Posts Tagged ‘Metaphysics’

Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico


de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data. Very mystical. De Chirico’s work after 1919 became more realistic and more traditional.

His later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that work.  It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark.  The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them.  The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives.  It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence.  I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  My work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing  something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

This post is a combination of a couple of posts from years ago. I really wanted to use his quote at the top because I often get that feeling from certain paintings, that they represent “voices from another planet,”  that they come from a point well beyond our realm of knowledge. I also wanted to include the video below that shows much of De Chirico’s metaphysical work. Take a look below.



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I was contacted a week or so back from a gallery that represents me, asking about an image that appears in In Quiet Places, the book that shows some of the paintings  from the 2003 -2008  time period.  I opened the book to the page so I could fully reference as we talked and it wasn’t until they asked about the color of the sun did I even realize that the sun was  blue in the painting.  It just didn’t register at first and my mind didn’t even recognize the fact that the color was unusual , instead focusing on the feeling it gave to the piece.

It was the feeling of a bright and seemingly normal day that was somehow different.  A strangeness that didn’t threaten but was instead like a sudden awareness of the unseen that surrounds us.

It was at this point that I realized that a painting that I had just finished had such a blue sun hovering in its sky.  It is the one shown here, a 20″ by 40″ canvas that I have titled OtherWorld.  It. too, had that feeling of the unseen dimension, one that is everywhere but remains hidden to us and, therefore, strange.  The sky in this  piece is painted in three sections that seem to hover transparently between the blue sun and the red tree, symbolic of that invisible other  world that surrounds us.  Perhaps it signifies the spiritual dimension or maybe it is a purely physical dimension of energies that we simply cannot detect or feel.  Or maybe it is both.

I surely don’t know.

But that blue sun made me feel differently in this painting than if it had been a more traditional color, say a yellow or orange.  It was as though I were suddenly aware of that hidden dimension and this knowledge changed my perception of all things normal, everything somehow just a bit different.  Slightly strange yet the same.  Like the feeling when the hairs on the back of your neck suddenly raise for no apparent reason.  You feel there is something there but it remains a mystery and then the moment is passed, soon to be forgotten. 

Maybe that is what this piece is about– how we remain remain strangers to those dimensions that we often brush against.  Those other worlds.


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