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Collaborative Art

As an artist, particularly as a painter, my imagination has lately been captured by the idea that we are increasingly disconnected from the world. We now live with a science populated by outlandish ideas such as multiple universes, time travel, additional dimensions, and the idea that human consciousness actually interacts with the electron to break the wave function and produce observable reality. What is the artist to do? Where can paint and canvas fit into this world? It gets even more challenging.

Biology is proving that what we see, smell, feel, taste and hear is largely a product of our minds. So much of what we think of as a sensual experience is actually heavily augmented and processed by our brains. Our sensory inputs are proving to be excruciatingly incomplete. We fill in the gaps. This creates an amazing challenge to the artist. If what is painted on the canvas will only be partially perceived, if the viewer of a painting is filling in the gaps, then ultimately the artistic endeavor is a collaboration of strangers; a painter and a viewer, both of whom are bringing an incomplete sensory picture and a heavily processed set of preconceptions to bear on the artistic experience.

Historically the role of the artist was to represent reality. To replicate what he saw in a certain light. In the modern world this role has changed. The advent of photography has freed the artist from the confines of strict representation. Painting evolved to produce a reality perceived by the mind differently than what a camera would produce. The conscious mind of the artist influenced the rendition of reality.

Of course this pre-dated the advent of photography. El Greco used elongation of subject matter in his art. Rembrandt captured light and its intense glow. Later Matisse and Picasso would further extract the depiction of reality with conscious abstractions of what they saw. Expressionism, surrealism, fauvism, minimalism among others all amplified the role of consciousness. Pushing the mind away from a visual representation to something more, something combining the reality everyone sees with the internal motivations and individuality of the artist. Painting progressed and reality was abstracted to a point where there was no physical object at all. The artist strived to capture an internal consciousness. Kandinsky extended painting to pure abstraction and Jackson Pollock carried this forward, moving painting to an absolute conscious experience, representing the conscious mind without any qualification or link to the outside world's experience and knowledge.  Is this the end of painting? I often wonder if it is so.

This series of paintings reflect my effort to engage these difficulties. I am struck by the idea that art can challenge the mind where two realities converge in the mind. In these paintings I bring together two subjects that are related but separate. The juxtaposition and transposition of the subjects presents a dichotomy, one of the mind and the other of a visual object that I hope induces the viewer to engage in the painting and to bring their own narrative to the seemingly disparate visual images melded on the canvas. The challenge is to use the tools of art to produce a coherent balanced painting that challenges the viewer to make decisions both visually and mentally. Style, color, balance perspective, brush strokes, and design are combined to influence the viewer and also make an artistic statement reflecting the knowledge that we have accumulated over the years.

I have found the paintings to be challenging and enjoyable. Whether they are successful or significant is not important. Thinking about things in that context only interferes with the process of producing art. A successful painting is always a form of collaboration.

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