« On Painting

Big Answers

Originally posted on June, 15, 2007

I guess that I never was educated out of believing in answers. All of us, when we were little, did not become nervous when the teacher put a problem on the blackboard. We KNEW that she had the answer. Somewhere along the line most of us forget that life is like that. There could not be a problem, or a question, unless there was a pre-existing answer. It cannot be otherwise There are many complex explanations as to why we forget this. One often overlooked reason, is that much of what shapes and underlies modern reality is not sensible. Buckminster Fuller wrote about this. He talked about the changes in industry during the first-world war. The new technology became invisible. (And when the masters of technology reached the point where they no longer understand what was going on? Then what?) Another big reason why we devalue our innate intelligence is our poor understanding of what art is and how it functions.

A much used method of explaining modern culture is to class people into two groups: the literary/artist type and the scientific type. Then you oppose art and science and explain art on scientific terms. All that has been written based on this reasoning is nonsense. Point. Okay, I understand those who live in a glass house should not throw stones. But this is too important. I have read tons of art criticism. Most of it, particularly from the 20th century, is nonsense. Literary people are no longer seeing the forest for the trees. It must be the fault of our education system. Verbal expression is by its very nature dualistic. Visual imagery in the form of paintings or photographs is two dimensional. We can allude to the non-dualistic or to the third dimension but we cannot change the nature of the medium. When we try to do so, for me, it simply becomes nonsense.

Art is not technology. Art is measured in terms of EVERYTHING. Art is directly related to the world (all there is). A work of Art contains NO content. Confusion continues on this point because the literati continue as though it is possible to separate form and content. THERE IS NO CONTENT. Nothing is hidden. Art’s function is to nourish us; to expand our sensibilities and our consciousness. There are not any formulas to follow. None the less this is the big answer to the question of Art. What our modern and somewhat deprived world needs is a new and more open way of looking at the world. Hopefully, we will reaffirm our connection to the sensible.

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” Oscar Wilde, in a letter.

Published in french as Grandes réponses

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.


Published in french as Grandes questions


Originally posted on May, 26, 2007

I am receiving some e-mails with comments and questions seeking clarification. I am very much encouraged by them. These people have a unique quality that is all too rare these days. It is not many people who think below the surface of things.

The words we use are important even though, at the same time, they erect barriers and limitations to the clarity of our thought. The word culture did not even appear until the year 1510. This was the early beginning of the modern attempt to separate content from form. Most people today are concerned with art only in terms of its content. They put works of art in the box and label it accordingly to it supposed purpose. Where did the magic go ? Mankind’s earlier experiences of art most certainly where magical.

Now, today, it has become quite problematical to speak or write on these matters. We can today only question our way of justifying art. Beyond that it has become like a never-never do-do land.

One more thing before I stop ranting. Art critics have now found a clever way to circumvent the entire problem. They do not talk about art at all. They simply psychoanalyse the artist. What better way to make art opaque and manageable ? Is this the intellect triumphant or a clear avoidance of deeper thinking?

It is not easy to “overcome” our race mind thinking. To approach what we call the artistic and creative side of life demands much effort. The concepts we use in this effort are crutches. Just crutches.


Published in french as Clarification

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,

Published in french as Penser hors du cadre

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