Aesthetic Observations

It is a four-word statement that deserves to be carved in the lintel over the doorway to Modern Art and I don’t understand why it didn’t stop dead in its tracks the often arid debate over figurative vs. abstract art of the past century. “I paint my think,” said Paul Klee at age six(!). (“From the mouths of babes…”)

Well, when it comes to making art, don’t we all, but to formulate that insight over one hundred years ago and at such a tender age was a stroke of lucidity, of synthesis, and the grammatical slip. That the quotation comes to us translated from German heightens the impact. To ring true, however, the term “think” must be understood in an expansive way – to feel, to imagine. The full panoply of human emotions, in addition to cognitive thoughts, is what feeds the wellspring of inspiration, of artistic impulse.

A visitor to my studio once asked me – disapprovingly, I suspect – why I had made holes on the sides of one of my paper works. I was startled to realize that I couldn’t answer her and mumbled unconvincingly something about wanting to add a constructive element to the painting. Her question caught me off guard largely because I was at the hunch stage – it was more a proto-thought – and I could not quite articulate what my purpose was.

I was groping along the right track but it took time and work to arrive at a fuller understanding of what I am aware of now: I want to “geometricize” my painting. I feel the need of a counterpoint to the freedom and slop of pulp play. I want to perforate the painting surface to permit the eye to see through to a space behind the picture plane. For reasons of scale, the holes in the present work for the portfolio are small and perhaps read as black buttons more than anything else, but there still remains the suggestion that something might be going on behind the picture. On a larger scale with many holes, the painting composition pretty much gets eaten up, but there is created a visual hum of light and shadows against the wall (when the work is framed in double glazing) that in turn becomes an additional and complementary aesthetic element.

Art doesn’t have to breathe like some sport fabric and yet this “see-thru” aspect of the picture plane is of growing importance to me. It took considerable meandering over the years to arrive at this point. My “think,” however, also includes ideas about paper and prints, which is to say I don’t feel agenda-driven or obliged to wash out holes in wet pulp each and every time I put on rubber boots to go to work. I can easily take a day off from art theory, even two.