looks like it has a snake/alien head but feels like a big bird flying in at night in front of a big white moon.

    I’ll check out “waking life”. I probably should have delved in my dreams before now, I think maybe I have always been a little scared of what i might find.

    As far as the tensions lately with the neo nazi white supremacy stuff I just don’t see the point of going out and getting in a shouting match with them. If everyone ignored the idiots they would probably be let down and just go away. I’m not saying there are no causes worth fighting and dying for, but I put a pretty high value on life and it’s got to be something eminent to get me to put down the paint brush and take up arms.

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    1. That whole Charlotesville thing is so toxic I don’t want to get involved at all. There were many groups there, and I wouldn’t be a part of any of them. Extremist ideology, blood lust, and hatred were thick. Each of those groups has more than a bit of the “you are with us or you are against us” about them, in which case they would all be against me because I wouldn’t be with any of them. Politics has become so toxic that I think I should just check out of it. Thinking I could be an ameliorating or reasonable voice is kinda’ a joke. You gotta’ be with the cause or you are the enemy.

      My first year living in China internet wasn’t that common yet, nobody had Smart phones, and we didn’t have internet in our apts. So, to go online I had to go to a Chinese internet bar, which was mostly used for computer games, and was just never a satisfying exprerience. Thus, for a whole year, I didn’t know shit about what was going on in politics. Didn’t miss a thing.

      Following politics is like taking on the neurosis of a society. It’s probably much, much better to just deal with my immediate environment and figure out how to get more art done, and make a career out of it.

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  3. I like this one: https://artofericwayne.com/2017/08/17/new-art-38-with-arachnids/#jp-carousel-57540

    I started liking your aliens and their scenes, in fact, its like getting into your art without initially liking it (as im not into alliens fantasy comics movies or anything pop art nearly). It is pop art what you do or how would you classify it? You analyze so well other’s art you must be to analyze also your aesthetic of choice. I wish you continue with colours im not so fan of b/w in painting/sketching. Or color 🙂

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    1. Hi Anna. I find that there are people that love and hate just about everything I do, and nothing I do pleases everyone. Some people prefer my B&W stuff, some my color stuff, some my more realistic stuff, some my more Expressionist things.

      I wouldn’t consider anything I do “pop art”, which is why it doesn’t appeal that much to people who ARE into pop art, or aliens, or comics, or whatever. In those cases people tend to want a very realistic rendering that also conforms to an extant genre. If it’s outside of those narrow confines it’s a failure in their eyes.

      Have you seen the movie, District 8. One of the best alien movies, but you can’t watch it and not know it’s really just about people.

      My art is probably a bit more complex than people are prepared for at first, especially as many approach art with part of their brain looking for an excuse to dismiss it. There’s almost always a level of irony, humor, and ambiguity in my images that has come overlap with Postmodernism. Which is how the aliens are in District 8. There’s humor, tragedy, the aliens are wicked cool, even colorful, but they are also thinly veiled surrogates for people.

      So, if I do an alien, and it’s painted like a Van Gogh, but digitally, there are a few things going on simultaneously that make the image more interesting to me, but might throw other people off.

      Also, aliens represent one obvious sort of subject matter that had never been depicted when the end of painting was announced, and it was decided nothing new could ever be imagined or painted. At that point nobody had painted an alien. Further, my love of aliens is a nod to my childhood, when old sci-fi movies, or TV series, like The Outer Limits (which is still spooky today) represented an imaginitive escape from the boring, quotidian reality of goin go school and doing homework and playing in the back yard… I have a very working class background, and I wasn’t going on exciting vacations and whatnot, so, my imagination had to provide the adventure.

      In short, there’s a lot more in my work, I think, than is immediately apparent, and I choose to combine things like my early love of sci-fi with Francis Bacon and Van Gogh and Abstract Expressionism. It’s a connoisseur’s brew and definitely in the long tradition of painting.

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