Monday, October 19, 2009

when the mind's eye and the eye's eye play with memory...


i picked up this beautiful albumen photograph of an ice formation in the sea at the flea market on sunday (i would highly recommend clicking to see in a larger size!). as i was looking at the photograph, deciding whether or not to buy it, it began to suggest a small painting by arthur dove, which in my mind's eye felt as if it had some sort of formal visual equivalent to the image in the photograph.


when i returned home, i spent a half hour or so trying to find my dove books, and finally uncovered frederick s. wight's book on dove from 1958. this book, which i discovered as a student, in a library in paris, many years ago, was my first introduction to dove's work, and the images, as well as some of dove's own writings, planted the first deep seeds of abstraction within me. it was also in wight's book that i first saw a color image of dove's 1910 painting, abstraction no. 2, which was part of a series of 6 very small paintings, purported to be the first truly abstract paintings made in america.

when i managed to find the image in wight's book i was surprised at how little the photograph and the painting had in common (other than their scale, as i have seen abstraction no. 2 in reality). i had somehow imagined within my mind's eye that the form within dove's small painting had similar tentacle-like appendages growing out of it, and similarly connected those iceberg horns to another of dove's works, which was totally devoid of any relationship to this photograph at all...


in the second image of dove's painting, just above, i have flipped it over, to force the painting into a literal visual relationship conversation with the photograph. of course, the black outline does suggest devilish horns pointing upwards, but the idea of the necessity of flipping the painting to make the connections work becomes too forced, and suggests, rather presumptuously, that dove's work must conform to my mind and an old anonymous photograph, rather than that i must work to get closer to whatever connections exist between two things as they are.

certainly the main form in dove's painting (seen right way up), and the ice form in the photograph, occupy a similar subject/ground relationship, as well as both inhabit a similar amount of pictorial real estate. also the larger black area in the midst of dove's shape certainly corresponds to the window-like cavity in the ice form... but within these few simple, and relatively meaningless, connections, i wonder if this whole situation should even be thought about in relation my eyes at all.

i would like to think of a "connective feeling" as something being birthed from simple gut reaction that moves vibrationally towards my emotions, and perhaps, also working a at times upon my memories - memories that perhaps relate dove's colors to some moment of visited sea, or perhaps, in relation to a time in my life, or to some object or image that holds parts of dove's abstraction and the iceberg within it.

perhaps my insides can sense or see some thing or idea that suggests a sturdy bright pink twine binding these two things together -not just in feeling, but through logic that could be articulated with clarity... but surely, this is not the case. to my "knowing" self, it is really a matter of being just out of reach, where some ethereal and stubborn string, is so invisible to my own eyes, that whatever path i would need to walk to come upon such conclusions, could not be found.

as always, it within this space of distance and disconnect that i find to be the richest. in these spaces, these two images feel connected, regardless of whether or not i can articulate such connections in detail. the truth is that i'm still enamored with the way an image can make one person feel happy or another sad, or how one seems to be good, while another is somehow bad. our response to images is quite subjective, and images generally contain such a wonderful ability to confuse things inside of us - acting as triggers of potential, towards self awareness and at the same time, creating a confused and unresolved situation that one can only really come to terms with through a kind of letting go of rational thinking - to see these things as double sided, one as it is in the world, and the other as it feels inside of us and how it plays upon our memory and mind. this convoluted flux is proof that parts of our insides are continually at work, even though we are seldom allowed to access their secrets.

when i try to compare dove's painting and the iceberg photograph, their connections are strongest when i am not thinking, and in a state of unknowing. (and so it must be that it is in that place, within the mind, where one of these two similar, yet dissimilar, things is erased, so that it can become different in mind than it is in reality - transformed, translated, or transcribed - suddenly feeling closer to its sibling in appearance inside, than it is as seen on the outside, only with eyes).

this feeling of connection, outside of logic or visual evidence, is nearly impossible to describe; although perhaps like rorschach blots, some therapist could see in my need for these two images to suggest each other in an almost symbiotic visual relationship, a relationship to some psychological state, a feeling towards a parent, or a key to my own secret desires...

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Blogger Christine White said...

i love exploring the connections between the vibrations of creativity, the vibrations of waves to make sound, and the philosophies of eastern thinking/quantum physics/law of attraction that says we are all vibrational beings.

I certainly can feel the connection between the photo and painting - what interests me is that it is the combination of the ice (physical) and the reflection of the ice that creates the connect with the painting.

it reminds me of what i loved about your work in sounding architecture - the relationship between the architecture of the serpentine gallery and the score you created from it - we can't always grasp this connection with our brain but somewhere in the mind it works.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Greg Allen said...

fascinating. I've been looking closely at Dove the last week myself [though I only have the catalogue from the 1998 Phillips retrospective].

So much of his work explores the territory or transition between landscape/place and abstraction/picture.

7:30 PM  
Blogger sroden said...

hi christine, yes indeed, for me it isn't so important that one "understands" or "reads" the connection on the surface as much as it is possible for some kind of connective tissue to be felt...

9:26 PM  
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