Artist’s Statements, Part 2

You might like to start with Part 1

I recently wrote about my initial reluctance toward having any artist’s statement for my show (Memory, Essence, Mystery). As I thought more and more about it, and began to write, the words also came more easily. I ended up with, in addition to the statement in the catalog, three other statements spaced around the exhibition room. They really helped to tie everything together, and make that personal written connection between the art and the people looking at it.

Each of the three wall cards dealt with an aspect from the show title, though they were not specifically labelled as such:

Memory

There is a relationship to personal experience in my art. What may seem like an “ordinary” landscape or shore scene actually has personal significance to me; it has memory tied to it. Sometimes, there is a reflection of that in the title of a painting. You may not know the exact connection at a glance, but it’s there.

When we interact with people, or engage with places, they become more important to us. We are woven into their fabric, and they into ours. It’s not the place that is significant, it’s what we did or felt while we were there. Each of us also has those special possessions, which mean a lot to us because of the memories surrounding them.

Personal memories and experiences are frequently expressed in my work. I’m trying to talk about them, and my thoughts and feelings that encompass them; I’m just using a visual language to do it.

Essence

There can be a lot of artistic editing that happens when I’m working out a painting based on life. I may alter colors and tones, modify some forms, or even leave out or add certain elements.

For me, there is more leeway when dealing with a landscape than, say, a portrait of a person or a bird – there you want to get the depiction of form and the inner character right.

Getting every branch on a distant tree to match what I see in the landscape isn’t so important, but finding the character of the landscape is. I may change the lighting in a scene so it works toward the emotion of the whole picture.

What matters most is that the picture express how I feel about the subject. I want the deeper character, or essence of it to come through; you should really feel something when you look at it.

Of course, some pieces are complete fabrications, and then any “rules” really fly out the window. It becomes about imagination and creating something that has the emotion I’m after, and says what I want to say.

Mystery

Like Andrew Wyeth’s quietly disturbing, highly personal images or the silent, still moment of a Vermeer, I want to capture a feeling of strange wonder that there may be something deeper and mysterious going on in a painting.

Even when it seems ordinary at first glance, I am so often trying to find something subtle – the lingering of something left unspoken or a kind of breathlessness – a stillness.

Whatever it is, if I can find that deeper emotion and work it into the picture, then I know I’ve done something right. I’m on the right track.

 


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