Spring from History

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Our brains have acquired models for spring; for art in spring, for gardens in spring, for poetry in spring. When making pictures these models have plasticity. If you are well versed in art history, you may fuse your knowledge with a personal experience.  We see everything through moment to moment unconscious simulation of the world by our brain; its generates unconscious activity like the translation of air compression waves into meaningful language or music.  Conscious construction of an image can be rarer. When I discover a visual pattern alongside a road I am drawn to it because of its resonance with past experience. My brain has found a correlating images.

Example 1 is a painting of fallen flower petals. I found them in a shape suggesting a traditional European 18th century landscape design. The petals seemed to loosely follow a serpentine pattern like a river or road.  The fronds of grass behaved as trees in a Hudson River painting and, like the Albrecht Durer watercolor I presented in last week’s blogpost. I had discovered new plasticity for an art historical design.

When making an image I merge many different design sources such as in example 2, a Qing Dynasty painting with iris fronds reminding me of my bending grasses. In fact,  I am reminded of varieties of Chinese and Japanese flower paintings which helped to model my bending grasses in example 1. They were not the only source but, subtly and subconsciously contributed.

Example 1.  Painting of fallen flower petals,

Example 2.  Qing Dynasty Iris painting, 1701,

John Singer Sargent’s poppies  (example 3) with its dark backdrop and advancing bright notes and contemporary artist, Joseph Raffael’s garden after the rain (example 4) with its darkened backdrop and blurred verticals  are two examples of paintings whose influence insinuated  itself  into my example 6.  Many other paintings did as well but, these two illustrate how we collect images and project variations.  We do this in every aspect of our lives from cooking to parenting to painting.

Example  3. Sargent’s poppies,

Example 4. Joseph Raffael’s garden,

Our brain sits in our sculls creating simulations of reality for us based on past experience and small doses of sensory input. Its job is to create simulations and make predictions for our behavior like when and what brush to lift and how to move it. It lives in a feedback loop waiting for further inputs so it can make new predictions. Some of us do not gather as much sensory input and instead just make judgements or predictions without much observation.  For more on this subject I suggest “How Emotions are Made, The Secret Life of the Brain” by neuro-researcher, Lisa Feldman Barrett.

To get to example 10 I first clicked a photograph which resonated with other art historical precedents (example 5).  I began my first step, example 6 by simplifying a design with large dark shapes arranged loosely over faux brushed-gold dibond aluminum.  My second step, example 7 reveals a pattern of leaf and flower shapes excised by my squeegee. They refer to variations of archetypal flora.  My third step tried fine tuning my observations with the painting (example 8).  This step led me astray.  Now, I saw that my rock shapes on the right were inharmonious and feebly credible (example 8). I change them in this last step, example 9.

Example  5. Initial photograph,

Example 6. Initial lay-in of shapes, step one,

Example 7, step two, excision of flora patterns,

Example 8, Step three, fine tuning and a wrong turn,

Example 9, step four, amending step 3,

The last example (example 10) uses complementary colors arranged in dancing verticals and horizontal shapes. Here the flower petals push horizontally against the green falling verticals. Our brain has assigned the category of “petals” to the color coded pink shapes and, “Leaves” to the color coded green shapes.

Example 10, recently revised painting of Pink Petals and Green Verticals,

On May 19th there will be an opening reception, 5-8 PM, for an exhibition of my paintings at Susan Powell Fine Arts in Madison, Ct at 679 Boston Post Road, 203 318 0616.  The next evening, Saturday May 20th, at 4 PM I will be giving a free painting demonstration in the gallery’s garden.

Saturday and Sunday June 17 and 18 from 9 am to 4 pm, I am giving a two-day in studio workshop, “Natural Elements: Learn to Paint Nature from Historic and Contemporary Techniques” At the West Hartford Art League.  Call them (Elisabeth McBrien) at 860 231 8019 to register or visit their website at westhartfordart.org  go to “school” then to “workshops”  then to “spring 2017 workshops” for a fuller description.

Nicole’s Art Gallery, in Raleigh Durham, NC. will host me for a  3-Day workshop, Monday – Wednesday, June 26-28. My workshop is “Painting with the Masters, Old and New Techniques with David Dunlop”.  Call 919 838 8580 or register online by visiting Nicolesartgallery.com


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