As a person comes to know their life, a rooting aspiration develops to obtain or repossess the peak experiences of it. Sought, not to relive specific past events, or for nostalgic, nor ambitious reasons, but out of a self-actualized longing to connect with the high level of awareness, feeling, oneness, and gratitude of which they are capable. It is difficult, if not impossible, to hold onto the incomparable sensations of these ideal experiences. These events are so transcendentally concentrated they can only be known in the mindful present moment of their occurrence. Practices such as meditation, pilgrimages, spiritual study, or other pursuits that attempt to align us with something greater than ourselves, are used as methods to help us merge with that ephemeral awareness of greater connectivity, wisdom, and appreciation.
The Arts can also serve this purpose. Art is a way of understanding and reasoning with the nature of life. Creating art involves research, exploration, expression, and problem solving - to make sense of and to connect with Being. The results are artifacts of that ongoing examination that can unlock and use the potential of the attended present. The great hope of an artist is that the artifact becomes relevant wisdom for others to access in seeking their own higher selves. The challenge for an artist is to create artwork with the potential to inspire the mind and soul to that expanded level of awareness that is known during peak moments.
Time in nature, far from anything constructed or domesticated by man, has been the foremost way for me to reach a place of elevated consciousness. As Emerson said, “In the woods we return to reason and faith”. More than the image of the setting, or any aesthetic reaction to the place, I concentrate on achieving awareness, formed by contemplating the mechanisms of the environment. I focus on the interconnected processes of growth and change that create and maintain the natural world. I consider the causality that has resulted in the present moment, and continues to operate in it. I try to reason with the accumulation of the effects of these processes at work. Contemplating actualities so much larger than myself helps me to enter a state of mind filled with recognition, gratitude, and connection.
the right side of painting
For several years I have been working on abstracting my interpretation of natural processes. If contemplating growth, change, and interconnection in nature takes me to this elevated state of mind, can art that abstracts those processes have a similar effect? I abstract the formation and accumulation of reactions between evolving forms and their evolving ecosystems.
Natural processes are, for the most part, inefficient. Evolution is well understood to be inefficient. Great numbers of random mutations are generated, and the few that just happen to be successful in the present conditions are integrated and passed on, and for an unknown duration. Growth in an environment responds to an aggregation of unpredictable events and the resulting effects of those events. Natural processes can be as destructive as they are creative. The totality of the environment is adapting to change, as are the specifics within it. I attempt to demonstrate this interconnected inefficient and unpredictable growth. My paintings are formed by an accretion of multiple abstracted growth events; a layering of creation, adaptation, destruction, conflict, resolution, rebirth, cooperation, invasion, etc. A continued inefficient accumulation and reaction of events generates something different than the component units, an environment. A completed painting is an abstract record of the growth within, and of, an environment.
What I refer to as abstracted growth events are, on the canvas, packets of visual information. They are areas of formal demonstration that stand for generative and reactive events. When I paint, I am making decisions that are informed by the processes I have been discussing. I create and respond both formally and conceptually. I originate the events, consider them, and then paint the environment’s response to them. I paint the events’ adaptations to the environment’s responses, and continue to introduce new information. This is repeated, leaving evidence of the history of the process. I try to grow a composition, in a way that corresponds to my understanding and awareness of natural processes.
Nature seeks an unrealistic equilibrium that can never be achieved. Inefficiency often leads to a place of perceived organization. A narrow view of a process can seem efficient. What is present can appear as a design, or as inevitable, when the reality is that it was arrived at through random unforeseeable occurrences. Often, I determine a painting is done when the conglomeration of events seem stable, as if the composition’s development could have happened no other way. The unpredictability evident in the processes I work with does not imply the absence of patterns. They are still very much at work and utilized in the paintings. Patterns form as cause-and-effect operates, but the birth, death, and interruption of them is erratic. The use of unpredictability has influence over what is introduced, when, and for how long it remains in force.
As part of nature, the processes I abstract are also at work in our lives and psychology. The overlap of natural process and human behavior is of great interest to me. Like in nature, our lives are the accumulation of experiences and events, many of which are unpredictable and inefficient. We are adaptive and acknowledge a reality where we await the next unpredictable event that will affect our lives. Mankind puts great effort into denying, and overcoming inefficiency. The great majority of our energy is used preventing, restricting, or redirecting the behavior of the natural world. Although we may endeavor to become well organized in practical matters, as part of nature, our lives and much of our behavior will remain unpredictable. Art can demonstrate and serve as an important reminder of this, countering our daily aspirations to construct a façade of control and linear progression.
I addition to nature, the inspiration for much of my work up to this point, and for the right side of this painting, comes from artists such as Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning, George Basilitz, Jackson Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn, and Phillip Guston. While not always conceptually, certainly formally, technically and psychologically. I am inspired by their internalization, execution, vocabulary, methods of composition, and energy. Their work has always seemed to speak the language of nature to me. By turning away from the direct imagery of the outside world, they were able explore our psychological and physiological connection with it. Pollock’s words, “I am nature” are some of the most important ever to be spoken by an artist. I am indebted to how these painters layer and accumulate paint and action into the development of a composition, all through the filter of their being and intellect. I believe strongly in the artistic demonstration of both the primal/base nature of man, and his capacity for conceptual thought. It is through both of these truths of our nature functioning, not in compromise, but simultaneously and at their extremes, that there is the highest potential for meaningful art. A quote by musician Wynton Marsalis captures this notion well. “You have to have that primitive feeling, and the more refined the concept the more primitive you have to become”
Alongside the visual arts, many Jazz musicians have tapped into the way that nature composes itself, and have been an important inspiration for me. It can be argued that sound is a more direct path to this kind of understanding, thus my inclusion of it in this artwork. It is well known that the accumulation of sounds in the mind can become a conceptual understanding. This is true whether they are abstract or naturally occurring. When meditating in a natural environment, the contemplation of the occurrences and interactions of sounds informs the processes demonstrated in my work. Sounds’ accessible real time demonstration can also give rise to an awareness of those same processes functioning in other sources, at longer intervals. It can illuminate imperceptible spans of change that may present the illusion of being relatively static, but are not, such as listening to the wind gust through the trees, while viewing a mountain range.
the left side of the painting
While creating my work up to this stage, I was sensitive to an essential state of energy that underlies all processes and life. This state of Being is both physical and spiritual, which makes it difficult to describe or discuss, or even abstract. We can be aware of it, and are of it, but it is elusive. For this reason it was intentionally put aside.
My work reached a point, however, where it could no longer be neglected. I needed to place what I’d been investigating into a context of this kind of energy. A vast context, which both forms and results from the kind of process accumulation I had been studying. I sought to present the abstraction of a both generative and emergent property of what I had been working with.
The experiment was to paint and place an abstraction of this essential state of being next to a process abstraction, as ONE artwork. Both sides are presented inseparably in the context of the other. The two conditions are painted with very different qualities, but are ultimately singular, and represent a unified state of being.
What I am trying to abstract on the left side of the painting can be considered in terms of the conditions of change active on the right side. There is that which life can effect, and that which life is a part of and cannot effect. To us, it is an interminable state. We can attempt to project, imagine or calculate an end or beginning relative to our experience and knowledge, but are incapable of actually comprehending that scale or duration. It is the closest thing we know to unchanging, even though it is of change.
When thinking about this concept, I consider the interval between cause and effect, and the degree of impact. This state of energy is of a process where the significance of events, no matter how immensely forceful, are so relatively insignificant that their effects do not result in change. Unpredictable events are fluidly assimilated into the energy without their effects having influence. It is of a constant state of change, but is so fundamental that it is beyond the impact of any manipulation. It is not altered by change, it is maintained by it.
In order for this higher state of Being to be maintained it requires the consequential unpredictable events demonstrated on the right. The non-consequential effects of those events sustain the vibration of a fabric of potential that can generate them. What is inefficient and unpredictable accumulates to an active stability at an immense scale, and that working stability makes impactive change possible.
My influences for the left side of the painting are artists such as Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin, and James Turrell. These artists were/are trying to achieve some degree of transcendent experience in the mind of the viewer. Many look to the Minimalists for this as well. In my opinion, an oversight of the Minimalists was the notion that this more profound state of contemplation was consequent of absence and purification, rather than totality. I don’t agree that a state of higher awareness results from reductive considerations. It develops from reasoning with an accumulation of awarenesses. For this reason, I didn’t want this side of the painting to appear distilled or static. I want it to be clear that it is of energy and process, but still present it as a singular fundamental state.
The work of the artists named above also investigates a scope existence that includes humanity, yet is so much more extensive and inclusive. Artists can labor to demonstrate fundamental truths relevant to the entirety of life. Art must come from the mind, is intended for it, and can only be understood by it, but the concepts that art addresses can be less human-centric.
I further relate the left side of the painting to sounds or frequencies. I think of a situation where sounds accumulate to the point where they become as silence. Not a silence of emptiness, a silence from the combination of all sounds, much like how the colors of the spectrum are contained in white light. It’s a unified totality of sound so dense that it becomes singular and quiet. Considering the painting, I am interested in the composition of the components of the silence, as they become, and maintain, a singular fundamental vibration. That vibration can agitate specific sounds out of the “silence” at a different energy level.
The accompanying audio for this artwork is composed of an accumulation of abstracted sound events, in the context of an unchangeable and more essential vibration. The sound events are punctuated to give the constant sound some space to be effective, and to create an anticipation and recognition of the oncoming sounds. In time, the continuous sound functions as an essential silence. Amidst that, I wanted to cause an assured feeling that processes are taking place, but inefficiently. I have tried to present this as a continual, nonlinear composition. The listener can enter it at any point.
My hope is that the audio composition and the painting inform and support each other. The audio can serve as a reminder that the processes the painting presents as a frozen abstraction are ongoing in real time. I think that presenting the mind with multiple demonstrations of related abstract processes can be meaningful. Much like while in nature, when the merging of perceptions from multiple senses more significantly connects you to the consideration of the moment. If you are more enveloped by an environment you tend to feel less of your ego, and more of your connection to something beyond yourself.
Transcendence and peak experiences occur while contemplating the concepts that underlie a passing sensory appreciation. It is the mind of the viewer that will reason with the audio and both sides of the painting, reconciling them into a single personalized understanding of creative energy. I want the viewer to gather the same thing from this work that I seek from it, an enhanced awareness of and connection with that energy. My intention for this artwork is that it be an inspiration, reminder, or marker for a person’s ongoing exploration and illumination of their own being.