Tag Archives: figure paintings

Capturing Lost Moments and Memory through Painting

DSC_0604While I am compelled to paint, the two dimensional art form can feel limited at times. The ideas dominating my thoughts, the concepts I aim to convey, they may need smell, touch, or sound to complete the message. Can I instill with paint the feel of the cool air at dusk upon the skin? Can I lead a viewer to smell the musty ocean scent of saltwater and fish and damp ground? Can a painting evoke sound for the viewer? I wonder how limited or how powerful a visual prompt can be. In a world more saturated with visual imagery than ever before, I begin to realize a two dimensional image can penetrate the mind, can influence beliefs, can alter opinion and evoke specific emotion. The visual image can make us IMAGINE using our other senses. Ceaseless advertising in our lives proves the power of an image.

"Disappearing Act", 2016, oil on canvas, 18 x 24"

“Disappearing Act”, 2016, oil on canvas, 18 x 24″

Perhaps I can reach the minds of a few viewers and create art that connects directly with unique memories and experiences of others.  I strive the instill that feeling of nostalgia, of the past, of a closed unreachable history…the bittersweet yesterday that lives only in our memories. Can I accomplish such a poignant feeling of a lost moment in time? Well, in two new groups of paintings, I certainly try.

In one group the focus is on place – the type of place that fades over time, that succumbs to nature. Conversely, I also depict places that seem to never change…that stay fixed in both our memory and by some miracle, fixed in a landscape. These places beat the odds. While generations of people come and go, these places resist nature and resist slipping into the past. The second group I’m now working on are people who are part of a place and the place is part of the people. The two intertwine and co-exist, each influencing the other. The painting below exemplifies my effort to mesh a person with a place and a place with a person.

"Transcendence", 2016, oil on canvas, 16 x 20"

“Transcendence”, 2016, oil on canvas, 16 x 20″

Environments remain, sometimes altered by the presence of a person, but largely ambivalent to our short existence. We build things, create structures, make objects that we leave behind for the next person to find and use. Our time is short and noticing our surroundings is important, noticing the things we make and use is worthy, noticing our fleeting moments with each other is valuable. Stopping and noticing, even while it all passes so quickly, is a way to freeze time and be thankful. I suppose this is both why and what I paint.

"Connected", 2016, oil on prepared paper, 22 x 30"

“Connected”, 2016, oil on prepared paper, 22 x 30″

Thank you for visiting! Please comment if you have any feedback or questions. Next up: Scoping out art trends in New York City!

 

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Struggling to Convey Certain Ideas Through Painting: The Influence of Beautiful Writing

IMG_0118_2Sometimes we yearn for something, for a person, or education, for an experience, or travels, for a rest or a new skill. If we can identify what it is we so desire, sometimes that very thing arrives. And when it does, it feels like a little miracle, appearing at the exact moment you need it most.

This happened one week ago, as I read the New York Times article, “The Ghost House of My Childhood” by Alan Lightman. His description of specific objects leads me to think of him as a visual artist, in addition to being a writer and physicist. His each and every word – a brushstroke or mark, an outline or shadow. He creates visual images in the reader’s mind that demand we see the objects in his memory. His words create simple visual cues leading us to understand complex ideas, such as the line, “My body is a distant, cold moon” which he stated when discovering his childhood home had vanished.

I realize most writers are masterful at choosing  words to create visual imagery for readers. In this case, the images and ideas presented by Lightman happen to perfectly match the ideas I aim to convey in my paintings. I’ve yearned for this very article. The imagery he creates with precise words helps me learn how to better paint the ideas I’ve considered for the past two years.

DSC_0974The author helps readers understand that once things are gone, the only evidence of the past is in our minds. “And on the ground where the house was, new grass. Not a single brick or splinter or piece of debris.” Inspired by Lightman’s article and his eloquent words, I spent the week in my art studio continuing to dig at ideas: composing work that shows the figure in a space or setting indicating the lost past, a history, and the idea of memory defining us and binding us. While painting, I consider the past is only in our minds and that everything we think and see is partially “real” and partially “imagined.” While I struggle to achieve and communicate these ideas in my paintings, this week I moved a bit closer thanks to Alan Lightman. DSC_1000

He writes of memory and of neurobiologists’ description of memories. This painting (here, to the right) positions the figures with abstract shapes that interrupt, cover, and participate with the figures. The circular forms are like the flowing molecules Lightman refers to when describing our ever-shifting memories and perception of the world.

The two paintings below allude to several ideas: the view that every life is fleeting, that everything we look out and see is a partial image altered by perception, that all things fade as time passes, and that our experiences and perceptions are layers obscured over time.

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The author’s handling of air immediately struck me as powerful and ignited specific methods I can try in painting. Of air, he writes, “I slide through the air,” “I can see right through the empty air,” “The air had a stillness it never had before,” “but there is only the silent, dead air,” and my favorites because of the unorthodox combination of words, “this empty corner of air,” and “I can see through the slab of air.” I’m not sure how I could paint these exact examples or if I even want to try, but they teach me that when something is missing or gone, what remains is more than nothing. The missing thing or the faded history is replaced by a vacuum so tangible, so acute in the mind of the memory holder, that saying the space is empty or only full of air, is not enough. A “slab of air” evokes the expression, “slab of concrete” which is something so solid and something Lightman yearns to see. In fact, of the former house he writes, “I try to will it into solidity.” The use of the word “slab” makes us hyper aware of what is missing. Perhaps this is what I find so enthralling about Lightman’s writing – the startling inversions he creates cause the reader to truly sense what he is experiencing.

One of the most beautiful as well as haunting passages in the article is when Lightman writes, “Some philosophers claim that we know nothing of the external world outside our minds – nothing compared to what sways in our minds, in the long, twisting corridors of memory, the vast mental rooms with half-open doors, the ghosts chattering beneath the chandeliers of imagination.” Now that image could make a great painting, a painting that resonates like the well chosen words of Alan Lightman.

Thank you for reading. Please reply if you have any comments to add to these observations.
Until next time! Laura Laura art 1

 

 

Michaël Borremans’ “As Sweet as It Gets” is darkly delicious – Part 2

The Artist Conversation (please see Part 1 for insights on the Borremans exhibit)

IMG_4988  Dr Grove

After savoring the exhibit, “As Sweet as It Gets” by Michaël Borremans at the Dallas Museum of Art, I walked, passing a lively concert in the dining area of the museum, to an auditorium for the Artist Conversation. After introductions were made, Borremans and curator, Dr. Jeffrey Grove, launched into several interesting topics. First, the artist IMG_5006mentioned how important titles are to his work. Usually I think of titling the work upon completion, but the language describing an idea is something Borremans thinks about earlier in the process. Sometimes, he explained, he titles the work before producing the piece (which may be more like titling an idea), sometimes during, and sometimes after. Choosing language to attach to a visual image is an important part of Borremans’ process and contributes to his perspective on his job as an artist, “Making art is a form of communication. It is a dialogue.” While his work tends to lack complete answers, the text he uses in titles offers hints of insight, nudging us along as we try to understand.

Throughout the conversation, he expressed an awareness of the impact his art has on audiences, how his work is perceived, and what ideas are communicated. “As an artist,” he stated, “I should always be critical of what I am doing.” Furthermore, and in a departure from many contemporary artists, Borremans stated that an artist must be careful about the art he puts in public places; he does not want his work to disturb people. I found this remark to be especially insightful a few minutes later as he discussed how he hopes people will perceive his work – he strives for a balance between beautiful and dark and wants people to see both, not just one or the other. “I want to make a painting that is just as beautiful as it is violent…I want that contradiction.” Sometimes the work is more beautiful than violent… duckAnd sometimes it is more violent than beautiful…

borremans headlessBut usually, he strikes a perfect balance…

Borremans girl headAs I often feel overwhelmed with pervasive media sources in modern life, I was especially grateful to hear the artist express frustration with the abundance of imagery that assaults our eyes, ears and minds. He explicitly recommended we take responsibility for what we let in and be critical of what we allow in our minds. This is a point people either wholeheartedly understand or flat out don’t. I don’t read gossip magazines or give them to my children…there are too many incredible things to fill our minds – a movie star’s failed tummy tuck simply does not have a place on my radar. “Pick and choose purposefully, and simplify,” Borremans advised.

When discussing the use of technology compared to traditional methods in art making, he stated, “Painting is very basic. It is a tool, like a hammer. We will always use it.” When borremans - punishedconsidering other mediums that interest him, he continues to gravitate toward painting. “You can create a winborremans skirtdow on another world, a world you cannot enter. You can’t do this with sculpture. Sculpture is in our space, our world.” Though Borremans does work with sculpture, it is not something he feels ready to show. It is as if sculpture is a studio tool he uses to dig deeper into his painting and drawing ideas. For example, he explained the painting, Four Fairies, 2003, was initially created to become a sculpture. Additionally, as mentioned in the previous blog entry, the artist investigates ideas using a cross medium technique ovborremans houseer many years. “I have a very long dialogue with my drawings. I pull them out of the drawer and go back and work on them for many months, or years.” He will draw something, make a model of it, redraw it based on the new model, make a video with the model, and create a series of paintings based in the video (see the House of Opportunity series with various pieces produced from 2002 – 2013) .

Borremans made an intriguing statement about painting from nature when Dr. Grove asked about the recent appearance of animal subjects in the work. He stated once something is dead, it loses its previous meaning, identity. By not living, it becomes a different thing, an object instead of an animal. I am curious about his frequent use of dead animals and animal models (the models are in the form of figurines with a glaze sheen emphasizing their falseness). The various animals in his work cause a confusing thought process about what is real and whaborremans duckt is fake, what is inanimate, and what is animate, and how the definitions oMichaël BorremansDead Chicken201340 x 60 cmoil on canvasf these terms becomes blurry.

Borremans became especially animated when he talked of a turning point that was the consequence of getting stuck in 2012. He had many ideas but could not focus or turn the ideas into work. The solution came in the form of a new workspace when a friend offered to let Borremans move his studio into a chapel. The change of space, and working alone with only a Virgin Mary figure to keep him company, provided intense focus and infused his thoughts with memories of a Catholic upbringing. He stated that in the new workspace “the holy spirit came to me.” He seemed to say this in both jest and seriousness, explaining that one never completely shakes off early and strong religious influences provided by devout Catholic parents. “It sticks with you,” he stated, “It doesn’t mean I’m a practicing Catholic but it is part of me and part of our culture and I allow it.” 065 Michael Borremans - the son

I ALLOW IT. Mmm, this reminds me of his earlier comments about allowing only certain images to enter his environment and about consciously constructing the world we choose. My thoughts are tempted to dive off into a deep discussion (thought I’m not sure I’m entirely capable) on free will, hyperreality and commercialism of modern life…but I really want to stick with the exchange between Grove and Borremans.

Though he did not speak in depth about other artists, Borremans did refer to the artistic evolution of greats such as Goya, Velazquez and Rubens. “They never stopped learning, experimenting, and changing in order to continue to develop ways to communicate ideas.” The exhibit, “As Sweet as It Gets” showcases a thoughtful artist roughly midway through an evolving career and based on the evidence, I suspect it will get even sweeter. In discussing his prior career as an etching and drawing teacher and his decision to leave teaching, Borremans eloquently states, “You put everything at stake to become what you really are…I thought if I failed, at least I tried.” Thank goodness he tried.

PS Sincere thanks to Sid and Richard for your hospitality. And for anyone in the Dallas area, do yourself a IMG_5016favor and stop by one of the two locations of The Gem! IMG_5013

Next post…shifting from an established artist to an emerging artist…video clips and comments about my current body of work, now showing at Boswell Mourot Fine Art through April 2nd. Thank you for reading!