Thursday, December 24, 2009

Looking East

Emanation V, oil on canvas, 15 x 12 inches, © 2009 Diane McGregor

In the artistic tradition of East Asia, "precise and detailed description of objects was rarely considered a goal. Instead, revealing the essence of an object or a part of the natural world, and evoking feelings and thoughts from the observer, were more important to the artist. In this aesthetic philosophy, a work of art need not be imitative of reality, and the physical properties and expressive qualities of the artist's medium could be appreciated to some measure as independent aesthetic ends. Thus, the fundamental concept of art as essentially a process of abstraction, by definition several degrees removed from reality, is fundamental to East Asian artistic practice, and is arguably East Asian in origin.

"Many writers who championed Abstract Expressionism stressed its historical importance in terms of technical and compositional innovation. Many of the formal and visual attributes they appreciated as advanced in American art, however, had been applied for centuries in East Asian art, including: gestural, semi-controlled techniques of paint application; restriction of color range, often to just black and white; calligraphic methods, emphasizing free linearism; emphasis on the flatness of the pictorial surface; asymmetrical compositions; prominent voids or 'empty' spaces, or fields of mist-like monochrome; and acceptance of accidental effects."

Quoted from Jeffrey Wechsler, "Asian Traditions -- Modern Expressions," in American Art Review (Vol. IX No.6 1997), pp 149-150.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Metaphysics of Painting

Vibration, oil on canvas, 30x30 inches, © 2009 Diane McGregor

I am an abstract oil painter who creates ethereal, inner landscapes. My current body of work is a meditation on the light, colors, and textures of the American Southwest. I apply the paint as a repetitive, zen-like practice. The image is gradually woven from an accretion of horizontal and vertical brushstrokes, which informs the work with a grid-like structure. Like a mantra, repetition opens the painter's inner essence, an archetypal truth, as it relates to the landscape and one's place on this earth. My work is to pay attention to the emanations and vibrations of Nature, and to express this in a context of spiritual contemplation.

Although eventually obscured within the matrix of layered brushstrokes, the grid transcends narrative and reveals a pure abstract expression of Nature's essence. I build up the painting slowly, with fan-shaped brushes and grid-like brushstrokes. Each stroke represents a moment in time -- the texture and beauty of a single moment. It is overlapped with another stroke, perpendicular to the previous stroke. It goes on like this for days: vertical, then horizontal brushstrokes, each one a moment, the essence of moments from an inner landscape. Music is a big part of this process for me. I listen to medieval sacred chants or Native American flute music in the studio. This music, and its repetitive aura, puts me in a meditative state, and the sequence of brushstrokes becomes a visual metaphor for the chants.