20 September 2007

Intention

(Recent photographs; click to see full-size image in new window)

What am I [wanting/trying] to [say/do] with my work?
Does it matter?

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When it comes to the bricolage I post here, my intention is relatively clear to me, and (for lack of a better word) "automatic." I don't feel the need to hold in mind a clear statement of What I'm Trying to Do, because I've been working with text long enough to know both what I'm doing and how I'm doing it.

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With the bricolage, I have that kind of vanity described by Rex Crockett in this post from Art & Perception:
"Sometimes when no one loves you, vanity is a wonderful thing. At times, it is even good to be self deluded. Seeing your own work as worthwhile, even great, when no one else does can be all you have. Vanity can get you through hard times. Vanity is useful. It is a survival tool."
I recognize that almost no one else "gets" it, but I'm vain (or deluded!) enough to be certain of its value.

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In the case of photography, my intention is almost passive: I'm hardly trying to say/do anything at all. I just record what is visually interesting to me, without much creative decision-making. I don't use artificial lighting or filters, I don't set up arranged tableaux, and I use cameras that permit me only minimal control over aperture and exposure time.

For the most part, all I control is framing and composition. And I know enough about the traditional standards of composition to recognize when a particular shot is worthwhile, or when the resulting photograph is "good." My intention is more documentary than expressive or creative.

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But when it comes to painting, I'm stumped -- often and enduringly. What am I trying to do?

I haven't internalized that sense of what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. I don't have that useful vanity to push me along without others' approval. And painting can never be as passively receptive as point-&-click photography. Even if it were that easy, I aspire to something more than documentary record-making.

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For the past 18 months or so, I've been engaged with painting more as process art than anything else -- opening myself to the notions of a "creative journey," serendipitous effects, a sense of playfulness or experimentation with the materials. But today, looking over the completed work, the journey seems like a solipsistic dead-end, the serendipity feels more like folly, the playfulness indulgent. Even with those 2 or 3 works I like, I find myself asking: is this at all valid (or worthwhile or meaningful or relevant or even just beautiful)?

What am I trying to do? What am I wanting to say?

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Does it matter?

In his blog On Painting, Duane Keiser says that "... a painterly aesthetic develops when the way we like to move paint begins to mesh with our sense of what is beautiful." I like that sentiment, but as I look at yet another blank canvas this morning, I feel like I want something else or something more.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey there Helquin!

These are great photos and I love the one with shadows.

Is that last painting yours? I like it much.

gwensmom

astigmatism said...

Personally, it's 90% about the process. If I didn't enjoy it, there'd be little point in doing it.

What's kind of odd to me is that I find myself frequently having to explain to others who are engaged in artistic activities that I do it for myself, that I don't need to make money from it (photography, whatever) to feel "justified". I wonder: do people find this attitude self-indulgent (i.e., a negative thing)?

Since I could hold a crayon I've always drawn & gotten pleasure from it. It's been chiefly for myself. In fact, I can recall with anger & (still) a certain amount of embarassment when my 6th grade teacher discovered a notebook full of drawings considered "inappropriate", confiscated them & informed my parents. Such is part of growing up in the military, however. Nothing smacking of impropriety at all costs!

(The drawings, by the way, chiefly consisted of nude or semi-nude women, all carefully lined up and named.) :-)

The horror!

No wonder, when I took that quiz online, "What movie are you" that I came up with (twice, because I was highly skeptical) "Apocalypse Now".

P.S. I appreciate your bricolages, even if I don't read them all!

astigmatism said...

Whoops, the emphasis was supposed to be on "I", not "appreciate".

:-)

Helquin said...

Hi Gwensmom! Yes, the painting is mine -- and I appreciate the compliment, although I feel compelled to mention that the photograph is a terrible likeness. ;-)

Hi Astigmatism! Thanks for the comment about process. And I appreciate your appreciation of the bricolage. :-) I think you're the only person who has followed this particular "experiment" through all of its different venues & manifestations, and your encouragement has meant a lot to me.

astigmatism said...

I looked closer at your painting. I like its ambiguity. It could be a landscape from another world, a sun-tinged sea, or a Doppler wave of light receding into the Neptunian air...

Helquin said...

Thanks. I still wish I had been able to photograph it better. For some reason, my digital camera doesn't like that green... and I still haven't figured out how to show texture and reduce glare. The tripod has helped a lot, but I think artificial lighting is necessary. :-/ I should take a photography class.

astigmatism said...

Artificial lighting isn't necessary if your ISO is correct. Even on the non-SLR digital cameras there's setting where you can override the automatic ISO function.

You might also be able to (again, I don't know what camera you have) set the white balance to compensate for any incandescent or fluorescent lighting.

Helquin said...

Thanks for the tip. I'm going to get out the digital camera's manual and see if I can make these adjustments. Offhand I don't see any menu options for ISO function or white balance... but there's a little dial I never touch, decorated with 6 oddly cryptic pictograms. :-D