In this oblique close-up of a drawing (shown head-on in its entirety below) we can sense altitude, expanse, distance, proximity, and viewpoint. We can see the drawing as a landscape, a place.
Without the dramatic lighting and zoom of the close-up, this image is closer to what the unaided eye would see.
The sketchbook page is a place different from the close-up. Like an illuminated manuscript page there is
a pictorial/diagram space, for looking, and there is a space with writing, for reading.
As in the case of an illuminated manuscript both the looking and the reading require special attention.
When I examined this close up detail (of the painting shown below in its entirety) many weeks after I had made the painting, I was surprised how the green, the structure, and the density of space remind me of Cézanne. The texture of the canvas and the abstract forms are other matters altogether. (Indeed, one of the mysteries of painting, as in the rest of our world, is the co-mingling of distinct, separate worlds.) The close-up reveals a world too small to be seen with the unaided eye either during the making of the painting or when displayed on a wall. This is the inverse of the case of the Nazca Lines, which were made at ground level and which in our day we examine from a height of c.1600 feet. 1 Without much difficulty we can perceive both the close-up and the full view of Summerwind as being views of the same painting, yet the world in each is quite distinct. At what close proximity (what micro zoom) or far remove (zooming out) might we lose our sense of the image being that of a painting, at all?
Summerwind, City Dock, Annapolis Maryland 210708 16"x20" acrylic on canvas
In this full view the abstract forms (along with the weave of the canvas and physical reality of the paint) so apparent in the detail are subdued by our sensation of a scene conventionally presented. Just now, 12 weeks after painting Summerwind, I notice the anchor with its trailing oblique lines seems an upward moving shooting star. The oblique upward motion of the anchor with its trailing lines, perhaps closer to us than anything else in the painting, and detaching itself from the ship's prow, is in duet with the farther from us and more tethered but draping-waving motion of the flag. The motion of the anchor (of which I was unaware during the making of the painting) is indicated as in a diagram or cartoon, while the motion of the flag (which I was aware of during the making of the painting) shows itself more naturalistically. The painting can be seen at Jo Fleming Contemporary Art, 68 Maryland Avenue, Annapolis MD 21401.
Summerwind, City Dock, Annapolis Maryland 210721 16"x20" acrylic on canvas
In this full view of Summerwind, painted 13 days after the more green one above, the abstract forms are subdued by our sensation of a conventional scene.
Or as in listening to a musical duet of two distinct voices we may see the scene and the abstractions at once together.
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris 12070412441759 20"x17" acrylic on linen
This side of the Cathedral, perhaps as in the female cardinal versus the male, is a form more mysterious,
more difficult to rationalize than the front facade. Here the geometry of architecture gets engrossed in the foliage, transformed by it.
The reality of what is known to be before one's eyes is surpassed by what the eyes discover and the hand-with-brush cannot follow to definition.
The view is continually being re-sensed because the seeing, the observing, outpaces the knowing.
So, the painting comes out of a dynamic searching for what is ever-changing yet objectively present.
Eleven France Paintings 1210261204 27"x32" acrylic on linen
What we do is always, among other things, marvelous. One way to realize and enjoy what one has done is to study it. In art-making we have a tradition of the study.
In the studio, as I paint from my own paintings as if they were someone else's or as if simply part of still life in an interior, I can sense the unfamiliar surprise
of my own work; it is finished, so I no longer have the involvement of transforming it; there can be a detached seeing of it. In this case there are also the shadowed wall,
the writing of understandings that occurred while I was painting, the range of blacks, and the jarring of each painting's irregular geometry against the others.
Click on a painting in the painting to see the original work. The color difference shows the studio light was incandescent and the originals were done outdoors.
View across the Mississippi from Lansing, Iowa 1111251635 24"x48" acrylic on canvas
Although I am quite deliberate and strive to be as aware as I can be of what I am doing, in some ways I am neither aware of the work as it happens nor of what I will later discover I have done.
It is as if the work is quite ahead of my apprehension of it. For instance in the last several years I have fretted that it is time I should take on some new and greater task in my work, something akin
to the largeness and complexity of scale in John Milton's Paradise Lost, or Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. What I have lately discovered is that already in the landscape work
there is hugeness in the complexity and breadth of the view, and in the myriad abstractly meaningful calligraphic painted touches. Close-up and in digital macro-images of the works these touches
are remarkably distinct and particular.
Click on any of these links to view detail images:
Bumper Bridge&Bumper SandPit WhiteHouse Island Docks BelowDocks House&Road Distance Tree
You may also move cursor over painting and click on hotspots for the detail images.
How much of art is artist intention and how much is viewer interpretation?
The question seems to be about figuring out where the reality of art might be. The question implies there are two facets. On the one hand, art is made by a person and the person probably had some idea
of what they were wanting the work to be; and on the other hand, those who observe the work have their ideas of what the work is.
There is a crucial third facet: the work itself. The work itself is objective; it is out in the world. The intentions of the artist and the interpretations of the viewer are not so objective, they are thoughts, responses,
ideas. The physical (oral, aural, movement, object, writing, arrangement, edifice, etc.) work is not an idea in the sense of existing in the mind, it is an actual object, performance, story, etc.
Now, if the artist feels the idea or intention of the work is realer than the work itself, then for the artist intention is much or all of the art. If the artist feels the response or interpretation of the viewer
is the realm in which the work actually exists, then the artist may feel the taking in of the work by the audience is where the work actually exists.
It may be the artist can sense more than one strong and legitimate place where the work exists: their own idea; their own experience while making the work; the actual physical (or performative) work;
the presentation of the work in gallery or on stage or on screen; the reception of the work by the audience; the effect on the consciousness of the viewer; the subsequent behavior of the audience.
Sometimes the viewer may feel their own ideas and the work itself are insufficient, perhaps even not interesting or real(!) enough, and they want to get to the heart of the matter, which for them is
the intention of the artist.
Sometimes the artist may become aware that the work is beyond their own wantings and knowings, and realize their own ideas of the work itself have been insufficient. Then perhaps we are out of the realm of
interpreting and intending and in the realm of seeing what we are looking at. Then we are in an actual, aesthetic space where the work of art is more than and other than the thinking and feeling of both maker and
audience. As such, the work has a realness which can be overlooked when we become engulfed in opinions and responses. We can go back to the work and see how it seems when we have formed our ideas and
listened to the ideas of others, including the artist. Our receptivity to the actual art (thing, performance, etc.) can be heightened by thinking and discussion. In contrast, we may even leave the work behind,
finding the discussion and the thinking more enticing than the work.
In the case of conceptual work, if the work itself is too interesting we may forget to conceive.
Myth and Science
It may be
when an unknown-how-it-happens
becomes explained, its mechanics revealed,
the previous mythic understanding
of the unknown-how-it-happens
can-must only take root in the mythic ground,
the myth's use now known
Giving up its seeming specificity
the myth becomes a greater knowing,
and never a mere practical pebble conundrum.
In the Practical Mind perhaps
little gain and little loss are felt.