As college student, I studied Renaissance Art and its non-conformist painters, the Mannerists. When I first viewed Parmigianino’s work, “Madonna with the Long Neck”, I found it so unsettling. It violated all the Renaissance compositions that reflected harmony and a sense of balance. The Madonna is extremely distorted and the baby on her lap is over-large, while the figure to her right is tiny. With the figures crammed in to her left, surely there is no symmetry. There is a leg coming out of nowhere, not seeming to be attached to anyone in particular. Pontormo’s “Descent from the Cross” uses the Renaissance colors (pink, blue, red) but the figures are in various positions that are detached and unrelated to the Christ on the Cross. Perhaps this is a truer version of the chaos around the Crucifixion than the harmonious balance depicted in earlier Renaissance works of the same subject. As an abstract artist, I studied them more carefully and developed a respect for these rebels. Distortion, unbalance, and disharmony can certainly be seen in the work of contemporary artists.
I bought the house I live in because it has an all weather porch with 7 windows near my easel. Artists are certainly concerned with the light and today is so rainy and grey (as it has been most of week) I probably will not paint. When the sun comes out tomorrow, the painting will certainly change. When you apply acrylic paint, it usually dries darker, so it’s a constant adjustment. I often mix paint on the canvas, rather than on the enamel palette. But of course, when you add another color or shape, you have to adjust the whole painting. If the shapes and colors don’t work, it’s like a discordant note in a symphony. But when they do, WOW……so thrilling.
Second day writing. This is a discipline really. It’s better than a ‘Dear Diary’ I believe. Although diaries were mostly private. I belong to a writing group and usually do sketches in the journal after I finish the exercise, while everyone is still writing. It becomes a word and image sort of thing. Back in the last decade, when I was teaching a class at Elms College, I introduced a class called “Word and Image” I had a group of nurses who had not made much art. So to provoke an image, I read a selection of poetry to them. This often produced great results in art-making. The medium they used was watercolor. So interesting to see how unique each work of art was. And how they interpreted whatever image or feeling was in the poem. I’m sure I’m not the first artist/teacher to do this. But this could work for any artist, no matter what stage they are in. So try it, and use whatever medium appeals to you, watercolor, collage, acrylic, drawing. Those are my thoughts on this rather humid, hot day in New England.
Here’s a collage that I used from a poem.
It was my honor to win Best of Show at the annual juried exhibition of Monson Arts Council. This new work, as pictured, was inspired by Charles DeMuth’s “I See the Figure Five in Gold” which came from the poet, Wm Carlos Williams poem about a fire engine. My painting is “I see the Figure 5 on Edge.”
I try to paint every day. This painting “Conversation” is one of my newest works. It’s an acrylic 24×30″ and available in giclee form as well. The process of painting combines new technicques using rollers, scrapers, palette knives, brushes. It always works from the inside out and ends up in a unity of composition after much maneuvering and playing with shapes that connect to one another.
Eve Hesse’s works were called brilliant, eccentric, and loony by critics. I was privileged to give a few presentations at conferences held in Canada and Ireland, hosted by the International Word and Image Society. I missed the deadline for the conference held in California, but I put together a proposal about the relationship of text and image, or the poetics in Hesse’s work. Here is a blog from the proposal:
In Lucy Lippard’s biography a quote by Hesse herself reveals the intent of her work:
“I would like the work to be non-work. This means that it would find its way beyond my preconceptions. What I want of my art I can eventually find. The work must go beyond this. …the formal principles are understandable and understood. It is the unknown quantity from which and where I want to go.
As a thing, an object, it acceeds to its non-logical self.It is something, it is nothing.”
When Eva Hesse states that she wants her work to be ‘non-art’ she might be using a device present in modern art and its trend toward the dematerialization of reality. Like a poet’s search for the feeling beyond the narrative, Eva Hesse sought to rid her works of conception, giving them the autonomy of her intent.
Hesse’s transfiguration of the concrete lies in the realm of poetics. She uses repetitive shapes as a poet would repeat phrases as a device to strengthen, ground the work. As a poet searches for an equivalent to primary experience through the medium of words, Hesse uses materials to express a feeling that is more than just a feeling. She allows the materials to dictate the work.
In modern poetry, the metaphor is one way to represent the contradictions of our life. In her narratives about her work, Hesse is concerned with opposites. Many of her works reflect the incompatibility of components, through shape and materials, thereby increasing their abstractness. In reviews of her work, eg. “The more you look at (these pieces) the uglier and more interesting they become….anti-form…..the kind of queasy uneasiness they evoke makes one want to stroke them gently, to soothe and smooth them down….” They are bundles of eccentric contradictions”……Her concern and intent plays on the objects.
From Rudolf Arnheim’s The Psychology of Art: The analysis of poetic manipulation suggests again that linguistic form is not obtained directly from the primary experience but must be considered a re-creation within the medium, subject to (its) particularities…Similar tendencies to go beyond ‘practically’ important characteristics of things can be observed in the visual arts.”
Arnheim: The masterwork embraces the whole range of human experience from the sensory perceptions to rarefied ideas. In fact, it often express the most abstract meaning through the most elementary stimulation. In Hesse’s work, simple containers, repeated, take on an other worldly appearance, because of their bent shape and use of materials.
In Hesse’s words: (from Lippard)
Rubberized, loose, open cloth.
How to achieve by not achieving? How to make by not making?
It’s all in that.
It’s not the new, it is what is yet now known,
Thought, seen, touched but really what is not.
And that is.