"Primordial feelings are those feelings that make me want to paint. I get up in the morning and I want to paint. Before I go to bed I am either painting or am tired of painting. Even when I am relaxing, watching television or listening to the radio, I am doing a third thing that is more important. People walk in and wonder how can I watch the TV and listen to the radio simultaneously. It is because I am doing a third thing. I am concentrating on painting. I get used to the noise. It does not bother me. It makes me focus internally. I move in and out of it but my mind is always still. It is like being in a trance where thinkiing is not disturbed. Noise also is a companion." A. S. Boghossian Ethiopian painter.
Each artist goes through a journey of learning how to articulate what is inside of her. For example, it could be 'pointedness', 'volume' or 'colour'. It could be emotions, feelings, graphic renderings of nature or organic images. Whatever the internal focus the artist is struck by it when she sees it. This could be said about any aspect of human creativity that takes over the mind. Whatever is achieved is imperceptible and extraordinarily slow in coming. This is basically why artists and scientists tend to doubt their achievements and wonder whether they make a contribution to society. Thinking as a process is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The difference between artistic and scientific creativity is that art can only retain its radical autonomy by allowing the spectator a 'free' space of interpretation. In order to interact with abstract landscape art we have to adjust our idea about scenery in terms of a mental expression of mood and history, well laced with a desire to get to the spiritual heart of things.
Since Picasso and Cezanne we have been taught to make and see art with our minds, not our eyes. Even Claude Lorraine and his 18th century followers in their realistic depictions of semi-rural Italian scenery were actually constructing personal spiritual takes on reality and legend. Their aim was to produce imaginary scenes of the mind, depicting a strain of poetic fantasy that delighted in myth. Also, we should remember that pre-Impressionistic, photographic Constable saw clouds, particularly in his sketches, as an expression of the infinite cosmos and not simply as a versimilitude of weather. Turner in his 'Rain Steam and Speed', transformed notions of time, space and physical matter'.
Surrealism developed in the 1920s with the aim of showing something that is there, but not yet visible to everybody. Artists thought they had achieved this by discovering worlds of fantastical images, altered realities and the oddest encounters of people and objects. Their vision transfigured tangible material reality into something completely new; discovering how to approach a spiritual dimension of matter by arranging objects and people in ways that challenge the viewer's understanding. Basically they were trying to say things that are not contained in the component parts of the picture, such as reveries, allusions or associations.
What we wish to view or express graphically is really always based on metaphors of our state of mind at a particular time and in a certain geographical place. Because of Surealism, avantguard, abstract 'landscape artists' now have to really struggle for a personal mental clarity of expression to produce a picture of a reality that has never before been seen. The deep blend of intense emotion and physical sensations requires the artist 'knowing' before 'seeing' in order to to express a personal obsession . This kind of abstraction from what is optically perceived will often produce an outcome that requires textual clarification before a viewer can become truely interested in the work of art and come to an understanding. Ideally, this gloss should come from the artist, but it is more often a figment of the mind of a critic who stands before the work as a self-appointed intermediary. Without an interpretation in words, abstract landscape can easily become impossible to decipher.
To express a total view of a scene requires the artist to combine the ideas of 'environment', with its emphasis on function, and 'landscape' with its focus on form. This way, the artist can play the role of a participant in the narrative as well as an activator of its creation as a two-dimensional image. The painter Ben Nicholson expressed this multifaceted definition of creativity as setting up a group of objects 'to see what we can do with them; make them into not like they are but something else; lets draw lines round them; draw lines out from them and so on'.
This can lead to works that are multiple viewpoints in parallel, with many layers of meaning.
For the painter Peter Lanyon in 1964, whose work telescoped time in an overlap of different times, views and subjects, landscape painting was about transforming the environment as a source for looking forward, not an echo of the past:
"The real place of the painter today in a landscape tradition is in the creation of works which transform the environment and fill people with images to understand the immense range of human curiosity particularly in the sciences, Landscape then is not any longer tied specifically to 'nature' as the country, but infuses a painting with a sense of the forces beyond human scale'.
Lanyon's place pictures are very difficult to understand without knowing his life story and the actual places where he painted and why he painted. Regarding the important issue of the viewer wanting to know what goes on in the artist's mind, what is needed is not a cut and dried answer- it clearly defies that- but rather an extension of a viewing experience. Widening the scope of the meeting between viewer and maker at the canvas could be an important way of answering the question.
Some paintings are ideas and others are experiences or imaged landscapes from actual experiences. In the following ‘interface experiment’ an artist and her viewers are both working with ideas which makes them concentrate on the process of creativity rather than the final product.
The method was for viewers to deconstruct one of Susi Bellamy's pictures (Field of Dreams) so that artist and viewers could both articulate a shared experience taking place between the end of the artist's experience and the beginning of the audience's experience. At this point the viewers are actually turning a work of art into another work of art.
Susi describes her picture as being a representation of the 'field ' of her lifehistory, expressed metaphorically as a landscape; a stratified sequence of sedimented memories from the different places that have influenced her development as an artist. The geological idea of 'weathering' comes to mind with respect to the power of dreams to provide only a partial view of the past, which is exposed to the loss of memories, producing isolated peaks of experience and lacunae in event sequences.
To be continued....
'Field of Dreams'; Susi Bellamy