"The job of the artist is to always deepen the mystery"
Our contemporary virtual experience is illusory and two dimensional. The images on the computer/television screen and in print have no substance, there is nothing concrete that can be touched and felt, no connection to our own physicality, no connection with the natural world. What we do touch is ready made and mass-produced by machines, with slick packaging that uses materials far removed from natural sources. This contemporary life is disconnected and superficial; and without knowing why, people often feel disconnected... despite being more "connected" via electronic devises.
It is partly in response to this that I became especially involved in the material as a painter. Some years ago I began an exploration into pre-industrial techniques for the hand-fabrication of paint. I learned how to make the paint base myself with organic linseed or walnut oils and natural powdered calcium carbonate like chalk and marble dust. In the same way that Rembrandt painted without using solvents (proven by scientific analysis of his canvases) I also have learned how to paint in oils completely solvent free. I hand refine the organic linseed oil, a physical process that requires plenty of muscle power, as does the process of mixing the impasto medium before each painting session. The whole process involves time and patience (It takes a year or more to sun bleach the oil)...not like the instant gratification of buying ready made materials.
The work that results is largely about the material, the paint's viscosity and consistency, thus the paint surface itself is a vital aspect of the content. The textural qualities are important in counter to a virtual experience without actual texture..where all perceived texture is an illusion within a computer screen or on a two dimensional surface. The textural qualities of the paint are also important in the sense of attempting to express a sense of the direct experience of nature where texture abounds.
Painters who are influenced by ecology, who want to express a deep connection with the natural world, sometimes can fall short by simply attempting to represent the visual appearance of scenes from nature. A tree does not need to represent something other than itself in order to express nature's beauty. And in the same way, a canvas can express nature's beauty without representing something other than itself. Just like the tree, a painting can express natural beauty through the textures, the subtleties of color, gradations of tone, balance of form, patterns of dark and light etc. In this sense much of my recent work can be labeled abstract, while for me it also attempts to express the direct experience of being in nature.
I do sometimes use images from nature that work along with the expressive qualities of the material itself. The new work shown here incorporates images of flora/fauna that I have found in nature, drawn directly from things held in my hand (birds that had died) or observed directly, using pencil or charcoal drawn onto the canvas. I like the mixed media aspect of drawing with graphite into the painted surface, blurring the lines between the categories of Paintings and Drawing. When drawing natural forms I sometimes use a hand held jeweler's magnifying glass to see strange hidden shapes that may appear abstract when taken out of context.
My newest work contains, in addition to recognizable drawn forms, a kind of stream of consciousness drawing that comes from what might be called the unconscious..or even the collective unconscious. Here the forms may be strange and transformative as if from our dreams, even the dreams of beings that are other than human. Here I like the play of the conscious (namable images) with the unconscious (un-namable images).
I sometimes think of calling myself a post-contemporary artist. My early influences were from contemporary art, being an art student in New York where I absorbed all the cutting edge phenomenon and where my sensibility about artmaking was formed. In my early years as an artist I worked in video/performance art and my paintings were a sort of abstract expressionism using non-art or industrial materials and scientific imagery. Now time has passed and many of the contemporary ideas such as "the tradition of the new" and "art for art's sake" seem somewhat irrelevent, or even out of date. I am not an art historian so I can't say for sure. But I do know that I am feeling more inspired to do work that is for the sake of something relevent to our relation with the planet and ecology.Jeannine Edelblut
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