Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Skid on the Kandinsky Banana Peel

Browsing through the catalogue of a Kandinsky retrospective it seemed obvious to me that the painter started out with fairy tales and ended up in colorforms; an illustrator gone rogue. This past weekend I apparently channeled some of his process while overpainting hasty and unconsidered work: my corrective daubs of paint piled up (or pilled up) into the clots and blobs in what I have come to call the "lozenge" effect.

When a painting loses its architecture of reference to a source — such as a crisis moment in a story or depiction of a subject for a portrait, landscape, or still life — it's painterly qualities tend to bead uncertainly into blobs of light and dark that don't amount to much; it's physical properties begin to return to nature, and to the muds and mottling of fractal patterns intrinsic to nature. While engaging the inherent challenge in abstract painting to impose an architecture of human significance on the continuous generation and decay of natural forms, Kandinsky moved through his early timid, derivative and lozenging folk tale illustrations to energetic non-figurative 'scapes of plotted muds and mottling, and finally adopted the depiction of unnatural forms, of geometric ideas such as perfect circles, straight lines, triangles, checkering, etc, arranged in pleasing clusters just complex enough to command attention for a longer time than a snapshot of nature's customary chaos -- in short, eye candy.

While trying to paint from photographs of nature, and to transfer what I find so fascinating in them about grasses and branches with daylight shining through the mass of them, I fell once into fairytale and once into eye candy. (see the two pairs of photo/painting above).

Distracted by the the wind, or rather by my anxiety about the wind ("breezy" according to local weather announcers, but always a hurricane to me) and determined to keep painting even unprepared and unfocused; I imagined that I would be 'free" and paint "playfully," and my results slipped into their common shortcomings. And although I have painted up some nice stuff by vagrant process, these wayward productions become meaningful to me only when I assign a story to the swashes and blobs, no matter how interesting the forms are in themselves.

I conclude that only my paintings that contain solid composition and human pathos can inspire and support the painterly expression that is so pleasing in itself (regardless of the order of application), but only rarely can be separated from picture and story to stand on its own; I could only be an abstract painter if I relied on simple or complex geometric forms, as so many abstract painters have done. I must continue my work to develop bracing diagrams, human stories and pleasing brushwork — the traditional stuff of "representational" painting. 

Back to the drawing board.

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