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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Abstraction versus Purpose - Or How I Surprised Myself With My Own Art

This is a continuation of the discussion started in this post.

When I create a wall sculpture, I always look towards creating a piece of work that is both an abstraction and has a purpose. Usually during the process of creating the sculpture, the canvas is constantly moved from a flat position to a standing position, giving me the ability to see what the work looks like as it will hang on the wall.

The current sculpture was a bit different. I wanted the opportunity to position the various elements after most of them were created, so the canvas laid flat for the first 6 weeks while I built the individual components for it and then moved them around like pieces on a chessboard, until I had them exactly the way I wanted them.

So I never got a chance to watch the slow emergence of the abstraction. Until now, this has been my view of the work.

I've seen it in what I call its "purposeful" state throughout its development. Yesterday though I finally began to secure the individual components to the canvas. And tonight for the first time the canvas was lifted to its vertical position and I was finally able to see it in "abstract" state.

And as you can see, its a totally different piece of art. For once even I was able to see it with fresh eyes and was reminded of the reason I do things this way. I want the viewer to be confused at first look. I want the viewer to think "what the hell am I looking at?" I want them to be struck by the ridiculously complex abstraction. They can see the uniformity of it, but what precisely they are seeing is a mystery.

Then they take a step closer...

And they suddenly see that there is a wealth of detail that sort of makes sense. A few more steps and suddenly everything takes on a new meaning and the purpose snaps into existence. It is no longer lines and colors in a blur. The viewer has gone from abstraction to purpose in the blink of an eye and with a suddenness that I have actually seen cause a gasp in the viewer.

And tonight, for me, I got just that gasp, but it worked in the opposite direction. I knew the purpose but I could only grasp the abstraction in my head. I'd not actually seen it. And when I did I got a rare and very pleasant surprise

Yes, then the artist in me kicked in and I found a thousand little nit picky things wrong with the composition, but for that one moment I got to see my own art from the eyes of the viewer, not the artist.

I am not sure there is even a way to duplicate this experience again, but it proved to me that my theory on abstraction and purpose is a valid way to create my art. Sadly the photos in this blog do not even come close to giving you the remote viewer the same experience. Its something that has to occur directly in front of the art. But it can happen.

If you would like to discuss this art theory more, please feel free to respond to this blog entry or contact me directly at

If you would like more information on the sculpture I use for an example in this entry, please see the working notes for the project at:

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