Symbolic Forms

Self-Portrait in Grey HatAE

Many of my posts will entail questions I put to myself: musings, journal entries reflected upon.

Symbolic forms or ideas are independent and are understood intuitively. I wrote this several years ago and it hangs on the wall of my studio. Periodically, I muse over it.

What is the relationship between artistic perception and symbolic forms and how are they independent? The artists’ perception is intuitive. It is something which is felt. This perception drifts between perceived reality, what is known, and the unconscious or the “dream”. This borderline area is where symbolic forms exist and where the “image” seeks its counterpart desiring materialization.

The artist, in his reverie, acts as a locus or magnet for an image to manifest itself. I give and speak of “image” as if it had its own independent life- which it does. This goes slightly beyond Baudelaire’s vision-“The whole visible universe is but a storehouse of images and signs to which the imagination will give a relative place and value; it is a sort of pasture which the imagination must digest and transform.” [Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, pg.48].

There is a dynamic relationship between the artist and the image and it becomes transformative. If the artist himself, is not transformed by it how can he expect to be a guide for change?

Why should the artist seek symbolic forms? Because the artist must combine what is known and what is seen to what is perceived intuitively [i.e. attentive equations]. This creates an intensity of feeling in the image that goes beyond material form to a symbolic value. There is a recognition and an intensity of feeling felt from within.

Delacroix describes this inherent feeling in his journal- “I firmly believe that we always mingle something of ourselves in the emotions that seem to arise out of the objects that impress us. And I think it probable that these things delight me so much only because they echo feelings that are also my own. If, although so different, they give me the same degree of pleasure, it must be because I recognize in myself the source of the kind of effect they produce.” (Journal of Eugene Delacroix, pg.213].

The object creates a resonance within the artist compelling him to materialize this emotion creatively. There is a direct correspondence between myself and the object- a recognition between us transporting me to a symbolic place- where form[my vehicle as a representational artist] declares its embedded meaning. Its the artist’s vocation to amplify and materialize this leading to his own transformation as well as being a guide  for others.

Evoking more than the personal

Along The Rio Chama, painting by Judith Reeve

“Art is the memorialization of elemental forces of life which, having no permanent language or iconography, require art to be known to all.”

“The eros of the eye, that is visual art: striking the viewer so deeply, with such authority, the merely personal is obliterated; something like an archetypal self is evoked.”

Both these quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson appear on the first page of my journal.  They have guided my work.  The emergence of an “archetypal self” has been of keen interest to me.  Thematically I have focused on the conflict between the body and the spirit, between material elements and the soul.  This conflict, as I witnessed it in the landscape of the west, further provoked my imagination.  This tension I have attempted to magnify imaginally by looking to mythic figures whose qualities can harness the elements and provide a sense of order.  These symbolic figures, similar to those encountered by Odysseus on his journey, mirror an interior geography.  It is this interior landscape I am interested in and its analogical relationship to the world.  I see it in the west and I see it in the human figure as well.

(This artist statement was used in a program for a show featuring images painted in New Mexico along the Rio Chama.)