Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cure for conceptual mind/art

 Cure for conceptual mind/art


I recommend the book 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind'.  These are a collection of talks by Suzuki Roshi.  For the artist it is a gold mine of psychological pointers in how to keep a practice alive.  For zen practitioners that is its purpose, to inspire through sharing the zen mind of Suzuki Roshi.  There are passages where he speaks specifically if briefly about art. Still, it is not too much of a stretch to substitute 'art practice' for when 'zen practice' is mentioned.
The truth is it is this fresh quality of beginner's mind that is at the center of the practice. 

  Suzuki Roshi says, "Always be a beginner.  This is the secret to the arts as well as to zen practice."

     I remember being at the University in the art department back in the late 80's.  I was appalled to hear the professor's speaking of the end of painting.  That it was essentially passe'.  To me that idea is simply ridiculous!   Yet this is what is tending to dominate the marketplace.  What is called conceptual art.  As if a concept could ever be art! As if we ourselves are simply concepts.  I am not totally devaluing conceptual 'art' but rather when you look at the medium - concept- it tends to appear more as a craft.  The manipulating and manufacture of concept into some kind of real world expression.  The medium becomes key to the true understanding of any expression.  All one needs to do is pay attention to the medium.  AS I have said before some mediums are simply limited by their very nature as to what they are able to express.  This doesn't make them worthless.  WE , however do need to be able to determine relative value, and this for the health of the culture.
Painting is an art that will not die.  Anyone who thinks that it is a retro art form is sorely mistaken.  We as a culture have not generally begun to catch up with the realizations of Monet and Sisley etc.(impressionism and post impressionism), although the teaching is wide spread that we have progressed far beyond that.  In my experience that is like the wine connoisseur saying, "It is a good red if it stays down!"
Beginner's mind is a phrase that points to non conceptual experience.  It is like coming home to who you are just now, at this very moment.  Painting can be a real vehicle for this consciousness.  Art is the very real vehicle for this consciousness.  Looking at the world with fresh vision.  And when you have a devoted artist like Rembrandt, for example, expressing with his lifetime of experience and mastery the nature of a child, you have the sublime heights of the artform expressed.  My teacher, Antonio Salemme (1892-1995) was an artist of that order and he, by his example grounded me on that path.  I call it the high aesthetic path of modern classicism (classic modernism).  It is always being a 'beginner'.
If you haven't read 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind' , do your self a favor and get a copy today.

 copyright(c)william deraymond

"The artist must always remain a child..."

              Antonio was 100 years old in this photo!
      Once I connected with Antonio, around 1980. I would go over to his house in beautiful Williams Township, Pa., 2 or 3 times a week.  ( Looking back I am awed by his openness and generosity of spirit!)  There we would talk about art and spirit over coffee with him and his wife Martha, a masterful painter in her own right.  Then we would go upstairs to his studio and look at paintings and sculpture.

At one of our very first meetings I had the nerve to ask him Why Art?  What is an artist?  What is art?  Now he had been practicing art for the better part of the 20th Century!  Anyway, his answer always stayed with me.   He spoke of the various archetypes the artist embodied...but most importantly, he said, "The artist must always remain a child!  No matter what conditions the  world presents!"

34 years later I am still practicing the art because of the care he showed in nurturing  my artistic expression.  A teacher, fellow artist,and a friend.  As long as his work is with us in the world, it will express the exquisite aesthetic, the originality of style..... his artistic consciousness... for us to  share.

Imaginary Portrait, oil, 23"x30"

Monday, September 28, 2015

Teaching Art

   Teaching art is very different than teaching technique.  Teaching technique is what mostly parades as 'art' teaching in the contemporary art 'academy'.  Teaching technique is grounded in an intellectual/analytical approach to art. Teaching art, however, is more the guiding of the student into their own intuitive nature or 'voice', so that the student becomes his or her own 'master'.  This approach is a soulful path.  It requires a profound receptivity and surrender.  This receptivity and surrender is the ground of the joyful or ecstatic path of the artist.  It is a non conceptual path.  It is the path of originality. 

Now, this commitment to the joy of self expression is the Teacher.  It is life energy (or prana in yogic terms) informing the moment to moment expression of the medium in relation to motif. One must surrender to some degree the will to the intelligence of the life energy. There is joy connected to this surrender. This joy is the quality of the self expressing directly.  Once connected and committed to the joy of self expression, one learns to  listen to and for this inner/intuitive voice.  One's voice then evolves.  One's style evolves.  Each work teaches and furthers the process.  One truly has become one's own teacher.  What brought joy today may not bring joy tomorrow.  There is this natural leading oneself further along.  So copying oneself becomes less of an issue.
A human teacher is able to point out the direct beauty of the medium and keep the student on this path of direct expression.

Modernism 1


In this series of writing I am contemplating, I am going to try to share my life's work and purpose as an artist.  I have a unique perspective, having been educated by a classical modernist or modern classicist, Antonio Salemme 1892-1995,  whom I met when he was in his late 80's and I was in my late 20's.  He had been a meditator and spiritual practitioner for over 40 years at that point.  I had a background in yoga and psychedelics.In my early 20's, I explored yoga and meditation hand in hand with psychedelics.  Then, before I met Antonio, I devoted myself to the renunciate path of yoga through sahaja yoga or kundalini yoga.  No drugs at this point.  Here I learned of the nature of prana or life energy and the evolutionary force of the 'spontaneous'.  Antonio had been practicing the spontaneous as an artist for years at this point, and while it took me a few years of close association with him as a mentor and friend to begin to understand the value of his work, it was the fact that he kept stressing the spontaneous that kept me struggling with my 'education'. This education turning out to be of the essence of taoism.  A natural, spontaneous way.  In the yoga, the path was titled the Sanatana Dharma, translated as the eternal path.  Om.  Here is where we start to understand the art as an eternal path dealing with eternal principles.  This is also the place where we begin to define, or redefine, or clarify, in the light of the eternity of the moment, the meaning of modernism.

My definition of modernism, expands from the etymology of the word....'of the moment', to embody the eternal principles or archetypes, if you will, of the eternity of the moment.  In other words, color is always now present as a vibratory reality.  Red has no past or future.  There is always space present, and 'things' in space.  Antonio used to say, "Color and form are one."  This is not just an aesthetic comment but is true universally.  Rodin made the quote, "Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump."  These are essentially 'non-conceptual' realities.  No past, no future. Grounding in practical mysticism.  Nothing to believe or have faith in.  What is now.In art it is possible to look back through history and see the artists whose central practice is expressing the eternal principles of the art form.  There was a flourishing of the practice in 19th C. France in what is known as impressionism and post impressionism.  Color, brush, world (or nature), and artist's personality in harmony and balance.  The medium and the artist at one.  Because they were grounded in the medium and at least instinctively honor the medium as eternal, what they expressed in the moment still lives in the moment.  Modernism! 

This ends today's musings...


copyright (c)william deraymond 2014

Understanding Color

     The appreciation of color, the physics of color, the science and aesthetics of color is essential to appreciating painting and sculpture.  "Color and form are one."  I first heard this from Antonio Salemme 1892-1995, my art teacher.  But, the principle is as old and new as the universe itself.  It goes beyond the arts, yet the arts are founded on this reality.  A painter and one who appreciates painting should grasp this principle firmly.  A brief meditation focusing on this should be sufficient.

All you see is color.  Just like all you hear is sound.  In our culture specifically sight and color is conditioned intimately with the 'form' the color takes.  Unlike with sound, which is much more of a direct experience not associated with concepts.  We don't have to think about music so much...we listen to the music and like it or not.  This liking or not can be associated to various concepts, like what is current and contemporary, but regardless of those 'stylistic' preferences we hear it and are moved by it. 

Appreciating a painting can be just as much a direct experience as listening to music. Is just as much music. Generally however, unless something is conceptually speaking 'abstract' (i like to say, "the abstract nature of reality is the source of beauty."), the viewer gets hung up on the conceptual associations brought up by the sub-conscious mind, or, immediately goes into  a seemingly conscious and intellectual analysis of the work, which might be quite reasonable and ends up echoing the meaning of the work, but ultimately is more reflective of the 'expert on honey, never having tasted honey'.

So the artist, looking at the world or 'motif', sees the world in terms of color and color relationships.  There are so many psychological (psyche means soul, by the way...) threads connected to the art, moving out from this particular event, the artist looking at the world, that it would be too much to try to follow each one in this particular writing.  But ultimately, out of the relationship to the 'world or 'motif'  which can be either so called 'abstract' or so called 'representational', the artist makes music based on the color vibrations chosen based on that relationship.

The truth is, something so called 'abstract' is very real and exactly what you see.  Our concepts, subconscious or not fuel the mind's associative activity.  This  secondary event is not the truth of the work, but true of the reflective mind process.  And just so, something so called 'representational', can be very so called 'abstract' when seen from the direct experience of color perspective and color harmony, the music of the work.  I mean really, apples and flowers by Van Gogh or Gauguin or Cezanne are about color harmonies and brush work.  They are about the self expression of these artists' in terms of the medium, much more than they are about apples and flowers specifically.  They are all rendered beautifully according to the artist's personality.  This is one of those  threads I mentioned earlier...but finally with their work as an example, you have exquisite music as color harmonies and you have  the motif as well.  Balance.  There is also in this balance, a balance of reason and intellect as well as feeling and intuition.  Here reason and intellect is guided by the intuition.

Closing for now, here, receptivity is the first approach.  Receptivity and suspending judgement.  This will allow the judgement to arise from 'within' ultimately.  This receptivity will finally offer you a direct and intuitive experience of the meaning and 'music' of the work. It takes some practice and attention.  Key to this is the understanding of color and its ability to move you as music.  The palette and brush of an artist having as many potential tonalities as any musical instrument heard by the ear, and just as much space for the improvisation, self exploration and expression of the artist.


copyright(c)william deraymond 2015



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Painting the motif - art for art's sake

There are 3 major motif in painting, the still life , the landscape, and the portrait.   It is the abstract qualities of brush and color and the artist's expression that go into the creation of the image.  I discovered fairly early on in my artistic expression and exploration that the abstract nature of reality is the source of beauty.  Or simply put, reality is beautiful! (and abstract)  Paradoxical?.

Anyway,  I think most of us could agree that our world and culture in general is in some serious trouble.  It may be that things are going to get more insane over the next years.  I mean, really, assassinations because of a cartoon??!!  How does that psychology get healed? And how long will that take??  Then there are the issues with the super wealthy sucking the life out of the culture just because they can and one billion just isn't enough.  We should legislate a limit to personal wealth!  Then there are the issues of global warming and the extinction of animals and the continuing degradation to the environment and food sources, pretty much all at the hands of the wealthy and their corporate interests.  Will the tide turn in time to even save our species?  It is a definite maybe, maybe not!  What is an artist to do?

Art transcends any of these issues.  As an artist and human, I feel it is my responsibility to pursue my vision of beauty as the expression of  consciousness that I know it to be!  Do I need to illustrate the violence and depravity of the world.  I could.  But would it really do any good? Look at Goya's fabulous etchings of 'the disaster of war'.  Done a few hundred years ago,  didn't seem to do much by way of waking people up to ending war and its horrors. The value of Goya's work is the aesthetic genius and execution that went into it, and even with these dramatic scenes, he 'transcends the subject.' As Antonio would say.

Art is an aesthetic science that of its essence involves a consciousness that transcends the external, sometimes hard realities of our day to day lives and the struggles we have to survive and thrive.  A work of art is a doorway into psychological, spiritual space.   A contemplative doorway. An object of meditation.

Dance, Music, painting, sculpture, literature can reflect and illustrate the issues of the day, but their real value always lie in the realm of art for art's sake,  the realm of the transcendent human spirit.  The arts are nuts and bolts mysticism.  They don't require belief.  They simply require your presence and receptive attention.  Then you are transported within, ever more deeply.

I make the conscious decision as an artist, to focus on the primal and primary beauty of these fundamental motif.  The still life.  A flower and some objects in the world, a vibratory world of color and form.  Flowers symbolic of enlightenment and archetypal beauty.  The landscape.  Light and air, green and blue, sky and earth, water, home, merging into life energy-prana in the moment to moment ecstasy of self and color and brush and world.  The portrait. Honoring the human and its face in all its psychological beauty manifesting as well in this aesthetics of spontaneity.

The rightful place of art is to inform the politics, inform the sociology, the human, with transcendence.  Not to be reactive as its primary impulse but rather to create the culture.  Moment to moment where the culture truly lives.  Here and now.  In us all.  Not outside anyone.

copyright(c)william deraymond 2015


Friday, September 25, 2015

In Defense of Painting and Art

In defense of Painting and Art.

Every so often in today’s contemporary cultural mix, I hear painting be criticized as an art ‘that has run its course’.  The following is from a recent New Yorker profile article on Hans Ulrich Obrist, an important contemporary art curator, critic, and historian,  D. T. Max writes:

Obrist is not interested in all art equally. He can be skeptical about painting, because, at this point , he told me, it is difficult to do meaningful work in that medium.

(these lines taken from a paragraph of a much longer article of the man. New Yorker Dec 08, 2014)

I don’t really want to dwell too much on a given individual, rather I want to address what I see as the underlying assumptions that have gone into forming this kind of unconscious and even foolish take on contemporary ‘art’.  The above statement is simply emblematic of a specific approach to creativity that has been in motion since the great break from the neo-classical concept of art in the 19th C, that is named ‘impressionism’.  So it is simply a catalyst for me writing this. Here, I am offering another view of the contemporary, and yes, I am not at all skeptical about painting and the ability to do meaningful work in that medium. I am a painter in fact. It turns out that meaningful can be understood in more than one way. especially when it applies to art and its purposes and value to the human. And importantly, given the cultural conditioning, focusing on the nature of the medium is essential to understanding art, craft and value.

That so many contemporary art ‘experts’ subscribe to the idea that ‘painting is dead’, is laughable if it weren’t such a destructive viewpoint, AND if many of these people weren’t in positions of influence. It is primarily a viewpoint centered in concept and egoism.

Let’s look at the nature of ‘medium’.

Every form of expression and creativity occurs through a medium. In order to appreciate the work it is essential to have some feeling and understanding of the medium. Rather than critique the various and variegated mediums of contemporary expression and performance that have virtually nothing to do with painting and everything to do with some concept or other, I’ll focus on painting. Should mediums even be compared? I am not going to say there is no value in ‘new’ mediums of expression, simply that when you explore the mediums of conceptuality that embody that expression, I think you will find that they are more mediums of craft than of art. Also there is a concept that new in this conceptual sense IS better. Ultimately however,  it is the medium that tells you if it is craft or not or capable of being art. Now it is fashionable to say it is all art. This is a specific human opinion and viewpoint. To make the distinction between art and craft takes some right education and background. If you cannot make that distinction or are unwilling to, it means you are not really appreciating art, its real meaning and value. (Let me say here I have nothing against craft, in fact I love craft! Art certainly has its grounding in craft.) Maybe it just takes a refocusing of attention from experiencing the world as primarily conceptual to seeing the world as distinctly real and able to be experienced directly without concept.   In order to make the distinction between art and craft one must contemplate deeply the personality of the medium in its ability to express the human psyche.  Like, for example, is pushing a button like  pushing color with a brush?

The medium of painting will always be meaningful to human experience, and is always available for deep and meaningful , original expression!  From the cave paintings to today, the medium remains constant and profound. At the same time as humans have evolved so has the art. What remains constant is the medium. Brush or fingers or whatever ‘tool’ applying color to a surface, with a resulting work that represents the consciousness of the individual that did it.  This is key. What continues to evolve is the artist’s understanding of the medium and its potential to communicate the ‘self’.  The individual at the center.  Not the concept of an individual. So the truly modern and contemporary, enlightened reality of the art would be the view in which the individual expresses who they are as the medium. The value being the self. The value being originality, instead of some stylized, conceptual version of reality or originality that is the hall mark of neo-modernism, the reverse side of the coin of neo-classicism.

How do we appreciate this kind of originality? First, we have to remain very open and receptive. Trusting that a true judgement will ultimately arise out of that openness and receptivity. This degree of receptivity can be and is threatening to conceptual mind and ego. However, the rewards are great. Once we truly recognize the value of the human at the center of expression and beyond concept, the journey takes on an ever deepening appreciation of the medium’s potential for expressive communication.  Perhaps it would be better to say before concept rather than beyond concept. I am reminded of a zen Koan, “Show me your face before Mother and Father.”

So, if you look at the evolution of art as a conceptual journey than the reasonable outcome in the contemporary is that painting has run its course. or ‘Painting is dead.’ If however, you are seeing the art from a place of direct experience and can honor the human expressing from the first place, then the door has opened to a virtually infinite arena of self discovery, exploration and expression in the painting and sculpture. The value being as it has all along, the original expression of a human being in terms of the medium.

Let’s briefly look at that profound modern break from neo classicism known as ‘impressionism and post impressionism’. Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Gauguin, Morisot,

Le Trec, Degas, Cezanne, Van Gogh, etc…to name some famous examples. Check it out. While related, each remains themselves. Each expresses their artistic personalities AS THE Medium, ie. brush, color, motif, and personality in balance. How is it that Gauguin does a still life which is absolutely beautiful but is completely different than a Cezanne still life, or a Van Gogh still Life? Yet, they all ‘speak’ of the brush, and they all create astounding color harmonies and compositions. This is the esssential value of the modern. This ability and gift to share the self as the medium, not as a conceptual experience but as a direct experience.

So much in our contemporary culture instigates against this kind of originality. The pressures of a vast marketplace and academia run by individuals more concerned with the dogma of contemporary art and art history, business, prestige and financial reward than art, is certainly part of the aesthetic and artistic dilemma artists face. Believe me, I don’t have a problem with financial reward or business except in how it perpetuates the neurotic issues so brilliantly illustrated by the tale of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes”. It seems we humans have this uncanny ability to take the real for granted, while believing our own bullshit and the illusory hierarchy of The Emperor and his New Clothes.

To end for now, this whole issue is again illustrated by a Sufi allegory about the divine fool Nasruddin, who, is searching for his keys at night under a street lamp. A friend comes by and takes up the search with Nasruddin to help. Finally the friend says, It doesn’t look like your keys are here. Nasruddin replies, I know, I lost them over there, but this is where the light is! 

Still Life with small sculpture, 16"x20"

Still Life with small sculpture, 16"x20"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Along the North Coast of Ca.  in Mendocino Co.  Painted during a pleinair festival the week of Sept 7th thru 12th. 2015.  24"x30"  This painting was judged 3rd place in oils. $1500. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

watercolor portrait of Morgana.  2008.  $450. 22"x30"  Notice the spontaneity of the brush.  Beaautiful color harmony.  Work like this is based in the practice of zen brush and ink aesthetic.  To be enjoyed at the roots of perception.  click on image a couple of times for a good detail view.

zen brush and ink, zen mind, beginner's mnd  22"x30" 1982, $450  framed and matted properly and you have a pure aesthetic experession of the natural beauty of brush, ink and motif and composition.  Created to be experienced at the roots of perception.  Get in touch with any questions or offers.

Monday, September 21, 2015

16"x20" pleinair oils. $450.  Done 9/20/15 at Easton Riverside arts Festival Pleinair Competition.  I think it will be the last time I 'compete'.  Suzuki Roshi explains that competition is the worst form of practice.  At the very least there should be some kind of forum where the judges explain their choices.  I saw a lot of good work at this event, as I have seen at most events.  There ought to be more critiquing and dialogue.  Never \met a judge or critic who I thought knew better than me, except the great and inimitable Antonio Salemme 1892-1995.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Another blast from the past!  Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.  My art teacher encouraged me to 'always be a beginner...'  A phrase from the great Suzuki Roshi.  There is also a yoga equivalent to this, in which there is a free expression of prana or life energy.  The will, in this case, serves this free expression of prana.   .  'Siva aqnd Parvati' 22"x30"   

It was May 1982 when I began painting.  I, inspired by my
Teacher Antonio Salemme 1892-1995, began painting practice by using a zen brush and ink.
Thus, I began as a beginner, and the aesthetics of spontaneity took hold of my soul.