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Posts Tagged ‘Obsessionism’

I’ve got several things on my plate this morning so time is short. Thought I’d rerun the post below because it describes a bit the dark to light process I often use. I also liked this simple painting but, as I write below, I wasn’t sure about it at the time, wasn’t sure it would translate well to others. Time has passed and I still find myself liking this painting. Plus, it quickly found a new home so someone saw something similar in it. Give a look and have a great day.

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“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”   

-Leonardo Da Vinci

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I’ve been working on a number of pieces lately that start on a black base of paint, rising from the darkness as each subsequent layer adds more and more light. I still think of this additive process as being a form of sculpture, one that starts with a flat surface and builds out in contours that give it definition and texture. Each layer of paint is like adding clay to the supporting armature of the sculpture. It’s a process that is hard to pull away from when I immerse myself in it. There’s something about seeing the colors grow more and more vibrant on the surface that becomes mesmerizing. I guess that’s why I often refer to this work as obsessionism.

This small experiment, a 10″ by 12″ piece on paper, is in this vein. It’s one of those pieces that I’m just not sure about because I like it but I’m not sure if I like it for what it actually is or for the experience, the obsession of the moment in painting it.

Or because it is simply from my own hands, part of myself. Like a parent looking at something their child has done and wondering if they like it because it is truly good or simply because it was done by their child, their flesh and blood.

Sometimes I can finish a piece and it instantly stands apart and on its own, complete and independent. Ready to move on like a young person proclaiming their emancipation from their parents. Other times, there are pieces that cling closer to me, perhaps too attached to yet stand on their own, at least in my eyes. Because I am unsure, I become more protective of these pieces because they do feel more personal, more of me.

It’s a hard thing to describe, this uncertainty in a piece, especially when it feels objectively right. Can a parent ever fully take out their own subjective view of their offspring and see them objectively as they really are?

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-GC Myers -Dark Work  ca 2002I am pretty excited to include a small group of older paintings in my upcoming show, Alchemy, which opens November 16th at the Kada Gallery.  The group consists of four paintings from 2002, all painted in darker tones and without  the Red Tree that inhabits so much of my other work.  This work, which is often called my “dark work,” was painted in the months of 9/11 and reflected the state of mind of myself and most of our nation at that point, seeming less optimistic  and more foreboding in the context of the time.  To me this felt like important work, at least on a personal level, in that I knew that I was completely emotionally invested in each piece.  As much as I can say about anything I’ve painted, this was work that I felt had to be done.

This body of work sold well but there was a general cooling of the art market  in the aftermath of 9/11 which left me with several of these pieces that came back and have stayed with me in the studio for the past decade.  They have remained favorites of mine through this time, always surprising me with their solidness and presence when I pull them out.   In my opinion, they have aged well and time has washed away a bit of that time  in which they were created.  They have now taken on a much different feel for me.  I don’t get that sense of foreboding from them anymore.  If anything, there is a guarded optimism in this work, the distant glows over their horizons seeming more pronounced than I remember at the time.

While all that has changed is the context of time, I now see them as meditative and serene.  I will be interested to see how this work strikes viewers at this show.

The pieces are show individually below, the first being  Desideratum,  11″ by 15″ on paper:

GC Myers- Desideratum smThe piece below is Night Karma which is 16″ by 20″ on paper.

992-091 Night Karma smNext is Dark Cadence which is 9″ by 19″ on wood panel:

995-323 Dark Cadence sm

And finally, here is Soft Dream of Night which is 14″ by 24″ on paper.  I wrote about this piece here several weeks ago.

995-324  Soft Dream of Night sm

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GC Myers- Muse 2002

GC Myers- Muse 2002

I am now preparing for my show at the Kada Gallery, Alchemy, which opens in two weeks on November 16th.  Along with all of my new work for this show I am including a small group of paintings from around 2002.  These are paintings that were darker in tone , both visually and emotionally, than my other work at that time, reflecting my feelings in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.  These pieces have not been shown in years and I believe that they have aged well, especially when they are not considered in the context of the time in which they were created.  I am eager to show them again.

I went back in the archives of this blog and came across this posting that speaks a bit more about how I handled the reception for this work when it first went out into the world.  This painting, Muse, is not part of the group.  It is, as noted below, in the  trusted hands of a man who I consider a friend in Virginia.

here’s what I wrote back in 2009:

This is a painting from back in 2002 titled Muse. It was part of a series I was painting at that time, in the months after 9/11, that some of my galleries still call my Dark Work. It was painted in a style that I call my obsessionist style these days, meaning that it is painted by building layers of color over a dark ground as opposed to the reductive style I have used so much in the past where I apply a lot of wet paint, puddles, then pull it off the surface until I reach the desired effect. 

When I was doing these paintings they seemed like a stark contrast to the reductive work, especially given the tone of that time. They were well received although not with same gusto as the lighter, more transparent, work. I felt very strongly about this work but allowed my desire to please the galleries need for my most sellable work override my desire to pursue this work to further levels. I moved back to primarily painting the wetter reductive work and was able to continue to push that work further through color and texture. I never regretted the move back to this work but there was always a little nagging voice in the back of my mind that I hadn’t pushed the other work to its full destination and had let outside influences hinder an inner process. 

I have begun to see my body of work as my own personal narrative, the story of who I am and how I am seeing my world at any given time. In order for it to be so it must be an honest and complete reflection, guided by my own inner muse and not outside forces telling me what I should or should not do. It took a while but I realized that I have the ability and right to control my own personal narrative, to tell my story in my own way. 

I’ve done this in many ways for years already. I am constantly given ideas for paintings or am requested to do commissions but seldom do I follow up on them unless they fit in with where I see my work heading. In that aspect, I normally reject outside influence. I stick to my narrative.

The piece above, Muse, actually fits this post well in that it now belongs to a man who asked me to do a painting of his son, a truly gifted guitarist. He sent me photos and they were wonderful. He was long and lanky with a really interesting ethereal look, a portrait painter’s dream. In fact when I looked at the pictures I could only see him as painted by other painters I know. I struggled for a while trying to do something with this but in the end I realized it wasn’t part of who I was at that point, not part of my narrative. I let it slide and after a long while, apologetically explained this to the father who was extremely gracious. 

So I am back focusing more, at this time, on this obsessionist work, allowing it to be a bigger part of my story. I will continue to paint in the other style but I just feel that there is something waiting to be told, something to be discovered in this other work at this time. That is my decision made without outside influence, my choice for my personal narrative.

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GC Myers 2013“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”   

-Leonardo Da Vinci

 

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I’ve been working on a number of pieces lately that start on a black base of paint, rising from the darkness as each subsequent layer adds more and more light.  I still think of this additive  process as being a form of sculpture, one that starts with a flat surface and builds out in contours that give it definition and texture.  Each layer of paint is like adding clay to the supporting armature of the sculpture.  It’s a process that is hard to pull away from when I immerse myself in it. There’s something about seeing the colors grow more and more vibrant on the surface that becomes mesmerizing.  I guess that’s why I often refer to this work as obsessionism.

This small experiment, a 10″ by 12″ piece on paper,  is in this vein.   It’s one of those pieces that I’m just not sure about because I like it but I’m not sure if I like it for what it is or for the experience, the obsession of the moment in painting it.  Like a parent looking at something their child has done and wondering if they like it because it is truly good or simply because it was done by their child, their flesh and blood.  

Sometimes I can finish a piece and it instantly stands apart and on its own, complete and independent.  Ready to move on like a young person proclaiming their emancipation from their parents.   Other times, there are pieces that cling closer to me, perhaps too attached to yet  stand on their own, at least in my eyes.  Because I am unsure, I become more protective of these pieces because they do feel more personal, more of me.  

It’s a hard thing to describe, this uncertainty in a piece, especially when it feels objectively right.  Can a parent ever fully take out their own subjective view of their offspring and see them objectively as they really are?

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Well, I am finished with the large canvas I started over three weeks ago.  It is the largest piece in size I’ve ever attempted by quite a bit at 54″ by 84″ which I often found intimidating at times, as I freely admitted here.  But that intimidation and fear faded over the weeks as the painting evolved, moving from the darkness in which it began to the vibrant brightness of the finished product.  This shift in tone mirrored my own shift in my feelings for the painting.  I began with a fearful anxiety that began to ease with each new layer of color added.  I began to feel a lightness in myself as the piece began to find its unity and rhythm and a sense of confidence when it began to start taking on a life of its own as it neared completion.

It was interesting  to see how its domination of the studio space changed.  At first, its size and darkness made it seem at times like a big canvas eclipse blocking out and absorbing all incoming light.  But near the end it bagan to have its own glow, seeming to give off more light than it absorbed.  Even after the large floodlight under which I work was turned off, its glow cut through the hazy darkness.  Those moments of seeing that really struck me and gave me a real sense that it was becoming what I hoped for it. 

 As the final strokes went on to the Red Tree that stands above the lake, bringing the piece into a state of completion, it began to move completely into its own realm, its own life.   I felt like a parent watching their child move out of their home and into their own life.  The  influence of the parent is evident but there is a point where the child moves on, no longer dependent on the parent.  It is a moment filled with both the joy of  pride and the sadness of loss. 

 Like this parent, I feel both of these emotions.  I am proud of how this painting has come around and grown into something strong and viable but sad that my time with it has come to an end.   Well, close to an end.  I will spend the next few months with it, making little tweaks here and there.  Nothing large.  Just a tiny  rounding of the edges here and a smoothing of the line there. 

I’m calling this painting The Internal Landscape.  I will discuss this at a later date along with some other observations about it.  But for now, I’m going to simply stand back and take it all in again.

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I’m in the final stages of finishing the  large canvas that I’ve been documenting here, spending a lot of time weighing the weight of the colors and forms and adding a bit here and there to bring it into balance.  It’s slow work and sometimes I have to just get away from it to clear my head.  I have spent this time working on finishing a few other paintings that have been in hanging in limbo for some time, in various stages of semi-completion.

One such piece is shown above, In the Early Morning, a 12″ by 36″ canvas that I started some time ago and just couldn’t get it past the initial stages of laying in the composition and several layers of color on the sky.  The color just wasn’t working for me on this piece and I wasn’t excited by where it seemed to be heading.  So I put it aside, thinking that eventually I might try again.  I usually do try again although there is one similarly sized canvas in my studio now that is about a year old and about which I seem to have enthusiasm.  That piece may just end up getting painted over if only to get it out of my sight and mind.

On the other hand, this painting survived its time in limbo and I find myself glad of it.  It felt, the more I looked at it, as though it needed a single color to bring it together thematically.  I initially thought of making it a nocturnal scene but could see that, while I wanted the color to be blue, I wanted it to be lighter.  It ended up being more of a dawn scene, a time to which I am attracted to naturally, both personally and in my work.

I don’t know what this piece is saying yet but it doesn’t matter to me now.  It has a placid feel and I find the blues soothing throughout this scene.  It’s beauty is enough for now– in the early morning.

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I thought I  would show a bit more of the large canvas I’m working on at the moment.  As I’ve described in previous posts, it’s a 54″ tall by 84″ wide canvas that has been biding its time for nearly 10 months in my studio, waiting for me to finally give it some life.  Well, it’s beginning to take shape and I can see better its final stages, if things work out as I hope.

I’m always a little hesitant to show these pieces in progress because sometimes they lack the life that the final stages of the process bring.  But even though there is still a lot of depth to be added, this piece is gaining animation quickly.  It’s been interesting seeing how the colors of the fields have changed as other colors are added in the process, some of the reds and oranges that seemed to jump off the canvas modulated in intensity by adding varied shades of green and yellows.

I’ve brought the sky to a certain point where it creates enough ambiance that I can be influenced by it  but is not yet at its final intensity.  I see a certain blue in my mind that will be a challenge to pull off here but at least it is there now, pulling at my mind. 

The same goes for the great black void that is a lake in the center of the canvas.  I see a certain color and depth ahead for this critical part of the composition,  which is the focal point for the whole thing, everything else revolving around and reacting to it.  The overall strength of this painting  is dependent on my ability to recreate the color that I see in my mind for this section.  If I don’t reach that visualized color, what could be a very good painting could become a ho-hum piece.  As a result, my mind is always running through methods of achieving that color even while I am at work on other parts of the painting.

Today should be a pivotal day for the bigger part of the composition, as I finish up this layer of color on the landscape and begin adding what may be the final layer for some parts of it.  The composition should really come together at this point,  just waiting for that color in the lake.

We shall see.

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