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Marcin Roncancio.

“All art is quite useless,” is a quote by Wilde that I have frequently considered with regards to abstract impressionism. Does it apply in that context? Does art truly have a use beyond decoration, or a vehicle for the propaganda of the artist or his patron? These were the questions I sought to answer through challenging myself to not merely observe the process or research, but to attempt it.

Going through several museums and galleries of modern art I found myself searching for patterns, trying to discern meaning and order in a genre of art that quite deliberately flaunts its dispensation of such superfluities. I eventually reconciled my need for meaning in art in different ways. With Pollock I learned about how the process of painting can be more important than the final product; from that point on, the feelings the artist expressed through creation became the hidden focus of any piece in my view. Observing works of Rothko’s I learned how color and emotion could be as much of a subject of a painting as any model. Indeed it was Rothko’s art that struck me, and provided an antecedent for the basic form of my own paintings in this project.

I started knowing the basic form I wanted to imitate, but I personally needed a subject to express. My choice, also the title of the two paintings, was Love and Lack. Something so universal surely could be represented by color and its emotional connotations. My palette was simply of red, yellow, white, blue and black. The first half, the canvas of red and yellow and white, was Love. The second, composed merely of shades of grey and blue, was Lack.

Red is the passion, the indisputable symbol of love. Personally, however, my favorite color is yellow and is representative to me of warmth and uncomplicated happiness. I wanted yellow to be the primary focus of the painting, leaking into the other colors. Blue is counterpoint to red; as red was not supposed to be the focus of the first painting, blue was not the focus of the second. Grey, cold and lifeless was what I chose for Lack. It describes barrenness, a desolation of emotion to me, one that has never been touched by the light or love. Loss, a concept I chose not to portray, would perhaps have been purple in contrast, a mix of red and blue in combination with other vivid colors such as green and yellow as well, but tinged and tainted to suggest an old bruise—it would have been warmth, growth and passion, but with warped elements.

The framing colors, black and white respectively, were included to impress upon the viewer a sense of detachment from the painting. The subject is as I have mentioned universal, but my unique portrayal of it, my perspective on it, is not. The viewer is a voyeur, looking through a barred frame at my personal view. The frame of the first painting brings to mind the hackneyed phrase about seeing the world through “rose-colored glasses”—the viewer looks through the frames to see certain concepts tinged by colors and emotions that are not their own.

Up until now I have only discussed my initial choices and ideas regarding what I planned on doing; the result is not quite what I anticipated. The focus seems to have shifted, a great part of which is a result of my decision to include the black and white separations between the colors in the first and second paintings. I feel that the effect of the blended colors was diminished because of them—the orange in the middle doesn’t quite contain the correct balance I wished it to, and the effect I had originally wanted to include with the white portion is not clear. Trying to get in what I wanted was not only fiendishly difficult to attempt, but practically resulted in failure. I did not know that the border of the second painting would be white until I had done it.

A large part of the flaws I see are nothing more than a lack of practical knowledge in art. One thing this venture has utterly convinced me of was that despite a vague knowledge of structure and the use of symbols, I have no more idea of how to paint than your average chimpanzee. Whatever lingering thoughts I had about the lack of skill necessary to produce works of abstract impressionism, have evaporated. Blending red and yellow was never so complicated a task, achieving a straight line had never been as arduous; this experiment taught me a few valuable lessons, one of which was to avoid the banausic parts— to delve into theory rather than practice. How was I to know the proper way to layer color, to mix it, to bring mere pigmentation to a higher plane of meaning?

Regardless, I muddled through my paintings as best I could, and arrived at a piece that perhaps does not express my initially contrived idea, but something I could never have planned completely in advance. A painting is not meant to solely express what I mean it to, after all. A large part of abstract expressionism is about what he who views it wishes to see, and what part of the painting reflects his views or values is the part he is likely to take from it. In this sense, the bars in Love, which to me originally suggested the separation between the panes of glass in a window, might in fact represent the separation between different levels, or incarnations of love. If the black tinged red of the bottom pane can represent lust, does the pure white of the top represent the ultimate Platonic love? Are the colors and their placement representative of a flame? Or is the border between the gray and blue meant to be a horizon, does it evoke the view of a still and dreary shore? Looking at the works from a Freudian perspective, can the Love portion be a symbol for the culmination of the act of love, with the darker red at the bottom representing the baser instincts of desire and want, and the top, a bright burst of clear white the pinnacle of this? All of these are possible and are simultaneously the truth to one who can view it in one way while another may view the same work in a different manner.

Art is perhaps not useful in any traditional sense of the term. It performs no real function independently—it is only in conjunction with a person that art retains a purpose. To an artist that purpose is self-expression, release, catharsis. To the viewer it can be an affirmation of beliefs or feelings, an embodiment of his personal tastes, or the epitome of good aesthetics. The creative process itself lends all art some form of meaning, and through expressing and observing that meaning art is given its purpose.

This class overall has been an exploration of art, which at points inevitably incurred the discussion of what constitutes art in the first place. Part of it is in execution, in the process of the artist, but also the appreciation of others. In this vein, one could say that presenting our pieces in class and explaining our process to our peers was important in bringing up the level of our work; to us, they were initially another project, but in being shown off, and in conjunction with the feedback of the others the projects gained something that potentially made the difference between art and pointless decoration.

(Note: I’m VERY sorry, but I was not able to post my paintings. Hopefully my description will be sufficient for them not to be forgotten!)

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