Monday, January 4, 2016

Indecision, Ambiguity and Duende...and Anselm Kiefer

Art is a demanding mistress. When things are going well, the ideas present themselves and the mediums cooperate to the degree they ever will, your everyday life goes to hell. Because you are so driven and you need to ride the wave while its there. Your house is unkempt, friends and family ignored, daily duties forgotten and forget about sleep. On the other end of the balance, when abandoned by the muse, the body collapses, illness sets in, anxiety stalks you and all you want to do is sleep, hoping for inspiration, messages in dreams, a reason to scrape that first stroke of paint on the taunting canvas. For three months was sick and the hectic pace of the holidays, stepped in and I was deluged by doubts and insecurities. Over the previous three months, I painted more than 30 pieces. The last three months, maybe five. But finally the damn broke last week, my subconcious, the muse, a touch of the numinous stepped in and not only guided my hand, but took over. I started a new series of paintings. So far the working title for the series is "Ambiguity Indecision, and Duende. I'll have to see if that sticks. So far these paintings are oil on wood panel or cradled wood. While my last series focused on textile towns had more to do with my personal history of living in two textile towns, this next series is more psychological and vague. They've painted themselves. The more I tried to control the subject matter, the more the paint worked against me, morphing figures, blocking out sections I thought would work, flowing into figures I had not envisioned. The first was meant to simply be two figure studies. But the first figure, who I call "the lady in red," decided to inhabit just a small portion of the board and soon I ended up with three figures and a dark, slightly depressing interior. The painting is titled The Tarot Reading" and I view it as trying to capture a moment of duende. Duende is a Spanish word used a great deal in poetry. There are many different interpretations for this word and to what it implies. In art it refers to the inspiration, the muses, lacunae, memory. In poetry , especially in the works of Federico Lorca, it elevates to a more evasive concept. Hard to explain, easier to describe, I view it as the space where the numinous hides or resides. Its that dark empty space at the bottom of your pocket, that sliver of nothing between blind slats, the moment before you turn a corner, or that sucked in breath before you start a new paragraph. Its the shadowland between two skyscrapers and that second before you step off a train. In my view, in this variation on the word, rue describes a time, space or place where nothing happens at the same time anything can happen. Its like Schrodinger's cat. Everything is possible at the same time. German artist. Anselm Kiefer, says "Painting is difficult. It's not entertainment." And that is the reality. People might consider it a hobby. Enjoyable. But its not. Its more like a compulsion. An idea has to be released, expressed. And even as a writer of many years, words won't cut it. That's why I call the series, Ambiguous. Because I even felt ambiguous about what I want them to evoke in the viewer. I've always wanted my paintings to be a little disturbing, to make people think and ask questions. If people come to my studio looking for something pretty to go on the wall, they've come to the wrong place. Sure my seascapes might be sort of pretty but even in my landscapes, there is something a little off. Some if them are what I consider dreamscapes deal with issues such as anxiety, abandonment, depression, suicidal ideation. Some people have called my work dark and that's true. I don't believe art is meant to decorate walls. Its meant to make you think. I've been reading "Jung on Art" written by. and Jung constantly speaks to the concept that art us to stir up reactions in the viewer. The artist is taken by a concept and for some reason us driven to paint it out and expose the viewer to the concept, even though it might be difficult and painful for the artist to express himself this way. He/she is compelled. Finally I have stumbled on an artist who explains what Jung has said, what musicians say but we hardly hear artists relate, words nit being their medium. Finally I have been held in awe by both the art and words of a living painter. We hear the names Picasso and Munch, Monet and Modigliani over and over but how many living artists in our time hold such rank, command such respect? Anselm Kiefer is one. A quote of his showed up on my Facebook page so I looked up his art and was blown away. His work is moving and terrifyingly beautiful. It makes you think and makes you sad. He has the pattern ability of Pollock but creates dreamscapes, not quite landscapes,, which might be considered nightmares by some. There is a sense of ruin, or decay, abandonment and something close to apocalyptic. But it doesn't take you over the edge due to an overwhelming sense of longing they instill in the viewer. Very few contemporary artists have held me in such awe: Dave Mckean, Nick Bantok, Gerard Desjardins, Steve Viner, Wendy Farrow, Tim Speaker, Dabney Mahanes.

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