Passing Through Portals


. . . Albrecht Dürer, did after all make the well-known remark: “For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” “Wrest” here means to draw out the rift and to draw the design with the drawing-pen on the drawing-board. But we at once raise the counterquestion: How can the rift be drawn out if it is not brought into the open region by the creative projection as a rift, which is to say, brought out beforehand as strife of measure and unmeasure? True, there lies hidden in nature a rift-design, a measure and a boundary and, tied to it, a capacity for bringing forth–that is, art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

In the darkness of the night, I trained a light on the aged door of the store where I resided for the weekend, and another light on my easel. Working in the stillness of that environment, I felt a depth of feeling and connection with my childhood overnight stays at my grandparents’ farm–nights spent lying awake, staring at the door knob and locking system dimly present in the quiet night. Musing over what lurked on the other side of that door became a lifetime fascination from me.

As I wrestle with this lengthy and cumbersome essay from Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, and make use of his distinct vocabulary, I gather a new idea from his philosophy that my process for making art involves a struggle between my world of memory and the earth which yields up the objects I encounter. As I mingle my memories with my vision of these objects, a work of art emerges.

Painting through the night at the store, and later with re-visits and revisions of this painting, I mused over the portals of my past and the ones that lie in my present and future. Robert Motherwell and Henri Matisse wrote eloquently about “open door” motifs in their bodies of work. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I am considering a series of paintings of antique doors that I have acquired over past years, hoping that some significant ideas and symbols might emerge from these attempts.

The idea of “portal” has kept me preoccupied lately. My eye is a portal, through which passes this fascination of the ancient door allowing access into the next room, the next chamber, the next chapter. And as I move through my life, I am passing through portals, from one world to the next. This lifetime odyssey has passed through countless doors, most of them fascinating.


And so, with a heart exhilarated with anticipation, I approach my next attempt at making art.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

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7 Responses to “Passing Through Portals”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    I can see why you struggle to wrest the meaning from Heidigger’s distinct vocabulary. I read it twenty times and an still not sure if Heidegger is punning, or if his words have a different definition from mine; like Humpty Dumpty “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less”. In its frame this picture takes on deep ambiguous meanings. It is one of my favourites. You allude to the symbolism of the portal in art and I think of Holman Hunt and his door with no keyhole, no handle. Your door handle is altogether more sinister.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Ha! I am still wrestling with Heidegger, and loving every opportunity! He is indeed opaque. I just learned that someone named his pet turtle Heidegger, because it sits quietly, doing nothing! For years, I have wondered if reading him was worth the effort, and have decided recently that he is worth reading (for me) when he is discussing art. For years, I have loved making art, but always felt at a loss for words to describe what is happening to me when I make it. Heidegger is giving me some fodder here. I am bemused that you find my door handle sinister. To me, it just stirs memories of childhood times at the farm. I am a sucker for antique objects in general, but the symbolism of a door intrigues me the most, hence my obsession to collect them and try to paint them. Thanks for responding–it’s always a pleasure hearing from a kindred spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Xraypics Says:

    Like you I find the symbolism of the portal intriguing, though not so much as to be a collector. I once owned a large complex pencil sketch (almost life size) of an old door where the keyhole had been closed and nailed over. Your old door handle is lovely. It certainly awakes memories of the old farmhouse doors, where my grandparents lived, with patinated brass ball handles. Sometimes I would be too frightened to open the door into the adjacent barn, never sure what imagined terror would lurk on the other side. With Hunt’s images the doors are quite different; no chance for you to open it, in order to enter it must be loosened from inside. Quite a different symbol, very different emotion.


    • davidtripp Says:

      I love reading your take on the portals. Did you make that life size drawing of which you wrote? I’ve purchased a roll of watercolor paper and wonder over whether to attempt a life size. My reason for “collecting” the doors was to use them as rustic walls in my art booth at festivals. Now that I’ve converted to ProPanels, the old doors just “hang out” in my man cave, and I’ve taken up painting a few of them.


      • Xraypics Says:

        Doors, especially old ones, are so heavy it’d be hard lugging them to shows and exhibitions. I admire your persistence. I wish I’d drawn the big sketch but, no, it was a British surrealist artist. I once had a preliminary oil sketch for a larger study based on exposure to his father’s dental surgery books. My son snaffled it! Doors hold a special place in our psyche. We held a charity art auction years ago and a prominent artist donated two large pictures, a door, and a window. I thought both were good but the door sold for about five times the value of the window. “Go figure”. In your picture, I feel as though the handle represents the door (is this an example of synecdoche?) and the door represents a zone of transition, a threshold. we don’t know if it is shut or open, locked or unlocked. I look at it and wonder if it will allow me to move forward, and the potential is enormous. Thankyou so much for sharing your image, and thoughts.


      • davidtripp Says:

        You’re certainly accurate about the heaviness, and I’m glad that is over. I did have industrial casters attached to the bottoms, so I pushed them like wheelbarrows. Still, loading them into and out of the Jeep was ponderous, and they did take up much space as cargo. People also tended to admire the “rusticity” of my booth, but I prefer sales to simple admiration of my display. At any rate, I’m very glad still to have the doors in my possession, and am still thinking of ways to use them in watercolor composition. I really appreciate also your talking to me about this portal metaphor. I could be posting a blog this evening, because I’m reading Faust and in the closing pages, there is a reference to the keyhole that really seized my attention. Again, thank you.


      • Xraypics Says:

        Terrific stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing what Goethe had to say about keyholes. It strikes me that this is a powerful symbol – no keyhole, no access from outside. But it’s a chink with such a limited vision of the inside – or outside. “Life is as infinitely great and profound as the immensity of the stars above us. One can only look at it through the narrow keyhole of one’s own personal experience. But through it one perceives more than one can see. So above all one must keep the keyhole clean” Franz Kafka. (Which I thought was in The Trial, but I now discover was a personal comment to Gustav Janouch). He’s talking about keeping one’s personal experience “clean”. What can he mean?


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