Archive for the ‘ axiology ’ Category

Goddamn Darlings

Artist John M. Adams came by the studio yesterday and we talked about process. We discussed how my piece, 100 Paintings, foregrounded both process and design. I think content is available via observing how the maker made the item. Likewise, John appreciated the aesthetics of the thing. So it looks good and thinks good.

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100 Paintings; 2015; one-hundred acrylic paintings on a 20×16” stretcher on easel; 74x37x37”

 

I think I have made many works that are trying to find some axis between looking good and thinking good. Process has been an important component of my work as a means at standing back from painting issues like re-presentaiton, the canon of art, and my skeptics world view. The stretching and re-stretching method of painting was a process based approach to get a leg up on the image – the front of the painting the viewer sees. Painting Paintings at Both Ends was a culmination and cousin of 100 Paintings.

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Painting Paintings at Both Ends, 2017, acrylic on canvas and two stretchers, 50×216″

John helped me realize that I have been bouncing between a content oriented process approach to making and rebounding back towards the most elemental origins of making: the mark. I have recently been just trying to make paintings that stand on their own sans my gimmicks of layering or exploding the painting.

The mark making goes back to some of my first interactions with sticks of charcoal. You put the charcoal on its side, then pivot, leaving its center axis on the page. By doing this, you can make a circle. Or you can slide the stick around and create a network of what looks like pipes. The recent painting is doing this same athletic gesture but with the brush.

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Untidy Pivot, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 28×28″

 

I followed Untidy Pivot up with Sixteen Cornered Darling and an as yet to be titled painting yesterday…

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Sixteen Cornered Darling, 2017, acrylic on linen, 19×19″

 

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currently untitled, 2017, acrylic on linen, 19×19″

and today. This one might look black and white but it is actually very dark blue.

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A 42 Broken Arm or So, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 50×50″

 

I am already seeing a problem with these paintings (and why I have done the more process oriented works in the past): the paintings are pretty, sensuous, and goddamn darlings. So I need to think about them but they feel good.

See more of John M. Adam’s work at his poetically titled website:

thefullempty.com

 

An Aimed Shrug

I think everything comes down to knowledge. How to justify knowing and further, how to make choices. These are very frustrating issues for me.

When I was young I had two solid pillars of knowing: the church and the university. I grew up hearing church goers speaking with authority. Truth was present – present in the deity. I also grew up, almost quite literally, in the stacks of a university library. My mother was a librarian and so my babysitters were the books, college students, professors, and other librarians.

Professors always awed me. Professors always seemed to have justifiable answers to difficult questions and it was professors whom society always sought when faced with unknowables. The university was the place wherein knowledge was arbitrated.

As I grew older I began to see an erosion of my confidence in these knowers. Church and university represented knowledge but were just as prone to error yet I saw, and have continued to see, a fear of and inability to admit this potential error. And quite often I have seen fear replace knowing. So if authoritative knowers set aside knowing for the sake of their own fears, then knowing itself becomes problematic. Knowledge becomes uncertain. And the knowledge that led to that realization is itself uncertain. And thus knowledge, in all forms, appears to become unjustifiable. And in this situation is thrust a person who needs to choose – a person who needs to make value judgements. But the value judgements are questionable because the thing that precedes the judgement is the knowledge, and if that knowledge is unjustifiable, then making choices, about anything, is problematic. And in this situation I shrug. An epistemic shrug.

Because it does not seem as if I can trust anyone. Not my parents. Not my pastors. And especially, not my teachers.

This is why I paint. This unjustifiable situation. The painting is that epistemic shrug. There are many ways to make paintings, but none seem better than others. The variables are endless, like axiological choice in daily life. There are many ways to paint, and many ways to live.

This is a major component of why I am making this Painting Painting at Both Ends. Each painting is yet another attempt at knowing – an attempt at making a judgement. Yet continuously the attempt is yet another shrug. One painting atop the other, wetness touching every attempt. Each painting dripping on formers and latters until the thing is done, stretched, and hung. But until then it is just unity and variety of waking up in the morning.

Maybe the painting is more of a directed shrug. Pointing painting in a direction and depending on the action itself to produce some viable situation.

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Painting Paintings at Both Ends, in progress, acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable currently

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Painting Painting at Both Ends all strung out

This situation of knowledge is also present in the collaborative project I am working on. Each person who contributes is doing whatever they are doing for their own reasons. There is some kind of world view (and thus value judgement) behind each person’s choices to make a painting. This project is attempting to squish those approaches and world views together. Perhaps in their co-mingling will be some knowledge that will satisfy this epistemic shrug.

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unfinished collaborative painting with Becca Kallem and Jay Hendrick, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, dimensions vary

The collaborative component of this project is proving to be vastly difficult. How do I make choices? Should it occur like an exquisite corpse? Should I respond to the previous painting? How can I not?

This collaborative component is a real mystery but I think I will likely learn the most from this portion of the residency.

Also, here are some works on paper.

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talking heads paintings

Just Do It (or not…I don’t know)

This process is is slowing me down yet slowing down might be a good thing. There is some sort of wisdom in taking one’s time – allowing learning to take place.

Part of the reason I am doing this project relates to the urge to work. I just want to make paintings, but I always need new substrates. I have to wait to work. I have to do carpentry, stretching, gesso, etc. In the past I began painting on cardboard to deal with this issue. I would be able to work – just nail the cardboard to the wall and start painting.

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Etcetera and its Discontents (Air Filtration), 2013, acrylic on cardboard, 72×72″

This current painting is using what I am calling a “stretch/re-stretch,”method of painting. I stretch the canvas as normal, but the stretcher is much smaller than the overall canvas. I then make a painting, un-stretch, then re-stretch to create yet another. For this particular work I am using a 60×216” canvas. I am painting paintings at both ends – vomit and poo reference, burning candles at both ends idioms. Over and over till the paintings meet in the middle. But is slow going. I am have made four painting per side and I don’t know how many more I will need to make. Time is limited in this space, and I may not even like this painting when it is done. I will also need to make a stretcher that is six yards long.

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as yet untitled painting, acrylic on canvas, 60×216″

The thing has to dry. Each painting needs to be pretty wet so as to drip on former and latter paintings – because I am seeing that the thing will eventually need to drip on previous paintings too. So as I work I am painting on previous finished paintings. As if they are never finished – mechanically following the process of designing and re-designing.

It is also an exercise in functional relativism. If each painting could be seen as a world view, then to have them all swimming together would suggest that multiple world views are being squished together. Some might be louder than others and some may be totally silenced. I do not know how to deal with this seemingly dominant contemporary epistemology. How do we justify the power we have? How do we justify our dominance over others? How do we justify our beliefs? How do those beliefs become justified in a crowd? Who profits? Who suffers?

I am also working on multiple paintings besides this work. Works on paper, works on canvas, and yes, a return to cardboard (though the cardboard is unfinished).

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acrylic on canvas, 19×19″

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acrylic on paper, 9×12″

But perhaps slowing down is useful. The painting dries, it drips on the as yet un-painted canvas, and it waits over night. Apparently painting is a thing that can push back against the speed of this contemporary age. The stationary painting isn’t timed based, it doesn’t move – it is at rest and thus the viewer can take a cue from the inanimate object. The viewer can be still. The viewer can plumb the depths of the maker’s smudges. This mark here. That mark there. “What was the maker thinking?” The viewer gets to empathize with the distant human. The human who is not even present. The viewer gets a chance to walk in the maker’s shoes.

These things might be true. But I just want to work. Which might really mean that I think that work makes work or one should, “Just do it.”