Jena Argenta brings her exquisite papercutting to the artisans’ gallery, and contributes an equally exquisite, deeply thoughtful essay about her work.
In papercutting and in drawing, I can’t capture the Mystery of a crane or a lily.
I can only trace the contours of my bewilderment.
Walking the Dark (detail), black newsprint unmounted, full size 9″x16″
Frederick Franck and my mother were early teachers in how to see and how to love. And if one makes a practice of falling in love, everywhere, with everything, it pushes the reach of one’s arms. Far becomes near. There is no “other” in the margins. Suffering is not on the peripheries. Like beauty, it is palpable and immediate. Drawing can leave you feeling broken and small with God on your skin. It can change your life. And yes, Jordan Wolfson, it can change the world.
My papercutting, while part prayer, is just a fancy way to get back to that line. To illuminate it by leaving it out. It turns the experience of life drawing and its loving inside out. I want to share eyes with you. And to take my time. I want to dig my heels in like a heavy rooted oak in the city’s technetronic center and hold ground and show you how beautiful light is when it’s mediated by shadow.
- Jena Argenta
Are you a list-maker? I am. I’m not talking about lists of the shopping variety, but those scribbled reminders of creative strategies and footholds that work for me as I meet life day by day, in the studio and … well, everywhere. One of my favourite lists is the one compiled by Frederick Franck, which he called the 10 Commandments – even if you aren’t an artist you can be hugely enriched by considering the ways his instructions apply to the big artwork we’re all busy at – creating a life.
Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park No. 116
The American painter Richard Diebenkorn was another list-maker. The list he made, below, was found among his papers after his death in 1993. It is a collection of 10 (again!) “guidelines” that he believed were instrumental in driving the creative process: Notes to myself on beginning a painting. Perhaps, like most of us, he made many more lists. But this is the one that has survived, and we can be thankful, for there is much to ponder in this list. As with Franck’s list, we find that the advice we give ourselves for the fostering of our creative work in the studio is equally relevant to the creation of an artful life.
I find it a challenge to choose which of Diebenkorn’s points resonates most deeply for me. They are all relevant at both an artistic level and a personal level. I’m drawn to all the odd numbers, which probably means I need to look more deeply at the evens. What would be my favourite? Probably number 1. What would be yours?
Richard Diebenkorn: Berkley No. 19
A few more ponder-worthy quotes from Diebenkorn:
I’m very old-fashioned. Though I’m interested in most of the new art, painting remains for me a very physical thing, an involvement with a tangible feeling of sensation.
I want painting to be difficult to do. The more obstacles, obstructions, problems… the better.
I seem to have to do it elaborately wrong and with many conceits first. Then maybe I can attack and deflate my pomposity and arrive at something straight and simple.
If what a person makes is completely and profoundly right according to his lights then this work contains the whole man. A work which falls short of this content, is only of passing value and lends itself to arbitrariness and fragmentation.
In a successful painting everything is integral… all the parts belong to the whole. If you remove an aspect or element you are removing its wholeness.
Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park No. 63
Images sourced from the public domain: © 2013 The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn
Announcing two exciting additions to the site today.
The artisans’ gallery welcomes artist, teacher and writer Jordan Wolfson, who lives in Boulder, Colorado. (What is it about Colorado? It’s strongly represented in the gallery!)
And – Jordan’s insightful and inspiring essay how painting can help to save the world, actually, has been posted as a page, with his generous permission.
Still Life with Red Tapestry X, 2013
oil on linen, 28″ x 25″
About his work, and the investigation fuelling its process, Jordan writes:
I believe it is through the identification of the self with a pre-conceptual and pre-linguistic sense of being that actual change occurs. While our identification remains within the confines of discursive thought and language our model of the world remains one of fragmentation and conflict. Language isn’t to blame – it’s just the way it works.
Actual change occurs through a shift in our identification of the self and the growing awareness of the essential and indivisible fabric of reality. It is to an investigation of this sheer presence, which is not only pre-conceptual but also resides before and between form, that my work is committed.
Visit his page at the gallery to read his entire artist’s statement and view more of his artworks.
In this image-rich essay, I’m confident Jordan speaks for all of us who understand our practice as a passionate movement towards unity with something inconceivably larger than our programmed personality. Something that signals the end of fragmentation and disharmony by disappearing the illusory gap between the observer and the observed.
A couple of extracts:
What is presence? And how does it get associated with an object? What is the process with which material gets charged or imbued with it? How is it that a human being can take colored mud, smear it around on a piece of fabric and end up charging the materials so greatly that it resonates with vitality hundreds of years after the person is long gone? How is it that a human being can take raw material and form it in such a way that it moves our hearts and quiets our minds? And what does this have to do with saving the world? [...]
We are not who we think we are. Painting carries the possibility of getting us out of our minds and into an awareness of our being. That is what occurs when we receive a painting, whether from another’s hands or from our own. The reality of our experience facing great painting, the power and force of transmission remains a mystery as long as we remain in the story of Separation. As we dare to allow our minds to enter into the story of Interbeing, painting affirms the larger truth of this new story. Its essential nature re-storys the world, reimagining who we are and where we are going. As we paint we have the possibility to not only make an object to look at, but to retell our story. [...]
If we but give it time,
a work of art ‘can rap and knock and enter our souls’ and re-align us
– all our molecules –
to make us whole again.
– P K Page
Georgia O’Keeffe: Bella Donna 1939
Nobody sees a flower – really –
it is so small it takes time – and to see takes time,
like to have a friend takes time.
– Georgia O’Keeffe
The Slow Art Movement, which has its day on the yearly stage this weekend (April 12th) has evolved around the activities of contemplatively viewing and gently digesting works of art – mostly within a gallery context. It’s a worthy idea. Anything that encourages us to slow down and really see (art, or anything) is wonderful medicine for the manic mind, and an effective antidote to the ‘glance-categorise-move along’ habit that rushes us through our days.
The notion of ‘Slow Art’ arrived in my life with a different twist. It was ushered in by Robert Hughes…
What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and whose skill and doggedness makes you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.
- Robert Hughes in The Guardian, June 2004
…and brilliantly explored in Slow Art: Painting and Drawing as a Meditative Process by Australian artist Amanda Robins
The physical act of making and our immersion in this activity is the initial doorway to the productive ordering of consciousness known as ‘flow’. It is through this essential aspect that we can lose the sense of ourselves as separate and unique beings and become one with the activity.
The flow experience constitutes a time outside of the ordinary sequence of daily events where clock time loses its meaning and the constant stream of internal dialogue is for the moment, stilled.
The immersion within the world of the ordinary object leads ironically to new ways of seeing ourselves. … The everyday becomes a way of making connections and creating metaphors which can speak, in the end, about the ineffable.
Neither Hughes nor Robins were writing about the viewing of art. They were talking about its making. Their words were manifesto-like for me, directly motivating the creation of this website and blog.
For many makers, quietly involved in their studio practice, submerged in the mystery of creating, slow flow is the daily way. Their art springs from an inexplicable necessity, often contemplative or sacred in nature.
Gloria Petyarre: Atnangkere iv 1999
Slow motion opens the mind.
Smooth motion opens the heart.
Slow smooth motion
the inexplicable delight.
– Paul Reps
As Slow Art Day creeps closer, I’m wondering why there isn’t a version for art makers. Why don’t artisans get a ‘special’ day to sit quietly with their chosen mode of expression of visual language and allow their materials and processes free voice without pressure to produce for commissions or shows? Why isn’t there one little day in a year normally lived in a rush of consuming and commodifying set aside for the slow, deliberate, creating of something – anything – we can call our own authentic handwork?
It doesn’t need to qualify as “art” (better it doesn’t, because no one seems certain what that actually is). It just needs to be a simple, quiet, computer-free activity that arises out of stillness and is executed by our own hands with great attention and care. Preferably in silence and solitude – unless one is lucky enough to have the company of folk with similar intentions.
You might be a knitter, taking up needles and yarn for a day’s play without a pattern. Or a potter happy to pinch pots rather than use the wheel, just for a change. Or a photographer stealthily tracking a subject that bridges the gap between subject and object. Or a painter allowing herself to obey the dictates of her hues without design or direction… you get the gist.
P l a y d a y: a day when we enter our studio with beginner’s mind, as though we’re inventing painting or potting or weaving or carving for the very first time in human history, a day when comments from the inner critic will be entirely ignored. (It’s only one day out of 365 for goodness sake!)
As for yours truly, I’ll be breathing. And on each exhalation, I’ll be making a mark. This is how I give thanks for the blessing of the mystery of slow flow, and how I melt into the “inexplicable delight”. My studio is tiny and not properly unpacked or set up yet, but there’s a space for you if you’d like to join me. I’d love that. Let’s start a Slow Art movement of our own…
Georgia O’Keeffe – Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Gloria Petyarre – Utopia Desert Art
Tai Carmen at Parallax Journal has written a post that’s inspired me to do something new (for me) – click the reblog button.
My studies in Japan introduced me to the concept of Wabi-Sabi and my heart took to it like a moth to a flame. It was in Kyoto that I found Leonard Koren’s book Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers- a magnificent companion for me during my days in Kyoto as well as the more remote regional areas I visited.
“To find beauty in imperfection is not intuitive to the Western mind.” We race after what should be, and romanticise what was, ensuring that we rarely see what is. Wabi-Sabi turns our perception towards what is, and more. It treasures it. There is great fulfilment in this.
Thank you Tai.
Originally posted on PARALLAX::
“Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent & incomplete.” ~ Leonard Koren
“Wabi is the beauty that springs from the creative energy that flows in all things, animate or not. It’s a beauty that, like nature itself, can appear with dark and light, sad and joyful, rough and gentle.” ~ Makoto Ueda
“Beauty is radiant and tactile, not airbrushed.” ~ Joe Hefferon
The term Wabi-Sabi represents a Japanese aesthetic philosophy that embraces authenticity over perfection.
Characterized by asymmetry, irregularity, simplicity, economy, austerity—modesty & intimacy—wabi-sabi values natural objects & processes as emblems of our transitory existence. Rust, woodgrain, freckles—the texture of life.
Developed in the 15th century in reaction to the lavish, ostentatious ornamentation of the aristocracy, wabi-sabi centers around three principals: “nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, and nothing is finished.”
“The initial inspiration for wabi-sabi’s metaphysical, spiritual, and moral principles come from ideas about simplicity…
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The purpose of art is to take the senses on a journey back to the source of perception, which is pure Awareness.
- Rupert Spira
In order to understand the true meaning of Abstract Art, we have to conceive of ourselves as a reflex (reflection) of reality. This means we have to see ourselves as a mirror in which reality reflects itself.
- Piet Mondrian
The body is a sensing instrument of consciousness. Without the body and the mind, the trees couldn't see themselves. Usually we think that we are looking at a tree, but the tree is looking at itself through us. Without this instrument, the tree doesn't get to see itself. We are the sensing instruments of the Divine.
Art is a form of supremely delicate awareness ... meaning at-oneness, the state of being at one with the object.
- D H Lawrence
The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.
- Julia Cameron
I am Not,
but the Universe is my Self.
- Shih T'ou, AD 700 - 790
It is [the] flash of realization of not-two-ness, that is both the center and the endpoint of our human experience.
- Frederick Franck
I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I’m frightened of the old ones.
- John Cage
God created the giraffe, the cat, the elephant ...
He has no real style, he just keeps trying things.
- Pablo Picasso
Slow motion opens the mind.
Smooth motion opens the heart.
Slow smooth motion
the inexplicable delight.
- Paul Reps
Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
- Renee Magritte
The basic project of art is ... to close the gap between you and everything that is not you.
- Robert Hughes