Cézanne and the art of nondual nonfinito

 

Or – getting emptiness exactly right

 

Paul Cézanne La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue des Lauves

La Montagne Sainte Victoire vue des Lauves, Paul Cézanne, 1901-1906

 

As Cézanne aged, his paintings became filled by more and more naked canvas, what he eloquently called nonfinito. No one had ever done this before. The painting was clearly incomplete. How could it be art? But Cézanne was unfazed by his critics. He knew that his paintings were only literally blank. Their incompleteness was really a metaphor for the process of sight. In these unfinished canvases, Cézanne was trying to figure out what the brain would finish for him. As a result, his ambiguities are exceedingly deliberate, his vagueness predicated on precision. If Cézanne wanted us to fill in his empty spaces, then he had to get his emptiness exactly right.

For example, look at Cézanne’s watercolors of Mont Sainte-Victoire. In his final years, Cézanne walked every morning to the crest of Les Lauves, where an expansive view of the Provençal plains opened up before him. He would paint in the shade of a linden tree. From there, Cézanne said, he could see the land’s hidden patterns, the way the river and vineyards were arranged in overlapping planes. In the background was always the mountain; that jagged isosceles of rock that seemed to connect the dry land with the infinite sky….

And yet the mountain does not disappear. It is there, an implacable and adamant presence. The mind easily invents the form that Cézanne’s paint barely insinuates. Although the mountain is almost literally invisible – Cézanne has only implied its presence – its looming gravity anchors the painting. We don’t know where the painting ends and we begin…

– Jonah Lehrer: Proust was a Neuroscientist


Source – http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/Conquest.htm
PS – The entire article is well worth reading.


when I met my muse

 
Ahhh. “I am your own way of looking at things,” says William Stafford’s muse.

 
Photo by Rachel K Ivey
 

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off—they were still singing. They
buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled
forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails
up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of
looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you,
every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I
took her hand.

– William Stafford


Image credit – Rachel K Ivey


creating from wonder 3

 

This is the final of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind


In her book The Quantum Self, Danah Zohar posits that creativity is the dynamic of unfolding consciousness. If, as she proposes, the unfolding consciousness of reflecting human beings forms the bridge between the contemporary world with its fragmentation, alienation, inhumanity, and the “reconciled universe” of coherence, integration and meaning, then it is clear that we need to stop ignoring the beckoning call of creative acting and thinking. We need to start asking some “What if …?” questions about what we presume creativity to be, and why we aren’t able to experience it in a sustained way in every aspect of our lives. There are few better ways of doing that than by engaging in practical encounters with the processes involved in looking, seeing and making.

creating from wonder brings to synthesis all the experiences we’ve had as we moved through the previous 8 books in the empty canvas – wondering mind series. It closes the circle. It brings us back to the wonder of perception and to the space in which that-which-is can speak. But we arrive there richer in every way – richer in insight, in technique, and in our ability to play with the unfamiliar. The empty canvas is our lover, at last.

We have thought hard, questioned hard, and played hard. Now we can bring our new perceptions and perspectives to larger projects – projects that unfold from the activities of the previous chapters. We have established some basic ways of looking and working that we can apply to themes, without being blinded by their abstract qualities or our notions of what we ought to do.

There are fourteen projects in creating from wonder. How you choose to approach them is up to you. They don’t follow any sequence, but you’ll notice that they each relate, in some way, to one (or more) of the previous books. You could start at the first one and work your way through the lot, or simply pick and choose those that have some special appeal. Any of these projects make good workshop activities – they can be explored as deeply as you are inclined to dig, and since there are no ideal outcomes, the need for an authoritative leader is redundant.

The projects:

1  unfold your myth
2  veritable vestments
3  Buddha-body
4  the heart of the story
5  animated grey matter
6  a sanctuary for the secret senses
7  playing with process
8  metaphorically speaking
9  objets trouvés
10  deconstructing and recycling
11  shape-shifting
12  quantum realities
13  culture and creativity
14  the three questions

– miriam louisa simons


e-books
creating from wonder 1
creating from wonder 2


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)


weave your own color magic

 

Sheri Smith weaving - Cogs, detail

Sherri Smith, Cogs (detail)

Like painters and designers, weavers know about the tricks colors can play in juxtaposition.  Some artisans and painters have made the journey into color their entire practice.  It’s a journey with no end!

If you’re curious to try creating visual magic for yourself, a simple weaving is a great place to start.  Why?  Because a weaving doesn’t have to portray anything, so we can by-pass the inner critic who likes to tell us how our work isn’t ‘right’ – ever.

Take a large sheet of strong colored cardboard. Pick a color you like, not too dark or too light.  One color only.

Placing it in the portrait position, cut strips in the card 1.5cm wide without cutting completely through at the top and bottom.  No ribbons, the sheet stays intact.  Use a craft knife.  These strips will be the warp.

Find or make strips of fine wood or heavy card for the weft.  Strips from a bamboo blind work well.

Paint the strips with white undercoat and allow to dry.  Then apply colored paint (acrylic) randomly along each stick.  Don’t use too many colors at first.

Weave the weft strips in and out of the cut-out card strips – one over, one under, or in whatever pattern you like.

Notice the way the colors dance when juxtaposed.  Think about how you could choreograph that dance by placing the colors on the weft sticks in strategic places.  Try deliberately causing odd perceptual effects in the tone and hue of the card color – similar to what we’ve seen in the last two postings.

Have a close look at the Sherri Smith’s hand-dyed and plaited fiber works, just to supercharge the creative juices!

I’m sure you’ll be up and away with a host of ‘what-if’s and ideas to explore…