The paintings that catch my attention these days, and the paintings I am most interested in painting lately, are mostly abstract. Abstract paintings don't represent or attempt to represent objects, and I experience them in a very different way from how I experience representational art.
Let me start by seeing if I can—maybe?—describe how I respond to representational art. Take a look at this painting by Liz Balkwill. I am genuinely awestruck by its beauty, color, composition, and masterful technical skill. Yet I respond to it essentially the way I would respond to a high quality photograph of the same still-life or to the actual still-life set-up itself, i.e. I respond to the represented or physical objects. I see—and enjoy seeing—an exquisite blue pitcher, a glass canister, and bright orange clementines together in a pleasing arrangement. I see captivating reflections and refractions, compelling shadows. What I'm noticing does not get evoked by such a painting, however, at least of late, is any particular curiosity about the painter. I don't find myself wondering about her, or wondering what her internal process was.
This says nothing about her and everything about me right now.
To wit: when I look at expressive abstracts—for example, Simone Nijboer, Krista Harris, Barbara McLean, and/or Debora Stewart—I see choices, decisions, impulses, and intuitions. I see marks, colors, lines, and shapes that are the painter's responses to earlier marks, colors, lines, and shapes, all of which point to who the artist is, to the inner feelings and experiences she manifests as she paints. I feel as though I am seeing the artist on the canvas. I see a captured history of her ability and willingness to tap into what is deep inside her—or perhaps on the surface!—and express it with paint. It's as though she's in the room with me, sharing herself in such a way that I am curious about the mystery of who she is. I think, Oh my gosh, I've got to talk to her!
In my own studio recently, I have begun to tap more fully into wordless mystery through the act of painting. As you know if you've been following my blog, I'm deep in unknown territory! The whole process is mysterious to me! I start with blank canvas or paper, and see what happens (or doesn't) when I start marking and painting. Making my way in this uncharted place often calls for courage and commitment and plain old grit, at least for me. It can be grand fun and adventure-filled; it can be frustrating and perplexing.
It seems to be where I want to be. It seems to be what I want to see.
|Jumping Double Dutch with the Winter Solstice|
30x30x1"; acrylic, ink, collage, and pastel on canvas