I don’t know why I paint but I know it’s important.
Good painting does no work. Good painting will right no wrongs, save no species, reveal no truth. It will not deliver us from evil or lead us to a better world. But it might look good over a couch.
Painting is older than language, older than the names of things. Painting – not words, not laughter, not tools – is what first made us human. The Wall of the Horses in Chauvet is a relic of the moment, 47,000 years ago, when we first became aware of ourselves as somehow different than our animal brothers and sisters. Painting was then – and remains to this day – magic.
I paint from my experience of the world. That is to say, I paint from the random multi-vehicle collisions of experience, memory, association, and imagination which are our lives. Painting itself doesn’t do much to clarify anything, but it lets me have fun with the wreckage.
I have always been fascinated by iconic images: symbols, Tarot and Loteria cards, cave paintings, illustrations from children’s encyclopedias, rebuses and pictographs, pictorial elements that ‘read’ at a glance, punch above their weight – yet remain ambiguous. What does a pictograph of a knife ‘mean’? It might mean one thing to a wood carver, something else to a cook, one thing to a woman in Kampala and something very different to a boy in Taiwan. What is a ladder? What’s with the dog? Images like this insist that they ‘mean’ something , and they do – but not the same thing to all of us.
For me a picture is successful when it becomes more than the sum of its parts, when it suddenly becomes a mystery even (or especially) to me. That’s what I work for. I work to make pictures that are compelling but unresolvable. That’s the best reflection of life I can make.
‘You see, I look at my paintings, speculate about them. They baffle me, too. That’s all I’m painting for.” – Philip Guston