Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 71
NOTE: This started off as an attempt to help me articulate viewer experiences of my work but it sort of got away from me.
Experiencing an Image…
We know for certain that sight is one of the most rapid actions we can perform. In an instant we see an infinite number of forms, still we only take in thoroughly one object at a time.
Supposing that you, Reader, were to glance rapidly at the whole of this written page, you would instantly perceive that it was covered with various letters; but you could not, in the time, recognize what the letters were, nor what they were meant to tell.
I was reading Albert Gleizes’ and Jean Metsinger’s Cubisim essay in Modern Artists on Art (Robert L. Herbert). Two things happened. They may have been correct on this excerpt from Leonardo da Vinci’s (in italics) notebooks as a defense of Cubism. What struck me the most was how I’ve always interpreted the way the Mona Lisa was to be best appreciated but, that’s me not you or anyone else.
Hence you would need to see them word by word, line by line to be able to understand the letters. Again, if you wish to go to the top of a building you must go up step by step; otherwise it will be impossible that you should reach the top.
Here’s where I went off the intended track: Yes, we all know this but… There were two phases of Cubism. Phase One was Analytic Cubism due to the manner in which an object was analyzed by breaking it down into fragments or pieces. These fragments were then spread out on the canvas by combining two or more views of a single object at the same time and, into one view.
The Egyptians had accomplished this same technique thousands of years earlier in their quest for completeness by showing a profile outline with a frontal eye and a different view point on the legs. You see it so much in their art, you don’t realize that they deliberately stylized their figures that way.
The Cubists got their inspiration from African tribal art that had been on display (at that time) in Europe. The art had been brought to Europe by missionaries and explorers.
Picasso and Braque used solid, primary and secondary colors to fill their “fragments” without shading that you would normally find in previous representational art of the preceding centuries. That was the Analytic or first phase.
The second phase, Synthetic, was a totally new art form. We call it collage. They used scraps of paper and stenciled images of letters and words. Where as Analytic broke down an existing image into different facets. The Analytic approach built up an image by using pieces of other things to describe it.
Thus I say to you, whom nature prompts to pursue this art, if you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second [step] till you have the first well fixed in memory and in practice. And if you do otherwise you will throw away your time, or certainly greatly prolong your studies. And remember to acquire diligence rather than rapidity, wrote Leonardo da Vinci in What Rules Should Be Given to Boys Learning to Paint.
Explaining an Image…
Hopefully, here I’ve returned to my original intent: Andre Malraux said, “Art must not, if it wants to come to life again, impose any cultural idea upon us, because everything humanistic must be excluded from the start.” Boy, how I have tried to be true to that statement.
While discussing my work and answering the questions of prospective buyers during the opening of my recent show at Colo Colo Gallery (October 17 to November 6, 2015) I felt as if I had to explain my approach in a way that wasn’t so simplistic that it actually became complicated.
Um, it really is simple but, articulating simple things such as in answering a three-year-old’s question as to why you can see the moon during the day (scientific answer: Because you can) can get quite complicated.
My work has no emotional or political basis. As much as the landscape seems to appear in my work, it doesn’t use landscape as a jumping off point. I do not title my work – I catalog it. It does not represent anything except itself.
Ernst Fischer wrote, “I have tried, very briefly, to illustrate by means of an example how a new set of subjects , new forms of expression, a new style are evolved as the result of changes in social content. But I am fully aware that I have had to oversimplify. A new social content never expresses itself directly but only obliquely, and any attempt at a sociology of art must, unless it is trivial and frivolous, take this obliqueness into account.”
“There are no facts, only interpretations.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche