* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
If we are left unmoved by a painting of the Virgin, it is likely because the artist was unmoved in the painting of her. The subject matter is mostly irrelevant; it is important only as a vehicle for the artist’s attention. Authenticity comes from how deeply the artist felt. And this is the key to how much silence, how much consciousness or attention, the art contains.
… subject matter, if the artist is even using it, is just an armature for the artist to engage his intensity of feeling. It is the quality of your attention that influences how you see and how deeply you feel. Different artists have affinities for different subject matter as a way into expressing themselves deeply. And that depth is the quality, we, the viewers, respond to. It is what we continue to respond to over the centuries in great works of art. The fact that things last, that we continue to admire them, is in the end a good indicator of their quality, of their silence. Art museums therefore, have little nodes of silence nestling in their galleries. They are filled with, to use André Malraux’s expression, “the voices of silence.”
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision
Comments are welcome!
Q: Would you talk about your use of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art as a convenient way to study formal properties such as color, shape, pattern, composition, etc. in your pastel paintings?
A: For me an interesting visual property of these objects is that they readily present themselves as a vehicle for exploring formal artistic properties, like color, pattern, shape, etc. especially compared to my earlier subject matter: hyper-realistic portraits and still-lifes. Intent as I was on creating verisimilitude in the earlier work, there was little room for experimentation.
Many Mexican and Guatemalan folk art objects are wildly painted and being a lover of color, their brilliant colors and patterns are what initially attracted me. As a painter I am free to use their actual appearance as my starting point. I photograph them out-of-focus and through colored gels in order to change their appearance and make them strange, enacting my own particular version of “rendering the familiar strange.” Admittedly these objects are not so familiar to begin with.
When I make a pastel painting I look at my reference photograph and I also look at the objects, positioning them within eye-shot of my easel. There is no need whatsoever to be faithful to their actual appearance so my imagination takes over. As I experiment with thousands of soft pastels, with shape, with pattern, with composition, and all the rest, I have one goal in mind – to create the best pastel-on-sandpaper painting I am capable of making.
Comments are welcome!