Friday, 8 July 2011

More intuition and imagination in viewing art

I have not posted anything in a while. I told myself that I need to post some new artwork very soon (or rather as soon as it will be complete). Today I was finishing up a formal analyses paper on an artwork and artist of my choice from late 19th and early 20th century. Naturally I chose Vincent Van Gogh, who is one of my favourite artists. Being a huge art history buff I enjoyed spending my whole (beautiful, sunny) (fri)day on the paper, and I do believe I have reached a new dimension of “nerdism”. Towards the end of writing thou, I actually made a pretty cool realization. I do not only rely mainly on my intuition when I create my work, but also when I view works done by others. Sure that just like with creating art, when looking at art knowledge/training/ education etc. help, but now I am also convinced that to truly respond to a work of art, at the deepest level, you have to respond to it intuitively. It is something about the intuition that makes the imagination run wild, and creates a special experience for you while viewing art. Here is an example of my interpretation of Wheatfield with Crows by Vincent Van Gogh. I did use some knowledge and research here, but overall my main experience as a viewer is based on my intuition and personal interpretation.I think that sometimes we all worry too much about what the "experts" say a work of art means, instead of looking at it on our own terms

 “Wheatfield with Crows has been considered  by many to be the last painting done by Vincent, with some even suggesting it to be his suicide note. However, even thou  the painting was done few weeks before Van Gogh’s tragic death; it is for certain not his last work.
Due to the chronological nature of the museum  in Amsterdam, Wheatfield with Crows is hanging at the end of the exhibit. The painting is 50.3cm x 103 cm in size, with the medium being oil on canvas .  As suggested by the title, the painting illustrates a yellow wheat field with a flock of crows flying above it. There are three pathways visible in the field, two of them illogically running off to the sides, while the third one seems to be heading straight ahead, away from the viewer. The field is over casted by a turbulent sky, with dark and heavy clouds. The colour palette of the painting is composed of a bit of brown and green, but mostly of bright yellow of the wheat field, and deep cobalt blue of the sky, with a few black accents. The painting seems to be done with very vigorous brush strokes and with a use of the impasto technique. One of the most common interpretations of Wheatfield with Crows is that the crows symbolize death, and that the painting conveys feelings of isolation, loneliness, and defeat faced by the artist in the last days of his life. However, there is also another interpretation, which states that Van Gogh viewed birds in a positive way and as a symbol of freedom. Vincent would go as far as to write to Theo in an 1890 letter   "please give me the freedom to be a bird like other birds!".
When seeing Wheatfield with Crows at the museum  in Amsterdam I was aware of it being one of Van Gogh’s last works; however the painting did not strike me as overly pessimistic. The main sensation conveyed by the painting was that of anticipation for something monumental to happen. The unnatural contrast between the dark stormy sky and the bright yellow field created a certain atmospheric heaviness in the painting. This heavy air felt like it has been composed of a massive build-up, the release of which would be felt by all of nature. The silhouettes of birds suspended  in mid-flight gave a feeling of something literally “hanging in the air”. The “freeze” of the turbulent movement of the heavy clouds made the painting into a snap shot of a moment in time. At the same time the painting seemed to be bursting with life and movement due to the use of rapid and broken brushstrokes.  The juxtaposition of the stillness and the frantic motion added an almost schizophrenic-like feel to the painting.
When recently examining Wheatfield with Crows I became a lot more interested in the symbolism of the work. I have stumbled upon a quote from one of Vincent’s letters to Theo written about his last wheat field paintings
“They are vast fields of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not need to go out of my
way to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness. I hope you will see them soon - for
I hope to bring them to you in Paris as soon as possible, since I almost think that these
canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, the health and restorative forces that I see in the country.”
After discovering the quote mentioned above, I became convinced of my own interpretation of Wheatfield with Crows. The turbulence, turmoil and the emotionally charged feel of the painting all illustrate Vincent’s life-long struggles. The three paths in the painting symbolize the point in Vincent’s life where he found himself at metaphorical crossroads, and where choices had to be made. Vincent is only showing us the middle path and portraying the two side paths as incomplete and illogical. This makes the viewer feel as if Van Gogh has already made his choice. The chosen middle path  leads through the wheat fields of Auvers, where, as Vincent mentioned  he “did not need to go out of my way to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness”. Perhaps it was in these wheat fields that Vincent came to terms with his emotional problems, and was able to finally express his inner  pain. Maybe he finally felt like he was able to feel some kind of an external understanding from the world around him. Interestingly enough thou, the viewer is not shown the end of the middle path, perhaps Van Gogh still saw  the  road to his well-being as one filled with many unexpected turns. However, the road leads through fields of  bright yellow ,which was Vincent’s favourite colour, perhaps embodying his vision of healthy and  restorative forces in the country.
 The stormy sky in the painting should not be perceived  in a pessimistic manner either, as Van Gogh actually viewed storms in a rather positive way. In fact Vincent wrote to Theo in one of his letters that “The pilot sometimes succeeds in using a storm to make headway, instead of being wrecked by it”. Finally, the crows occupying the sky and flying  towards the horizon, express Van Gogh’s desire to be free as a bird.
In my opinion Wheatfield with Crows is charged with Van Gogh’s feelings of hope for happiness at the end of the path, which he  has chosen. After seeing his heartaches as a source of his true inner strength, Van Gogh at last felt free as a bird.  Unfortunately, it would seem that just a few weeks later Vincent came to the realization that  the healing and happiness are not awaiting for him across a metaphorical wheat field…The Wheatfield with Crows along with all the other works left behind by Vincent, are all modern works of art in their truest sense. Van Gogh is not only making his paintings modern by depicting in them his contemporary surroundings, but unlike anyone before him, by pouring his very soul into each one of his brushstroke. I think this is what makes Wheatfield with Crows not just a modern work of art but  rather a modern masterpiece, with its image still burning in my mind.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Quotes on art and intuition

 I am crazy about good, thought provoking quotes. What could be better than some good, thought provoking quotes about art??!! I am a real believer in the fact that we do not give enough credit to, or trust our intuition enough. All I know is that since I have been able to let go and trust my instincts again, my work has never been better (and more fun to produce). I have collected a bit of inspiration for art and life. Enjoy
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. 
Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level. 
-Dr. Joyce Brothers
Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance; it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality.
-Alexis Carrel

Visuals = the language of intuition.
-Eileen M.Clegg

Listen to your intuition. It will tell you everything you need to know.
-Anthony J.D'Angelo

The painting leads the painter, and it becomes an intuitive experience. 
-Ardath Davis

All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis... 
 -Marcel Duchamp
-Albert Einstein

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. 
-Albert Einstein
-Jane Freilicher
Call intuition cosmic fishing. You feel a nibble, then you've got to hook the fish.
-Buckminster Fuller
The formula must come after the discovery... the description after the fact. Once we intuitively know what it is, then we can talk about it.
-Ron Gang
Design is a combination of intelligence and intuition.
-Richard Glasser
My work uses color and shape to evoke images that are recalled by the viewer intuitively.
-Lois Gruberger
Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.
-Immanuel Kant
The life of the consciousness is boundless. It interpenetrates the world and is woven in all its imagery... Therefore, we must hearken closely to our inner voice.
-Oskar Kokoschaka
Intuition isn't the enemy, but the ally, of reason.
-John Kord Lagemann
The things that are acquired consciously permit us to express ourselves unconsciously with a certain richness.
-Henri Matisse
Intellect confuses intuition.
-Piet Mondrian
Intuition is neither the ability to engage prophecy nor a means of avoiding financial loss or painful relationships. It is actually the ability to use energy data to make decisions in the immediate moment.
-Caroline Myss
-Elle Nocolai
Logic and intellect can take an artist to the dance, but intuition and creativity are the dance itself. 
-Gregory Packard
What an artist makes of painting is not so much a matter of freely choosing among a variety of options as it is a matter of making the most of a few intuitions that are absolutely one's own. Every time a painter paints we want to see what those intuitions are.
-Jed Perl
I try to begin a painting with as few restrictions as possible and let intuition be my guide, as I respond to what is developing on the painting surface.
-Marilyn Hughey Phillis
The subliminal self is in no way inferior to the conscious self. It knows how to choose and to divine.
-Henri Poincare
I don't believe in intuition. When you get sudden flashes of perception, it is just the brain working faster than usual. But you've been getting ready to know it for a long time, and when it comes, you feel you've known it always.
-Katherine Anne Porter

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition. 
I know intuitively when the work is right, no training can teach you this, it is simply a matter of feeling.
-Robert Ryan

The apprehension of... values is intuitive; but it is not a built-in intuition, not something with which one is born. Intuition in art is actually the result of... prolonged tuition. 
-Ben Shahn
If you let your intuitive self take hold in the beginning of a work, a very beautiful “happening” might emerge. You can then use your intellectual self to refine where necessary.
-Barbara L.Siegal
It isn't until we make that 'intuitive' connection in our brains that real learning takes place.
-Mary Timme
Objective thinking – the scientific method – is not the only path to knowledge We can't explain it – yet intuition is the place within us that knows, beyond doubt, beyond rational thinking. 
-Michael Tomas

The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days. 
-Lao Tzu
In order to create, you've got to eliminate thinking, then focus and listen to your internal voice.
-Elizabeth Winter-Noyes

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sea Monsters in motion- My first attempt at an art installation

 Wassily Kandinksy was actually able to “hear” colours. His abstractions were also inspired by music’s “condition”and its independent existence (which is free of having to imitate anything outside of music itself). I wish I had the same gift as Kandinsky, sadly it is not the case. However, I do have to admit to a strong connection existing between music and my art (perhaps due to five years of daily piano playing).Often I am not able to paint unless I am listening to music, and the rhythm as well as melody dictate my brushstrokes. Music always helps me in getting visuals for projects, and this relationship is rather reciprocal, as I often imagine sounds to go with my images. This was the case with my Sea Monsters project. After putting my paintings together with some photos taken by the Detroit river, I also decided to include sound in my installation.  Luckly, I live in the age when even someone like myself is able to create “songs”. Thank you Garage Band!  I have received some valid criticism that my installation should have focused more on mutation of the art work itself, and that the photos did not flow very well with the paintings. This criticism has been noted and I have to say I do agree with it. This is my first installation, so I know it is very far from great, however I really enjoyed putting it together, and in the end this is all that actually counts.
Please click on the link below to view and keep in mind it might take a little to load up.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

My visit to Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum- aka my favourite museum trip

       I was  spending my 2011 New Years eve in Amsterdam. I did not have too much time to spend in the city, but I made sure to visit the Vincent Van Gogh museum. What a great decision this was! After walking all over Amsterdam and admiring its mostly renaissance and neo-classical architecture, we finally made it to the museum. The Van Gogh Museum consists of two buildings: the main structure designed by Gerrit Rietveld and opened in 1973, and the Exhibition Wing by Kisho Kurokawa completed in 1999. The serpentine line up seemed to wrap around the whole  building, yet moved quickly and we made it inside in about twenty minutes. The museum contains the largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh in the world, with over 200 of his works in their permanent collection. The works are displayed in a chronological order, which enables the viewer to witness the creative development of the artist. It was amazing to see masterpieces which I have been looking at for years in art history books. Van Gogh’s work is characterized by very thick impasto, use of complementary colours and by rapid brush strokes which express his feelings about the subject. Van Gogh’s paintings  need to be seen in real life in order to really appreciate his genius. We got really lucky visiting the museum on new years eve night and avoiding the huge crowds. It was great to be able to get very close to the paintings and to examine and appreciate every brush stroke. It was nice for me to discover some paintings strongly influenced by Japanese  ukijo-e prints, as well as some very well known classics such as the Potato eaters. What were my favourite paintings? I will always have a soft spot for The Sunflowers, as a reproduction of this painting hung in the living room of my beloved grandmother’s house. I also can’t seem to shake off the image of the  Wheatfield with Crows. Something about the feeling of imposing doom in the painting engraved in my mind. Our visit to the museum was cut a little short by the closing time, so I never got to buy a souvenir at the gift shop. However, no big deal! I will be back again next time I am in Amsterdam. In fact I recommend to visit this museum for anyone planning on travelling to Amsterdam. Just make sure you give yourself at least 3 hours(or 5 if you are like  me and read everything), and try to go on a day with less traffic. You will love it!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Sea Monsters

The “Sea Monsters” was  the  last project of the year in my painting class. We had a  complete freedom to do what we liked, which is always something I like to hear. The idea for Sea Monsters evolved rather organically for me. First of all I decided to take myself back to the time of my childhood. Even though I am a firm believer in “living in the moment”, I also think that re-visiting your early days helps in nourishing your inner child (very important for all artist!). While looking back to my childhood I tried to remember what  intrigued  me,  and  also  ignited my imagination back then. I thought back to spending my vacations by the murky waters of the Baltic Sea and how the water evoked feelings of fear and excitement. I remembered myself looking at the water  and wondering what mysteries  and of course  unimaginable creatures  laid underneath. The creatures were  what I decided to focus on in my project. I felt that the idea of sea  monsters is something I still believe in till this day, as deeply as I did years ago.  The sea monsters not only  personified an aspect of my inner child, but also a variety of great feelings such as  mystery, awe, fear and excitement. I  liked the idea of having to deal with  recollection of memories and changed perceptions of things and events which were imaginary to begin with.  I used acrylic transfers for my canvases as well as experimenting with gelatine printing (which is  something I will be doing again).  This is the first time I have explored the “sea monsters “theme, but it will not be the last!