Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 47

If you give people nothingness,

they can ponder what can be achieved

from that nothingness.”

Tadao Ando, Architect

PAINTING - B-SERIES - 5 Acrylic, charcoal and graphite on canvas board. 10" x 8"
PAINTING – B-SERIES – 5
Acrylic, charcoal and graphite on canvas board. 10″ x 8″
This may be a turning point piece…

Reflection, retrospection and contemplation.  Here I go again!

I call myself a painter but lately I’ve been churning out more works on paper – studies, than actually painting.  It’s been pointed out to me that although I do lots of color studies, when I do paint, the work is mostly monochromatic.

So, I’m wondering…  I’m now at a point where regardless of whether I’m painting or drawing, I feel I need to lose (what could be called) the signature commas, musical notes, dot, Xs, spirals, pseudo numbers and calligraphy.

They’re too representational.  Yes, the review (which some felt was negative – I did not) pointed out the lunatic scribbles, alien calligraphy and mad meteorology. It also oddly coincided at a point where I was already in transition.  What I was transitioning towards is still, at this point, a mystery that only the next section of work will reveal.

I feel I need to abandon the structural rule lines and musical staff as well.  Maybe it’s because I feel myself returning to that minimalist place I was at decades ago.  Change is good – right, even if you come full circle?  Or maybe it’s because I’m finally starting to understand the principles of semiotics and really thinking about Charles Sanders Peirce means when he talks about icon, index and symbol.

Okay and since, “Everything we do sends messages about us in a variety of code,”  according to a 1982 article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Maya Pines, “Yet we seldom realize that we have received such messages and would have trouble explaining the rules under which they operate.”  Amen to that!

The Seinfeld television show episode referred to as the Nothing episode  (The Pitch – Season 4, Episode 3) is still in my head and really enticing me to push myself into another academic exercise (nothing new there – hum, is there a pun here?) to explore nothing.

In Zen, nothingness is something to be attained.  It is called mu, and it describes the state of nothingness or emptiness.  Since the universe is in constant flux, then nothing can remain unchanged.

So I come back to semiotics.  A sign is a basic unit of semiotics.  So, if commas, musical notes, dot, the Xs, pseudo numbers and calligraphy define something that represents something else, then it becomes a signifier and if I don’t know their significance, then can my work be considered authentic?

Another bend in the road?  Friend and colleague Lasse Antonsen wrote,

The greatest challenge we find ourselves in as artists, is to maneuver within the many influences that surround us — which amounts to continually placing ourselves in a historical context — while seeking to manifest images and objects that could be referred to as “authentic.”

These challenges belong within the larger topic of creativity. As artists we respond to an intense, and unspoken, longing to manifest something significant, something meaningful, something both “known” and “unknown.” We long for intensity, for drama, for silence, for metaphysical presence, for beauty.

The challenge is that we exist within time and place. We haven’t chosen our cultural context, and we cannot place ourselves in a different one. Yet, we might be able to transcend our situation by entering into the “unknown,” possibly the “timeless.” Here words and concepts might fail us. How can we somehow “know” what has yet to be manifested?

Signifiers define culturally linked content or meaning.  I’ve refused to present any meaning to the viewer.  It is my hope that they find their own when looking at my work.

However, I’ve been getting the feeling that the viewer wants the artist, at the very least, to remind them of what they are capable of feeling and, at the very most, tell them what it is they should be feeling.  Back to the art and magic in the caves and some sort of communion?

But, if it becomes just “paint on canvas,” as per Frank Stella or nothingness, what are the results of my actions; what have I done?  What have I said?  What have I created?  Or, was Gombrich right when he said, “There really is no such thing as Art.  There are only artists.”

Posted on: 19/02/2013, by : Ron Fortier
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