Archive for June, 2007

Some years ago I was making a point to my students: that we do not see objects, but tints and tones, flares and smudges, flashes and blurs; and that in fact we have little idea of what is in front of us. Our mind is constantly exploring and interpreting a shifting visual feast, making sense and recognizing pattern. But this interpretation is not visual truth, it is vision made into words; words which rob the experience of its atmospheric glory and reduce it to a shopping list of items.

Imagine, I told them, a dark stable, bright sunlight on the walls, and inside, deep murky darkness. In the darkness we can make out some movement, light playing on dark surfaces. What we see is smoothness, sheen, and small flashes glowing and fading. That’s all. Imagine it? Now paint it.

This is what I want you to paint. The mystery of shifting light, shimmering with nervous energy. We know what is in the stable, or we think we know. But we don’t. A horse, we think – but is there one horse, or more? We do not know; and the true artist does not want to know: his subject is the mystery, the unknown, the suggestion of hidden joy.

Sadly none of my students attempted this subject. I believe they grasped the idea, but did not attempt to put it into practice. So when nobody came up with a picture, I decided to do it myself.

(I set my students a somewhat easier subject, making the same point: a simple glass of water, but as a glass of water is invisible, it can only be deduced by the way the light is reflected and refracted by it. I asked them to paint these refflections, creating vision by making sense of confusion.)

This is my painting of the horse, trying to find a balance between mystery and comprehension. Friends of mine, John and Colleen, bought the picture nine years ago, and today I visited them on their beautiful horse farm, stabling thoroughbred race horses, a farm which they have had for about three years. At the time they bought the painting, they had no idea where life was going to take them.

Love the mystery, court it, embrace it.



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