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Maker of forms, images and poems, hopefully with deep meaning

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reflecting on my art

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting on my art of late, spurred on by a sense of vague dissatisfaction and stagnation (the Sargasso Sea of the soul).  It seems to be some sort of turning point, which hopefully will spit me out into a new fresh current.  This is a bit of me talking to an imaginary audience and trying to make sense.

A great man once said something like this:
“The creative force cannot be captured in words. Oh, you can talk about it, but the only way to know it is to experience it.”

In a much smaller way, this is true for one type of art, which I call poetic or real art. It’s the only type of art which I am interested in. It’s the type of art which I have the intention to create. Whether I succeed or not (and I think it’s more often not), is an entirely different question.

So, you can infer from that, that I am not the kind of artist who has an idea, or selects a theme from a set of social or political issues and then sets about exploring those ideas or themes. If I wanted to do that, I would use the tools of the mind—words, concepts, notions, logic—not the tools of the senses, the emotions and the imagination.

I don’t, indeed cannot, begin with an idea; the idea comes later, much later, in the process, if at all. It’s part of the “talking about”, rather than the experiencing. In fact, to talk about any of my works of art, I need to distance myself from them and approach them as a stranger would. Out of that encounter and that experience, I might be able to talk about the work and distil some themes.

Actually, I have been doing quite a deal of reflecting on my art practice lately and I am starting to understand (as apart from know) that what interests me centres around the visceral, perceptual, emotive and imaginative encounter with the real. A work of art concentrates and distils that encounter down to its essence. By doing that, in Shelley’s words, “it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being.” (A Defence of Poetry) and enables us to re-encounter and re-experience the real world with refreshed senses.

Hence, the “themes” which interest me:

  • Ambiguity—how one thing can be seem as something else or several things at once
  • Transformation—how something can morph into another
  • Pareidolia—how images can be suddenly perceived from amorphous and vague shapes
  • Viscerality—how the body feels movement and position sympathetically with an image or object
  • Essence—how to reveal the virtue beyond the virtuality
  • Enigma, paradox, mystery—how to numb the mind so understanding no longer blocks knowing.
  • Transitional states—where something is neither what it was or what it will yet become, and yet is both
  • Flow—of time, of things, of events, of paint.
This is combined with an aesthetic sensibility which values asymmetry and organic order over geometric precision and constructed order; which values the poignant patina of age and wear over the flash gimmickry of the fashionable state-of-the-art; which values beauty, in all its naked terror, over mere prettiness and decoration.

 
As for subject matter—in the sense of what motifs—I am attracted to the figure and the face, landscapes and seascapes, and organic forms.

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