John Keith Kessel
Ten Thoughts About Art

(1) Relative freedom -- Relative control --- Relative freedom is the method.

(2) Participating in the wholeness that one experiences in existence is ritual which is creativity.

(3) Art is a way for me to greet the void: the greeting takes the form: "Thou art!"

(4) It seems to be our human nature to seek meaning(s) in everything we encounter and especially in everything we do. OK, but the mere fact of being, of coming into existence, is so magical that beside it the question of meaning becomes academic and really beside the point. Why should we wish to be beside the point when we are the point? I am happy if you, I, and the art (the doing and the questioning) can all exist, can be together. As we attach meaning to objects to the extent of our individual or collective abilities to do so, we should remind ourselves that those meanings are yours and mine (yours and mind) and while those meanings may be stimulated by a work of art (or whatever) the meanings do not reside in that other place, that object, but are rather our own, and our own responsibility, totally and completely.

(5) I am interested in a state of mind where the art is totally free to be. As a working artist this becomes a formal, even a technical, problem. As Franz Kline said: "If I paint what you know I bore you, if I paint what I know I bore myself, so I paint what neither of us knows." That's a good enough aesthetic for me, too. More specifically I like an art that is both simple and subtle. I like an art that acknowledges its origin in the mind without being too alien from the rest of the physical universe, from objects like rocks, clouds, trees, etc. The arrogance ofsuch a dream amazes me. "Art shows us what we don't know and never will." The most free art, by the way, is often the most structured, hence the popularity of, for example, grids.

(6) Actually what I do is make stuff. This making and this stuff has to do partly with what I see, partly with how I see, and partly with what I want to see. I do it to look at and b ecause I like the doing.

(7) I would like to say a bit about seeing. To see something is not as simple as most people would like to believe. This is reflected in the language, as when we look at a puzzle:
"Do you see this?"
"Yes."
"Now look at it this way."
"Oh, yes, now I see."

See meaning to understand to a degree that goes beyond (or back to) mere perception (which is usually filtered through all sorts of preconceptions). To really see is to break through all kinds of preconceptions and labeling. In my working process I find that if I can break through to a place where I can see, then I find that anything I do spontaneously and without preconception works equally well, but only if I can see it. But if not, then some anythings are more accessible to being seen than some other anythings. So my choice of whatever anything I choose is an aim at someone's area of visibility. What I do determines who can see it, and if I did something else someone else would see it. This is how I understand the element of control in my work. For me a successful work of art is one that I can see whenever I want to. The effort that goes into seeing has been incorporated into the piece, and nothing else is necessary, not even paint, or shape, or composition, though they are usually there also.

(8) This is the way I work... (Poetry makes the ambiguity of everything more clearly ambiguous):
Then, then now...
(If it hadn't been before, it was now).
Then, then now.

(9) I should like to point out that such thoughts (or even any thoughts at all) are considered slightly indecent in an artist who, if he or she wishes to make any claim at all to maturity, should have learned to keep his or her mouth shut. So please pardon me my indiscretion.

(10) And finally finally, its all art and all about art and nothing more need be said on that point.

 


The above was recreated in HTML to
look as much as possible like the original,
which was a photocopy of 2 typewritten pages.
 
Date: unknown (1969-75?)

 


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