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Big Questions

Originally posted on June, 5, 2007

"The little house", oil on canvas, 46cm x 38cm, June 2007

With Cézanne came the painters concern for the problems of man. Improvement of life as well as the world became important concerns. These are vital concerns but it is a mistake for the painter to directly address them. Our concern is to explore perception and visual experience.

The philosophical and the literary domains directly address the big questions of life. Their difficulties in adequately understanding and explaining “experience” has led our culture astray. (I’m using the world “experience” in a Kantian sense.) We now seem incapable of solving life’s most basic problems. We have a technological paradise in the middle of cultural squalor, war, and human starvation. Enough said…

Since adolescence I’ve pursued a better understanding of philosophical and literary problems. This has been done from an artistic perspective: a concern with life as well as a medium of expression. This medium is not a philosophical dialogue nor is it literary. Writing has always been difficult for me. It is not my medium of choice. Painting is. By the same token, talking about life’s problems particularly with a few glasses of good spirits, never fails for me to be enjoyable and stimulating.

The impressionists had some misconceptions about their culture and the big philosophical and literary ideas. However, they wisely refrained from engaging the philosophical and the literary. Other movements that were motivated by ideas of a religious or political nature, or the philosophical, enjoyed only limited success.

The importance of the liberation of colors by the impressionists has not been understood neither appreciated by yesterdays nor today’s intellectuals. It raises a profound doubt as to the accuracy of Kant’s understanding of intuition. Other questions follow. But it is not really the painter’s job to verbally educate the intellectuals. They must enquire.

For those of you not familiar with the importance of Emmanuel Kant, he was the Copernicus of Western intellectual and philosophical thought: the tipping point. He ended the rationalistic and the empirical explanations of human knowledge. We have with Kant an idealistic and psychological description of experience: an experience that is divided into the subject who knows and the object to be known.

Denis

Published in french as Grandes questions

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Outside the Box Thinking

Originally posted on May, 17, 2007

", La Loue à Montgesoye", oil on canvas maroufled on panel, 27cm x 22cm, May 2007.

Can we reflect and reason without ego constructed thoughts forms? I believe that there is a form of thinking which is not ego based. First can we agree that there is a border between reflection and experience? Is there a relationship between the two? I am not thinking of reflection as thinking subject and experience as the experienced object. That is dualism. But is there an essential relationship? This question is at the heart of the most intelligent discourse on art over the last century.

Last week I spoke of Herman Hesse. He understood the artist as well as the mystic because he was both. There was no conflict between his intuition and his intellect. Instinct and thinking were at peace with each other.

In my creative life I’ve been attempting to resolve this conflict in my work. It is through the work that we approach this borderland between reflection and experience. This is where we can step outside the box.

In art and life,
Denis

Published in french as Penser hors du cadre

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On the face of things

Originally posted on April, 17, 2007

Historically speaking, artists have not have a lot to say about their art. They have been more absorbed in the doing of it. Needless to say they gave a lot of thought to this doing. But for the most part they let the art speak for itself. After all, it is a visual language. Up to a certain point this worked out fine. However, when the impressionist came under attack by the “new generation” of the 1880’s things dramatically changed. The modern era required that everything be rationalized and justified. This became problematic for the artist. It is not as if he had nothing to do but to be concerned with what people where saying.

Add to this complication the fact that the artist is obliged to become a businessman or businesswoman. For the professional painter or artist today they are obliged to spend at least one-half of their time taking care of the business and promotional side of things. All of this is to say that being an artist today is a very complex issue. And there is nowhere to run and hide from the complexity. The paramount task in the mist of all of this activity is to create art that speaks to people. It is not enough, and not even relevant, to simply do something considered new. The very long dialogue about which art is the most decadent or who is on the avant-garde cutting edge has now to my ear a hollow ring. There are many more important issues which urgently need attention. Being an artist today has something to do with identifying and addressing these issues. The pundents are not going to do it for us. Not easy. How are we to do all of this and pay the bills at the same time?

We need to walk our talk. Not easy. But where are we to hide? All of the good hiding places are gone.

Have fun,
Denis

Published in french as À première vue

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