By way of an artist’s statement…
…Herewith, some principles:
Principles of Making
1) Art is estrangement. Find a system, a regime, a diagram, a taxonomy,
and mess it up.
Jump into the game, belly-first if you like, but for heaven’s sake don’t
play by the rules. Or play by the rules, but obsessively, to the point of
absurdity: play until the game itself falls away beneath you. Play in the
wrong place, at the wrong time. Redraw the map with warped axes. Inhabit
the cliché, stretching it until it is beyond recognition. Estrange the idiom.
2) Any portrait is an abstraction, of course. But the converse is not true:
an abstraction is only sometimes a portrait. Abstraction is the larger category,
it is the way the imagination apprehends the world well before representation.
It is a framed bit of the ineffable, the infant’s pure sight before focus and naming
3) That abstract marks sometimes solidify into a representation is often
delightful, and just as often regrettable, but let us be clear: it is not magical.
Our compulsion to transform (distort, sanctify, transcend) the world is utterly
ordinary, thank goodness!
4) Any representation is a set of sympathetic distortions. This cannot be said
of things that are just things, just themselves in and of themselves.
If you can find such a thing.
5) There is a heraldic quality shared by painting and poetry that becomes more
visible the further they move away from representation. A herald is a crest, but it is
also a type of frame that announces
NOW HEAR THIS: [something perfectly silent],
NOW HEAR THIS: [something totally abstract].
Part of the pleasure of visual art is the baldness with which it stakes its heraldic claim.
The image seizes the canvas. The image wants to be seen.
6) Now, hear this: as a young(er) man I was obsessed—for years—with the
thin line between abstraction and representation. Was it only a matter of
where one stood? Is the whole world just a rotating file of anamorphs? Isn’t
the most compelling image the foreshortened dragon, coming directly at you
in the clouds and disintegrating just as fast, precisely because you are its sole
witness, in effect, its maker? Is there any point in orchestrating clouds for others?
I never figured that one out.
7) There is another thin line of importance: that between preserving and killing,
between capturing and embalming. Unlike the line between abstraction and
representation, which is fun to tred all over, in this case one wants to stay
well behind the caution tape. In art one wants to capture and preserve, not
kill and embalm. Something needs to breathe in the work.
8) “Making art is easy and fun.” For years I have been saying this to friends in an
attempt to convince them to make art. No-one ever believes me, but it’s true.
The problem is all these hang-ups about what art should be, and who should be
having fun, and how much, and within which parameters. Making art is exactly
like Heléne Cixous says about writing. It is “…above all, freeing oneself
from internal censorship.”
9) Don’t worry about meaning; humans are meaning-making machines.
I said this to one of my seminars, and they laughed. They laughed, and said it
back to me. “Humans are meaning-making machines—Ha!” And they brought
it up again, weeks later, months later. And they slipped it into their final papers:
“as we all know, humans are meaning-making machines. Ergo…”
10) It may be that I am too easily fascinated by redundancies. Scratch that.
I am definitely too easily fascinated by redundancies. The same goes for circular
logic, in so far as circular logic goes. It seems to me that the notion that is
so true it is wretchedly true is exactly the sort of notion that needs to be
attacked at the root.
How did the circle get to be unbroken? Or is that just its molecular structure: is it just
that small? How can a circle be estranged?