work in progress
In response to this week's prompt by Ruth Schowalter in the Daily Creative Practice group, I had two things conceived that were not yet in process toward manifestation. I've seen the above image in my mind's eye for a few weeks looking for ways to perform it. Had it mapped out to satisfaction when Ruth's prompt came up. Thought I'd finish it before end of week and use it for the project. Simultaneously, I was wanting to make something to call Prometheus Unbound. It would have to do with fire and electricity. It is in process too. May take more than a week. This red and black one began as a study in black and red, two equally intense colors. I do not buy that black is not a color. In pigment, black is the presence of all colors. In light, black is absence of color and white is all colors, the reverse of pigment. I'm dealing in pigment, so black is a color same as purple is a color. My favorite black is made from mixing thalo green and thalo red. They make a black like doesn't come in a tube. Blue and orange make a nice, warm black. The black in the picture above came out of two tubes, mars black and ivory black mixed. I used both because I didn't want to empty either tube, only take each one down a ways. They're good for different purposes. This performance above I have been tossing around for a title. The only words to come to me is the one word, Red. I was thinking about calling it The Black and the Red. But, upon more or less completion, I regret that I did not make the black rectangle half an inch taller and wider. It would have balanced the red. Now the red is dominant and the black looks like negative space. I tell myself, though it is finished as far as original vision is concerned, doesn't mean it's finished. Might even call it something like Warehouse. All that is floating around in mind space. Thinking maybe I could buy a wooden egg, paint it like a freaked out easter egg, or several and fix them to it from behind with long screws. That's the beginning of getting complex and the purpose here is simple as possible without imitating Barnett Newman. This shape doesn't have any association resonances with me, though it does favor a corner of a warehouse door and portions of two windows in a brick building. It was not original intent, which is why I like it. An accidental association, so why not bring it to the front.
The pictures above are the notes recording original vision. The small one was made in the coffee shop where I was sitting at the bar working a Jumble puzzle in the paper, tore off a corner of the paper to make a note. At home, I put it on a square of white paper to let it start growing. I'm thinking I could make another one a different size where the black is dominant and call it Black. And maybe do another size with balanced black and red, to go together or separate. I like the idea of repeating this shape in variations and sizes. I sketched the colors onto the wood, a piece of 3/4 inch plywood with braces glued and screwed to the back to inhibit bowing, as plywood does. It was already primed from more than five years ago when I prepared it for no reason, just to have it ready some day. Original plan was to print the colors onto the wood by cutting out pieces of cardboard the shape I wanted, paint one side of the cardboard, lay it down, press it and lift. Voila! It works small, but I hadn't yet tried it bigger. The size is 9"x11.5". It didn't take too good. Left big splotches that were ok, but also not. Woke up in the night wide awake and head swimming with how I wanted to print it in layers, one on top of the other while wet to mix several shades into one. Good ideas don't always translate into a physical form with the golden glow the it had in my head. The red was not anywhere near to satisfaction, nor was the black. I mixed up some more paint with medium (varnish, turpentine and linseed oil, equal parts) and started slathering it on with palette knife to spread it more or less evenly to maybe lay the cardboard stamp on top of it and lift it off to give the texture I wanted another way. No. I liked the palette knife strokes. At first, I wanted slick, smooth surface and lines. Once the palette knife started dancing, I scraped the paint left on the cardboard, used it all, spread it like soft butter on toast, making it a point to avoid self-conscious swipes in the paint, just slather it on like a kid, keeping the lines straight with soft edges. I began to see what I was doing with the paint, spreading it like it was plaster can only work when it's spread unselfconsciously. Any conscious pattern found in it would catch the eye. I want them to keep the eye moving, a pattern that is not a pattern. A still flame.
First vision was slick and sharp. It softened in process. Using up all the paint and smearing it on with the butter knife, I was thinking I'd screwed the whole thing up. It didn't work. What the hell. Not enough black. I could let it dry and paint over it or anything. Looked at it, said, "Sucks." Went back to bed after daylight. Might be good to paint something over later. Woke around noon, got up groggy, made some coffee, talked on the phone with Carole, dreading seeing what I'd done. I liked it, liked the paint smeared with palette knife. Now I want to make one the reverse of this. At the same time of putting this one together, another one is in the works. It is a chunk of cement found on the ground at a building site. I see it a head in profile and a profusion of curly hair. The chunk is soaking in a bucket of pale yellow latex paint and water, staining the cement, letting it soak the pigment into it. Next, I'll take some oil red and orange and brush it on lightly. I want to make it suggest fire. Prometheus, the god of foresight who gave us reason by way of fire. For giving us fire, he was chained to a rock. Thinking about fixing a short, old 3-link rusted chain I found somewhere long ago, rusted. I'd leave it hanging loose to suggest unbound. I'll make Prometheus an Irishman with pink face and curly red hair. It will be simple. The chunk of painted cement is to lie down flat atop the pedestal, 5.5"x 5.5"x 9". The wood will be sanded, steel-wooled and stained ebony. Another red and black. I may use a copper wire in some yet unknown way to suggest electricity with Prometheus. I don't want to think too much about it. I want to let it put itself together, let it tell me what it needs, let things fall into place.
I'm seeing the influence of one of my favorite artists, Jean (Hans) Arp. French/German early Dadaist in Zurich. He cut wood forms with a jigsaw, fixed them together and painted them. I've admired them since I first saw they were his. Saw two, maybe three, at the modern art museum in Zurich. Every time I see something by him, I pause within, receive it, admire its utter simplicity, its accident. I committed a sin against art in the Zurich museum. I saw a stunning piece of white marble, a sort-of circle misshapen Arp-style. No one was in sight. I touched it for a hundredth of a second with the tip of my forefinger. I know it's against all the rules. I also know I did not disfigure or endanger it in any way. I did it to make contact with a favorite artist, an inspiring artist, the Dadaist I connected with best. He played with chance. His simplicity has the same stillness as a Brancusi sculpture, smooth, aerodynamic and hydrodynamic. Arp's paintings and sculptures have a lighthearted air about them. Making a cloud of marble and it having a seeming lightness by association seems like art to me. Arp wrote Dadaist verse as well. I have a book of his poems and essays. He writes a lot about clouds. Change and chance were the subjects that ran through his work. I think it is his lightness that inspires me. I like to embrace the principles of dada in a similar way to how I like to embrace the principles of mountain musicians in my work. It's an attitude about art. Don't take it seriously. Do it in the spirit of play. Marketing not an issue. It's all in the doing. This is why I call making an art object a performance. Off stage. The finished object is on stage. The artist's performance is over when the piece is signed. The performance is from conception to completion, the mental, physical and emotional process of creation. I've wanted to do something that involves colors as themselves. Red and black appeal to me for their strong resonance. I'm feeling inspired, wanting to make some art objects that appeal to me and me only. Make them for my own aesthetic reasons with no consideration to what anyone outside my house might think of it. Something that satisfies me, made freely enough it has no economic considerations, only physical, mental and emotional.
prometheus and stand
prometheus in process
jean (hans) arp