Tuesday, May 11, 2010

being literal

In a comment to her recent post "thoughts on imagery", Rebecca Crowell wrote,
I've often said that the challenge for an abstract artist is to develop an abstract language that is personal and expressive, and communicates something of feeling, memory, idea or mood to the viewer. It strikes me that the "words" in that vocabulary can be purely abstract (if this really exists...the human tendency is to read imagery everywhere) or they can be referential, or a combination.
This got me thinking about language, and the fact that I have lived mostly a very verbal life (as librarian, writer, teacher). In contrast, my main occupations these days are painting and learning to play the cello, which emphasize and value the nonverbal. Yet it is still a question of language, of communication.

The limits and frustrations that I encounter in both art and music frequently relate to their nonverbal qualities. In both cases, I am acquiring the tools and skills I need, but also in both cases there are expressive, perhaps intuitive, aspects that I glimpse but do not speak, at least not fluently. In both cases, it is that nonverbal "abstract language" that I need to develop. Feeling, memory, idea, mood: what language expresses these? What combination of color, line, mark, shape? What quality of bow on cello string, of intonation, of passage from one note to another? Two different art forms -- but maybe not so different, after all.

How to let words go and speak in other ways.... The image above is a thought suspended in mid-sentence, as yet incomplete....

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