|Not Just Fixed Likenesses of the Named World:
I consider my paintings to be successful when in the mind of the viewer they are as fluid and changing as the shapes and swirls made by clear water moving over rocks in a mountain stream. The changes and motion I refer to are in the viewer's awareness, not in the paintings. The streamis the viewer's consciousness.& The changes and the movementare fluctuations in the viewer's understanding of what s/he is seeing while looking at one of my paintings.
In the mountain stream, the changes and the movement are created by the rocks and other obstacles in the water's path. Their counterpart in the viewer's mind are his/her personal memories, experiences, preconceptions, knowledge and whatever his/her genetic programming has provided.
That this is a universal human trait is demonstrated when
children delight in "looking for animals" in the shapes of clouds;
or when we project human likenesses and stories onto geologic
formations as a way of being able to recognize features in the
landscape around us; or when we name constellations of stars in
the night sky. All these very common and natural activities make
it easier for us to chart a safe and somewhat predictable course
through an otherwise unknown, potentially dangerous world. More
fundamentally perhaps this is an example of our very impulse and
ability to create language.
At first this may sound pretentious, too philosophical, abstract or perhaps even magical. But it does work. It works because it is built on the basic creative acts which we all continuously and automatically perform. Acts which are necessary for us to see and recognize the world around us.
I believe that this recognizing and naming function is a habit
of perception. Habits can be very useful, especially this one
which is so fundamental to our survival. Although such habits
serve very valuable purposes, they also shape and limit the way
we live. To expand those limits, it becomes necessary to break
or modify habits. While it can often be very difficult to do,
habits can be changed and I find myself dedicated to gaining the
upper hand on this one.
I value and depend on this particular habit or function of perception in order to live and survive, as do we all. I would never wish to be permanently deprived of this function. To have objects and environments constantly crumble and dissolve into undifferentiated reality, to suffer such chaos, to continuously be in such a state of mind, is to be schizophrenic. What I seek is the ability and freedom to selectively suspend this habit of perception so that I can see the world whenever I want with the freshness of "seeing for the first time,"while still being able to function well in our shared consensus reality.
Just as soon as a name or memory arises in response to an observed image or pattern fragment in the painting, that very same fragment is suddenly perceived to be a part of yet another entirely different and competing scene (seen), pattern or gestalt. The struggle between competing gestalts is what makes it easy to keep forgetting what has just been named.
The name, (i.e. the sense ofknowing that which is perceived) crumbles as soon as the recognition process begins again to methodically and instantly make sense out of the new, competing potential pattern, the very perception of which, destroys recognition of the first pattern. The puzzle, and the ever present urge to solve it, is compounded and continues to grow rapidly more complex as the viewer notices more and more competing images and patterns of images.
It is this same dynamic which is the basis of such optical
illusions as "Faces or Vase" and Rubin's "Double Profiles." I
take this dynamic to such a degree of complexity that the viewer's
diligent naming - knowingprocess breaks down.& Overwhelmed by the conflicting and continuous
cycle of recognizing, naming, seeing and forgetting, this boiling
cacophony of mental activity is abruptly silenced. A detachment
results from this sudden interruption and permits the viewer to
witness him/herself in the very act of making perceptible that
which is being perceived.
It is my hope that by working under these assumptions and by frequently placing ourselves in such a state of mind, we can gain some freedom of choice over the habits and functions of perception. We can learn how to "see" the world with the freshness, clarity and exuberance of innocence and to appreciate and apprehend not only our own individual consciousness but consciousness per se.