The Naming of Parts
2018.10.19
How Abstraction Does Its Job, Inside/Outside

Every piece I do feels, at first, as if it has sprung from some place outside of myself. I can be grasping at the faintest idea, especially if a run of work feels as if it has come to an end, and given me all I can explore at the moment. I start with an image in my head, say a mass that is not solid. I don't see that image, it is more loosely, barely contained in the thought of that image, how the edges might look, what colors might be contained in its miasma, just as a starting place. 


Then I go about trying to find it through my materials. There should be some surprises. If I am doing it right, the outside thought joins up with stuff in my head that I can't access directly, to bring something new to the story. 


There will be a time when I can look at it and think of a title, or some sort of explanation of the work, like an addendum that might give context and depth for a viewer, another layer, that is part for me of the creative act. Sometimes, if I am lucky, the way the work has been created, and what I have been thinking and feeling, becomes clearer to me as a story line, a narrative that runs like an echo. It is almost like having a breakthrough in therapy. "Oh, so that's what was happening!" The recent painting where this process became clearest to me was Crying Wolf. Originally, I called it King You Amuses his Concubine, but that title kept being unwieldy and obscure when truncated by the internet.


 The Chinese fable tells of a King who continually amused his lover by sending fireworks up to call up his armies, so that they were too jaded to come when there was a real threat. It's a  variant on "crying wolf".

I was thinking not only of a particular situation in my life that this story was applicable to, but the problem when painting of assuming that I might know what is going to happen, when I think that the painting has said all it wants to say, and I call it done, when it is not finished saying what it wants to say, because I cannot yet see it properly. How desiring an outcome can blind one to other things in the offing. Being blind to the bigger picture. How acting on assumptions can have unintended consequences. How something important can be lost because attention was not being paid to the important thing.