It’s Rhythmic

Aesthetics

Part Five
(This is the final in a series of five posts describing my aesthetic or artistic sensibility in more detail.)

My aesthetic is Rhythmic

In my previous post I explained a bit about how I build movement into my painting’s composition. One of the main ways I accomplish this is through various rhythms that I set up in a picture.

When we think of rhythm we think of music. Our ears love rhythm and latch on to interesting rhythms in songs and symphonies but also in raindrops on windshields, heels on hardwood, faulty faucets, and wherever else it can be heard or imagined. Our eyes love rhythm too. They are drawn to repetition and pattern all around us. They find rhythm in the thrum of trees along a highway or the measured beat of a balustrade.

I’d like to highlight three examples of how I bring rhythm into my paintings. These three are also signature elements that make my work instantly identifiable as uniquely mine.

  • The use of cross hatching in patterned fields as a simple signifier for all fabric.
  • The stylized representation of hands and feet and the repetition of toes in line.
  • The use of running script along the sides of the canvas panel that acts as a framing device for the image.

I have illustrated each of these basic uses of rhythm below. Used together with repeating lines, dashes of pure color, stippled brushwork and many other devices, these three examples of rhythm in my work enliven a painting and delight the eye.

Signature cross hatching pattern in the painting Francisco.

Signature cross hatching creates a rhythmic pattern in the painting Francisco.

Repeating imagery in the painting Adan y Evas.

Repeating imagery sets up a rhythm in the painting Adan y Evas.

Words framing the painting Onotemeras. Script is often from other languages, are used with no punctuation or spaces between words. The text relates to the imagery and adds another  layer of meaning. It is not meant to be read as a sign or deciphered in order to understand the meaning of a work.

Words framing the painting Onotemeras. This script is often from other languages and is used with no punctuation or spaces between words. The text relates to the imagery and adds another layer of meaning. It is not meant to be read as a sign however or “deciphered” in order to understand the meaning of a work.

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It’s Static

Aesthetics

Part Four
(This is the fourth in a series of five posts describing my aesthetic or artistic sensibility in more detail.)

My aesthetic is Static.

Okay, actually it’s not static.

Static is the term I use to describe the solidity and sense of timelessness I want to capture in my images. I would like it to seem that my simple archetypes have stood at rest in our memory, still like the imagery of the ancients. The first quality that one notices in my work is the formal and frontal presentation of the figures. I don’t paint action or figures in motion. The subjects are posed and fill the composition completely. Their bodies, limbs, faces fit like puzzle pieces on the canvas. Their gaze passively meets the eye of the viewer. This is stasis.

The dynamism in my painting is found within and in relation to the static impression of the solid figures. Movement comes from the way our eye wanders within the composition.

Bold black lines are like our tour guides as our eye moves over the painted surface. We are led to displays of pattern, light catching texture, sections of precise brushstrokes and contrasting surfaces of sparely painted canvas. We see colors blend, separate and reappear as highlights elsewhere. Lines create repeating shapes and divide the picture on horizontal and vertical axes. Diagonals bring us back to the beginning. What at first seemed static has real energy and, on closer examination, a lot of moving parts!

My aesthetic is static … and it’s not.

Internal movement in the painting Como Los Frutos (Detail). Line, pattern, texture and color.

Internal movement in the painting Como Los Frutos (Detail). Line, pattern, texture and color.

It’s Multi-Ethnic

Aesthetics

Part Three
(This is the third in a series of five posts describing my aesthetic or artistic sensibility in more detail.)

My aesthetic is Multi-Ethnic

My painting reflects my fascination and enthusiasm for the human face. Even though I use a simple, stylized formula for the face, I am amazed at how slight variations in the basic forms can evoke various ethnicities. I can broaden or lengthen the rectangle nose. I can slim or make fuller the circle of lips. I can shade raw sienna into burnt sienna or add a red highlight and I have another race, another place!

Originally I set out to paint figures with no racial identity. Just people. Just humans, in order to celebrate all humans. Slowly though, over years of painting, my faces and figures developed beautiful variations and now represent all racial identities rather than no racial identity at all. It’s the same end with different means.

There is a difference between the terms multi-ehnic and multicultural. My work does not have a multicultural agenda per se. My purpose is not to promote understanding between cultures or preserve cultural differences or religious values within our diverse society. If I accomplish these things in a small way, all the better. I am simply interested in using figures from a variety of races and cultures to embody basic truths. (See my previous post: It’s Iconic)

The beauty of universal truths is best pictured using the truth of universal beauty.

Still, like the disconnect some experience with the name Tornillo Fine Art and my name, Pattison, some are taken back when meeting me after seeing my paintings. Looking at a body of work largely representing people of color, most people expect the artist to be a person of color himself. As if any artist would be interested exclusively in painting people from the same genetic makeup as himself! My work is obviously not illustration of my travel or reportage of various cultural milieu. It portrays diverse human experience using reference to other cultures (in composition as well subject matter) but it is not cultural appropriation. It is one person making paintings about all people portraying many kinds of people. Multi-Ethnic.

Buscando El Ritmo (Looking For The Rhythm) Oil On Canvas 46 x 32 inches

Buscando El Ritmo
(Looking For The Rhythm)
Oil On Canvas
46 x 32 inches

It’s Iconic

Aesthetics

Part Two
(This is the second of a series of five posts describing my aesthetic or artistic sensibility in more detail.)

My aesthetic is Iconic

Iconic. Having the characteristics of an icon.

It seems a little presumptuous to claim my paintings as iconic using a current understanding of the word. Those things that are commonly thought of as iconic are famous, widely known and recognized. They have a quality of excellence that allows them to represent with authority. This understanding is close to the word paragon. A paragon is a perfect example of a particular quality.

I am using the word iconic in a more basic sense. Icons are typically painted representations of Jesus Christ, the Saints or other holy figures. Sometimes the images are carved or created with mosaic tiles, but whatever the material or however they are created, they are thought to contain something of the essence of that which they portray. They are more than representations or symbols. They are understood to be like windows containing qualities of that which is represented and at the same time offering a way to see through to the thing itself.

While I don’t try to paint icons in this traditional sense and don’t claim this kind of spiritual significance for my work, I try to make paintings that represent archetypes, act as windows to those archetypes and perhaps in a small way stand in for them. I am not interested in genre painting or illustrating families, scenes of people working, playing music, praying or meditating. Rather I want to paint Family, Work, Music or Worship. I want a picture of a mother and her children to represent and stand in for Motherhood, not to illustrate a certain mother and her circumstances. I am interested in essences and embodiments.

A large agenda!

Look for upcoming posts on my use of style and composition to achieve a sense of the Iconic.

 

Carga, No Carga A painting about the burden (that is not a burden) of Motherhood

Carga, No Carga
The Burden (that is not a burden) of Motherhood

It’s Rustic

Aesthetics

Part One
(This is the first of a series of five posts describing my aesthetic or artistic sensibility in more detail.)

My aesthetic is Rustic

Beginning with the exhibit Guerra y Sueño, my paintings have explored the balance between archival quality and  rough-hewn character. From the use of re-purposed materials, to patched and sewn painting supports and the direct application of paint from the tube, my work is plainly and purposefully construction grade. The original conceit posited these paintings as the product of a poor painter from Mexico. I have tried to maintain that look and feel.

The cultivated coarseness of the work positions it within a place of poverty, necessity and rough simplicity. This is opposed to the often over precious attitude found in much fine art. My sensibility is burlap and house paint rather than linen and Sennelier.

The use of rustic material and application in my paintings coupled with the fine art setting in which they are found  provides an interplay of high and low which is integral to the Tornillo aesthetic. Of course each piece I create has different requirements related to theme, composition and presentation, but below you will find a few examples of my use of rustic features in certain paintings.

This photo shows the palette board stretchers and stitched found-material support of the painting Mi Familia II

This photo shows the palette board stretchers and stitched found-material support of the painting Mi Familia II

This detail of the painting El Aqua y La Vida shows the use of burlap used in context as a “patch” on the garment and also as a bit of texture applied randomly on the painted texture clothing and the pot.

Stitched canvas as a compositional element in the painting Giants In The Land

Stitched canvas as a compositional element in the painting Giants In The Land

Aesthetics and The Secret of Life

Aesthetics, Tornillo

“What Kind Of Art Do You Do?”

When people learn that I am a visual artist this is the question that invariably comes next. “What kind of art do you do?” Even though I have been asked this question countless times I am always surprised to find how ill prepared I am to answer. My paintings are unique, colorful, textural, linear, and deal with themes of human dignity. They are, however, paintings. Pictures.

 
Remember the equation?
1 picture = 1000 words
I paint lots of pictures. So the equation becomes:
(Lots of)  pictures = (lots of 1000’s of) words
Most people’s eyes glaze over when I set about solving that equation for them.
You have to see my paintings to know what kind of work I do.
 
I can however, describe a certain aesthetic to which I subscribe. An aesthetic is a set of underlying principles that guide the work of an artist or a group of artists. Aesthetics is a philosophy that is concerned with beauty and taste and art and how they are defined and appreciated in culture and across cultures. Our word aesthetics comes from Greek words that have to do with sense and perception. Theorists and aestheticians like to talk about things like sublimity and sublimation, intentionality and linguistic phenomenality. I like what Oscar Wilde said about aesthetics being, “the search after the meaning of life.” I like the idea that true artists are searching in their work after the meaning of life. There are many people making beautiful and well-crafted, even ‘artistic’, creations. This is craft. Art is different. Art is striving, and art is the visual record and embodiment of the Search for the Meaning of Life!
So an artist’s aesthetic describes the search and how it is worked out in the details of the art. It is more than a personal style. It includes an artist’s way of working, his or her goals and statements of intent, the use of materials, the thematic choices and presentation. All of this is in the context of a complete body of work.
 
 
The Tornillo aesthetic that I have developed over the years is the result of my studies, my travels and the making of hundreds of paintings. It is characterized by five basic principles. In this and a few subsequent posts I will try to describe and explain these five principles.
And I will try to use fewer than ‘lots of thousands of’ words.
photo