Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confluence & God

Odilon Redon

Noticing uncanny coincidence, which I am seeing more as confluence. There has to be something as work - Nature, God, Consciousness, whatever you want to call it. Something more than what we know. Life is just too uncanny. 

Confluence #1:

1. A running theme in my artwork is an exploration of where the visceral, erotic and spiritual meet. Lately it seems that the spiritual side has a new kind of gravity that I'm ready to drop into artistically. I'm not sure what it will look like, but I'm once again returning to artists that drew me initially in that direction: Odilon RedonAnselm KieferAna MendietaJoseph Beuys and more recently Michelangelo. There are many others, but these are the first that come to mind.

The surprise: There is an exhibition at the museum where I work that is exploring spirituality, and my assignment, as a docent there, is to explore the section Genesis and discuss how I would present it. Amongst the artists are: Kiki Smith, Ana Mendieta, Bruce Conner. Could not be more perfect for the direction I want to go in my own art.

 Confluence #2:

2. I've been wanting to explore new ways of making marks that resemble printmaking, but without the tedious process of making prints. I want to make art in a more direct, spontaneous manner, but mark the page - incise the paper - as if it was a plate. Scrape it, surface it, burnish it, sand it, ink it, as if it were metal. But also, draw on it.

The surprise: Who did I run into with these questions on my mind but a calligrapher, who is using unusual German inking tools. I don't even know what they are called. But I have them. I thought they were merely calipers. I did not know the full extent of their use. But I can dip them in ink. And so - I am coming up with whole new ways to make marks.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finding Your Line

Recently Christian Tissier, one of the best-known practitioners of aikido, gave a seminar at my dojo. People came from all over the world to participate. I was glad to learn from him, and also of the surprise opportunity to ask him questions. Aikido is as essential to me as art and, for me, they deeply inform one another.

So I asked him this: At this point in my training, how do I best advance internally? Is it about focusing on something in my practice, or attending more seminars? How does he approach it? [Stay with me here, I'm getting to the art part!]

He said: "You must find your line." He talked about aikido as having many lines, lines of ancestry in particular, and that jumping all over and trying to pick up something from everywhere is actually not so useful. That sooner or later I'm going to have to choose my line, and follow it.

As simple as this may sound, it had never really occurred to me before. I guess I've always believed that I should listen, look, and try to learn from everyone who has something to share. That it is important to remain entirely open. Not to select, if it means leaving out.

Sometimes people just say something at the right time and it goes 'thunk.' Yes, aiming involves going towards. But there is another part, which is about letting fall away the parts that are not the target. That at a certain point in one's practice, being continually open to all new influences may be just as stymying as being totally closed to them. That if I want precision, if I want to get to the core, I also have to hone.

So the obvious next question I had for myself was, what does 'finding my line' look like, both in aikido, and in art? Here is how I applied it to the art:

1. Literally: What are my unique mark-making techniques?
2. Methodologically: What do I choose to make, and also not to make?
3. Heritage: Who are my artistic ancestors?
4. Innovation: To what new places am I taking this trajectory?

It's not as if I haven't considered these things before in this context; they just haven't been at the forefront.  So I am looking forward to embarking on using these guidelines as a lens, and seeing where it takes me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

SFMOMA last chance dance

SFMOMA had some interesting offerings to experience before closing for renovation today. Most people were on line to see The Clock. For four hours. I didn't have the patience for that. But I did spend some time with a fantastical architect whose whose imagination and line quality had me struck dumb. I thought I was looking at lithographs or some such, but these were free hand drawings!

The images brought a number of science fiction films to mind - Brazil and Alien in particular. But set in the lighting of Metropolis and in something of the surrealist engraving feeling of Max Ernst.

I was also intrigued by a program called The Workshop, offering DIY classes, that had samples set up in the lobby. I haven't really caught on to the 'DIY' craze, but I thought this was a really ingenious use of a gallon plastic bottle. Something about the way it held the light was pretty compelling.