Saturday, July 01, 2006

Postmodern thoughts

“The postmodern artist or writer is in the position of a philosopher: the text he writes or the work he creates is not in principle governed by preestablished rules and cannot be judged according to a determinant judgment, by the application of given categories to this text or work.” (Jean-Francois Lyotard “the Post Modern Explained”)

Without preestablished rules, many are left to anarchy and destruction; often in the art world it manifests as a psydo-deconstructionism in which an artist sees no rules, does not want rules, and is so afraid of rules that the only rule becomes disorder.

What the freedom from preestablished rules grants me is the ability to explore specific parts of my own life through THEMES of expression (as opposed to rules). Individual images have strong compositional balance because of my exceptionally modernist personal aesthetic while the larger body of work holds together as a multi-layered theme of self-exploration.

Waves are an obvious theme. What is less obvious, and somehow more important, is the repetitive nature of waves; the rhythm that they create through similar (yet different) shape. Even further, waves are a type of movement through a medium. The wave is not a solid “thing”, but a movement, an expression of energy that affects the medium, just as the intent and work of an artist affects the medium with which he works.

The curious exploration of a subject IS partially deconstructive. My goal is not deconstruction for the sake of itself, but as a means to understand something on a deeper level. My etching needle scratches ground away from the plate, and acid removes more material. The process is repeated as I figure out which areas to explore further. Pulling prints is a repetitive process, yet every single application of the ink and run through the press is a little bit different. They have the same overall structure and process, but small imperfections make each one unique.

There is a deconstructive bend to additive processes as well. The first step is the analysis of the subject; the breaking up into component parts as a way to see the wave’s construction. As paint is applied, earlier layers are obscured or destroyed, leaving a history of the process.

A far less obvious theme is the repetition of both exploring difficult tasks and returning to those that I enjoy. Each painting is both a difficult task as well as something that I enjoy. Surfing a wave has varying degrees of difficulty, and it is an exceptionally enjoyable task.

This past winter I had an injury that would not allow me to ride waves for 138 days. I also could not draw or paint for a couple of weeks. It made me realize just how much of my life had revolved around both art and water, and how many sacrifices I have made to pursue these things. The things that I have given up, so that I could pursue art and water, were difficult to surrender. But, the surrender was also part of the pleasure because it leads to that which I wanted most. I expressed this driving desire to get back to my life of art and water by setting out to draw 100 Waves. My recovery time lasted for 138 days, so I kept drawing to reach that number.

Some argue that I have created my own rules. But, I refuse to throw out those rules just for the sake of some theory of postmodernism. The rules were made by living my life as I explore instances of the sublime. My life is the one rule that I can accept, as I allow myself to determine, through experimentation, which wave (or rule) I am going to ride next.

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