Monday, September 22, 2014

On Process

During the time the sabbatical show was up I was often asked about my process. So I'm hoping to provide some background on the way my work develops in the next two posts. This one will focus on the drawings and the jump into bowls and I'll mainly stick to the techniques and visual goals. Some of the things that were behind the particular imagery  were unknown to me consciously at the time I was doing them. Someone now will talk about their associations with the work and I’ll feel surprised then think about it and realize it was part of another level of motivation that I hadn’t seen before. It’s been like that since I started the drawings. It’s probably the most mysterious body of work I’ve ever done in terms of how little I knew about why I was doing it and where it was heading. The emotional philosophical pastel drawings that dominate this blog have been my inner mirror since the early 80s, but the covered up metaphor of the stitched drawings only let me see the technical and formal goals and not that I’d been fighting to hold something back for years. The challenge of accomplishing what I wanted to see happen, to get people to see a force behind the visible surface pushing out was enough without me knowing what it was. All of my drawings try to defy indentification and draw attention to the feel of behind the scenes forces. The drawings began with watercolor leading the way. Like the big pastel shapes, watercolor is a means to concentrate on the abstract composition and find what I needed to see. Then I attached the duralar. My first works with duralar were two large graphite drawings each of which took over two years. This  broke me of my need to finish and get on with things, so I could stay as long as necessary with the development of beautiful areas of tone. Having a technical preoccupation is my strategy for keeping my conscious mind from interfering with the decisions of my visual mind. Which is not to say I didn’t think about many different ideas that came from the images. Illusionistic work generally opens a window to the world created beyond the picture plane so I was interested in trying to get the drawing to push out at the viewer instead of falling back. It was what I'd begun to think about with the second big drawing, In these drawings I sewed duralar over the paper along the top edge to secure it against slippage, since the graphite work on the duralar reinforced and synchronized with the drawing on the paper. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to include the stitches and something in me immediately saw them as shades of red. I wanted a spontaneous start since my method of drawing on duralar was so time consuming, which is why instead of a graphite drawing underneath I worked with watercolor, feeling for the shapes that best matched what I needed at the time. Stitching the duralar was a way to draw attention to certain areas and then a new graphite challenge was to create the illusion that the surface was pulling at the stitches.  The whole time I was doing them I was conscious of how tormented some of them, maybe all of them looked and when I was showing them to my classes said over and over that I didn’t really understand where these were coming from myself yet. A clue was that when I started working 3d I stopped doing the drawings and went back to my pastel side. On one level the drawings represented what was trying to burst into the physical world, to get out from behind the window into imaginary space and have it exist as an actual entity. They were also preparing me for what I would be painting on 3D surfaces though that was still far in the future.

The real technical leap of course was 3d. It wasn’t as foreign as it seemed to those who knew only the work I’ve shown. Many times over my adulthood I have made a little series of figures or beetles, always emphasizing face and body expression as presents for family and friends. I wanted to learn the wheel and became immediately interested in the bowl's shape. Without planning it I saw that I needed figures in the bowls and that I wanted to paint the world they came from around them. At the time I wasn’t aware of the obvious connection of myself pushing out into the world or my interest in body and facial expression taking over my public work.
The bowls represented the process of emerging from the portal. As a beginner throwing bowls I was dealing with my limitations and how to make use of them. I waxed part of each bowl before glazing so I could mimic and go off on what the glaze and other imperfections did. The illusionistic space exists but the figure emerges from it. The first bowl touched on all the ideas that would unfold in this adventure.It's been a chance to explore the interconnections that bind everything together, to acknowledge what it takes to support human life. An idea I first came across in Gregory Bateson's work probably surfaced here too, that who we are is not just the physical self but self and environment because we couldn’t survive without all of the systems that link with our existence. In all of them I wanted to give more of a feeling of us growing rather than being made, of life as an continuous individuation of a pervasive consciousness.  I’m thinking about the process of manifesting physically, the hopes, difficulties and doubts, but connected at the roots to what energizes and supports growth.

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