This piece was originally published on the old blog. The idea is to deal with finding the unfamiliar. Human beings tend to attribute familiar forms to shapes which are quite different, like clouds. The idea here is to reverse that process, and recognize the unfamiliar, rather than “editing” it.
In the typical banal modern environment, it’s not really all that easy to think of visual media as a form of exploration. Acclimatized shapes, familiar objects; it’s a shopping list of the mundane. Now – What if every shape you saw was completely unfamiliar? What if you didn’t have names, uses, and straightforward applications for what you see?
You will probably have noticed that when you’re in a natural environment, a different set of priorities kicks in. You react to the total environment, and instinctive awareness suddenly wakes up and starts paying attention. You may even get flashes of childhood taking careful steps in unfamiliar terrain.
I do a lot of painting when I get off my butt, and I love the way paint works. I love the dynamics of the flow, and I love new experiences while painting. Let’s face it; I’m on the paint’s side.
One of my original ideas was the thing I call “variable perspective”. This involves the use of multiple perspectives in an image. The idea is to create a plurality of perspectives within an aggregate image. Yesterday I had an experience which I must say it was a real game changer and took this idea to a completely different level.
Being way out of practice, I started doing some dry brushwork. That took me right out of my familiar zone into a completely new area. This is an era are actually do understand to some degree. I am a big admirer of some of the black-and-white ink artists and I can really appreciate what they can do with the combination of black ink and white paper, producing multiple images using both tones. They are incredibly productive and some of the imagery is absolutely fantastic. Wallace Wood is a case in point on the original MAD comics.
This experience left me with a few problems. On the one hand, I was confronted with my own work, which was a bit tactless of me. On the other hand, I was also confronted with an absolute dream of new shapes and new ideas. Hence the expression, “Unfamiliar”.
This set off a typical bit of artistic logic that very strange contraption which artists persist in describing as rational thought: What if there were no familiar shapes? What if everything you saw is something you’ve never seen before?
So the new idea is quite simple: Get rid of all familiar shapes, and see what happens. This idea is hardly full grown, and will need to evolve quite a bit, but there it is. I should point out that the new approach does involve a certain amount of hard work on the part of the viewer. It is not just one picture. It’s thousands of pictures. There is no structure. An overall structure, in fact, isn’t even required.
(A point in passing – I’m familiar with the plodding, uber-mediocre pseudo-artistic social theory of “outsider art”, “insider art”, and the rest of the ridiculous ritual of “who’s allowed to do art”, which has done so much to turn modern art into a sewer. My family is full of artists, I know the game, I despise the pecking orders, and I couldn’t possibly care less. Adherents to this trivial, irrelevant social structure are cordially advised to go to hell, preferably now.)
There is one common rule in any form of art: The idea is what’s important. Consider the idea of totally unfamiliar visual images. Consider combinations of visual elements and shapes and non-shapes that you’ve never seen before. That’s what “Unfamiliar” is about. I’ll be very interested to see where this idea goes.