Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Barn Blues And The Arc Ascendant

Arc Ascendant

Arc detail

"The difference between realism and abstraction in painting has nothing to do with the finished appearance of  the final product (whether the subject is, identified artefactual realism, or non-differentiated perception of the process, 'to do').  If the difference lies between artefactual and naturally realistic painting, (which it does not), then the difference can be deduced by just observing actual paintings.  The difference can only be deduced by examination of motive.  When we intend to create a finished piece, statement, work-of-art, any noun will do--we are creating abstraction.  When our motive is to approach, experience, do the doing of, any verb will do, we are intending to under-go the process of natural realism."   

Sounds completely backwards doesn't it--a poorly worded puff of utter nonsense?  But not when you really think about it, the world being backwards and all. 

It was from Unthesis, A Key To The Secrets Behind The Brush, 10/28/77.  It was the "thesis" I wrote [possibly] in reaction to getting the bum's rush from all the grad schools I applied to (I've mercifully never shown any of it to anyone).  I now whip it out with apologies. 

I was actually struggling with just what's the point of filling a couple of country barns with art?  What am I an assembly line here, cranking out stuff to sell in the marketplace?  Is there not a more healthy--a more lofty reason to make art? 

I still make art, but I've sure mellowed out over the years, though.     


Arc Ascendant, 17 X 22, inquire here for print.


Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

A little tumble down a rabbit hole and it all makes perfect sense to me! Sometimes words applied to art are like the wrong music in a soundtrack. Sometimes they are right. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Some days I just put up the art without words. Other days lots of words. I knew I shouldn't have swallowed the pill that said "eat me."

William Cook said...

Hi Katherine--I truely love your comments. In many ways this "Unthesis" became my art manifesto, even though it's barely intelligible. Wm

craigstephens said...

When I was in art school I used to really struggle with this sort of thing. I had one class where we had to write an "artists statement" I remember thinking that if I could write I wouldn't need to paint! Things became a lot clearer when I read another artist's statement (and I really wish I had come up with it). It said simply, "I like to make stuff".

I sure like the stuff you make and what you have to say about it!

William Cook said...

Hi Craig--

Great to hear from you! You're reminding me of a similar line I heard that I wish I had come up with. Became my motto for a long time. "I take stuff and then do stuff with it."

I try to avoid reading artist's statements. I get way to embarrassed for the poor artist trying to make up all that booshwa for the laity.

Thanks for chiming in!


RH Carpenter said...

Do we, perhaps, get so fouled in words (like a gull in an oil slick) that we can no longer make sense of what we're doing - or what others are doing? The DO-ING is it, I think, not the intention or the words behind it. I would hang this piece on my wall and every week I would turn it another way up because I think it would tell me something different each time I changed the direction of Up and Down.

William Cook said...

Hi Rhonda--Perfect--I am a gull in an oil slick. That's going in my list of future painting titles. Displays wittitude. My compliments!

And you are so right about actual participation in doing art. Leaves the art-speak-meisters in the dust. There's a whole other world in the process that is never apparent (at least to the uninitiated).

Now if I settle on a position other than the one presented, wouldn't that ruin the witty title? I'm chuckling because more than one piece of mine has four signatures--one in each corner from rotating. Good point I'll try it with this one.

Wonderful to hear from you


Jan Yates, SCA said...

i'm afraid to some extent i disagree re artist statement--and yes, I HATE writing them-and there are MANY that give the honest and unpretentious a bad name--but in the last few years writing statements has actually helped me work things out when it comes to my practice and where it is heading--or not..because writing helps me be objective--like standing away from your work or putting it away and then looking at it with a fresh eye..and i think if work is in a gallery, especially commercial, amongst a lot of other works vying for attention, a statement is an extension that a viewer can quickly devour and digest later to better understand the work.
I do think words can easily get in the way of work--as can writing and reading blogs--speaking of are not these writings all statements re our work?

btw a find this image quite suggestive-in a good way~!

Caroline said...

I second everything that Jan has said. I had to update my artist's statement last Septemebr and it was not easy yet it brought me to become more aware and to understand why I had created a body of landscape paintings about my journey into the highlands. I say 'into' instead of across as my journey was more than just sitting down and sketching and painting views. For me the statement was important. There is a lot of pretence and snobbery in the artworld yet there are also a band of hard working artists who create works that are inspirational. My favourite artist is Rebecca Cowell who I believe you mentioned here on your interesting blog. To enter her blog is exciting not only are the visual works a treat to the eye but what she has to say about her work is simply fascinating. I believe we need words as much as we need the visual images. Your image is very thought provoking. I like the different work you show us here and your words too.

William Cook said...

Hi Jan--Great points!

All these blogs are essentially artist’s statements—true. But they tend to be more casual—more human—windows into the person. I am spending so much time reading artists blogs and back into archives. I said it before that last December I didn’t even know all this existed. It’s like a giant ongoing conversation among all sorts of artists, everyone chiming in with their own stories—quite a forum.

And I completely agree in the necessity of journaling thoughts or even creating lengthy manifestos like that Unthesis of mine. Very useful, utilitarian use of writing as a tool. I have whole notebooks of these writings that have helped to organize, problem solve, solidify and so forth, this sometimes elusive art muse, and every one of them is an artist statement.

I know I decry monolinear processes, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary, and writing is about the most efficient vehicle for this—terrific points.

As for the posted artwork, funny you mentioned it being “quite suggestive”. I had to laugh. My old bud and fellow artist Joe used to come over just to visit this piece. He always looked at it with a half grin. Thanks for that memory!


William Cook said...

Hi Caroline--

Jan's comment was waiting for me when came down this morning. I tried to respond but had to can the effort to get to a dental apt. I've finally responded—she really did make some incredible points, as did you.

I like what you say about the journey into the highlands being more than just painting views—and that the creation of the new statement helped to greatly enrich the experience. What an absolutely wonderful use of writing. And I appreciate your reference to the band of hard working great artists out there.

I’ve always suspected this—that the really great dedicated artists you never hear about. They stay way behind the scenes so far that the hooplah doesn’t even notice them.

I was right. Now they are coming out of the woodwork. They now have the perfect forum to come out and meet each other—through blogging. I had no idea this existed until I stumbled on gapingvoid.com, a highly motivational art blogger. He convinced me to get a blog going ASAP as if my life depended on it, and that blogging is the perfect set up for artists (both visual and written components).

No, I am primarily poking fun at those dry-as-a-bone art snobs you mention, with all that self-serving pretense. Remember that before blogging, that was all there was. Endless conceited posturing by artists, each trying to out-do the other. At least that’s my experience. It all but killed my desire to continue artmaking. The Unthesis was my attempt to dig out the deepest reasons to make art, so that I could spend my time doing something that not only mattered but was crucial—and bypass all the phonyness.

If I ever have to make an artists statement, I would use Rebecca’s as the perfect example. It’s on her website opening page I think. Clear, matter of fact, friendly, informative and yet intriguing all at once. She has opened up whole new vistas in artmaking for me, and reminded me of my own legacy as a process artist. I am so happy you are a fan of her work. Also check out Patricia Oblack and Leslie Avon Miller along the same lines.

Thanks for all your own beautiful work—I’ve been enjoying your posts also. "Across The Moors" takes my breath away!


Celeste Bergin said...

....funny how you already knew way back then in 77 (already) how worthless the art game seems to be. You were right!
I certainly like this Arc painting--it is pleasing, minimalist...would look good anywhere.

Caroline said...

Thanks William and I had a look at the girl's blogs, interesting work.

William Cook said...

Hi Celeste--

Thanks for recognizing that! I do think we all already know this stuff way down in our hearts.

Minimalist! Interesting observation. There was so much intensity in creating it. I'll put up a detail. What do you think?


William Cook said...

Caroline--Thanks for looking them up. I felt a tad guilty for not posting their URL's, apologies, I'll be more considerate next time.