An Artist’s Viewpoint

composite portrait

There are many motivations for creating art.  My personal focus as an artist is primarily on painting or other two-dimensional media, although my observations would apply to all forms of art.  As a museum curator and university level art history instructor, my studies have been extensive.

Some artists express their relationship to life or their perceptions of it.   Some condense life into symbolic language, which indeed was the first language of man.  Some work arduously and meticulously to represent their passion or even indifference to life around them.  Some create aesthetic statements that are the catalytic expression of their generation or way of life.  Some capture the poignancy of just existing. The least of all motivations, albeit a real one, would be simply to embellish our passage through life.

However, I have noticed that the greatest artists are not so much concerned with what they see and express as how they see and express it.  To that we might add the further exploration of, why?

From the caves of Lascaux, to the giant murals of Picasso we see minds exploring the depths of human consciousness beyond the obvious representation of events and perceptions.  The painters of Lascaux were in some fashion connecting their inner world of envisioned unity with the herds of the land and their need to eventually capture them for survival.  There is clearly a shamanistic energy being explored through expressions of the charcoal stick and primitive brush.  How faithful they were to every detail of the beast they would hopefully flay!

Moving forward into the grand exposes of Egypt, we find iconic representations of the Pharoses and his court, which are grander than life and not by any means literal.  They were meant to convey the stratification of society upon which survival of that culture depended.  The paintings and sculptures of this era represented a state of mind, not a representation of mundane existence or the way someone literally looked.

Likewise in the worlds of India, Greece, and Rome, gods were merely iconic summarizations, or personifications of the values those civilizations held most dear.  It was no different in the Christian era of the European Middle Ages where we find portrayals of Christ as representations of Christian principles or illustrations of cherished stories told about his life.  These were not portraits of the man, but images that evoke an inner connection with the spirit of his presence, teaching, and influence.

It remains true in all ages that the greatest artists seek to inform us, through their subjective explorations, about all the ways in which we look to fulfill our inner values and visions as outward expressions.  Art is a language where the inner and outer worlds meet through some mysterious aesthetic resolution of what is sometimes harmonious, but often contradictory in nature.

In recent times the most dramatic exploration of that mystical phenomenon was pursued by the Impressionist painters of the Nineteenth Century.  After two centuries of art, principally devoted to exalting the wealth of colonial empires, and rendering in the finest detail all the beauty of new worlds being explored, a group of remarkable individuals were born who took on the task of once more exploring HOW we see rather than simply reporting the obvious evidence of what was seen.  In the paintings of Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, and most especially Monet we see an intense, almost existentialist, drive to arrest the exact moment of visual experience and examine all its facets as living impressions of life.  Perhaps their greatest discoveries, or revelations, came in the area of color and light.  At least officially, they were the first group of artists to realize that vision was only collected through our eyes.  It was fully assembled in the brain.  Color was reported to the brain like a veritable rainbow of color droplets that blended in a mentally conditioned ambience of unity.  For them vision was not a concrete experience.  Perceptual intake was merely that, no more no less, until a sentient mind bestowed upon it some coherent meaning.  The Impressionists were possibly the first group of artists to realize that a painting in many ways was only completed by the observer.   Therefore, all of their works have a fresh sense of incompletion despite the genius of composition, brilliant manipulation of color, and exquisitely uncontrived perfection.  Their paintings were as interactional as the environment which inspired their creation. Almost a century later David Boehm, in his theory of implicate and explicate order, would reveal the quantum underpinnings of what the Impressionist painters had embraced through creative passion and intuition.

What the impressionists began in their explorations of perception and consciousness would progress in the next decades of art through seeking the primal unity within multi-dimensional fractures of space (in great post-impressionists works of Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso), then time (in the works of De Chirico and Dali), to energy (with the expressionists) and while all of this was unfolding there were explorations of cultural change in such movements as DaDa, progressing through the Pop Art of Andy Warhol and beyond.  The twentieth century was essentially an exploration of fractured space, time, energy, and culture.  It was an era which yielded not only devastating wars, but also intense psychological exploration, nuclear power, moon walks, and finally the next frontier of human globalization.

After a century-long pursuit into multi-dimensional reality we are now on the verge of chaos.  Surely it is time to examine the explicate order of what has been created for evidence of the implicate idea or coordinating point within it.

This is where I have found my deepest calling as an artist.  While traces of this fascination can be observed in all decades of my work, it has found its ripest moment in the culminating study and expressions of consciousness through art.

It has always been the societal role of artists to prepare our consciousness for that which will soon be gathered and assimilated through experience for the advancement of understanding.  Though a very big subject, consciousness is ironically an inside job of personal responsibility.  So much of it is pre-verbal or non-verbal, most of it is still uncharted. The outer frontier of consciousness is actually intuition through spiritual and sensory exploration.  These tentacles of perception and expression are often brushed aside as “the intangibles,” although they are the very heart and power of how we move forward.  In esthetic and artistic aspirations they are unavoidable.  Most probably, this is how and why my spiritual pursuits became inseparable from my work as an artist.  That union has been a catalyst for the most important contributions of my life.


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