Kant observed that our perception was a function of the organization of our minds. Neuroscientists have made similar observations today. Through FMRI research we can watch our brain work. Recognizing space is a particular skill of ours. Whenever we fail to see edges and perceive only gradual transitions in value or color we conclude we are seeing space. As Kant suggested we know through our modes of categorizing. No category then no perception. UFO’s fall into a category just like flowers and toys. We say things taste like or look like or sound like some familiar category. Space perception is tricky. It’s not there. It’s an absence. We measure absences by the distance between edges or, in music by the length of the interval between notes. In painting if we lay down an edgeless color we have made space. Rothko tried to remove objects( stuff with edges) and give the viewer the sensual experience of a space of red or yellow. He was thwarted by the inevitable edges along the perimeter of his large canvases. Before Rothko artists like Turner or Whistler tried dissolving the specificity of edges to create an atmosphere, an emotive condition into which we can throw imaginative guesses. Chinese Sung Dynasty artists of a millenium past explored the relationship between something vs.nothing or absence vs. substance. Their landscapes alternate in bands of vaporous nothing contrasting against the outlines of trees, forests, or mountains. This alternating rhythm of absence vs. substance creates a sensation of depth, of near and far. In my following examples I begin with one painting and then overlay it with another painting so that I may create more depth, not simply going back in space but also going into space. In my first example I have a collection of bamboo leaves floating at various levels. The illusion of levels is made through the effect of overlapping leaves. I also create a sense of depth by making the leaves in front larger than those in back. I further augment the sensation of depth by layering another design translucently on top (example 2). In example 2 there appear to be shapes below a translucent surface and others above that surface. As you raise your vision the transparency slowly becomes opaquely occluded suggesting a reflection of sky. The color is also seamlessly transitioning from one complement into another. Additionally, the patterns of sharply delineated surface shapes not only diminish in scale toward the top/back but the shapes zigzag in manner further suggesting receding space.
Next I begin with example 3 as my preliminary layer, an oil on aluminum which already exploits translucent glazes makes allusions to layered depth. The overall pattern recedes into darkness at the top. Example 4 overlays example 3 and reverses the light-to-dark sequence; now the transition moves from a dark-to-light, from a higher contrast dark-blue bottom area up toward a lighter area. Again the gradual transition of color and value suggest space but, the space is divided by shapes zigzagging their way toward infinity. These shapes are cutouts revealing the previous example 3′s underlying colors and underlying progression of bright-to-dark.
In example 5 I begin with a blurred and abstracted view of a neoclassical interior architectural space with lots of verticals interrupted by a few short chopped horizontals. Example 5 is then overlaid with a complementary set of blues and greens which are worked into vertical blur seen in example 6. The motif has reversed categories as well. Example 5′s subject was architectural space while the overlay of example 6 has a biomorphic subject, abstracted flowers. The cutout’s in example 6 reveal parts of example 5 below with its color contrast. Again I try to create space that moves back as well as in. Before concluding allow me to invite you to a new exhibition of my paintings at the White Gallery in Lakeville, Ct. which begins this Saturday, June1st. and, to join our kickstarter film project now its last 3 days (details on this website).