Discovery requires constructing a situation where discovery can happen. Attitudinally this means relinquishing expectations for your novel, song, sculpture or painting. Materially this means aggregating enough material to stimulate the possibility of looking into uncertainty; assembling a pregnant mess. Chiaroscuro painters looked into wet paint and selectively removed the darkness to reveal characters, moods, narratives, and dramatic situations. Other methods of discovery are on display by two extraordinary contemporary museum-collected artists today, Kristin Baker and Julie Mehretu. These artists assemble and discover. Their process is revealed in their imagery. Baker appears to repeatedly stack layers of masked shapes with acrylics on PVC panel (detail in example 11, full image in example 12). Julie Mehretu, who is currently enjoying global success, also adds layers as a part of her process of discovery ( example 14).
In my own examples today I demonstrate how images are directed through a combination of intention and discovery. I begin with three paintings in their present state, examples 1, 2 and 3.
All three paintings began with more abstract substrates, an Apriori condition which encouraged and enabled later discovery after I covered the substrates (older paintings) with new layers of obscuring color. Let’s begin with example 1, “Stonebridge Autumn”. First, I found an older city scene in which I had lost interest (example 4). I turned that image on its side (example 5) to correlate the color patterns with my intentions for my new subject, “Stonebridge Autumn”. Next, I covered over example 5 with paint and created example 6. Then, I discovered (deleted and revealed) colors and shapes with squeegees creating the final example 1.”Stonebridge Autumn”.
example 1. final image to date of “Stonebridge Autumn”(see above)
I pursued a similar strategy with next examples 2 and 3. I began example 2, “Infinite Estuary” by inverting an older abstraction (example 7). In a previous blogpost I showed you my next step, example 8. The present state is seen in the final example 2, ”Infinite Estuary”.
example 2. Current final state of ”Infinite Estuary” ( see above)
With example 3, “Estuary Meditation” I again began with an earlier painting serving as the substrate for later discoveries ( squeegee revelations). Example 9 shows the initial substrate which I obscured with paint and then began my squeegee discoveries. I have circled in black the elements that were revealed by my squeegeeing. I end up with example 3, “Estuary Meditation”.
example 3. current state of “Estuary Meditation” (see above).
Here are the works I initially referred to by Kristin Baker and Julie Mehretu. Example 11. is a detail of Kristin Baker’s image, “Revolving Control” in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. Example 12 is a view of the full image of the painting. Example 13 shows how Kristin Baker was influenced by Claudian design traditions particularly as seen in Thomas Cole’s “Oxbow” painting from the earlier 19th Century. Thomas Cole like all the Hudson River School painters reconstituted traditional Claudian designs. Pictorial lineage is always present and infinite.
Of course there are other alternatives to generating a territory pregnant with discovery. In my final example (example 15, “Water Circles, Concentric Rhythms”) I exploit the reflective nature of the substrate, a brushed silver anodized aluminum. Like Julie Mehretu I rely upon the attractive power of a vortex and like Kristin Baker I rely upon the centrifugal power of rhythmic turning.