Gathering and Processing

An excerpt from popular culture:

“I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so… My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.” –Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

A jump back to 1872:

“…Does anyone say that the red clover has no reproductive system because the humble bee (and the humble bee only) must aid and abet it before it can reproduce? No one. The humble bee is a part of the reproductive system of the clover. Each one of ourselves has sprung from minute animalcules whose entity was entirely distinct from our own, and which acted after their kind with no thought or heed of what we might think about it. These little creatures are part of our own reproductive system; then why not we part of that of the machines? But the machines which reproduce machinery do not reproduce machines after their own kind. A thimble may be made by machinery, but it was not made by, neither will it ever make, a thimble. Here, again, if we turn to nature we shall find abundance of analogies which will teach us that a reproductive system may be in full force without the thing produced being of the same kind as that which produced it.”
-The Book of Machines, Samuel Butler

From the last work of Felix Guattari:

“Schizoanalysis, rather than moving in the direction of reductionist modelisations which simplify the complex, will work towards its complexification, its processual enrichment, towards the consistency of its virtual lines of bifurcation and differentiation, in short towards its ontological heterogeneity.”  -Chaosmosis, Felix Guattari

What sources really influence a painting?

When I’m composing an image, deciding whether to have the figure arch one way or the other, to position a hand higher or lower, the directing force is all gut level, I rely on sensations to gauge the value and direction of each decision. This first stage is a gradual process that ends with a gathered multitude of possible compositions, each being the result of a far greater multitude of shaping components, instances of everyday life, art in general.  My initially vague idea of how I want the figure posed may become more clear wherever I happen to be in that moment of contemplation; in the graffiti covering the walls of Izzy’s bathroom sweeping gestures of marker become a waistline and I feel less doubt about how the figures spine should curve; a plastic bag clinging in a tree branch hints that the head may work better positioned closer to the viewer.  As long as I continue to reflect on the composition throughout the day images emerge, new ideas come to light, piece by piece.  All this isn’t to say that other paintings (and art in general) fail to impact my decisions, they certainly do, yet to stop here and limit the contents of a gallery or figure painting as the only spring of influence for more painting would at best impede development, at worst birth incestuously stunted emulations.

I’ll not just search out images and verify their worth based on physical sensations, the reverse is true as well.  If what amounts to an ultimately untraceable combination (perhaps coffee-woman-friends-music-wind-shouts) suddenly fills me with a sensation that is in accord with the sensation I want my paintings to produce I’ll immediately try and code it as an image.  In this instance I try to see the image produced by starting from the sensation. Sound waves focussed through a surface that has been covered in fine sand will produce shapes, there is no reason to think a sensation, with similar encouragement, will fail to produce an image in kind.

A collection of gestures, possibilities for the composition, are slowly gathered, each materializing from obscure origins in the everyday ether (bathroom graffiti, poetry, the beautiful staff at Over Easy) and the influence of art in general (marble priestesses under Loggia dei Lanzi, effects of pentimento,).   These multiple possibilities are laid in simultaneously, immediately becoming obscured from their originality to the degree they combine to form a single interwoven figure, a new composition altogether that is a sum of all the amassed possibilities. “Still, there is a sense in which counting happens in painting… So even though it’s possible to look at the canvas and count two marks, that goes against everything that paint does.  Instead they form a set or a group or a composition that consists of two unique elements, two ones, existing together and making something new, which is another one. Paint adds like this: 1+1=1″†

I plan to either continue on this theme or begin on another next week, but for now I need to get back to painting! Thank you for reading.


What Painting Is by James Elkins





One thought on “Gathering and Processing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *