July 26, 2018

Together (No. 16)

Acrylic CMYK on birch panel, 30" x 40"
When I was a young punk and played hockey, the teammates who had the crappiest sticks and oldest skates but still performed at a high level seized my imagination more than those lucky enough to afford the latest, slickest gear. While the one group, it seemed to me, had found ways to work with and around limitations, the other had resorted to a cheap technological compensation.

In art, I sometimes regret how much effort is put into throwing off apparent confines and finding secretive edges up on the competition by using fancy materials or pricey shortcuts. Though it may seem antithetical, artistic freedom and the expansionary impulse aren't the same to me. Take poetry. For most of its history poetry was not about blasting open the form but confining the words to a set metre or rhyming pattern, while making the thoughts zing all the same. Or storytelling. The crucible of characters being shoved together and unable to escape one another is often what builds the tension and makes the story.

In painting, I've participated in dozens of plein air contests (the artistic equivalent to improv in music or comedy, when they're serious) and they've never been about unrestricted freedom. Instead, they're stressful, frustrating, and exhausting, but the time limits, minimal materials, and unideal conditions force you to reach down deeper and hit on ideas that don't come any other way.

These weeks I've been away from my familiar workspace, with the paints, tools, and machines in just the places I wish them to be. I've also, admittedly, had too much change in my environment, filling the headspace I need to work with smoke. Nonetheless, I did complete this one painting, a "Together," the most minimal type of painting I do. The series is all about boundaries and limits, down to the restricted CMYK palette and focus on pedestrianized space.

The finished piece feels, I don't know, symbolic, in more ways than one. In ways I hadn't intended.

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