Archive for January, 2008

formula art


2:20 AM 12/19/2007

formula art

I have been studying the paintings of Edward Lentsch of Minneapolis. He presents an image that seems fairly easy to make in large numbers. He also seems to work images out of a formula. I often ask the same question of artists and their work, especially after looking at an artists work over a period of years and the image seems close all the way through; how can an artist keep making the same image over and over and over and not turn the image into a mannered mess? How does an artist like Lentsch keep the image fresh over a long period of time? Small mind? Formula? Whenever i start to repeat myself I become bored with what is happening and the image and the painting dies. Maybe I have a short coming in that I can’t sustain a similar image over a period of time. But then again, maybe I do and don’t know it???? My repertoire seems to be made up of 4 or 5 reoccurring image themes that come and go with time. Since you can’t step into the same river twice, when an image structure reappears, it is a little different than before. Over time it has picked up some new add ons, revisions, and other stuff. My life (as is everyone’s) is like that river; we can’t step into the same experience twice. We are not the same from one minute to the next or from one year to the next. Easier to understand a change or series of changes that take place within us over a time frame of one year than it is over a time frame of one minute. Here we are dealing with time and its relentless grip on us and everything around us; or at least how our mind perceives/processes the data around us. In this sense the present doesn’t exist. Only the past and the future, the present becomes the past immediately. what is the accepted time length for the present. The future is always coming at us at the same speed, then suddenly it becomes the past too. Yikes! I can’t get my mind around this dialog tonight. Later. dpn

2:39 AM 12/19/2007


A painting created now, becomes a member of the past and our memory once it is made. Or does it? I make the painting now. Before I made it it was part of my (our) future. I made it. When/what was it’s present. Now after I made it it becomes part of my past. But when I come into the studio tomorrow (future) and open the studio door (now) (the present), turn on the lights, there is the painting existing in my present (again) becoming part of my past as I stand there looking at it. The event can never be fixed so we (I) can study int. As I study a painting (this newly created entity) I am awarre that it is constantly being viewed as a past event. This is the worse thing about the nature of time. It can’t be stopped so we can really analyze an event. An event never exists in a present but only in a future (as we wait for the event to start) and then it immediately exists in our past as memory that is constantly fading. I now ask, where is the clarity? Where is the reality? When I touch a painting, does the touch become an immediate member of my past. How long is the present?

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2:48 AM 12/31/2007


Working the way I do, conceptual and technical structure derived from purist automatism (as an ideal), repeatability is relative to the moment. Over time some image structures show up again and again. I believe they derive from a central part of my nature; exist as finger prints exist. These image structures, once fleshed-out, become a signature.

My working (making) structure doesn’t allow a repeatable element to exist as a precondition for starting point. This would violate the integrity of the experiment as it exists at this time. If a repeatable element shows up during the making process as part of a first solution idea, then so be it. It then becomes part of a painting and is subject to removal if the next first solution idea so deems. Don’t ya love the process? You can never step into the same river twice. Love it????!!!!!

Over the years, if or when I was trying to find an image that connected to a commercial market -clients, galleries, museums, etc.- repeatability is what I thought was important. I needed to make a series of paintings that related in all ways to each other; not to make things that are resoundingly different from each other; images that are consistent, similar, understandable (somehow through repeatability). Consistently related images creates a strength (what, how???). When i tried to do this, the images would get progressively mannered as time did its deed on the image and my interest in continuing the image. So far the Voyage series of 18 paintings done in the late 1960’s was the only set of consistently related paintings I ever produced that were exciting to make over the 1-2 years they were made.

In the end, even if a painting of a certain type of image was selling well, I had to give it up because eventually I simply got sick of making them. The abstract seascape paintings made from 1981-1987 was a project that ran overtime for me. In the end I made these damn things because they were selling. Eventually i had to end it and move on. In 1987 I returned to abstract painting and automatism.

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2:33 AM 1/2/2008

what to make of today????

After looking around the web for art by new artists (to me) (most are much younger than me) and most of these younger artists have a much different take on what art is/was/to be than I do. I really don’t know what this means, this first/last statement. So the new art of today’s youngin’s is different on all points than the art of what I do? Isn’t this always the case? The young are supposed to depose their elders. We called them our “parents” when I was in art school in the 1960’s. There was a presence of mind then, to succeed you had to “kill” your artistic parents and move into your own artistic world. What the hell this meant then as related to the now? I think the meaning is the same now as it was then.

It’s not that I don’t understand what many of today’s young artists are doing –well, yes, I don’t understand sometimes– it becomes a matter of who cares! There are so many more artists working in this world today than, say, in 1945 after WWII. Since 1945 the history of modern/contemporary art has advanced so fast and vast that every possible art rock has been turned over, examined, recorded, dissected, re-recorded, invented, reinvented, ad infinitum. The sheer numbers of art practitioners now allow for simultaneities of discovery, rediscovery, and simply art making to take place between more than one artists perusing the same thing at various places on this planet at the same time. Get it? All of the art isms since 1945 have been placed in the MORTAR & PESTLE of time, digested, reformed, neo’d and re-neo’d. Ain’t life grand? Oh yes, every aspect of our life as humans on this planet is continuously scanned for possible use in making art. So there are also continuous additions to this mix of what makes up our art. And the beat goes on!

In a way, all of this meshing and inter meshing and redefining of art isms goes back to the Armory Show in NYC. [1913 Armory Show: First International Exhibition of Modern Art in America (New York, 1913)] and to Marcel Duchamp, who in many ways, is the great grandfather of anybody calling the focus of one’s making practice = art. Whatever you want the focus to be –an object found in nature, colors mushed on a piece of paper, words describing an event, the thought of an event, ad infinitum– this entity, whatever its form, is art. So what is the big deal? As we enter 2008 all of these isms and the relentless number of ism variations as well as all the anti-isms that are out there, must exist along side, on top and around each other. This is the pluralism of today. This is the globalism of the art world. Meaning. What is meaning and how does it get defined now? Definitions are now left up the individual artist or to whomever wishes to add a definition to the mess, uuuuuhhhh, mix.

In line with the above diatribe, old pigeon-hole ism definitions are now old hat. What I do today that looks and feels like 1950’s AE, isn’t really AE in that time-sense. It can’t be. Why, because this is 2008. Why, because you can’t step into the same river twice. What I do today in my painting conceptually uses some of the original AE devices and connections, but it also uses large doses of intellectual AE construction and chance. What? Intellectual construction of my paintings using AE devices derived from my past work, the work of other artists (old and new), and an intellectual renewal of a making process I call “Purist Automatism” which uses very large doses of chance as a process starter and main mover for change in a specific painting over a period of time. This time frame starts but never ends, really. I stop work on a painting because there no longer are First Solution ideas forming. I address the same painting over time as if it were a brand new event. What is already there is now communicating with my muse and my muse, intuition, intellect, automatism plus other mysterious mental processes are figuring out what to do next on this thing. When all the grinding is over, the first solution idea pops up and is recognized by an element in my conscious mind,; triggers my conscious mind to start opening the paint cans, gather up the application tools, apply the paint or any other elements that are required to satisfy the immediate needs conjured up as the first solution idea. The first solution idea sets into motion the making event. Each session always starts fresh. Even though there are marks on the canvas, the making event for this canvas is constantly starting as if new. Of course what is seen and felt on the canvas during the incubation period becomes part of the stuff my mind uses to create the next fist solution idea/move. And the process repeats it self over and over and over.

I usually write this stuff very early in the am hours when I am about to go to bed. I am so tired that my mind is free to form ideas without any real checks regarding if the thought flow makes sense. Who cares. Just write it down. When my forehead starts to bounce off the computer monitor, the writing gets good (at the time). Tomorrow when I read what was written several hours earlier, it may or may not mean anything to me. So what? It will restart itself later.

dpn3:24 AM 1/2/2008


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12:29 PM 1/4/2008

Is it music? This plus a little history (of me) thrown in–

Years ago when I was in HS, I was deeply involved in music; both classical and jazz. It didn’t take long for me to realize that i didn’t have the talent to push on and be a professional musician. I struggled to learn the instruments and had a very hard time reading the music from a page. i am a professional music listener, however.

I began my college study as an engineer. But I found engineering and mathematics boring. Carl (?????), can’t remember Carl’s last name — (he had a superb 1950 chopped mercury car though) — he was my house mate living upstairs. He was studying advertising (outdoor bill board and signage – he was going to take over the family business back in Michigan). I was fascinated with his art work. I had always drawn from the days when i could remember anything. I had always been deeply interested in and created cartoons all through my elementary and secondary school years. Art, then, was a natural area to explore.

I enrolled at El Camino College in LA as an advertising design student. At the end of my first semester my design instructor (Charles Blusk) told me that I wasn’t a designer but was a painter. I was involved in a car accident one nite. Didn’t get hurt, but my car got trashed. I had no money. Got the car more or less fixed up by the other guy’s insurance, then ran out of money and couldn’t stay in California. I was taking courses in drawing at UCLA and one day I was lamenting to my teacher that I had to go back to Iowa because I ran out of money and couldn’t stay in California. He then proceeded to tell me how great the University of Iowa/Iowa City was. He was an MFA graduate of Iowa Print program. This teacher’s name was John Paul Jones [printmaker]. Iowa City was 26 miles from my home. I went home and enrolled at Iowa. 7 years later I left there with a BA, MA, and two MFA’s. They finally got sick of me at Iowa. Gave me all the degrees available and told me to get out into the real world.

All of my base values for painting were developed at Iowa. My natural connections finally attached themselves to abstract art, especially abstract expressionism, and not the realism related to the human form. This realism was Iowa’s forte. I like to draw the figure, and sometimes painted it while in school, but I soon discovered that using realism also required story and literature involvement. I told and created very bad stories. I don’t think this way. I live in a world of grunts and sound and all the visual excitement and stimuli found in nature. The visual excitement related to the stimuli and not the concreteness of the images in nature. I didn’t care about how the leaves looked. I did care about how I felt about the leaf, how the leaf sounded in wind and crunched under my feet in the fall. Trips to Chicago and NYC museums and galleries ultimately helped to cement my relationship to AE. I especially fell in love with the energy and images of Hans Hofmann; especially the fine example located in the Cleveland Art Museum. I went for it.

I left Iowa in august 1967. 41 years later I am still at AE in some form or another. Also my work in the past several years has moved closer to music in its abstractness. Music communicates directly to the mind and emotions. Painting in order to do this in the same manner has some road blocks in its way; the visual nature of painting and the visual nature of our physical environment. Sound has no tangible physical body in nature; the physical world. Something causes the air to vibrate and our ears pic this up as sound. Our eyes pic up the color vibrations in nature/the real world and we see this with our eyes as trees, leaves, sidewalk, other people. Sound also allows our verbal language to operate. Language operating with the real world and our ways to attach words to this visualness creates literature. Here it all mushes together to form our high order communication processes; literature, film, books, illustration, and so on. You know the definitions and the many examples that describe and define this kind of stuff and the attendant processes. You can do this definition better than I.

Looking back over these past 41 years and the different paths that I have taken with my painting –looking for ways to solve my quest to be a painter – and never really finding that comfortable place. A couple of years ago i decided to return to music for clues as to how to move on. My research uncovered an element that was surprising and then not surprising. In music I loved improvisational jazz. I could get lost and travel to lots of different places while engaged in improvisational music. I decided this was a good place to launch this NEW energy. I also decided to use Automatism as the element from which to launch things. I used Automatism in the past, but never relied upon it as a painting-making device. I would examine the automatist or chance urges, but would procrastinate them away via mental painting; never really put the paint to the fire. So much of the real energy never got established in the painting. This kind of making procedure had to go. I started doing what the “first solution ideas” were suggesting to me from the automatist process. I now use chance and automatism (purist approach) as the primary device(1.) for making all my paintings on paper, canvas, linen, cardboard, wood, plastic. There will be more supports as time goes on.

I react differently when using diverse supports and media combinations; my painting on canvas tends to be a little different than my painting on paper. And the beat goes on. Set my different support and media combinations along side each other — they do look different from one another visually, but the feelings seem very similar. I think this is so because chance and automatism allow for the inner forces to merge with the paintings. This inner force comes from within my nervous system and because of this there is somewhat a singularity in its nature. However, if there is any schizophrenic aborhations, then the visual images will take on different personalities. We all posses some form of schizophrenia — most of the time it isn’t clinical. So we all possess some degree of multiple personality/s. I am not a psych person, so I will not go further with this. I am not really interested in the detail of how all the internals combine; the input data to my brain and how my brain analyzes and reconstructs the data, then exposes this data via the chance/automatism process simply works for me. As long as it works, I won’t argue with it and won’t make any changes to stop it.

This is where my mind and art is located today, 1:11 PM 1/4/2008. For you as audience (the spectator), as well as for myself as audience (the art-object maker), I am a voyeur in my art; an intellectual voyeur conjuring up a soup of intelligence and emotion. As a maker I present you the spectator with a mirror which reflects your self to your self. From this angle you make of it what you want. In one way or another it (my art) pushes the buttons. Love it. Hate it. Never indifferent. This is why my work is difficult to sell (and show these days). Art does communicate. I didn’t start out making these kind of things; not consciously anyway. It evolved over the years. Many say it was there in the beginning. They (my teachers and early gallerists) saw it and promoted it. There is a truth in this process. Today many folk don’t want to be near the truth. Put on the iPod and drop-out-tune-in to their own world. Airports are full of these zombies.

Chance and automatism as process allows for all of this to happen. It allows and creates the ingredients for my soup.


dpn/matthews nc/1:15 PM 1/4/2008

1. A short story. My uncle was a close friend of Wayne Thiebald. They were both living and working in Sacramento CA. The year was 1968 or there about. I sent some images of my painting to my uncle as he wanted to show them to Wayne. Wayne wrote to me and said something like this: “Good work from a student perspective, but you need to find a gimmick.”

For some reason, then, I was offended by this statement. At Iowa, gimmicks in painting were a no-no. In 1968 gimmicks in painting = pop art and minimalism. AT Iowa this was sacrilegious and a no-no. And to Wayne Thiebald Abstract Expressionism was overexposed and needed to be overthrown and was a no-no. Today, 2008, automatism and chance are my gimmicks. Way to go Wayne! And we meet ourselves over and over as we travel the circle of life.

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Hello world!

update:  11:47 AM 7/15/2016

I started this blog in January 2008.  Kept it current, more or less, until August 2010.  Don’t remember why I stopped contributing.  In the meantime Facebook, Twitter and the myriod of other social media websites have come about.  None of which I am comfortable with considering my life long interest in living a private life.  Have been pondering whether to expand my very limited Facebook knowledge as a way to reconnect to the “social” media aspect of life, or to update and use this blog.  As of 11:49 AM 7/15/2016 I have decided to have another go at blog entries as a place to present my ideas rather than any of the social media networks.  I really don’t care if you know that I have a cold or not.  Or that I just ate an apple.  What?????  I think that you get the message!

Hello again!  Hopefully this will all work out.    dpn

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