Posts Tagged ‘abstract art’

An Experiment in Psychic Automatism

March 27, 2015
An Experiment in Psychic Automatism

My Afternoon of Psychic Automatism

Psychic automatism offered Motherwell a means of countering his will. Doodling thus represented for him “a process in which one’s whole being is revealed, willingly or not.” Later, after he read a useful book on the subject of children’s art, he replaced the term “doodling” with the more accurate “artful scribbling,” but the effect was the same. It was not a style, but a method that tapped deep roots and became a means of access, a way of getting to the authentic self, the preconscious. He liked Saul Steinberg’s designation of it as “the brooding of the hand.” 

Edward Hirsch, The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration

After two consecutive days of horrendous grading (the bane of my teaching profession), I found myself too wiped out this afternoon to pursue a studied watercolor, or even to read a book. I’ve been focusing on Robert Motherwell for a couple of days now, especially his early journey into surrealism and his theories of psychic automatism. I’ll write more of this when I’m not so wiped out. I really need to retire to bed, as the day has been exhausting.

Being unable to focus my mind the way I prefer, I decided to follow Motherwell’s lead and just “let go” as my high school art teacher continually urged me to do.  I laid out twelve large sheets of paper, mixed several colors of ink, drew out a large watercolor brush, and let my hand doodle over each page without any sense of a priori judgment. I just let the hand move, and watched what happened, deciding each time when to stop and move on to the next space. After setting them aside and gazing at them from a distance for awhile, I then decided it was time for my 2-mile exercise walk, and away I went. I have not looked at the ink doodlings since, choosing only to post this picture of what I did late this afternoon in a drowsy fog.

More on this later.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Anxieties of Abstraction

October 13, 2013
My First Non-Representational Painting, Acrylic on Canvas, 1970

My First Non-Representational Painting, Acrylic on Canvas, 1970

Abstraction’s original meaning is “to select from,” in the Latin; though I will not say, as is so easy for defenders of abstract art, that consequently all art is abstract because all art is selected; this is simply to win a dialectical point–in the Socratic sense of dialectical.  Au contraire.  What is selected is selected on the basis of the most concrete, personal feeling.

Robert Motherwell, Lecture, 1959

Ability to copy lines, shapes, tones, amounts to little.  Ability to correlate lines, shapes, tones, is the rare and necessary quality of hte artist.  All good art is composition.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

In the next day or two, I will be positing at least two drafts that I have been composing for several days now.  There has been plenty on my mind that I have wanted to publish.  Pictured above is the first non-objective painting I ever attempted.  I was in the eleventh grade, and highly resentful toward my Art III teacher who was requiring a non-representational work of art from each of his advanced students.  I was resistant, and it led to hurt feelings on both sides.  I submitted this piece, and subsequently won first place in the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Exhibition.  I had no idea then if I actually had a superior work of art, and still do not know today.   But I have kept the work for the memory and the appreciation that I was pushed into unfamiliar waters.

Teaching Advanced Placement Art History, I keep looking for ways to make my students conversant with abstract art so that they can discuss and write essays evaluating that kind of art.  Last week, I was delighted at the response I received from one of my students when I asked them to define abstraction, without consulting a dictionary or computer.  This is what she wrote:

Abstraction is simplifying an object to its most essential and necessary forms.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be posting soon.