Through this process I am examining patterns that emerge and trying to understand my relationship to patterns and nature. Myself in April 2010
Summer Reading: Rebecca Solnit Field Guide to Getting Lost Edward O. Wilson Biophilia Diane Ackerman An Alchemy of Mind Next: Paradise Wild by Davis Oates Jorge Borges Films: The Naturalist Mystery of the Senses: Touch James Turrell: Passageways Jean de Florette/ Manon of the Spring Proteus Attenborough In Paradise and Other Personal Voyages
The natural world produces patterns over time as things grow or are moved by the action of water and wind, or are worn away by erosion and decay. In this dynamic interaction of factors such as surface tension in liquids, force resistance and conduction, traveling waves, vibrations, activation-inhibition coupled mechanisms, convection and conduction, streaming fluids, and the behaviors of granular media, we get the diversity of patterns we see. Rain washes groves into hillsides, trees grow from genetically predetermined codes, wind rolls sand grains into piles we call dunes, crystals form elemental shapes, fish swim rhythmically against the current in a stream. From Natural Patterns by Richard R. Powell (http://www.stillinthestream.com/files/naturalpatturns.htm)
Patterns are all around us, whether in the form of visible spirals and branching forms or invisible behavioral and cognitive patterns. They are prevalent in organisms, the galaxy, the microcosm, and the macrocosm. Patterns speak of time, process, change, growth and decay. Biological patterns determine how things look and grow. Behavioral patterns evolve as we learn and respond to our environment and experiences. I am fascinated by patterns. My work develops out of finding, examining and creating patterns with which I feel a connection. I discover relationships between patterns such as: representations of the topography of the earth and the surface of the skin, or the wood grain of plywood and my family tree. My process of creating the work emphasizes these visual connections.
Relating to patterns, the idea of chance versus control is a reoccurring theme in my work. Last semester I focused on the concept of erosion. My process of applying paint to a surface was modeled after the process of erosion. The plywood surfaces were burned and the charred soft wood brushed away leaving the harder wood of the grain which created a relief surface. I applied streams of paint thinned with turpentine and medium to this surface. Through this process I was examining patterns that emerge and trying to understand my relationship to patterns and nature. Among the parameters that I controlled were: the size of the piece, the amount of time I burned the surface, the amount of surface that I removed, the paint fluidity, the color and when the piece was finished. The components which were beyond my control were how the paint would move across the surface, what patterns would form and what areas would be removed by subsequent applications of paint.
In my most recent work that relates to last semesters erosion series I have altered a number of variables. The first change was to stop applying gesso to the surface as it hid the material on which I was working and the burning process. In the most recent work I am responding directly to the patterns of a full sheet of pine plywood to reveal a form intact in the pattern of the wood.
Process as narrative is what I am struggling to embody and convey in my work. Narrative in the sense that the process by which I create the object contributes to the content in the work. The objects themselves are abstract forms. My work may be a personal exploration of an experience or idea but these objects are intended to communicate to a viewer in my absence. In order to communicate the object must hold the viewers attention and interest long enough for them to consider the object, its materials and the process by which it was made. The formal or aesthetic aspects of the object are paramount to attracting a viewer and to the objects success at communicating. I want the ideas behind the work to be contemplative for the viewer but not to overburden or confuse the viewer with too many ideas. Each piece should have as Peter Flaccus so eloquently stated, an organic wholeness so that each part of the object is subordinate to the whole: for me that includes the process and all formal and conceptual aspects of the painting. The processes and content that I am developing relate to the tree, fire, and flooding.
The tree is a culturally loaded symbol; the tree of life, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the family tree, are a few examples of which I am cognizant in my work. Plywood is a man-made wood product with a pattern is derived from the mechanical dissection of a tree. My connection to the material is derived from my interest in the branching and spiraling growth patterns of the original tree and the pattern consequently manifested by the dissection of the tree in the process of manufacturing the plywood. The surface of plywood contains one pattern which existed naturally in a tree but which is altered to a new pattern through human manufacture to accommodate our material needs. The new pattern revealed in the plywood product refers to the growth and history of the tree which were during its lifetime effected by both the genetics of the tree and the environmental conditions during its lifetime. The plywood surface itself then becomes representative of similar forces at play in the human condition of nature versus nurture.
I reject the negative connotation of fire as destroyer in my work. Instead, I adopt the concept of fire as transformative and generative. In alchemy fire allows for transmutation and in forest ecosystems fire is a cleansing force that encourages reproduction and growth. Fire applied to plywood alters the color and transformation the soft malleable wood into charcoal. I draw into the surface of the burnt wood using brushes as a means of erasure to reveal and hide the process by which the object was created.
Flooding the surface with color is another narrative element in my process. Floods are a natural process which enrich soil and alter the land. The flow and erosion patterns which result from flooding are created by the conditions of the surface. In my work I am relating the flow of the paint over the surface of the burned plywood to life experiences and human encounters which impact an individual and their behavioral patterns.