Monday, April 14, 2014

The Real Thing

I began this last week, paralleling this drawing from early March.

While I was doing this, I considered that my work is hugely about drawing.
The process puts my body against the paper in the drafting of a new body. It is mapped first by lines struck in ardent haste, as I try to reify some knowledge or some feeling about this body. From these many lines I slowly distill a person, wringing him out through touch that registers there in the mark of my fingerprint.

My artist statement largely skirts the centrality of drawing to my work. I think this is because I have so long harbored this immense anxiety and shame regarding realism. I am ready and steeled for my use of realism to be queried or insulted, but I never confess it. I have to be first 'found out' or tasked to explain my work. In doing so, if indeed I name realism or representationalism - if not already weary from speaking the four-letter "figuration" - it comes qualified. "Yes, realism, but not the kind you're thinking."

Yes, realism, but I do not mistake mimesis for art, or skill for genius.

In so eluding and amending, I repudiate realism, and concede to a notion that it is vapid. I impugn the very thing I 'do'. I desperately pack theory, eloquence, and self-effacement around the work so as to press realism to the door.
I have, I'm seeing now, internalized the belief that realism is fundamentally uninspired: that its inane loyalty to "truth" is precisely why it is false art. It is too timid and too shortsighted to steal (appropriate) or to invent (abstract), so it borrows to no return. It can only retell what already is, congratulating itself on the veracity of its report.
It can be esteemed only by laypeople, for its legibility and [incidental] beauty.
Realism is, by its own nature, uncreative and sterile, though it presents itself as a supremely intelligent thing.

This is what I have carried. But it isn't true, and it's time that I get over this. Realism, as any aesthetic model, has the capacity to be brave and challenging. I must too be brave, in my reclamation of the term. It is, after all, part of my language.

Budding representationalism, c. 1990

it's like the pattern below the skin
you gotta reach out and pull it all in

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