Monday, May 27, 2013

Some Thoughts On Painting Reality

I spend much of my time contemplating sight and the way my brain perceives the information before me. I think about how I can make painting a more accurate reflection of my experience in this world. I think about how we observe nature as outside of ourselves, but we are also nature. I think about the strangeness of life and the extreme beauty that surrounds us. I wonder about the world and most often wonder about how to make my work more true to life. And by that I don't mean more traditionally representational. I mean more accurate to the strangeness of my own experience.

My work has always been in some way representational. But most people have a hard time categorizing my paintings. Even I am not sure what category they should fit into. This, I think, is because I'm not focused on creating a specific type of art or in mimicking a specific style that already exists. I am instead focused on finding a better way to communicate my reality. My goal is not to replicate the world simply as the eye sees. While a worthy task for some, that has never been my aim. It is the brain that alters and informs the eye. And it is what the brain does with visual and other sensory information that is the most essential element of the reality that I document.

Our personal truth is rooted in our interpretation of things. In the passing of time, the brain distills and alters our understanding. It keeps the essential. It elevates the mundane. It also has a tendency to fail completely or remember falsely. What is it then that we are recording as painters if we want to record reality?  Is it not the brain's emotional response to the information that hits our retina? Painting is about what we take away from what we see. It is about what makes our understanding of the world truly our own. It is about finding and recording a deeper truth, and finding an alternate path to discovering and sharing our true selves. Abstraction and ambiguity is a very real part of sight and memory. Why should it not be recorded as such when we represent reality in two dimensions? What we see before us and what we take away are two different things. What is more real?

Reality is a fickle thing. Time moves relentlessly onward. As time passes, I find myself with ever more questions. Is it possible to use paint to find out more about how we see and remember? How do I translate the abstraction of the brain into color and form? What element of reality am I expressing when I paint intuitively? Can I interpret the way my brain distills fragmented thoughts?  Can it become a true documentation or a true embodiment of a persona through portraiture? How is time recorded in the mind through the act of seeing? Painting with these questions presents new challenges and new approaches to my process. And thus my studio work continues.


Lorraine Schuft said...

This is brilliant! I am left in awe as this is so beautifully written and truly captures the essence of our personal realities. I particularly like the third paragraph. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I feel privileged to to get a glimpse of the thought process that fuels your magnificent creativity and amazing art.

Katelyn Alain said...

Thank you, Lorraine! I didn't know anyone was reading my blog ;-).

Sören Dawson said...

The vast majority of paintings ever created exist between four sides and four corners. That is the space they inhabit. The same goes for photography, printmaking, and cinema.

Regardless of vision, intent, or even desire, at what point does the painting take on a life of its own? When do the needs of the work, which must exist in a confined space, come to the forefront? Is it different for each painter? For each painting?

How quickly does a painting become a vision of it's own? Is that part of what brings the painter back to the easel, again and again?

Katelyn Alain said...

Yes, more questions to ponder Soren!

There is a certain language and expectation for what can happen in that space. And it's a constant dilemma when the painting becomes what we do not expect or when it fails to go in the direction of our ideas. It's when it really has a life of its own that it is both infuriating and invigorating.

Larry Ogan said...

While attending an art school class critique, the professor said to one of the students, "Your painting is better than you are". For some unknown reason I knew exactly what he meant. I have always remembered that and when my artwork takes on it's own life I lose the mad and celebrate the invigorating. Wonderful blog, you ask the right questions.

Katelyn Alain said...

Hi Larry,
Thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting! Great quote, it's so true. It's nice to be surprised by what comes out. And to see patterns and repetitions that are not intended, but are very telling.