Thursday, May 11, 2006

Looking to the Future Should Not Forget the Past

A comment to my last post mentioned that artists such as me need to look to the future rather than be hung-up on the past (I’m generalizing the comment).

I agree that a rehash of past issues is fairly pointless when it is just for the sake of repetition. The approach I have attempted to create is one that takes into account the past knowledge and utilizes it for a contemporary purpose. The Impressionists did it with Japanese Woodblock Prints; Picasso did it with African Masks; and my favorite Beat Poets did it with Zen Buddhism.

The following is a description of Jackson Pollock’s use of classic cultural references, as “borrowed” from Wikipedia:

"My painting does not come from the easel. I hardly ever stretch the canvas before painting. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting." This is akin to the method of the Indian sandpainters of the West.

"I continue to get further away from the usual painter's tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.

"When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well."

Pollock did observe Indian Sandpainting demonstrations at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1940's; he may have also seen Indian Sandpainters on his trips to the West, although that is debated. Other influences on his "pour" technique include the Mexican muralists mentioned above, and also Surrealist automatism. Pollock denied "the accident"; he usually had an idea of how he wanted a particular piece to appear. It was about the movement of his body, over which he had control, mixed with the viscous flow of paint, the force of gravity, and the way paint was absorbed into the canvas. The mix of the uncontrollable and the controllable. Flinging, dripping, pouring, spattering, he would energetically move around the canvas, almost as if in a dance, and would not stop until he saw what he wanted to see.

Whenever I consider my motivation for establishing or “simply finding” the next art movement; I think of something my friend “Ohio Greg” said to me more than once:

“Nearly everything you can think of has already been done by someone somewhere; if you have one original idea your entire life, then you are fortunate.”

I certainly want to look to the future to create a meaningful art movement that at the same time is viable enough to overcome the status of minor movement; but I also retain my appreciation for what those that went before me have learned. It is that very same appreciation of historical philosophical advancements in enlightenment that have allowed me to search for new ways of approaching the representation of life, without being burdened with re-inventing the wheel along the way. It is that search for future relevance that has led me to establish this blog as a way of collecting others with similar perspectives and questions about the direction of art, literature and philosophy. - DN

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