Friday, June 27, 2014

Shock of recognition

The further I delve into the writings of Robert Motherwell, abstract expressionist and philosopher, the more I am taken with his purity of thought. Reading his words  I come to realize, Motherwell couldn't have painted as he did if he wasn't a deeply philosophical person and mind scout.

 "It is one thing to think and another to exist in thought." Kirkegaard.  Motherwell existed in thought.

Through Motherwell's essays and lectures and through his paintings and collages, he explored and expressed  the dichotomy of creating. 

On the one hand, you want it to come from that true place where the ego is set aside and the mind is free to act; on the other, you want some thought, some contemplation to be present. To be absent, yet aware, that is the struggle.

Abstract expressionism did not grow in a vacuum. Artistic building blocks began with impressionism, moving to dadaism, cubism and surrealism. 

Historical influences included two major world wars, the Spanish Civil War, the depression, and philosophical influences from the poetic and literary voices of  Mallarme, Valery, Sartre, Camus, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

Add the influence of psychoanalysis pioneered by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, you can follow the path that led the modernist looking inward for their inspiration. And through this journey came a body of experimental work that shocked the art world. And forever changed the way we looked at art.

No longer were we bound by the lens of the outward seeing eye, we were now free to explore a much more complex and subtle landscape. One that is ultimately linked closer to the Universe. It is the language of the non-verbal that ties us together as humans beings and as spiritual beings.

Once achieved successfully, we experience "the shock of recognition". Or in the words of  Rilke, "where I create, there I am true."

This was an extraordinary time in the development of the creative, thinking mind. Equal to their forerunners, the philosophers and artists of the Age of Enlightenment. 

And some decades later, we are still learning from these pioneers. They stormed the citadel of the art world with a ferocity that took an immense amount of courage.  I'm not sure we have seen anything so shattering, since.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stillness vs Quiet

Stillness 1

During my morning meditation, while trying to stay focused on quieting my mind, I began to explore the difference between quiet; absence of sound, and stillness, absence of movement.

I'm really not trying to quiet my thoughts, I'm trying to still them into one soundless void.

Which is really, really hard.

First, my dogs decide they want to join in. Max is a heavy breather and loves to scratch his belly by pulling himself across the carpet with his front paws. I hear him making circles around the room. 

Then, Molly thinks I need a pedicure. I am trying not to laugh at Max's carpet ride and Molly's tongue ticking my bare feet.

Come on! did the Buddha have to put up with these comic distractions?

Anyway, M&M got bored since I wasn't moving and finally left me in the peaceful solitude I was searching for. 

Coming out of this morning's meditation session, I decided I want to explore capturing the feeling of stillness.

The above piece is the first attempt. Acrylic with charcoal on watercolor paper.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Do I Need A Cigarette For These Heavy Thoughts?

Disappearing Mark #1

I quit smoking some 39 years ago,

no longer held in that foggy spell.


after watching documentaries where David Hockney and Robert Motherwell reveal so revealingly their struggle, their dissatisfaction, their search for authenticity in their work, 


the whole and entire time, with a cigarette burning at the end of every sentence, 

and because of these conversations on the screen, I find myself deeply contemplating my authentic creativity, 

and I pause and wonder, "Do I need a cigarette for these heavy thoughts?" 

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Genius of Robert Motherwell

I watched this DVD twice within 24 hours. If I could channel Motherwell, I would. I wish he were still on this planet. 

This documentary is a deliberate, focused and thoughtful  look at the birth of Abstract Expressionism in America. A coalescence of the Abstract and the Modernist movements. A struggle to create an artistic language that sang with truth, authenticity and integrity. 

And the work, well the work, took my breath away. To watch Motherwell  run his brush across the surface of the paper was lyrical, to watch him sit and stare at his work, seeing the internal dialogue spoken by the small shifts in his body language, was mesmerizing, seeing him tear shapes to integrate collage pieces into his work was fun! The feel and sound of paper being separated from itself felt so right.  

Automatism - free association drawing, the idea of peeling away the layers of conscious prejudice to get to the essence of your authentic, creativeness is freeing. Thank goodness the surrealists and expressionists embraced it and brought it to the conscious surface, so we, the followers, can add this weapon, this tool to our arsenal.  

To have your very soul captured on to the canvas, revealed in it's spiritual purity. And then, when someone recognizes the poetic humanity wow, you've made a cosmic connection. 

I believe that's what we, as artists, strive for; this illusive thing that has no name and yet when we encounter it, we feel it. We don't even see it, we feel it down to our Mitochondrial DNA. 

Towards the end of the documentary Motherwell quietly asks, " What is the journey? The search? Not only a search for beauty or artfulness, but an attitude toward reality. The process of painting is the search and it, in some ways, involves a high degree of abstraction and at the same time, with the insistence that the subject, which in a way is unnameable, nevertheless is very humanly poetic."

Disappearing Mark # 2