Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Robert Pirsig and Dana Loomis

After completing my last few egg tempera paintings I find myself thinking about what kind of art I am producing and about the process used. I am not talking about the egg tempera but I am referring to realistic renderings and abstract work. I have for many years been a realist painter with some interests in abstraction. While attending NSCAD I was for a long while taking drawing classes, before I felt I was ready to even allow myself to advance into painting.

I was very fortunate to have had a painting teacher, Dana Loomis, who was a student of William De Kooning. His work was no longer abstract expressionism but realism. I think he was a great influence on me and why I think the way I do about painting and art. A required reading he gave us to read was, a book by Robert Pirsig, entitled, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This was another one of my life changing books because it taught me about the importance of balance. Dana had really come out of the decade of modernism lived through post-modernism and then came back to painting realistically. I am of the belief that the figure stills speaks strongest to the audience. Perhaps not because it is the most popular subject matter but because we are human, as social beings we have a strong inclination to and curiosity in observing and understanding ourselves.

When I complete a realistic painting, the critical censor within comes out and I hear negative messages, things like, that arm is out of whack and culminates in a lingering feeling of self doubt about my ability to render at all. I am quite certain this is a common occurrence with many folks involved with the creative process.

I ask myself this question, " Is it really essential that my painting be completely accurate in how it is rendered, or can I mix both realism and abstraction?" You might think, well do what ever you want to do. I am somewhat torn between the two, though I do know I am more drawn to realism and representational art. I would not consider myself an abstract artist, though I do appreciate it.

I don't really have anything to conclude but am thinking out loud and trying to understand and clarify for myself what it is I am doing and why, I think this is what it means to be an artist. I do think I have answered my own question. It is all about balance. between classical and romantic thought. I can't have one with out the other , I want and need both.

“ The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves. ”
— Willem de Kooning


Chad Wooters said...

This kind of careful reflection is exactly why I follow this blog. In some sense, even realistic images are “abstracted” from their objects. Artists pick and choose which qualities to depict. Likewise the degree of expression varies from tight brushwork to splashes that cease to reference any external object. To my mind the question is this: why does an artist choose to favor one approach over another? It seems to me that the more realistic a face is shown, the more it becomes a specific person and not the general idea of a person. I’m not convinced that non-objective work is anything beyond decoration, not to be dismissive, ornamentation is after all a proper function of art.

Unknown said...

Chad, thank you. I enjoy your reflective thoughts as well! I don't so much think of art as ornamentation and I question the "proper functions" of art. I would like to hear you extrapolate further on this idea. Thanks so much for your imput Chad!