Pygmalion and Galatea, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1824-1904,
Oil on canvas, 35 x 27
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
In my previous blog, I discussed Jumping the Gun. This caused me to consider time in the studio prior to the work going to the exhibition and that dialogue occurring between the artist and the work made. The living breathing interaction between the creator and the work created. The subject of today’s blog will inevitably be of compromise for I lament in my decision to return to a job. I am reticent, as the dialogue in any studio requires dedication, patience, consistence, and due diligence which also requires time.
Dialogue is the relationship one creates with their own work, primarily when choosing a subject matter to pursue. In the myth of Pygmalion, the artist creates a sculpture so lifelike that she actually comes to life, because he has carved her with such gentle strength and grace, she did not look on him with contempt but shares in his compassion. The picture above is one of my favorite paintings, in this rendition, Gerome hides both the face of Galatea and that of Pygmalion and we intrude upon their private intimacy. The artist looses himself to that which he makes. In making art the artist does just this, we also refer to it as a birthing process. We transfer, all of our emotions to the success of the art at that moment. We communicated with the work, dialogue, to achieve a successful outcome. My work occurs over a long period, layers of time and paint go into the success of the work, yet the success in any given piece is also a result of its connection to the content. Artists use drawings, readings, physical and personal interactions, the past, politics, writing and many other methods to come up with ideas for the pieces they create. For some the dialogue is very personal, and some spend meticulous time and effort in communicating their idea in the artist statement, gallery talks, and interviews. The goal of dialoguing is to make that connection and have it communicate its message more readily. Artists we were created to be communicators, art is a visual language. What would history be, if the politicians and religious leaders were the only ones to report about the times at hand?
The artist begins this discourse by deciding what method will best show the content. There are a myriad of options out there, my chosen method, paint, oil to be specific. There is vividness to the color in oil. I believe oil can do anything if manipulated in the right way. I also like shallow space since I focus on the subject quite intensely. Therefore, my context of oil must encompass my content of showing restrictive space. I once asked a friend, “Why do you use clay? What is the relationship between clay and your subject?” Caught off guard the artist had not thought about it. This is truly a question meant for creators whose outcome is exhibition driven, as an exhibition places as its primary function, a direct communicator (the image) in front of the viewer. It is a discussion question, followed closely by, how does the process you use in your work relate to the content.
Since paint has been in use for hundreds of years, you might think using paint lets me off easy. I must ask myself how the applications of paint will correlate to my desired outcome. Currently, my subjects are gourd like shapes that also reference seedpods; though I am confronting capacity for expansion like skin, my chosen shapes carry an animated nature. Contextually, I can choose to paint it whimsically with a hard dark edge, loose and drippy or soft, or use a dry scumbled brush. Dialogue questions arise such as, do I desire a serious reading, a humorous overtone, or, do I wish to achieve a serious overtone with a bit of whimsy. These are all important questions. I engage in the process as to whether these decisions will compromise the reading of the work. Realistically, a dialogue can ensue regarding all of the elements and the principles of art.
Resolution as to choice of content (subject matter) and context (desired meaning) will be consistent in the body of work which for my work will consist of successive images. I have more content than one work can contain, making more images enables the audience to engage in the narrative. Whether related or not each body of work affects the next body, as art is also therapy and used to resolve personal issues regarding the content. Once that exchange of ideas is resolved and all the work made, the work then moves into another level of exchange, with the audience. This audience may include the critic whose job is to analyze if the dialogue is authentic an interpreter. If the artist has fully engaged in the dialoguing process, the critic can be of great assistance by revealing missed conversation. Think of the critic as someone fluent in the language and versed in the historical canon of the subject.
The outcome of a diligent process is rewarding and a successful show results in the audience discussing the meaning of the work, the process and the interaction of each piece with the others. Therefore, once released the work takes on a new dialoguing process one that engages the artist in an exchange now the artist must see if resolutions were successful. As the artist grows and his/her venues get wider, the dialogue evolves. The work then engages its audience through gallery talks, and interviews, the artists becomes more and more aware of the realities in the work and is able to comfortably move onto new work and into new dialogue.
Can an artist just make art without all this pretension? Sure, you can.
However, ignoring the precepts and pretensions on mere principle of making art for the sake of making art does not enable the artist to evolve. I once asked a student of mine, “Did we ruin art for you?” Meaning did coming to school for art take the fun out. His response, “you know, when I decided to be an artist it was fun, yet, once I received my first assignment it then became a challenge.” The dialogue is not about the artist existing in a vacuum like Pygmalion with his marble statue Galatea; it is about sharing by visually communicating.