*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
The percipient apprehends the primal quality of art as beauty and symbol, in an experience that invariably involves a sense of radical mystery. Art dissolves the fog of Consensus in which we normally operate to reveal the unseen in the situation. It places us in exactly the same position as the first people who stared up at the stars in wonder. The work of art is perpetually new; it demands reinterpretation with each era, each generation, each percipient. Great works of art are like inexhaustible springs originating from a place beyond our “little world of man.” They reconnect us with a reality too vast for the rational mind to comprehend. Therefore, art can be described as the human activity through which our all-too-human mentality is overcome and in light of which all finite judgments are shown to be inefficient. It is at once a sinking to the source and a leap toward the infinite.
J.F. Martel in Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
Comments are welcome!
Q: Your “Gods and Monsters” series consists of tableaux of Mexican and Guatemalan figures that are photographed in a way that blurs certain elements to abstraction while others are in clear focus. Can you please speak more about this work?
A: When I depict the Mexican and, more recently, Guatemalan figures in my pastel-on-sandpaper paintings, they are hard-edged, vibrant, and in-your-face. That’s a result of the way I work in pastel. I slowly and meticulously build up layers of pigment, blend them with my fingers, continually refine and try to find the best, most eye-popping colors. It’s a very slow process that takes months of hard work. An aside… One frustration I have as an artist – I am hardly unique in this – is that my audience only sees the finished piece and they look at it for perhaps ten seconds. They rarely think about how their ten-second experience took me months to create!
In 2002 when I began photographing these figures, I wanted to take the same subject matter and give it an entirely different treatment. So these images are deliberately soft focus, dreamy, and mysterious. I use a medium format camera and shoot film. I choose a narrow depth of field. I hold gels in front of the scene to blur it and to provide unexpected areas of color. Even as a photographer I am a colorist.
I want this work to surprise me and it does, since I don’t usually know what images I will get. Often I don’t even look through the viewfinder as I position the camera and the gels and click the shutter. I only know what I’ve shot after I’ve seen a contact sheet, usually the next day.
The “Gods and Monsters” series began entirely as a reaction to my pastel paintings. The latter are extremely meticulous and labor intensive. At a certain point in the process I know more or less what the finished painting will look like, but there are still weeks of slow, laborious detail work ahead. So my photographic work is spontaneous, serendipitous, and provides me with much-needed instant gratification. I find it endlessly intriguing to have two diametrically opposed ways of working with the same subject.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
We have talked a good deal about our duty, and how we could attain the right goal, and we came to the conclusion that in the first place our aim must be to find a steady position and a profession to which we can entirely devote ourselves. It is wise to do so, for life is but short and time passes quickly; if one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things.
One must especially have the end in mind, and the victory one would gain after a whole life of work and effort is better than one that is gained earlier. Whoever lives sincerely and encounters much trouble and disappointment, but is not bowed down by them, is worth more than one who has always sailed before the wind and has only relative prosperity. One must never trust the occasion when one is without difficulties.
Irving Stone with Jean Stone, editors, Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh
Comments are welcome!