Wednesday, March 27, 2013

painting, meaning, and dogma

I re-watched and considered a documentary called Examined Life the other day and, as I was in the studio, I contemplated something that Avital Ronell considers in her segment of the film.  In walking, Ronell talks about our desperate search for meaning and the resulting gravitation towards ideologies as a quick fix to the absence of meaning; which also provides a fast frame of reference for how one should act.  Near the end of her interview she even equates junk food and junk thinking, insinuating that to rely on these quick fixes when it comes to finding meaning is similar to eating a candy bar for dinner--it provides calories, but very little nutritional value in those calories.  I'm asserting my interpretation a bit here, but it lead me to consider (or re-consider, as I feel like I come to this in my studio practice fairly regularly) the idea of meaning in painting, especially in terms of a "search" for meaning.

I think this search for meaning is an integral part of painting (and, ideally, art making in general: though I am a novice photographer I feel that taking photographs can serve the same function as painting does in this regard) as it provides me with a medium to eradicate ideology and dogma.  One could argue, I suppose, that abstraction is its own dogma; but in my own studio abstraction is the path that I often choose (though I do make things, objects, take photographs, etc) without any real reason; none of my paintings necessitate abstraction nor do I have to make abstract paintings (which would signify dogma, I think) in order to use paint.

I've tried a number of times to watch Gerhard Richter Painting and I have to say that it has not happened, for various reasons.  I think there is part of the celebrity of Richter that bums me out a bit.  I have also read parts of The Daily Practice of Painting by Richter, so I thought I would consult the book in terms of these thoughts to see what Richter, who a lot of painters idolize, would have to say.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Richter, but he has not been someone that I have readily connected with  I found these, at first opening of the book:

"23 July 1989.  However ineptly--desperately ineptly--I set about it, my will, my endeavor, my effort--what drives me--is the quest for enlightenment (apprehension of 'truth', and of the interconnections; coming closer to a meaning; so all my pessimistic, nihilistic actions and assertions have the sole aim of creating or discovering hope).

25 July 1989.  My denunciation of ideology: I lack the means to investigate this.  Without a doubt, ideologies are harmful, and we must therefore take them very seriously: as my behavior, and not for their content (in content, they are all equally false).
Ideology as the rationalization of faith; as the 'material' that credulity puts into words and makes communicable.  Faith, and here I repeat myself, is the awareness of things to come; it therefore equals hope, it equals illusion, and is quintessentially human (I cannot imagine how animals get along without such an awareness); because, without the mental image of 'tomorrow', we are incapable of life. "
Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting

I think Richter is hinting at something in these studio notes that I've been working to refine in my own thinking---painting and art making connect me to a type of thinking that the action of painting is rooted in searching and developing the answer, which is inherently anti-dogmatic.  Every surface, then, becomes a new platform for the search, the pushing of materials, the search for idea and meaning.

Though this can be seen as a throwback mentality, I think that it pertains to a culture of contemporary abstract painting that is favoring process-less work, 'bad' abstract painting, and repetition of a shtick.  Is there value in abstract painting beyond this search?  How do we categorize good or bad abstraction, how does the search become visible to the audience?  My instinct is to say that the process-less and repetitive motif/shtick paintings are direct responses and reactions to the history of abstract painting, but maybe I am unaware of my own ideology.

What I can assure you is that I am committed to the exploration in my studio practice, unhindered (at least to an extent) by what is expected of me or how I need to maintain my body of work in its similarity.  I think that this is, at least to an extent, a luxury of the Academy--I am required to be professionally active but do not rely on selling my work for livelihood.  I am, as much as I'm able, going to continue in working this way.

Some recent studio work and photographs via the Instagram link; I hope to add more to the website and Facebook soon.
Instagram Page

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

storytelling: said three times

One idea that has resurfaced in my studies and studio work is a bit harder for me to define; attempting to explicate it might flush out the ideas a bit more.  In the very least, I'll be able to portray the notion with some examples and help outline the area in which I speak:

I originally started reading sources about spirituality and mysticism after finding (rather mysteriously, I might add) the book Pow Wow or Long Lost Friends in my basement, among other books.  The book is a hexmeister's guide (a healer from the Pennsylvania Dutch community)--one of the few published that I know of.  To see all of the cures, suggestions, superstitions, and instructions on dealing with every day issues is quite astounding.  Somewhere and somewhen close to the time of that discovery, I also read a quote from a book that more or less explained the reason for things said in threes as that whatever is stated three times becomes real.  Obviously, this reality is ambiguous, and multi-faceted, but I'm not going to put that "real" in quotes above because that is the heart of my interest and what I'm trying to describe as an integral part of my research.

I have just come to it again, in a reading for a class, by the author Trin Minh-Ha, in her essay 'Grandma's Story.'  Part of the implications in this essay are that the telling of the story brings life, and, inversely, our collective living is necessary for the telling of the story.  The ontological part of this is profound and simple; the way we think about something being said becoming a reality (or, at least, a history) is interesting.

As plainly as I can speak of it; my interest is in how words--a simple and integral symbol belonging to our structure of communication--can invoke a sort of or sense of reality.  Reality, here, is linked to being.  Being, too, is linked to our perceptual experience (I was asked the other day by a friend if I still considered myself a phenomenologist; I do, without a doubt, but I think that I am trying to redraw those parameters in my thinking.  I think my ideology is a sort of phenomenology that runs parallel to ontology; often overlapping).

I also think of a clip of Errol Morris's Vernon, Florida with a man sitting on a bench and saying something similar to "Reality, is that what you call this?"  I think this removes my ideas a bit from their original context in the sense that I am not solely concerned with the nature of reality or its interpretation.  Somehow this seems to be an oversimplified way of stating it.  I do think it is part of it, though--perhaps what I am thinking about is how symbols interface with our interpretations of reality.


I've got a lot going on outside of the studio this year--it has been nice to see a lot of people and meet new friends through my travels.  Here is a list of the exhibitions, including some additional material to follow up on:

House of the Seven Gables at University Galleries, Normal, Illinois
February 23 - April 7, 2013.
Its a great exhibition--please go see it if you are able!  Lots of great artists involved.
Interview with Kendra Paitz on StudioBreak, concerning the ideas and the exhibition:

Two person exhibition with Diana Gabriel, curated by Angela Bryant.
Design Cloud Art Gallery, Chicago, IL
Opening reception March 15, 6pm  Including a panel discussion with Diana Gabriel and I.

coming up this year:
Solo exhibition, The Soothsayer, at Box13 in Houston,Texas--July 2013
Solo exhibition, Jan Brandt Gallery, Bloomington, Illinois--October 2013