Monday, January 12, 2009

Day Moon

At the openings of my exhibitions I enjoy answering questions about my art. It occurred to me that a blog would be a good place to post my reflections as new work is completed.

The purpose for this blog is to both inform viewers about my work and help me think about the best way to express my ideas in words.

Using language to reflect on something that is primarily visual can present the writer with challenges. I will do my best to speak about why I composed an image, some of the problems I solved and how well the painting achieves my intentions.

Today's blog post looks at this painting. "Day Moon" was painted in January 2009 and is 48 inches by 42 inches, oil on panel. The composition is "straight-on". I selected this to present the viewer with a whole view of the red maple in a middle distance. The most difficult thing about a straight-on composition is that it can often be boring. To avoid this, I have very carefully "seated" the tree's weight to slightly off-center. I have also paid attention to the irregularity of the foliage masses and the edge between form and atmospheric space. The hint of a day time moon and wisps of cloud situate the tree in a deep space. The tree is presented by itself with no other landscape elements to distract the viewer. I use a painterly approach to building up the mass of foliage, something I really love because it is so sculptural. In fact, I often think about my tree paintings as designs for biological sculptures. A tree must present mass and solid form in my paintings.

I've done a number of red maples over the past years. This one was started partly as a request from my dealer in Montreal (Gallerie de Bellefeuille) and partly because I love the subject and always feel I can treat it better than the last attempt. I embrace the idea of art for art's sake. I make these tree paintings without any ideas of commenting on ecology, politics or human issues. I know that this approach is out of fashion, but it doesn't matter to me. When I encounter trees and bushes in natural settings, I find myself just looking and entering the forms of the plant. There is no sense of separation, I just "go into" the thing and relish the sensation of "treeness".

Later on in the studio, using only my memory, I draw and make paintings about the experience. Memory is important, it acts as a filter eliminating all but the most essential elements. I totally reject the techniques used by some artists that depend on photographing a subject and digitally transferring the image to canvas, then painting over the ink to make something that looks photo-realistic but is nothing more than "trickery". I find this a shallow, superficial way of painting with all the inherent problems of selling something as an original when it can be recreated again and again.

I'm happy with Day Moon. I think I achieved the right balance of light and dark, mood, and sensuality.