Control and Meaning

I’ve been doing a lot of mono-prints lately, and I’m excited about them, but my attempt to re-imagine the ideas I’m creating in the drawings/mono-prints continues to stifle me when I try to make new paintings.  The process I’m using with the prints is casual, spontaneous, simplified, and has a built in element of surprise which doesn’t allow me to overly control the work. When I’m making the prints I don’t worry about getting it right I just draw them with little expectation of what they need to be. It feels okay if they’re throw-aways, I can always make another one.  When I switch to painting though, I end up illustrating the idea instead of making/finding  it – the process doesn’t mediate in the same way that making the prints does.

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I’ve always had this underlying, nagging feeling that I need to give meaning to what I make. In talking to my friends about this a lot of them come from a few opposite viewpoints than me. They don’t feel like they can necessarily control the meaning, that the viewer can find the meaning, that things already have meaning without me interfering… it’s not that I don’t agree with them, but I struggle to know where I fit within that. If I’m making something I’m controlling it to some degree, where or how do I set that dial?

Right now, at least in the paintings, it feels like I’m controlling too much. In the images themselves I seem to be placing myself in this position of being god while also knowing that I probably have less control over my life than I’d like to think.  There’s this impossibility of having control over things and yet this grasping to gain the things I want to be true. One interpretation I have of this is that this is me painting, where I am god over my own work but there is still something else at play, something I inevitably don’t control. I used to find it curious when reading greek myths that although the gods had a lot of power and control over things they still always seem to have trouble, things don’t necessarily go as planned.

IMG_1765 IMG_1764I keep turning to ways I might change my process or material. The idea of switching to acrylics has dawned on me a few times – it seems that as a material it would be more spontaneous. I resist switching though (which is probably a sign that I should try it)  – I don’t have a particularly good reason for this.  I’ve always liked that oil has a sensual quality that relates to the body, and how it works as a material – but those reasons seems less and less important as time goes on.

I also think that it might not just be a matter of materials, but more a shift in attitude. I can only move through life finding things that fulfill my time, and it doesn’t really matter what those things are, just as long as I find them important or interesting, i.e. have meaning to me. Perhaps I need to have faith that those things that I fill my time with, and find important, will be important and interesting to other people as well.

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2 Responses to Control and Meaning

  1. Art is impotent until the artist defines why it was created. The artist and artwork must negotiate the meaning during the creation process, which is the conflict artist feel raging within as they swing their creative weaponry. When the dust settles, a living, breathing visual record of that conversation is born. I say it is living because each viewer engages in a new conversation with the artwork. While the artist and artwork have a mutual understanding of each other, new viewers engage with the art anew and create a different understanding. The artist cannot limit the message their artwork bears with parental bias. Releasing a piece for public consumption is directly akin to a parent loosing their child into the world. Parents cannot dictate the steps of their child once they are released into adulthood, all they can do is pray they provided good direction while they had the chance.

  2. paintlater says:

    Fabulous blog. I know what you mean, get the acrylic thing out of your system. Just do it. But oils are hard to stay away from. Your work is always better for the struggle. Cheers

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