Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 62

HORIZONS – Yes, horizons are usually equated with landscape.  And, as much as I try to be a pure abstractionist, someone always point to the landscape in my compositional structure.

As I write this, I continue to ponder E. H. Gombrich’s statement that, “All artistic discoveries are discoveries not of likenesses but of equivalencies which enable us to see reality in terms of an image and an image in terms of reality.”

I have returned to this statement many times.  I look at my work.  I am, right now, pinging and sounding my way out of a conceptual fog.  Or, maybe it’s more about resisting the tracker beam that seems to be drawing me to some unknown destination.

The work has reverted, I believe, from being iconic; meaning that they are painted things – not paintings of things, to being something which I continue to struggle against.  In this case, the thing it would be presumed, would be the landscape.

There’s also the battle of beauty and not beautiful going on in my head.  Too pretty and it’s decorative.  Not pretty enough and it communicates ineptness rather than a concept.

Even then, all I wish to communicate is simply a love for visual academic exercises.  No grand themes, statements or heavy pondering.

Yet, as much as it is my intent to resist painting something, the third object as Naum Gabo called it, something gets in the way.  It’s not pareidolia, a Greek word for a psychological phenomenon where vague and random images such as clouds or grilled cheese sandwiches are perceived as something of significance.

Back to Gabo – the first object is the object observed, the second is the object in the painter’s eye and the third is the interpretation or execution of the object on the canvas.  It is a challenge to paint nothing – Gabo’s second object – without a point of reference.

Salvador Dali said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” His sentiments were somewhat echoed by Mark Rothko, Adolf Gottlieb and Barnett Newman who jointly stated that, “There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.  We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.”

The “primitive and archaic” X and scribble elements in my work seem to be the ever-present dust on the road of this journey of mine.  With that said, the horizontal element and structure of my compositions almost always have a (horizon) focal point.

So, aha!, the horizon is a symbol too.  And, if symbols may be said to be the same as equivalencies, and this I feel is supported by Gabo’s third object concept – then the horizon either represents where I want to be or, or it’s simply the touching point of sky and land.

More spiritually, it is the touching point of heaven and earth; a symbol in its own right.  This was driven home by a previous experience with genetic memory of my ninth great grandfather’s (Antoine Fortier) death as he slipped beneath the water of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec; his foot entangled in the anchor line of his boat.

Lately, in this last batch of paintings, I’ve been trying to focus on compositional scale and mark making only.  So far, I feel as if I’ve failed.  A few of the pieces are here…

The pinging, the surrendering to whatever is pushing or pulling me towards wherever I may end up continues.  I feel both possessed and dispossessed at the same time.  Looking at my work, I wonder, am I behind my contemporaries, in-step with them or ahead of what is considered au courant?

If I am behind, I can catch up to be a la mode.  Being in-step, however, for me, would be far worse.  Who really wants to be one of many?

But – if I was convinced by those that I both admire and respect that I am ahead of the pack – it would be both a blessing and a curse.  My friend and gallery owner Luis Villanueva asked my why this was important.

I have a need to know for which I know not why.  I’m not going to guess where I am right now.  But, I do know the horizon  beckons me to my easel…

Posted on: 06/08/2013, by :
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