Friday, May 20, 2011

marks and intention

I concluded in a previous post on intention that I have probably been starting with the medium rather than the message since I began working in cold wax.  In addition to experimenting with the cold wax medium and its properties, I have focused on color and design and, most recently, marks.  I've been relying on the process to produce a message, but if asked, I could not have said what that message was.  Although I have thought about cliffs, and have used rather a "southwest" palette, and have pursued the creation of beautiful surfaces, I have struggled with the concept of defining a specific intention.  When I have attempted to do so in the past, I have defined intention in terms of something representational, and despite a sometimes very powerful vision of how to achieve an abstraction of that thing, I have seldom been successful.  This was part of my decision to move away from representational painting altogether, to free myself from trying to portray any "thing".

I have been circling around this dilemma for months. Although I have said the I am not being representational, many of my cold wax pieces do indeed try to represent cliffs: rectangles, verticals, sky at top, &c.  In a way, I am working against myself. I cannot find a happy level in between the completely representational and the completely abstract.  And for some reason I am still uncomfortable with letting go of representation completely.  I think this is because I do not want to paint "emotion", I am not an expressionist.  So, how do I define and pursue an intention in my painting? Now that I have settled on a medium that I love, what do I want to say with it?

My general intention in painting is to create an abstract vision of my impressions and reactions to living where I live.  To refer again to Rebecca Crowell's "Form" and "Content" discussion, my Form is oil paints mixed with cold wax medium applied to flat surfaces.  My Content is sandstone, desert, cliffs, sky.  Perhaps this would be better expressed in adjectives, in order to get away from the representational.  What does that Content say to me, that I want to convey in my work?  Stasis, solidity, serenity (even when storms move through).  Space.  Light.  Layers.

To come back to my current theme of marks: If marks are to reflect my Content, they should express the adjectives above.  My work should be describable by them.  Rebecca said, "If an artist begins with F(orm) ... the challenge is to develop intention and a unique vision along with mastery of the medium."  Sounds like my situation to me.  Perhaps I can find  my way to my abstract voice by using adjectives and interpreting them, staying away from anything remotely representational.  Perhaps the next challenge is to decide what design and what marks portray serenity, space, light.

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