Thursday, August 16, 2007

Automatic Painting

You make a promise to yourself, to paint as much and as frequently as possible. Early on you may have very specific notions of what the production should look like, but these are gradually abandoned through the recognition that you will never have total control over the output. That is, if you are trying to work from the inside to the outside, if you recognize that every image and experience in your daily life, as well as your memories and feelings, have a role in your art. It feels a little overwhelming, but then you decide to ignore this insight and continue painting or drawing, no matter what. Or you may welcome it with open arms and leave the analysis to others, which is what a lot of people do. But if you are to keep your promise, you'll eventually stumble onto automatic painting.

I was in the studio one night and felt drawn to just placing paint on the canvas. I had a large amount of paint left over from another project and so I started applying it on a 12 x 12 square. I didn't want the painting "to be" anything. I had been making automatic drawings for a few days, just for fun, to take a break from representation and its stories. It is a great way to encourage creation. When I finished, I realized I had been painting one of my grandfather's homes. He had been on my mind for several days. I had been watching a slide show of the area where he lived during the fifties, and had been wondering how he and his family survived this difficult period.

Could this be called an automatic painting in the strict sense of the word? I have always engaged in automatic drawing in school, in college, during phone calls, during lectures. Some folks call this "doodling." The difference between doodling and automatic drawing is very small, in my opinion. Doodling is more automatic, than say, standing in front of a canvas seeking some kind of trance. I decided to go with the strict interpretation of this method and pronounce my small painting as not automatic after all. At some point my consciousness took over to "direct" the image arising out of my subconscious:

Hermetists Augustin O. Spare and Frederick Carter would disagree with this strict interpretation: "The Hand must be trained to work freely and without control, by practise in making simple forms with a continuous involved line without afterthought, i.e. its intention should just escape consciousness. Drawings should be made by allowing the hand to run freely with the least possible deliberation. In time shapes will be found to evolve, suggesting conceptions, forms and ultimately having personal or individual style. The mind in a state of oblivion, without desire towards reflection or pursuit of materialistic intellectual suggestions, is in a condition to produce successful drawings of one's personal ideas, symbolic in meaning and wisdom." Here's the link to the complete article.

It only happens if I am in a receptive and open mode, it never takes place when my mind is cluttered with projects, worried, or directed at a single goal. Letting my mind wander always takes me to some relatively unexplored place. I forget about "wasting" art materials. But it certainly feels as if I am standing on less solid ground. There are no goals, and therefore no sense of completion. There is no emerging recognizable image, only the feel of your chosen media. It feels exactly like a breakup with some long-held sacred idea, and this is always healthy.

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