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Feels Like Work

when you're working things out

It's after midnight, and I've spent the last few hours working, somewhat mechanically, on two new paintings. Some nights, I feel propelled, like I am on the verge of some insight, some solution, when I paint. Other nights, I am relaxed, spaced out, my hand moving the brush almost by intuition.


And nights like tonight it just feels like work. I'm not on the verge of anything. I'm not exploring new territory. I'm not excited.


It feels like practicing piano. The same song, over and over, making incremental progress. Reworking the same phrasing until it becomes fluid. Squinting at the page, trying to make sense of a passage. Working towards that moment when a series of notes starts to sound like a song.


I think there's a reason I keep painting the same kinds of subjects. I'm trying to locate what it is that I'm compelled by in these floating shapes. By refining their spacial relationships, by moving into and away from intricacy, by varying the color palette, I hope to discover what?


The thing that makes the subject, indisputably, what it is. How it is what it is. The thing I can't articulate yet. I have a collection of words in my head.


Balance. Scarcity. Suspension. (Im)permanence. Motility. Symbiosis. Micro. Macro. Calm. Empty. Impartial. Form. Whirlwind. Preservation. Elemental.


It feels very much like I'm working out a problem. Trying to isolate something. I'm working, in these compositions, always towards a future, better composition, one in which everything will crystallize, and I'll be able to identify exactly what I find so meaningful, so resonant, in this pursuit.


Or I may never pinpoint it exactly. I may keep retreading, with slight variations, the same ground until it no longer feels productive, and move on.


In some ways I feel that what we call our 'style' is no more than the collected products of singular, inexplicable obsessions. And that the development of style is just the natural, cumulative progression from one obsession into the next.


I like to think that I still make progress during those moments that feel forced or workmanlike, rather than joyful and organic. That these moments are the necessary bridges between islands of insight.


I like to think that, in general, most things come together given time, given effort, given attention. And that the process, even for it's own sake, is worthwhile.



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