I don’t know why I paint but I know it’s important.
Good painting does no work, rights no wrongs, saves no species, reveals no ‘truth’. It will not deliver us from evil or lead us to a better world. But it might look good over your couch, and it might give a little glimpse of just how strange and beautiful life is. That’s enough for me.
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 some fun with the wreckage.
I have always been fascinated by iconic images: Masonic symbols, the attributes of saints, Tarot and Loteria cards, illustrations from children’s encyclopedias, rebuses, 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? Elemental images like this insist that they ‘mean’ something , and they do – but not the same thing to all of us.
That’s the point.
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 yet unresolvable.
I keep a print of the Panel of the Lions in Chauvet Cave on my studio wall. At least 30,000 years old, to me those paintings could have been made yesterday and are far better than most of the things that were. We know them, but we will never ‘understand’ them. They are our only link to a lost world, but contemporary artists are doing the same work: leaving images from a world about to disappear.
“You see, I look at my paintings, speculate about them. They baffle me, too. That’s all I’m painting for.” – Philip Guston