"The Treachery of Abstraction"
A letter to an artist
As mentioned earlier, all of my current artworks are now entitled Mono (Chromatic) Lisa. They’re related to some earlier studies entitled Sylvette (examples at right) inasmuch as those studies and my current experiments are given a single title. But it’s important to note that each of these experiments-in-image were inspired by the following realization:
“Within this universe, there exists no such entity as an abstraction.”
The scientific community confirms the above statement to be true and accurate. But then, reality-according-to-science is not always considered to be pertinent to those art critics who are tasked with labeling the by-products of creativity; especially those images that have not been anticipated or labeled beforehand. And that’s certainly understandable. Some things-creative do remain difficult, if not impossible, to describe in words. Nevertheless, I am convinced that art writers have done their best at categorizing those things that are made by us exclusively to be seen by us.
Even today, most artists still employ that term, abstract, to categorize things we don’t recognize as being indigenous to the visible world. But the aforementioned truth – the impossibility for any entity to exist inside our universe as inferred by the word abstract – is significantly more germane today than ever before, especially to visual art and its two requisite components, idea and image.
In short, for us to suggest that anything is factually abstract remains absurdly inaccurate. It is also very misleading when that term is still considered academically sufficient to describe certain specimens of modern art. There’s a better approach available for obtaining new meaning from experimental imagery. And that approach will certainly expand our interpretations of all expressions of creativity; past, present, and future.
Properties of Image
The detection of a relatively thin slice of energy (we can now identify as visible light) is allowing for an extremely unique translation by humans of that narrow expanse of energy. Our translation of that light effectively duplicates-in-mind those individual objects that no doubt were staged to be viewed by us. Quite literally, the origin of our seeing involves our translation of this extremely small but very specific section of electromagnetic energy as that energy naturally bounces off the objects that surround us.
All entities within nature – all of those things that we have evolved to experience optically, and even those concepts we can now temporarily imagine – are realized to exist in a certain formulation that humans often identify as image. And each solitary image in the world just happens to constitute the properties of a genuine thing – whether it’s a physical entity being empirically witnessed by us in nature via reflecting light, or one simply being imagined and then made-visibly-apparent by an artist. As we are reminded, the two words that we created – image and imagination – are close relatives and will remain so for obvious reasons.
I’m now going to suggest, for experimental purposes only, that the entity we currently refer to as image existed long before it was ever conceived and therefore subsequently labeled as image by consciousness. Here’s another way to put it, and I think this might make more sense: The construct-for-image obviously had to exist in time before the (equally specific) event-perception of that particular construct ever took place. That assertion may seem oversimplified at first, but please humor me. It’s important for us to think outside the box for a moment in order to reach an alternative conclusion about hominid's original invention of art and our somewhat restricting notions of image.
More specifically, due to nature’s fundamental “requirement-for-being,” all entities within this universe are mandated to entail a set of fact-based properties in order to secure their existence. Here’s how that statement rings true:
Nature’s collections of images (that is, all ideas of objects and all objects themselves that eventually inspired our word image) are necessarily identified in relationship to each of their categorically defined features, their innate ingredients, their individuated specificities. And more interestingly, every so-named image is mandated to perform in the theatre of space-time too, in the same manner in which every physical object must perform, long before the object is factually witnessed by consciousness to exist. This is true even when the subject-image is an integral part of a physical painting hanging on a wall; or when the image exists only as a ghostly idea inside the identifiable and extremely precise location of one’s mind.
Artists, here's my point: Scientifically speaking, every single thing in the universe can be regarded as constituting (and eventually projecting to hominids) the qualities of an image – whether or not the specific thing is actually perceived by a flanking entity of mind. Furthermore, every single thing that we now formally label as an image just happens to qualify as a veritable thingness.
Here’s another way to substantiate that concept: Nature’s various states-of-image (manifesting as stationary objects or ephemeral ideas) will always exist within a measurable location inside space; and each entity will coincide with a precise increment of duration – that other genuine (but invisible) thingness in the universe we have since quantified and pragmatically labeled as time.
By the way, there’s one peculiar thing about the phenomenon we identify as time that I need to mention while discussing the theoretical preexistence of image: I haven’t heard any academics claim that time did not exist until hominids were able to perceive time and then formally name it. I find that to be quite telling. But we’ll get back to the issue (and the labeling) of time as it relates to our proposed subject matter for art. Or more accurately stated, we’ll review an original take on space-time and its role in the origin of visual art from this painter’s point of view.
I’m betting that each of us is still going to continue using the descriptive abstract when we refer to certain visual characteristics. The invented word is historically used to label those compositions that are fabricated by artists in an attempt to contrast our found-material reality – the world of forms we’re so used to recognizing on a daily basis. Again, the physical presentation of an “abstraction” is often tasked with representing an idea (or perhaps an emotion?) that has inspired an otherwise difficult-to-define image-construct.
And yet we acknowledge that the inspiration to create a so-called "abstract image" is originating from a precise space that’s located apart from the idea’s consequential (its physical) specimen which we identify as the artwork. Of course, the physical thing (the Thing-Art) is more often used as a sign, and therefore it's positioned to reference another presence that may not be readily visible. And the original ideation may not be so easily communicated by utilizing any of our current referencing systems; or, for that matter, by using a written or a spoken language at all. As we remind ourselves daily, some things remain difficult to translate into words.
Nevertheless, we have literally been overworking that particular word in our attempt to quantify those appropriately invisible entities (emotions, intuitions, etc.) that admittedly reside deeply inside one’s mind, within the domain of the philosophically considered – but falsely presumed – non-things-only.
But here’s the irony in permanently adopting that label without an occasional review of its undeniable assault on Visual Truth. Oh, and please pardon me if the following comments about another artist’s work seem rather blasphemous to you. But then, you’re also encouraged to let me know if you deem the following observations to be, in any way, untrue or inaccurate. Or let me know if you think my comments are based on a misconception of the things-visible to which we are now going to refer.
Confronting Visual Truth
An expressive, drip-painted image by Jackson Pollock remains, in reality, just paint, which is not abstract at all. And you and I both know this to be true. It’s OK to admit it, if only for the sake of discussion. A drip-painted-image has never exhibited the properties of a so-called abstraction. Not really. Not in any truthful sense anyway. The physical paint is certainly not abstract; and neither are the paint’s dripping and colorful variations. And the finalized and “frozen image” produced by that particular painting technique is also very real, and quite definitive, in addition to being unmistakably fixed and, if you’ll notice, very specific.
Each one of Pollock’s paint-as-image presentations most certainly exists in the current theatre of space-time too, as does every other painted image in the history of art. Simply put, paint-as-image can therefore be measured just like any other visibly detectable thing in the world, whether we happen to be using the label “abstract” or any other label to define the image that is evidenced by a certain performance of paint. And all of those colorful paint drips and swirls – as emotionally arranged for us by Pollock – can be photographically captured and replicated with extreme accuracy. Sorry. Nothing abstract there.
But let’s look even more critically at Pollock’s application of paint as well as our academically influenced interpretations of his work.
In Pollock’s case, the emotion-driven display of the malleable pigment – as a potential transmitter of a previously unexplored and problematically illustrated mental activity – manifests an obvious physical condition that’s not even close to matching the synthetic obligations of our word, abstract. And I hope you will agree with that assessment; again, even if just for the sake of discussion.
Also, please realize that I am offering you these considerations now only to further reveal the poignancy of our essay topic, which I have labeled using the new word, Specity. So please be patient with me. Pollock is one of my favorite painters too. And just like you, I respect and adore his late “abstract paintings", even though they’re not really abstract at all, and never have been, and never will be. I apologize for presenting you with such an obvious but conveniently ignored Visual Truth. As you will see, this is not the first time in history that artists have pointed out the blatantly obvious for the benefit of one's comrades.
An Alternative Approach
For entertainment purposes alone, please consider one interesting thought experiment for now. The following will help us momentarily reach an important conclusion about the most ingenious, and more accurately – the most elusive behaviorism of image.
The moment any painting is executed, the painting’s intrinsic image becomes not only obvious to each of us (factually producing a detectable presence during each and every stage of a painting) but it’s also equally evident of a specific kind of Visual Truth to say the least. Here’s what I mean by that comment:
Each painting escorts its collaborating contents onto the stage of the tangible and therefore into the vivid arena of the scientifically real and factual. And consequently, for every abstract painter, the so-labeled abstract painting’s cooperating image – whether or not the “free-flowing” image of dripping and swirling paint is familiar to the artist – quite literally remains as much of a Thing-Object in the world as does the physical constructs (the paint and its substrate) that are utilized in its manifestation. That certainly invites us to consider the following conclusion: Any painting by Pollock, or for that matter, DeKooning or any other Abstract Expressionist past or present, will portray as much of a “real and accurate image-construct” as does Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of that woman named Mona Lisa.
But please read on. There’s a logically vivid reason why I’m offering you these historical comparisons that, at first glance, don’t seem to be related in any way, mainly because the comparisons are being viewed now through our postmodern lenses.
I’m not asking you, even for a moment, to diminish the efforts of the Abstract Expressionists or any other group of artists (or their experimental imagery) that came before us. But, I will ask you to do this: Take a closer look at that which we genuinely and momentarily see when we initially translate light energy as it literally bounces off the surface of any substrate in nature. You are always encouraged, of course, to translate visible light (and its eventuated offspring, art) in any manner you choose. That’s not the issue being investigated here. Any privatized translation of reflecting light (by any witness to art) is quite another of nature’s specificities, the requirement of which will be implicated by our essay topic too. As I will mention later, each proprietary translation of light is best described by the mirroring functionality of our ultimate subject matter for art, Specity. This flanking dimension of our idea for art is going to be referred to as the foundation for nature’s “principle-of-being.” Full dictionary definitions of our new concept (along with its binary properties) are presented in another chapter. But for now, please entertain the following suggestions.
The entire history of visual art is comprised of artists who first had to mentally isolate and then selectively highlight observable (and moreover, very specific) occurrences within nature for others to experience. This includes isolating for study many of those previously ignored physical objects or emotional experiences (both, mind you, should be regarded as specificities) that impact our daily lives. That constant revisiting of nature (by nature) through the eyes of artists has included the focusing upon and the advantaging of the quintessential surface of the canvas too. Remember those painters who where labeled Cubists? They didn’t allow the unexpected truth (the Visual Truth) that was uncovered by the indisputable clarity of their observations to interfere with their opportunity to create new meaning for the rest of us. To those intuitive artists, the surface of their canvas (and for that matter, every reflecting surface in nature) became another of the more revelatory features of their surroundings. And when revisited, the empirically measured surface of their paintings certainly delivered a welcomed opportunity for contributing fresh meaning to visual art. We will review the phenomenon of reflecting-light-and-surface in relation to direct light in the following sections of this essay.
Also for consideration: I propose that there still remains a critical dimension of truth being openly concealed across the surfaces of all of our illusions, within our newly-made-images. And as we know, the artists are the ones relegated to isolate and reveal those obvious truths.
In reality, an artist’s attempted illustration of any abstract-labeled concept will always deliver a physical condition that factually dismantles the logic of its own aspirations. And this predicament also applies to the misunderstanding that a work of art can truly be considered and then labeled “non-objective.” If your objective is ever to create a non-objective work, then it’s obvious from the start that you are doomed to failure.
Most likely my comments about abstract art might seem unproductive at first, until we finally concede that an emotion-driven ideation is not an abstraction at all, but must indeed be considered to be a very specific entity existing within an equally finite location in space-time. And as such, an invisible idea-in-mind should always be acknowledged to exist as another specific thing-in-the-world.
In many respects, an idea is scientifically equal in specificity to its flanking and representational entity. And at the same time, the idea’s physical manifestation proves to us that the invisible-thingness-ideation is both embracing and forever attempting to formally document its own undeniably experienced factuality.
An ideation (in the form of an intuition or emotion) eventually seeks to prove its newly evolving existence. It desires to be quantified and considered to exist as another “space-time fact” which quite obviously has intended to take up residence inside our universe with the same fervor that is demonstrated by any physical Thing-Object. We should get used to dealing with ideas in the same manner in which we deal with their related objects – the physical by-products of those ideas.
So then, what's next? Exactly how do these observations relate to my latest subject, which has inspired a multitude of experiments, each definitively entitled Mono (Chromatic) Lisa?
Image as Thing
First of all, as artists, let’s do try to accept for a moment that mental activities are decidedly things, even as one’s thoughts may exist without easily being named; even as one’s thoughts might struggle to associate themselves with familiar sounds, colors, shapes, and even yet-to-be-defined physical forms. Secondly, we might even consider applying Plato’s assertion now to any contemporaneous investigations into art: “Truth is a condition during which thought equals thing.”
If Plato’s proclamation is considered even moderately applicable today during postmodernism, then it becomes reasonable to conclude that the act of initially seeing something remains distinctly separate (and quite often very different) from those subjective activities that accompany seeing – like the viewer’s grappling characterizations of an unrecognizable (and tentatively indescribable) thingness that the viewer might confront for the very first time.
Here’s another point for my comrades to consider: If on occasion you don’t first recognize a certain presence-of-a-thingness which you happen to visually encounter in a studio or in a gallery (or on a website), does that mean the unrecognized Thing-Image (or the unrecognized Thing-Object) is efficaciously categorized, in your own mind, as being abstract? Is there an artist among us today who can remain satisfied with that inherited strategy of interpretation? What do you imagine you’re factually seeing when you first confront a flat canvas covered with dripped-and-then-dried paint? Does the clear evidence of a complex, swirling-paint-image remain abstract to you? Really? Or does it possibly constitute and communicate a real and finite image of that which the composition most certainly reveals, and will always remain: a very specific surface, positioned within space-time, involving colorful paint, constituting a historically intriguing but very specific Image-Paint?
Out of habit, if we don’t recognize an image as previously occupying this world – or if the image doesn’t specifically “match” or at least resemble something else we have visually experienced before – we tend to adopt that hand-me-down label, abstract, to define the image. And we certainly will continue to use the word abstract on a daily basis, even though nothing in the universe currently is (or can ever be) factually abstract. All things are images, and all images are things, actual things, real things, whether we’ve learned yet how to accurately describe them or not. And all images appear to us precisely as we initially see them – before that moment when we begin to struggle with formulating a description of their appearance; and long before we reach for the most convenient explanation for their startling presence.
“Seeing a thing in the world” is the most unadulterated performance of human thought. The subsequent mental activity occurring after the initial perception of a new image very often delivers an illogical reaction; or at best, a regimented misinterpretation of that which is factually being witnessed through the calculating performance of reflecting light. Here’s a favorite phrase of mine that I find appropriate to share with you here:
“The greater the level of originality an image portrays, the more its inferred quality of thingness will begin to challenge our ready-made labels and descriptions, bringing us to a point when our interpretations will begin to abandon our own perceptions.”
Consider that statement as your invitation to rethink those academic labels that initially might come to mind when you first view the enclosed paintings. In other words, try to be a little more intuitive in describing to yourself that which you think you’re seeing. At least try to be honest with yourself about what you’re actually looking at.
Seeing vs. Interpreting
The following approach is an alternative way to interpret that which you see, especially when first viewing one of my latest experiments. This strategy may be challenging for some artists, but perhaps you’ll find it entertaining, and maybe even worthy of consideration.
The image that your mind initially “records” the very second you experience the light reflecting off a painting (or view an image on a website) entitled Mono (Chromatic) Lisa, that image should remain defined solely by the precise image your eyes and mind instantly delineate for you, the very moment you perceive one of these image-constructs.
That is to say, these particular images that I’ve created for you are not “referring to” anything else in the world that you may know about or even recognize. They are not meant to function as directives or signs either, as the majority of human-made images most certainly do. Nor are these experimental images designed to represent another artist’s work, or even some artistic style or popular movement from the past that might automatically come to mind as a result of your commendable education. They are not positioned in front of you so that they might redirect your attention toward something else you’re currently thinking about, or have thought about in the past. In short, they do not represent another Thing-Object or even another Thing-Idea inside this universe. They embrace only their immediate and initial presentation to mind, that of exhibiting the qualities of an extremely deliberate and very specific Thing-Image.
Pragmatically speaking, each of these compositions (these reproductions of paintings) will exhibit a finite degree of specificity in space-time as each is being fully exposed by the light reflecting off the specific pages of a book (or generated by your computer monitor) within which they are positioned for viewing. In another important sense, they’re also demonstrating nature’s infinite and constantly evolving “possibility-of-image.”
Furthermore, if you have a tendency to think outside the box – and I’m sure my readers will – you might even objectively consider the painted images as being critical “surfaces” or even "fully congealed facades” of the visually possible, relating back to our brief mention of the obligations of nature’s reflecting surfaces and their primal relationship to hominid’s newest invention, art.
(The following is a reference made in the published letter: I’m also referring to the obvious but very specific surface feature of this thin paper page right now too, and its recognized significance, as the page is reflecting light back to you, light that is allowing for your privatized interpretation of that light.)
Also, if you’re inclined to relate the images in any way to our human condition (perhaps in an anthropocentric manner) you might even interpret them as coinciding with nature’s unending variations on the specific (and biologically experimental) facial presentations of humans. They could perhaps be considered to be replicating, in a theoretical way of course, nature’s evolving displays that directly relate to nature's inherently visible and deliberately reflecting surfaces again, whereby one of these images could even be regarded as another ever-changing exhibit of specificity, another pristine example of nature’s “portrayal-of-the-visually-possible.” We will be discussing nature's phenomenon that we've labeled as portraiture later, and its relationship to our essay topic. That should be fun for any painter, right?
The images reproduced in this publication (or on this website) entitled Mono (Chromatic) Lisa are never expected to perform as stand-ins for any objects or thoughts for which you might have already given a name (out of habit, or perhaps out of speculation) in your attempt to label that which you are currently seeing. The images are clearly not abstract either, and should never be labeled or even described as such. As you can see, the images are real, and they manifest the properties of a genuine thing. Among their other detectable qualities, they also exist, as all things do, in a specific location in space, right? And they are made visibly present at specific moments in time. Thereby they exhibit the same qualities as other images or other objects (or even inspirational thoughts) that have taken up residence in this universe.
Note: If the experiments that I’ve entitled Mono (Chromatic) Lisa seem to repel the viewer’s current selection of words, then you must conclude that words are not readily available now to effectively be used as an indicator of – or used in place of – these particular images.
This artist believes it’s quite possible for a newer generation of imagery to successfully deconstruct the presumed efficacy of our standardized conceptions, thereby providing the opportunity to create a fresh dimension of thought – primarily and exclusively for artists, of course. And by design, many of my experiments are created to formally contradict those approved words that may have initially seemed effective in describing these things, these varying and reflecting facades within nature that are confirmed to exist via one’s privatized interpretations of light.
We must also remember to leave room for the possibility that physical paint is effectively rendering – on behalf of its visually detectable properties – its ability to communicate its own light-reflecting prowess, which results in an event made possible through an evolutionary agreement between nature’s own calculated “obligations of surface” and a clever variation on primates whom we now label as hominids. In addition, having been clearly seen by us and acknowledged to contain unlimited possibilities-of-image, the paint itself is more than capable of existing by itself in terms of its ability to exhibit its own formula-for-image – its own condition-of-image.
Again, this status is confirmed through humankind’s unique interpretations of light. The detectable paint pigment itself, together with its endless possibilities for inference-of-image, should never be restricted to performing always as a reference to something else in the world.
The undeniable fact of paint’s perceived presence – the visual detectability of it – is what immediately constitutes to hominids an image in and of itself. The Image-Paint is a genuine and separate thing in the world. It exists as yet another very specific thingness for us to consider more carefully in the future. I believe that this single reveal – and its role in the evolution of art – may some day deserve the same measure of significance as history has bestowed upon art’s renown Fact-of-Surface.
The Irreducible Fact-of-Surface
Where would visual art be today if artists had not stumbled upon the riches being hidden across the measurable surface of our own canvas – that reflecting substrate being positioned directly in front of our faces? For that matter, what would happen – during any investigation by art, or even by science – if we were to ignore the opportunity to expose the relativistic value nestled within any of the world’s proprietary specificities?
Of course for art, the reconsideration-of-surface turned out to be one of our most revealing and historically significant exonerations of late. An interesting reminder though, as referenced earlier: The realization and subsequent advantaging of the surface of our canvas – the essential reinterpretation of nature’s “specificity-of-surface” – was the foundation for the Cubists’ experiments. In that scenario, the simple truth exposed by finally acknowledging and formally highlighting the profile or thingness-of-surface, as recognized and thereby formally highlighted by the few, inspired an unexpected dimension of thought for generations of artists.
The following suggestions might seem rather elementary at first, but let’s do consider visiting some related ideas for a moment.
An artist’s painting, then, conjoined with its collaborating image – traditionally perceived by way of reflecting light – is acknowledged as presenting itself first as a physical object. A painting is certainly considered to be a real and genuine thing-in-the-world, correct? Each painting, then, will initially be recognized to exist as that which it specifically happens to be: a Thing-Object. Furthermore, a painting is no doubt designed to portray a separate but equally specific entity – the painting’s undeniable Thing-Image.
We accept that a painting will contain an image of some kind, most likely anyway, an image that is conceived through inference, as a consequence of the artist’s crafting of the pigment itself, as substantiated through the viewer’s perception of the completed painting. And the particular painted image is an element that can be recognized to function as an additional and separate entity from the artist’s chosen subject matter. In fact, the viewer (and history) usually does categorize and then later reference each of those two separate entities – image vs. subject matter – as individual specificities.
To be clear, an artwork’s image will necessarily be considered as existing uniquely separate from, and often compared differently to the artwork’s subject matter. This is possible only after the image is perceived to exist as a separately referenced entity – as the image is acknowledged to exist in mind and thereby referred to and described as a very specific thingness. In short, the image remains a historically referenced entity unto itself, while being happily interpreted by the viewer as such.
That condition or state-of-art will require us to acknowledge the totality of a visual presence too – in addition to the necessary specificities that are integral to each of the predominant components of a painting, which are: Thing-Object, Thing-Paint, Thing-Image. Let’s review, in an even more elementary way, the justification for those familiar assertions.
As we all know, a painting of a tree magically sparks our memory of a physical tree, prompting the translation and the manufactured word “tree.” A portrait of a woman is interpreted as a woman because it triggers our minds into equating the illustrated thing – the painted image as a genuine thing – to a familiar living thing, an entirely separate thingness in nature that is no doubt located apart from the physical painting and its intrinsic image.
And if you remember, the subtle smile in the painting Mona Lisa most likely charms us into thinking of a human smile, in real time, as our minds default to focusing on the image of a smile, not necessarily on the physical paint sitting upon its wood substrate. Without protest, we have evolved to perceive those very specific entities (in this one example, the paint and its image) as being mindfully bound together, forever.
But more truthfully, we have always been able to acknowledge that the physical Thing-Paint and its inherent Thing-Image are subjectively translated, inseparably, into a familiar Thing-Smile. We inherently allow these separate entities (these three, very distinct specificities) to quickly establish a symbiotic unification as we engage in the process of formulating hominid meaning in a mannerism quite familiar to all of us.
One Problematic Goal
Conversely, my latest subject attempts to expose the original and rarely acknowledged skeleton-of-image. In other words, one component of my investigations (as it relates to the origin of image) involves exposing the phenomenal thingness of the image by itself; and then rendering the Thing-Image as a solitary and autonomous entity that hopefully can be forever purified of any reference to another Thing-Object in the world – or even another Thing-Interpretation erupting inside the viewer’s mind. And that idea is certainly not easy to communicate to others, especially to non-artists. As expected, this one strategy will require a unique dissection of image in order to introduce a different methodology of conception for the viewer. And this approach will certainly invite questions. Here are some examples that immediately come to mind:
1) Can a viewer ever experience the unequivocal Fact-of-Image – that most obvious entity being evidenced perhaps only during a brief moment just before the unfamiliar hijacks our translations and begins offering up familiar words that we might use to categorize the unrecognizable?
2) And perhaps more interestingly: Can the primordial Existence-of-Image be recognized (first by artists) to be one more vital and calculating construct-essence of nature, one that should now be detected for what it truly is, without involving the contamination of a viewer’s inherent and highly affecting subjectivity?
3) In addition: Can we finally realize too that the subsequent quantification-of-image is a direct result of evolution’s principle-of-being – a highly interpretive and mirroring performance, only now availed through nature’s most penetrating installation we have named consciousness? We will explore this feature as we expose our primary topic in unfolding detail within this essay. Our objective, as implied by the title, is to successfully identify the origin of image.
4) If this theoretical specifitication of an unadulterated image-construct were ever achievable by a traditional painter, what sort of reflecting formulation would effectively duplicate this experiential affirmation? In short, what would the image possibly look like, if anything at all?
5) And finally: Will this artist’s newest experimental constructs scientifically prove themselves to exist as unmistakable and perhaps unchallengeable manifestations regarding the unexplored substance-of-image?
Through a delicate re-adjustment of one’s perceptions, my first objective is to assist the clearly obvious and most miraculous Persistence-of-Image to historically procure its very own status as an alternative thing in the world that can finally be considered (and some day effectively advantaged) by other artists.
Only now is this postmodern observation being highlighted by evolution’s latest version of consciousness, as that same consciousness is now going to be prompted to question the primal objectives of reflecting light itself. And perhaps during this investigation, we can begin to better understand how and why the incredibly unique method of interpreting reflecting light by us, the hominids, eventually gave birth to visual art. I’ve come to enjoy revisiting an old phrase that I wrote specifically relating to light's most obvious ramifications:
“Direct light enables the continuing evolution of matter. Reflecting light enables the continuing evolution of mind.”
The two functionalities, in terms of their expressions of specificity, are no doubt related; and I would like to offer a possible explanation as to how both presentations of electromagnetic energy are connected to the origin of art, and ultimately to our modern glorification of image.
Of course, for any artist to accomplish this goal, one must avoid simply cloning images of other things already detected in the world. And one must resist an artist’s natural temptation to recycle familiar objects or even replicate or rearrange redundant thoughts and concepts.
The clever technique of combining known images (collage) or recycling existing images (sampling) most certainly will not inspire any new investigations into the origin of visual art. Nor should those efforts be expected to expose the influential substance-of-image with which we are so familiar. In addition, the adaptation of newer techniques of reproduction, as demonstrated through the use of digital mediums or extravagant combines and performances, appear to exhibit little chance of deepening our understanding of the visible world.
Instead, in a more revealing way, an artist must clearly demonstrate the newly adopted possibilities-of-image. And then we might be able to prove that an image can and should be allowed to finally establish its own clarification-of-being, regardless of how that image is ultimately conceived, fabricated, or academically interpreted and categorized by history.
Remember: Scientifically speaking, the activity of seeing – that is to say, the experience of translating the light reflecting off the surrounding surfaces in nature – is an act of thought in and of itself, occurring long before any effort of interpretation begins. The activity of seeing is a function of thought during thought’s most innocent and most accurate state of performance.
I believe that if this one painter can ever temporarily peel away, or even better yet, completely eliminate the outermost veil of painting itself (fold back the all-too-familiar skin of visual art) and finally expose the pristine phenomenon of image – revealing the presence of a genuine thingness to which words can never be attached – this artist’s work will be much closer to its completion.
The perspective to be gained from this initial achievement can then later be expanded to reveal a very deserving and perhaps historically significant conclusion about "how and why" visual art began. Seeing came first; art, of course, followed in a distant second place. But I would like to know how these activities relate in a more revealing way. I desire to investigate and perhaps finally dissect these two activities from within an evolutionary context.
It remains interesting to me that a select number of hominids (we, the artists) desire to fabricate a different kind of meaning from our responses to all of those things that we have evolved to clearly see. We are obsessed with communicating this meaning essentially through the rearrangement of those same Things-Visible in order that we may see them over and over again, but in differing sizes, styles, distortions, mediums, colors, and combinations. What’s really going on here? Has anyone else out there bothered to inquire?
As you know, in order to introduce the beginnings of any fresh dimension-of-mind to the expanding world of art, each of us is expected to freely share our newest concept-methodologies with our comrades. Following that honored tradition, perhaps the enclosed experiments in thought and image (with more variations forthcoming) may encourage some younger artists, in no uncertain terms, to begin exploring a more engaging rendition of the yet-to-be-imagined.
– David Orr Wright
Oil on canvas (below)