Archive for June 22nd, 2011

Elaine C. called this painting “Untitled” when she submitted it for the student show at the Evanston Art Center. There must be thousands of painting in the world by that name. That ”Untitled” is the best name for this painting becomes evident when you consider some alternatives. Since the painting was made in a class called “Impressions of Landscape,” she might have named it:Red Marble,  Red Mountain in the Distance, Landscape in Red and Green, The White Horizon.   Some artists name their paintings according to concepts or states of mind, such as: Orientation,  Oder and Chaos, The Strait and the Crooked,  Where Are We Going,  Fissures.

Make up your own. You’ll see that the name of the painting prejudices the way you see the work. Your mind will welcome any verbal guidelines because its job is to seek meaning. If you can translate the painting into words, you can walk away feeling smart. So you think. In high school English class your teacher asked you to paraphrase the issue in “A Road Not Taken” and you got an A on that paper. What a catastrophe. A work of art cannot be paraphrased, cannot be distilled down to its dead-concept “essence.”

Schopenhauer said, “All art aspires to the conditions of music.” That’s a powerful statement. He’s saying that art is about form and experience. We don’t paraphrase or summarize a piece of music. We experience it. Granted some symphonies get nicknames, but generally they are known by their numbers. The Beethoven Fifth, the Mahler Fourth, et al. Elaine was wise in sticking to “Untitled.” She’s saying, look at it, contemplate it, experience it.

The painting originated with a small collage, about 2”x3”. It was complicated to paint: the tuning of the reds and greens relative to one another; working with masking tape for the straight lines; the issue of clean edges vs. grainy edges; the illusion of a vanishing point outside the painting; the “marbling” (!) of the red.

This painting strikes me as very musical indeed. It sets up a counterpoint between the red area with its texture and the celadon-green-black passage with its stripes. That’s as verbal as I want to get about it, though the technical details are interesting and were discussed in class in the context of desirable or undesirable effects.   It doesn’t refer to anything or illustrate anything. It cannot be paraphrased. It exists as an object in its own right. I just want to look at it and let it absorb me.

For previous posts on the subject of collage and abstract painting, see Nov 15, 2010 and Dec 14, 16 and 22, 2010; Jan 8, May 3,8 and 20, 2011. In a future post I want to talk about Mondrian and “essence.”

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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