Inspiration

Baby-as-art-critic

Baby taking in the sights and sounds (and definitely smells, oil paint etc) of the studio while its mother paints away furiously - oh how bohemian! By the end of the second month the baby's curiosity sort of bloomed and I discovered that I could paint while she was awake, albeit if there's a bit of entertainment thrown in. So far she seems to smile more at the abstract paintings or the abstract blotches in the portraits... Her older brother, now a month shy of 2 years old, has learned to be wary of running into the studio, and he's now able to expend energy, like the little fireball son/sun (haha, erm) that he is, at daycare three days a week. Those are my precious (almost-)alone-in-the-studio days.

(The blue painting on the left is a portrait of my father from when he came over the pond for a long-overdue visit. The painting on the right is a portrait of a family friend in the course of his job as a large-animal veterinarian.)

Working in my (appropriated room) studio and watching the kids at home leaves me in a feedback/criticism vacuum. I take feedback from where-ever I can find it, including non-verbal kids. My own in-house, baby-as-art-critic, times two. A smile, coo, gurgle or, best of all, a hard, wide-eyed sustained stare at a painting that I'm working on is small encouragement, seeing as a 3-month old or 2-year old don't have any art history or (horror!) art criticism backgrounds. I figure that on a basic level, if the colors and compositions I create appeal to the eyes and sensibilities of children, then I've captured a bit of wonderment on canvas.

A painting doesn't have to be 'childish' to appeal to children. The substance of my paintings is not the literal subject, but the compositional interpretation in color, light and form. I want the second and third glance at a painting not because of some shocking subject matter, but because the composition is stimulating and intricate, something the viewer wants to come back to and savor. Young children respond to and are fascinated by contrasts in shape, color and number, and the adult brain will also respond to those same contrasts and intricacies  in the same fundamental way, despite years of education and socialization. Unfortunately young, non-verbal children can't tell me when a shade of red should be taken down a notch, or that the composition should be shifted 10 cm over to the left.

A tiny synapse went *pop*

Alexander Couwenberg, "Party Popper" [This is not the painting that made a tiny synapse in my head go *pop* - it was another by Alexander Couwenberg called 'Glint' (2008, acrylic on canvas, 28 x 48 in), which I can't seem to grab from anywhere. Just as well, I don't want to contribute (too much) gratuitous image duplication of other artists' work on the internet. This painting, "Party Popper" is on the artist's website as well as Peter Blake Gallery, while "Glint" is also at William Turner Gallery.]

So, while trawling through another blog's links (Two Coats of Paint, subscribe!), I clicked on a site called Geoform ("an online scholarly resource on geometric form and structure in contemporary art."). I wasn't really paying attention to it, engrossed as I was in another search, and it was only by chance I scrolled down the front page. That's when the tiny synapse went *pop*! I had found contemporary artists whose work is along a similar aesthetic direction as what I'm trying to do. I work in a geographic and stylistic bubble (the prevailing painting trend in Finland can be described as, hmm...let's just say it's not what I'm doing), and it was a visceral thrill (yep, the limbic system geared up) to see work to which I could relate.

And then I found Couwenberg's work, among them "Glint" - there was a rush, a bit of adrenalin, and a momentary conviction that anything could be accomplished. My head buzzed: dynamic painting process, interplay of space and depth, color fields, hard-edge (sounds tough, dunnit)... It was an 'aha!' moment, finding an affinity with another person's work, and it was energizing. It's like when, as a teenager, I would stare hard at a Cézanne in the Met, trying to absorb every nuance to understand the mechanics of painting. I wish I could goggle at Couwenberg's paintings in person, but I guess I'll have settle for dry eyes glaring at the computer screen.