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Sunday, December 7, 2014

PAINTING IN CYCLES

robert mangold

Every day I feel good about getting older unto old. It's the best part of my life. I have good people in my circle, love all around. I ran into Matt in the grocery store yesterday with his two kids. As we spoke, I forgot something and remarked I like the forgetfulness that goes with old age. I said I like blank mind. He said, "I'll look forward to that," in irony. I do enjoy that information falls out of my mind. I think of it as a groundhog hole. I'll be talking, or writing, and the next thought just falls down a groundhog hole. Gone. Writing, I can look at the previous sentence and bring it back, but talking, I have to ask, What did I just say? Answer usually comes back, I don't remember. This tells me how important what I have to say is. So what's the point talking? When the groundhog hole swallows a thought, oh well. All the better that it's gone. Whoever is listening isn't hearing, so why talk? Because I'm expected to talk. Never on a subject. Never. One runs the mouth while the other daydreams waiting their chance to talk, jumps in and starts talking while the other daydreams and waits for a chance to talk. I don't even encourage conversation anymore. Quips. Brief notations, letting off steam. Somebody has something to say, I'll listen, and I'll talk making it a point to come as close to saying nothing as I can think of at the moment. It's like I'm in a sitcom everywhere I go. We tend to talk in sitcom punchlines. Not tuned into that medium, it's difficult for me to talk like a sitcom. When I try, it sounds silly. Sounds silly on a sitcom. I've never held the sitcom with canned laughter as anything but the lowest form of entertainment. I'd rather watch underwater terrapin races. I used to try to talk frivolous sitcom talk, just to have somebody to talk with from time to time. Now, I'd rather have no one to talk with. I'd rather stay home and be quiet, enjoy quiet mind. Talk less: forget less. 

robert mangold

So much is changing within that I sometimes wonder if I'm not rounding the last turn in a running race, where the runner goes wide open and runs the feeling out of his legs. This cycle I'm in is so fulfilling it makes me wonder if I'm nearing the finish line. Yet, I tend more to see it as I've finally come to a place in the life where my heart is open and mind uncluttered, no desires, no wanting anything but a new book, now and then, and wanting to give the donkeys a comfortable and happy life, Caterpillar too. I want to be an attentive friend to my friends. I want my art expression to be fulfilling in the doing. I'm way past caring about attention as an artist, a reputation, shows, money. I don't want any of it. I stepped into that world some many years ago, but jumped out like the frog dropped into boiling water. Too much jealousy, envy, hierarchy, judgment, pretend. I'd rather my friends have my art than anybody else. I'm not driven enough to pursue art as business. I've stopped painting in the past every time art turned into business. I wasn't going there. Every time I started painting again, it was a completely new style, new subjects, new mind, new cycle. This cycle of doing single-color abstractions feels the best of any before. It's like everything I was doing before was learning art. Suddenly, I'm pursuing an interest that is the natural next thing. Natural for me. Natural because I've leaned toward abstraction all the way along, am in bliss at a museum surrounded by abstractions. A wonderful abstraction can take my breath more than much that is figurative, though exceptions abound. I think I've learned how to breathe life into a figurative painting. Now is the time to breathe life into abstractions. I did not hold abstraction as a goal I was consciously working toward, though am able to see in retrospect the super-conscious had been progressing in that direction. 

antoni tapies

Painting figuratively, I used in my mind abstract principles, whatever that means. Though I was painting a recognizable subject, I saw it abstractly. This series of abstractions came out of seemingly nowhere. One day I was messing around with some shapes, rectangles in rectangles, and saw something I'd like to try, using cardboard. It started as two colors, but the two colors killed the cardboard as an element. One color makes the cardboard the subject. I like that it is two planes that look like one with a light line and a dark line. I've seen so many styles of abstractions, that when I looked for something that could be my own, somebody else had already done it. Antoni Tapies turns me on about the most of any abstractionist I'm aware of. There are many I love, but Tapies has my full appreciation. The few of his I have laid eyes upon have pulled the breath right out of my open mouth. I especially remember one I saw at the Carlos museum on the Emory campus in Atlanta, largely black. A luminous black. I can gaze at Tapies paintings on google images and be in awe, but seeing one, face to face, is a very special moment in my life. Another, Robert Mangold, who makes a canvas of a beautiful color applied perfectly smoothly, and a pencil line in varieties of shapes, circles, rectangles, ovals in wonderful ways that are unique to the given piece. Recalling one I saw at I think it was the Stedelijk in Amsterdam, a canary yellow I'd never seen before. It was a big rectangle. The pencil line a rectangle where the left and right lines were not parallel and missed meeting by about an inch. At the Mint in Charlotte, I saw one in a pale olive, a square canvas with a pencil line of a circle. Where it started and met at the bottom missed by about an inch. It's that space in his art eye of that period where I find his "art," what van Gogh called It. I found a book of Mangold paintings and never tire of looking at the images. I never dreamed I would one day be making abstractions of one color. 

robert mangold

Of course, there was immediate concern I'm imitating Mangold. It's not imitating. Like I saw his art in the small gap where lines fail to meet, I see my art in the lines of light and shade made by the edges of the cardboard in relation to light source. I love giving light and shade a part in my "art." The first one I made using cardboard, I didn't see those lines of light and dark. Used two colors. The second one used two colors too. The lines of light and shadow are rendered absent. All one color, those lines around the cardboard are the life in the piece. This is to my eye. I don't anticipate someone else seeing this. Its why I'm telling it. The cardboard shape becomes the subject. I like that as the oil paint dries, it shrinks into the texture of its surface. Paint wet, the cardboard looks like the same surface as the plywood. Dry paint the ribs of the cardboard show; that it is cardboard is apparent, as I want it. Cardboard is so common it's like the most common. Yesterday at the dump I looked at the cardboard pile, surveying big pieces for something larger I might want to make in future. I love about cardboard that it is the most common thing in all our lives. We all know cardboard. I love the commonness of plywood too, especially scraps. I see influence of Mangold up front, which I don't care about because it's not like Mangold. I see Tapies influence and Motherwell influence. My way of making an abstraction is as new to me as it is to someone looking at it the first time. I'm looking for what I see influencing these new pieces I'm having a ball making. If I can make something that takes my breath like standing before a Tapies, I feel like I have touched art. With each one I'm making now, I feel that awe upon completion. I'm following that awe to see where it goes.   

antoni tapies


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