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Archive for May, 2014

14MayWestEggPlus
Here’s the fifth piece in this simulation of a gallery experience. When you go to a solo-show, you get drawn into this person’s sensibility. What kind of perception and thinking is going on here? You immerse yourself in these canvases, you’re puzzled, surprised, delighted, confused. You feel your brain is getting a bit of a scrubbing and you like how that feels. You may walk out more alert, seeing colors and shapes more vividly. Or powerfully moved, challenged to change your life, even. You may feel you should buy one of these paintings, live with it, relive those surprises and challenges, converse with it and let it open you to possibilities. This happens. Art is powerful that way.
Not with decoration. A decorative piece will make you feel comfortable and complacent and, of course, you like that. Helps with digestion, don’t you know. But art is something else. Art is part of how you develop and developing is work.
To get what I’m getting at here, you may need to get messy, sign up for a class and face the process. Get it? Experience! Btw, contrary to popular myth, 14MayWestEggFlipart classes are not relaxing. Slug it out with the Apollonian and Dionysian for three hours and you’ll be ready for a nap. And that’s a wonderful experience.

As the teacher I have the added pleasure and privilege of witnessing the development of my students’ paintings.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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14MayWhatNumber4
Again, the juxtaposition of chaotic and precise forms, round and rectilinear, irrational and rational, spontaneous and planned, fuzzy and delineated, Dionysian and Apollonian. The whole brain, not left or right, the works.
It’s well worth your time to contemplate what happens in your mind and your emotions when the 4 is superimposed here.

14MayWhatNumber
Btw, this swirling action was put on top of an earlier, abandoned painting in such a way that the early rectilinear shapes were left to show as pentimento, letting a shadow of memory and rationality connect us to yet another layer of time.
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14MayPlugByTheSea4

From our Evanston Art Center mansion by the lighthouse, we have a view of the lake and the 14MayPlugByTheSeaStartbeach. The lake and sky always play with color effects for us to gasp at. We get horizontal stripes, basically, and you might think those would make for a boring, too restful, composition. Well, yes, relentless horizontality can be challenging, but a challenge like that gets you thinking about your assumptions.
Bruce Boyer started with this recognizable sky-water-beach composition. Nice, low horizon, very comfortable and serene. Just for kicks we 14MayPlugByTheSeaStartUSDturned the canvas around. Now we have a high horizon with a yellow sky and a sunset-colored beach. Too weird, not realistic at all. Your mind then tries to see this thing as pure stripes: yellow, blue, pink-ish. You try. But the texture in the blue stripe is unmistakably watery and your imagination can’t let go of that association. That association overrides all the color weirdness of the yellow sky and pink beach because the mind really is attached to realism and is desperate to identify something with a name. Ah, lake! The lake is still there. From that assumption, all else falls into place.
14MayPlugByTheSea2But Bruce Boyer does not let it rest there. He needs a twist of irony, some semiotic double-coding, something to jab at your assumptions. Let’s play in the semiotics sandbox and put something on that beach. Something totally disassociated, something not from nature, something rectilinear, mechanical, man-made…the plug appears from nowhere and, behold, it’s just right.

14MayPlugByTheSea3
Well, it’s just right if you get Magritte and have a few brain cells that conduct surrealism for you. If you do, stay tuned. If you don’t, ditto.
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14BoyerSquRecBeforeThat’s how it started. What happens when the conversation starts with rectangles and squares? 14BoyerrectilinearBecause, you know, that’s what this is, a conversation. So, he puts down these rectilinear shapes and colors and then what? Then he goes across the room and looks. Just sits and looks. Listens, might be the better word. Because, the painting tells him what to do next. Suddenly he gets up and puts in lines, like that spiral on the lavender square. Then he lets it dry for a week, comes back, sits, listens/looks, gets 14BoyerrectilinearVaseup and puts in the flowers and vase. Whoa, some realism! Where did that come from? From the conversation, you square! So surprising and so right. Still not there. Let it dry and sit some more. Next week he created the illusion of a fluted column on the left, just enough three-dimensionality in that to keep the vase and flowers company. Now the conversation has come to some insight, can’t diagram, analyze or explain it, but it feels complete. That’s the painting process. Mysterious and so right.———————————–

14BoyerrectilinearVaseFinal
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14BoyerMitosis2
The works produced in my class, from one student to the next, all look different. I’m actually very involved in each student’s work process, but at the same time (I’m proud to say) the overall feeling in the class is one of intuitive play and experimentation.
In the next three or four post, l’ll show the recent paintings of one artist/student, Bruce Boyer.
Above is a finished painting, 30 x 40. Below, the first layer, which took one class period of three hours, is 14BoyerMitosisalready puzzling. For example, by virtue of their color the two orange areas relate to one another, but the one on the left, triangular in shape, appears to be in the background, the deepest background in fact; the one on the right, the round one, occupies the top plane. When we look at this painting our perception becomes purely visual. That’s a good thing.
The second layer is somewhat anticipated while he’s painting the first, but the triangles, rectangles and strings of the second layer position themselves of their own accord.
Even though I was a witness to the painting process and I have an image of the first layer to refer to, the final painting draws me in with its multiple associations and illusions of depth. I just want to look at this thing. It frees the mind to all sorts of possibilities. A good thing.
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14BlueBlackSplashAllowing paint to drip is part of the modern sensibility. You can see it in Picasso and Matisse, for example. It was shocking a hundred years ago, but not anymore. We moderns are invigorated by the physicality and the sometimes unruly behavior of the paint. We interpret it as a metaphor for energy and vitality. Modern painters may even chose to deliberately splash paint on the canvas.
Now, splashing paint is not as simple as it may sound. If you want the splash in a particular part of your work, you’ll soon discover that it actually tricky to achieve this. After all, you’re flicking a paint-loaded brush. Among the variables are: how high you swing the brush, with what movement, at what speed, and at what angle. It soon dawns on you that if you’re going to incorporate splashing in your painting, you need to—oh, this sounds ridiculous—practice splashing.
Maria Palacios, one of my painting students, made just this discovery recently. She has since moved on to experimenting with different techniques, but when the urge to splash strikes her again, I will set up a long work table for her and cover it with brown paper so that she can practice her swing. That will be revelatory.
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14StillLifeBosMaggyDBecause these boxes are not big (about 8-10 inches long), there was a Stage Set for every student, who 14StillLifeBosMaggyEcould move to get different angles of the thing. During this class, Maggy did two drawings of the same box, from slightly different angles. As in the previous class, she saw forms, this time playing with the repetition of triangles and trapezoids.
Her second drawing is shown here, top. This is fun to look at. It’s witty, in that some things are clearly stated, and some leave you guessing. You can tell 14StillLifeBosMaggyCthat she had worked through some possibilities and was committed to abstraction. Her first drawing of the same motif, at left, is more tentative. I recommend that students plan on doing more than one drawing, where the first one allows you to get your bearing on this subject in front of you and the second one will therefore by drawn with more conviction and daring.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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