Monday, February 13, 2017

Along the way...portrait video

Painting and all the arts are essentially aesthetic languages and science. They are comprehended and enjoyed through receptivity, just like music. Most are 22"x30" or larger, some of the drawings and prints are smaller.  Full screen is the best way to view.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Art and Satori

Antonio Salemme, Sculptor and Painter, 1892-1995

Before I ever began to paint, I hung out with Antonio Salemme 1892-1995, at his home and studio.  This was a period of around 2 years before I started doing art, and the doing of art was not something  I had on my mind initially. I was in my late 20's and Antonio was in his late 80's.  I looked at his paintings and sculpture, and when I had the nerve I would ask questions.


The King, an environment by Antonio, terra cotta,  around 18' wide


Much of the work he was doing contemporaneously, seemed rough and the opposite of sophisticated to my 'untrained' mind and eye.  I had never studied art before.  Much of his earlier work I saw was 'classical' and 'finished', again to my 'untrained' eye.

Portrait of Antonio's wife Martha, done sometime in the 40's

Like I said, I carried on this study with Antonio.  It was quite a taoistic event.  I hadn't signed up for any course work and everything just moved along quite naturally and spontaneously.  A very profound happening.  Essentially I saw great value in his more 'classical' expression and that gave me the faith and space to be open to his later work.     He would say quite often how much better the work he was doing at the time was than his earlier more formal work.  He stressed the value of spontaneity and would continually lead the analytical and critical mind back to the work by saying, "look at the brushstrokes!"

 I still have this awesome respect for his earlier work.  It is in truth modern classicism as is all his work from every period in his output, which virtually spanned the 20th Century.

Romeo and Juliet, Imaginary portrat, 23"x30", 1978

After 2 years and many hours of hanging out with Antonio in his studio.  After 2 years of trying to figure out what it was about his work that was so compelling to me, I had a major breakthrough.  We were looking at paintings in his studio and he put on the easel a recent work.  I immediately went into an internal mode of 'here we go again...'!   Here was another strange and seemingly primitive painting, all rough and childlike.  It was obviously spontaneous but really???  I said to myself, "here we go, another Salemme!"  Almost immediately the realization arose in me, that, that was the essential point!  It was a Salemme!  Here was this 88 year old Artist, who spent his life sculpting and painting in the absolutely most dedicated way.  He had attained a purity of expression that made him  one with the medium and because of this it was futile to pigeon hole his work, which I had been doing quite sub consciously for the last 2 years.  I watched my conceptual mind crumble and instantaneously the painting I had been looking at changed from something rough and unsophisticated to a work of sublime beauty.  My value system had been turned inside out A true satori, or enlightenment experience.  What I saw at that point in terms of the art was the art itself, not the conceptual associative storylines that had been reverberating sub consciously within my psyche for years.   Where I had been judging from that conceptual space I now could understand and appreciate from a place of direct experience.  Also at that point I could look through history and see who had that same depth of understanding about the art and craft of painting.   I had begun to understand a profound language that I really didn't know I was learning in the first place,  in the same way an infant must learn their spoken language, thru cultural osmosis.  And always the essential aspect of the language is the hand, heart and mind of the individual creating for the individual seeing. this the major point of a more mature seeing about art AND life.  At the same time I realized I wanted to partake in that joy of self expression, so my painting practice began under Antonio's nurturing guidance.  I had found a true mentor, as well as a true artist.  

 My art practice has been a specific series of satori experiences all grounded in what is called anubhava ie. direct experience in the yogic tradition. Art and painting as the cutting thru of conceptual mind.  It is essential buddhism in that my art work represents the marriage of the absolute and the personal.  In this way of understanding it also points to a new tradition of mastery in terms of the practice of art.  A practice that is an integral conscious part of the spiritual path, not unlike the Indian practice of raga/music.  A mastery built upon the artist's inner voice and intuition, built through a dedication to the conscious understanding of life energy/prana and its relationship to the medium.  Modernism.


a photo of a view of Antonio's studio

Friday, December 9, 2016

the nature of detail

When dealing with art there are 2 distinct 'levels' of detail. The first would be the detail that describes so called objective reality. In painting many times this approaches 'photographic' detail or what could also be termed neo-classicism. This is basically an adolescent approach to art and art appreciation. The appreciator says, "Wow, look at how well that artist captured 'that'. The artist working at this level of detail is basically dominated by a concept and need to attain some idea of perfection with regards to expressing the motif 'realistically'.. At the same time they dominate the medium with their 'technical' mastery.
There was quite a shift in this understanding of 'detail' in the 19th C with the advent of what is now termed impressionism. It is really the flowering of the modern and goes hand in hand with the shift from the agrarian to the industrial.
"Detail' becomes clearly AESTHETIC detail. The artists we love from that period like Cezanne, begin to rise to a more mature understanding of detail. They are less concerned with literal detail than they are now concerned with the inherent values of the medium itself. The 'picture' begins to take a less important aspect to the process and the 'painting' becomes prominent. In other words as an example of this more mature expression of modernism and painting the Cezanne below, shows us much more than the woods and Cezanne's expression of the woods. We see great attention to the personality of the brush and his care with the same. You can see every mark in the work and it all contributes to the overall color harmony and composition. You can see that all the major aspects of the medium are in balance. You can see the painting as the expression of the brush. You can see the painting as the expression of color. You can see the painting as an expression of the motif, ie. the woods. And, you can see the painting as an expression of Cezanne's artistic personality, ie. intelligence, thought, feeling and intuition. In essence all these aspects are one. You don't do this from an intellectual place. You enter into what could be termed the superconscious. It is also very taoistic. And really it is simple contemplative entertainment of a very high order and it is very detailed! It is aesthetic detail. It embodies a shift in consciousness from the adolescent need to show one's 'technical' mastery to the adult need to express oneself as the medium. It is music and with true receptivity can be appreciated as such. It is not easy to convey this teaching.  My teacher Antonio Salemme 1892-1995, would often say,"Look at the brushstrokes."  It is cutting thru conceptual mind.  This is the crux of the issue.