A Painting is not an Image.

We are swamped by images. This site is full of images.

Images of paintings are not paintings.

I would say the reverse is also true:

Paintings are not images.

An image is an illustrated idea. It is a sign for something we wish to hold onto. In this way an image is like a verbal concept. A simple analogy or metaphor, like any form of explanation, it exists as a sign pointing at an idea. Not all verbal expression is a stand-in for an idea. Extended metaphor, a story, a poem can be something else.

Continue reading “A Painting is not an Image.”

Painting is not an additive process

It’s hard talking/writing about painting. Everything about painting is hard, except for the gifts of grace to be found there.

I’ve been struggling with how to find a way to talk about pervasive failures in painting that strike me as symptomatic of our time illuminating broader misunderstandings of what it is to be.

It presents itself most commonly in work that never gets beyond the first tentative steps of what painting can offer. Most often these are paintings that never even get there. They are stuck in a negotiation between the artist and the canvas in which the focus, although often unrecognized, is on creating an impression. Not “Impressionism.” Not anything as meaty as providing a glimpse into the dance of perception and attention interacting with recognition and association. That would be addressing the potential of art. This is simply a striving after an impression of cleverness. An impression that the artist, “Knows what he’s doing.” An impression of “talent.”

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Painting Air

Everything is in everything.

I’ve come across this statement in Rancière’s Ignorant Schoolmaster.

Everything is in everything.

It hits home with me as a painter, directly, viscerally.

It’s clear when we look at a Cezanne, for example. Continue reading “Painting Air”

Mysterious Foundations of Truth

If the things themselves are holy, it is in the gaps between them, the form of their unstable, shifting relationships from which we uncover the sacred. The details grow to something greater. The mystery of representation is that it can never quite get at the thing itself. The mystery deepens insomuch that, nonetheless, in its own fragile manner representation is able to hold, or at least touch upon, the gaps between things.

Nick Norton

We find that ineffable point at which so much art fails. Realist or abstraction, unless a work maintains this precarity, honors the essential nature of the gaps, it promotes a lie. Asks us to be complicit in a fraud.

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Immersion, Quality, Presence

I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.

Pablo Picasso

Ego throws up every distraction, every dissipation, every rationalization for why we must maintain distance, approach everything critically, and mediate every moment. Every analysis, every mediation of our condition – however it may be helpful – risks reducing complexity to complication. Remaining with the results of any plan of action – any developed momentum – risks bleeding attention away from an immersion in the moment, an engagement with quality, sheer un-mediated presence.

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On Cezanne, Part II

Cezanne’s early paintings tended to be thick, clotted, muddy. He was pushing to set down so much. More than he had the means to express. His paintings, at times, appeared ugly. And yet, when we look at any of his early work, we cannot deny its expressive qualities. No matter how un-virtuosic his execution, the paintings have weight. They convey a complex mimesis that transcends his rough, ham-fisted approach.

Working in the 1860s, fifty years before such expressive excursions from the cannon of academic finish gained any acceptance, even among the avant-garde, Cezanne painted. He made one personal, often embarrassing – both for their content and their “poor” technique – painting after another. He kept painting.

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What Makes it Art? Guston Quotes, Part II

What is seen and called the picture is what remains – an evidence. Even as one travels in painting toward a state of ‘unfreedom’ where only certain things can happen, unaccountably the unknown and free must appear.

Philip Guston

So much packed into these two lines.

Let’s begin with “an evidence.” This is at the core of painting. We manipulate a surface and what remains is evidence. Physical evidence. Paint freezes. It congeals into a solid. It has opaque qualities and yet is always more or less transparent, certainly translucent. What was done to the surface. What pigments were added. How they were moved about. Even what was removed. All leave traces that remain.

Continue reading “What Makes it Art? Guston Quotes, Part II”