As I have grown into a visual artist, I have come to consider each finished work as a potential template for another, more simple or complex, one, that could emerge from it. This way of viewing finished work derives from an awareness of the many part-whole relationships embedded in a work, a way of viewing some part of the work as a new, undeveloped whole. It is a perspective nurtured by an awareness of the almost unlimited changeability of digital works, an awareness of opportunities which, for an experienced digital artist, lie ready to hand.
Along with the awareness of technical possibilities on which new work could be based given the template of an old one, there is, for me, an awareness of my own mental growth that I want to realize. Being as unfinished myself as the work of art I have created, I what to “condense”. I am wondering what in a specific segment of an older work of mine asks for being elaborated upon, added to, reshaped, transformed, perhaps radically modified. The question arises: where in this work exist potentials of which I have so far remained unaware?
In creating the collection CONDENSATIONS, presented in this issue of Jaamzin, I have focused on exactly such questions, seeking the potential that is alive but not fully developed in the older work before me now.
Answers to questions like the above are never entirely rational ones. They mostly derive from intuitions that are difficult to spell out in language.
There are infinitely many ways in which pictorial regions of a work can be repurposed, transformed, and repositioned for the sake of forming authentic new work. It all begins, for the artist, with what is, at any point, ‘seen’ and focused on in a work (whether one’s own or that of others). In the artist’s mind, a specific detail or region of a work, once noticed, emerges into a life of its own.
The four examples presented below do not exhaust the possibilities that exist. They are merely examples of a broad range of possible condensations.
Example No. 1: Repurposing
What caught my eye in the work above was the partly integrative, partly
disruptive effect of the black ‘gestalt’ that, in the context given, appears as an
intruder. I began to think of how to harness the energy of this gestalt, the result
of which is seen in Condensations No. 7, below.
In the new work, the intruding black force of the template work has been tamed
by creating a context in which its disruptive energy becomes not only a more
integrative but also a generative power. Holding together different but
complementary color fields, the black force has turned into a scaffold that calls
forth new energies authenticating the new work as standing on its own. Nobody
but the artist would know that the two works are closely related. In the derived
work, totally different energy flows and part-whole relationships exist.
Example No. 2: Transformation
This work taken as a template is characterized by free drawing that separates as well as links color fields shading into each other. By partly neighboring or even crossing each other, the lines divide up the pictorial space into regions that are not identical with the underlying color fields, and thus create tensions. Out of a field of tensions, a black line thrusts upward that seems to strengthen cohesion but only precariously so. In addition, the paints employed wear a coat whose texture vies for significance, on an equal footing, with the specific color value used.
The new work appears more as a total transformation than a derivation. Not only
do its colors differ in value; they also show more circumscribed outlines. The blue
line in the lower left is now ochre. Two clearly circumscribed shapes, one to the
left and one to the right of the black, upwardly directed force, hover within an
oval, in which a filigree of intricate, colored outlines establishes a new equilibrium
for the work. The filigree itself holds steady, neither drawn upwards nor falling.
Relative to the work chosen as template, there is a sense of condensation, of
tighter relationships than in the older work. The connection between the two
works is weak to the extent that the resulting work stands on its own. Their
connectedness is one of artistic intuition, not physical or even esthetic sameness.
Example No. 3: Repositioning
In the template work, the human gestalt positioned at the bottom is defined by its boundaries: its head on the right, and its feet on the lower left. The gestalt seems to float, dreamlike, in a space opened by lines of two different colors. While at first, the human gestalt appears as heavy, looked at closely it conveys a state of steep rest from which the lines pull it upward. The playful, upward pointing lines form a counterweight to the gestalt’s sinking, so that it appears to be suspended in air.
In the new work, the impression of a sleeping human has been condensed. The human gestalt has been built its own shelter. The proportions relative to the total context have been centered and magnified. There is an intensified sense of the human shape itself, confined to its front part, which appears as drawn or floating upwards, so that a feeling of rising rather than falling or resting predominates.
Example No. 4: Stylization
The open landscape seen in the template work expands to the upper boundary and is almost boundless at the work’s bottom. On all sides but the left, there is a sense of spatial amplitude and expansion. The treelike shape at the outer left strongly contributes to this sense of openness and widens the perspective on the total space further.
By contrast, the sense of space in the new work is one of greater density to which the dark outlines introduced as well as the darkness of the tree shape strongly contribute. While the bottom of the work is as open as in the template work, it is more highly defined. Overall, the space has shrunk despite its imaginary widening and deepening at the bottom of the work (as if the bottom consisted of water). The space now seems divided into three parts, the upper right, the outer left (with an opening toward the back), and the lower part of the work which now seems to ‘drag down’ the upper part. Openness persists but it is centered.
The process by which digital work, used as a template, leads to new works speaks of the overriding importance of COMPOSITION in art, both in the sense of ‘what happens’ in modifying what exists, and more succinctly in the sense of ‘what is 8 made to happen’ by the artist. In a work of art, entities, segments, parts of a whole of all kinds come together to ‘compose’ a totality. It is composition that, in the end, defines that totality and, as Gertrude Stein would say, “makes everything different”.
Studio Gloucester, MA, USA
CONDENSATIONS - special edition of JaamZIN Creative
(click on the photo to see it in magazine format):