In Search of Image

As an artist, one always tends to think in images. But it is important to step back and rethink what an image is.  Too many paintings are composed as conceptions based on a rational part of ourselves ( what one “ought” to paint) and are not true Images. Image is the soul of a piece deeply connected to the soul of the artist. It stands as a hallmark as well as a guide to the artist. The artist must have a deep connection to the world in order to craft images that speak on this level. In a letter to his brother, Keats wrote: “Call the world, if you please, ‘the vale of soulmaking.’ Then you will find out the use of the world.”In this very act of crafting the image, the artist partakes in his own crafting of soul through his deep feeling and participation in the world.

Noel Cobb states beautifully in his book on “The Archetypal Imagination”,

“We must remember that image is not just some object or other out there; it is not the same as a picture, not the same as an optical, visual thing…Nor is it an optical event, an afterimage, or even the same as memory. It is neither inside us, nor outside us, but somewhere in between. What I am reaching for is that sense of the image we can find among the ancient Greeks and again in the Florentine circles of the Renaissance- the image considered as the way in which the heart perceives. (p.30)

The perceptions of the heart create image. Being attuned to that delicate movement of the heart is the foundation of the artist’s journey. It becomes less about what one sees and more about how one sees. The material world, that inspires and which one renders with such devotion, becomes the isthmus that takes us to the world of images.  And the imagination is what gives one the wings to travel there. “Without this taking in of the world, there is no awakening in the heart, no poetry, no making, no craft or crafting. Events remain events, soulless occurrences; they do not become experiences. Pictures remain two-dimensional happenings of form and composition, unless through soul they become images.” (Ibid.p.30)

“Images are angels- or rather diamones”(Ibid.)  because they are living things, embodied and particular; They have a life of their own independent from oneself. Because of this independence, one cannot just call the image forth but must await for its appearance with attentiveness. And when it does appear, such as described by Lorca, one must wrestle with this being in crafting the poetic image. One must fully participate and allow oneself to be transformed by it. One must be ready to risk all. Rumi states, “there is born within… a spiritual Child having the breath of Christ which resuscitates the dead.” A resurrection within the heart of those that see and partake of the image is what the artist is called to facilitate. “When the heart is inspired a new life and new image is born.” (Ibid.p.29)

Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

One thought on “In Search of Image”

  1. What a powerful and beautiful image and thanks for the thoughtful and inspiring definition of image.

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