What’s the Story?

Back from a brief sojourn into landscape painting, I find myself returning to the question that has taken center stage in the creation of my current body of work. What is the story behind the painting? I love stories and the way I am using the word, it can refer to a meaning or something that the painting is about.

My brief return to the landscape illustrates what I am getting at. I love painting the landscape and in a way it also has an inherent story or meaning. A good landscape painting exudes life and vitality and can also radiate a sense of calm. When I paint the landscapes I first choose a scene that awakens in me the feeling of being fully alive. After that I focus mainly of the composition, the color relationships, and textures that express this feeling. In my current exploration, however, I find myself reaching for something else – a more specific story, with people – characters in situations.

I have always come back to techniques developed by the Surrealists and Dadaists of drawing from the subconscious through automatic drawing: drawing that allows unplanned images to emerge. I begin by making seemingly random marks and wait until I find an image that intrigues me, then I develop and add to it.

The work that comes from this type of practice is unusual. I do find it intriguing and sometimes quite powerful, but I wrestle with the question of whether other people find meaning in it. I also find that I, myself often have little more than a vague idea of what the peace is about and I wonder if it is fair to present work that I don’t necessarily understand. For these reasons I have shown very little of this work and focused efforts more consistently on landscapes and non-figurative abstract paintings.

The intent in my current exploration is to bring the story out into the open. In some work I will start with an idea, a specific image that I want to create (see ‘Rooftop Dances‘) and in other pieces like the above I will work with automatic drawing and painting, but will make the effort to find the story and understand it myself. The challenge then remains to communicate my sense of meaning while allowing space for the viewer to bring in her own interpretation. One method could be a tablet or phone app, in the gallery, that gives viewers my write up on the piece only after they have submitted their own.

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