Sunday, September 18, 2011

subdividing the concept

Thanks to my notes and Rebecca's handouts from the workshop in Mineral Point, plus several sessions of just sitting and contemplating my works-in-progress in the studio, I begin to see a next step in this journey of mine. It is to move beyond -- or, rather, into -- my concept of the landscape and geology of the Colorado Plateau and Capitol Reef. To subdivide it, as it were -- after all, no one painting could possibly capture it all anyway --  and look at each painting as an expression of some aspect of this place. At the same time, I'd like this subdivision of the big picture to move away from the pictorial into the conceptual. The "some aspect" that I address should be not river but space, not cliff but solitude. That is, I should shift the focus and respond to each painting in terms of what it is beginning to say, conceptually or emotionally, rather than what it is beginning to look like. This is the point at which to get away from form and into conceptual content. This follows an idea described by Rebecca in her talk about visual thinking (where conscious thought and intuitive response meet); it also follows a precept from David Dornan all those years ago: to tell a story, to paint human emotions.

So: after initial random splotches to mess up the bare gesso, and a few layers of contrasting colors and random textures and marks, and a few more layers inspired by an aerial or landscape composition, enough paint will be mindfully built up that I can begin to move to a conclusion that brings the painting together to say something. At this point, with reference once again to Free Play, I want to create not with form and technique but through them, using them to express some meaningful idea in an abstract way. What that will be, I still don't know, but that is my next task with my current set of close-to-finished pieces.

This whole train of thought was triggered in part by my signing and titling the one painting that was essentially completed in Mineral Point. Storm, Bryce Canyon, above, was never deliberately intended to be anything specific, but as I look at it, that title is my verbal response to it. It evokes feeling of the chaos and uneasiness of that area southwest from here, which is subjected to some of the harshest weather in the region.

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