"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."--Picasso
When I ponder Las Meninas by Valezquez with regard to the composition, I am reminded that most paintings, especially realistic paintings, have a lot more going on than just capturing a moment in time. Analysis of this piece notes that some of the characters interact with each other and some look directly at the viewer. There is also a mirror behind the artist which depicts a "reality" outside the viewer in that it reflects an image of the parents of the "Infanta Margaret."
It is the triangle which connects the art, the artist, and the viewer which has captured my attention today. When a realistic subject in the form of a person or persons is added to the mix, that alters the dynamics, and what John Dewey refers to as "the experience" as well.
Viewing art as experience, rather than as a passive encounter, appeals to me, of course, since I am an artist. Like most artists, however, I look at a lot of art and am intrigued with the impact on my senses. In some ways, I equate the viewing of an art object with the reading a piece of literature. I don't just look at a book--I take it in and make it part of my thoughts. It no longer exists only outside me, but is integrated into my consciousness.
Dewey explains the importance of this process because it mirrors the way humans interact with everything they encounter in what we refer to as reality. Some of us go through life barely engaging with our surroundings, while others analyze, deconstruct, synthesize, create, mimic, etc... Dewey values these aesthetic experiences as a normal part of living and sees these realizations as being an important ingredient of happiness. He notes that the aesthetic experience involves the passing from "disturbance to harmony," and is one of man's most intense and satisfying experiences and refers to art as "the greatest intellectual achievement in the history of humanity. I am inclined to agree.
An artist's work requires reflection. To paraphrase Dewey, the expressive object should not be seen in isolation from the process that produced it, nor from the individuality of vision from which it came. It is not enough to simply and spontaneously make a thing. Art requires activity and reflection.
"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."--Picasso
I spend quite a bit of time each day researching Las Meninas, both the Velazquez version and the Picasso renditions, as well as a few other responses. In order to connect more fully with Picasso, I painted a series of small oil paintings this week which were inspired by some linear sketches by Picasso.
And yesterday I experimented a bit with a cubist approach to portraiture.
Today I am focusing on the composition in Picasso's full scale pieces in this series, particularly on how one section flows into another. As I look at this, vague similarities to my current Zentangle project strike a chord, and I realize that it also contains aspects of cubism due to the distortion that occurs when I collage the various squares, circles, and triangles onto the surface of the mannequin.
"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."--Pablo Picasso
Today's moral: Never underestimate the value of seemingly worthless, repetitive acts! For several weeks now I have been trying to decide what to paint on my large canvas which measures 5.5' tall and 10' wide. I have decided that I am going to attempt (note the hesitancy in the sentence construction…) to create a painting which is a comprehensive analysis of Picasso's "Las Meninas" (above left), by reinterpreting and recreating this piece. This appeals to me because this piece was the result of Picasso's similar process with regard to the painting "Las Meninas" by Diego Velazquez (above center), wherein he created 58 responses to the original. (This is the only complete series by Picasso that remains intact today.) Now, as much as I am usually compelled to work in series format, I do not plan to paint 58 responses to Las Meninas! Then again, I acknowledge my own tendency toward compulsive behavior… so who knows. This idea, by the way, came to me during today's ritualistic survey of Pinterest's art category with coffee cup in hand, a seemingly self-indulgent act, which strangely enough occupies my mind on a level which allows creativity to simultaneously pool and flow.
Some would say that I am quite arrogant placing myself in the artistic continuum behind Velazquez (circa 1656) and Picasso (1957). My response is that the very making of art has placed me there (or here) and my acknowledgement of that placement only makes me more self aware and open to direct influence. My research also uncovered that many artists have responded to one or both of these works--a few including Salvadore Dali (1958), Vik Muniz (2002), Edgar Degas (1857) and Richard Hamilton (1973). (I am aware that some would find this list more pleasing if it were in chronological order, but I am also working on a text portrait of Einstein and am obsessing with the fluidity of time...)
For more information on Picasso's series go to:
Cheryl Hicks is a writer and an artist. She is happiest when she can combine the two pursuits.