we go on making, we go on dancing

 
There’s been a long hiatus from studio work and blogging – so long that it amazes me that any readers call by this little corner of the cyberworld at all.  But the stats tell me they do, and I thank you – all of you.  I hope you found something worthwhile among these postings; a little inspiration or encouragement, or something to ponder, perhaps.

While I’m still without a workspace, energy is returning for the beloved creative work/play – for color and texture and shape and form.  I’m inspired anew by discovering the ways in which the inexpressible displays its wonders in the micro-universe.  Whether I’m attuned or not, whether I’m aware and amazed or not, the miracle of Life keeps on making, keeps on creating, inexhaustible and immeasurably.  And artists never lie down exhausted for long.  Their passion – if it’s honored and fostered, given time and space – will always be a source of their healing.  They don’t create because it’s fun or recreational (although it often will be); they create because they must, because if they stay away too long from ‘the dance’ they fall ill.

I gaze in utter wonderment at the dance of creation displayed in this photomicrograph of soap bubbles. And I feel the sap rising.  How will it express?  How will it release and focus energy within the field of capacity and skills that make up the playground called ‘me’?

 

Wonderingmind Studio: micro-photograph of soap suds

 

Yes, we live in a quantum world where there is only, in TS Eliot’s phrase, ‘the dance’, and the dance is always changing, both in the sub-atomic world of particles, and in the visible world of objects.  We construct our world so that we can apprehend it, we make our ideas visible so that we and others can enjoy them and debate them, and usually destroy them at some time or other, but we go on making, we go on turning energy into objects.  The object itself is provisional, the energy, though changing, is permanent, and is a feature of the whole universe.  What art does is to release and focus energy in a particular way, and I would argue that what we call art objects are places where energy is especially intense.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a picture or a book or a piece of music, or a performance, it is a concentration of energy.  This is why the arts occupy relatively timeless space, and why one of the tests of art is that it should go on working on us long after any contemporary interest in its subject matter is extinct.  We don’t go to Shakespeare to find out about life in Elizabethan England, we go to Shakespeare to find out about ourselves now.  The energy in the plays goes on being released.

Jeanette Winterson


For more micro miracles visit the National Geographic website.


color for its own glorious sake

 


Harold Cohen, Untitled 1966
Oil on canvas
30.4 x 30.8 cm

English artist Harold Cohen is famous these days for being the author of the celebrated AARON program, an ongoing research effort in autonomous machine (art making) intelligence.  But back in the flower-power days he was painting fields of colored dots that were alive with shimmering energy.

Basically he would cover the canvas with areas of color and then place colored dots all over the surface.  It’s a project that always fascinated my students, opening their eyes to the unpredictable and errant ways of color.  You might like to try it as a step on from the weaving project; a step into painting.  No drawing skills required, no figurative representation allowed, just color for its own glorious sake.

Take a large canvas, canvasboard, or heavy sheet of card.  Using acrylic paint or tempera, cover the surface with areas of color – try to avoid suggestions of landscapes and so forth.

Now mix some fairly thick colors – keep it simple, only a few – and use a 1.5cm round bristle stencil brush to daub circles on the colored ground.  Work all over the surface leaving only a little space between your dots; follow your fancy and watch what happens.  Resist the urge to correct or adjust.  Just play with the project.

Cohen said this of his work at that time:

I wanted to arrive at a state where the color was as unequivocal, as positive, as the drawing.  The moment you’re that interested [in color] and you start your exploration it becomes increasingly obvious that until you have stripped everything else off, you’re never going to know what color is going to do or what it’s capable of.

Leaving aside the technical problems, the biggest problem for me over the past couple of years is that once you do eliminate the drawing, how the color is going to behave is totally unpredictable because you don’t really have the experience … I find with what I’m doing now you put down two colors, and what you see at the end doesn’t really have much to do with either of them …

We’ve known for a long time that if you put down one area of color next to another area, something peculiar happens at the edge, but nobody’s ever done much about it, except do it at the edge.  And I think that in a way what I’m doing is taking that edge and putting it all over the canvas, and it really does become very peculiar then …

The essential thing about the dots for me is that they go all over the surface of the canvas in a completely undifferentiated way …

I’d like to get to the state where the painting disappears and just leaves color.

– Harold Cohen, excerpts from a recorded conversation.

Quoted in Natalie d’Arbeloff,  An Artist’s Workbook: line, shape, volume, light (London: Studio Vista)