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Essays and Enquiries From the Studio

Further Notes on “Netherland”

While speaking with the Maestro earlier tonight on Skype we spent some of the time discussing some of the finer points I made during the presentation I gave of Netherland from a few weeks back, and it occurred to me that I had failed to write any of it down.  It now occurs to me that I should.

For starters, I’m inclined to believe there are three kinds of paintings:

  1. The kind where I know what I want, I make a plan, then execute (rarely does this happen);
  2. The kind where I say, I’ve got two hours to do it, and at the end of the two hours it’s done;
  3. The kind where I have just a point of departure and the suspicion that those first steps will lead me on a great adventure—that was Netherland.

(There is also a fourth kind: the kind I don’t finish.)

Then, there is the looming question that inevitably follows any Odyssey of the Third Kind: if I knew that the final image was what I wanted from the start and painted it so directly—without the months of twists and turns—would it still resonate the way I feel the final image does?

On the one hand, I hope the answer is “no,” as I would like to think the blood, sweat and tears adds to the magic.

On the other hand, I hope the answer is “yes,” as I would like to complete magic paintings faster.

Ultimately, Netherland has taught me that I must better set the stage for what I love most about the act of painting:  accuracy, economy and spontaneity—I must pursue further a process that isn’t just about getting it right (accuracy), and getting a lot from a little (economy), but making it so that little takes little to do (spontaneity).

These are good things to remember.

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