Subject Matters

Manipulating material solely for the purpose of some visual display is a curious undertaking to be sure.  What I often find equally curious though is the variety of objects (or non-objects) which finally end up in these displays. I like to keep notes when it comes to these things, the following are some of my favorites.

What’s it All About
Our basic aim’s been to harmonize the visual stylings of some rather clichéd American ideals, and possibly castoff some their jadedness while doing so.

I also often view the work here as a vehicle to consider our interactions with local and not so local culture, even going as far back as the roots of the Regionalists themselves. If you study the aesthetic habits of Wood, Benton, and Curry you will find ties to Dow, Fenollosa and Batchelder.  If you study the aesthetic habits of Dow, Fenollosa and Batchelder you will find ties to Kakuzo, Koun, Hokusai and the Japanese Ukiyo-e school of painting and printmaking.  And, if you study the aesthetic habits of the Ukiyo-e you will find ties to Buddhism and Toa, which means ties to China and ultimately India.

Narrations are important to me. None of us can ever totally observe what’s wholly going on. So, since we all have these observational gaps, we fill them in with stories. You know, like the one about the angry dragon, stingy leprechaun, generous tooth fairies, God, emptiness, the story that there is no story, whatever we imaginably choose. In my opinion, these narratives are crucial to our human development; often times helping us to reach a place of better understanding than say mere repositories of empirical experiences ever could. However, one doesn’t want to wither away in a world of futile fantasy either. To temper this I’ve come to live by the following rule: the more a story suggests reasons for us to fall under the daze of extreme negative concepts (i.e. hate, hopelessness, intolerance, despair, chronic anger & fear, etc.) the more discordant it is with reality. Of course painting has not only helped me to widen and fine-tune my own narratives in regards to this maxim, but it has also helped me to deepen my understanding and relationships with the stories of others; always reconfirming the validity of the altruistic compass which I’ve now come to gauge them by.

Uniqueness with an Armature
As far as I know human beings are the only living organisms on the planet that produce their own external time pieces. I love clocks. Each one is a distinctly crafted gadget with its own specific characteristics while still being capable of precisely performing the same universal function. However, not too many of us ever directly ask a clock what time it is. Instead, we look elsewhere for the answer and then forcibly manipulate the clock into conveniently reminding us of what we’ve found. I like to think that every clock has something unique to say entirely on its own. And, without having to dismiss our collective ideas on temporal stability, each and every one of us should never feel discouraged about asking just what these firsthand statements might be. This attitude of subjective autonomy tempered with objective mechanism has always fascinated me. So it’s no wonder that this genial outlook would offer some influence when it comes to appropriating subjects into my work.

Sex, Death & Forms
Symbo-pantheistic is a pretty good way to describe the abundance of imagery you’ll find in Tantric art; Shiva and his eternal consort Devi (the mountain’s daughter) being the two central immutable characters. Although you may find a reversal of gender roles in some Buddhist texts, Shiva (the divine masculine) traditionally represents absolute consciousness and formlessness while Devi (the divine feminine) represents absolute energy and form. And, whether implied or directly stated, it’s overwhelming clear in all Tantric literature: no manifold form falls into being without the interwoven coupling of these two principals and no manifold form falls into being without the transformation (i.e. death) of something else.

Consciousness, energy, creation/transformation, all of these are adoringly entwined in the eternal play between forms and awareness. From a symbolic Tantric perspective everything is sex and everything is transformation. In this regard, it would be absurd to allow one’s disposition to become overrun with a morbid obsession for distinct moments of death or a wanton fixation for distinct moments of sex. But, it would also be just as absurd to ignore or (even worse) try to escape the omniscience of these things. All forms are connected and in possession of these cosmically sexual and transformative generalities. Discovering these generalities, not so much by studying sex or death in particular but by deducing the general from all various particulars, is the objective.  To me this is much of what my art is about (i.e. helping extrapolate such generalities from objects where they may not be so readily apparent).

Surrealism vs. Psychedelia
When I first began to publically display my work (circa 1999) many of those who came forward to discuss it used the term: “surreal.” This is understandable because there is a dreamlike attitude there for sure. Freedom of interpretation is paramount, so if surreal is what you would like to call what I do by all means feel free.

However, the imagery that finds its way into my work really doesn’t come from an attempt to describe my dreams. All be it, I’m not opposed to including images from my dreams in these paintings; some of them do contain them. But, most of what’s included here stems from symbolic sources connected to older preexisting traditions , whether I’ve ever dreamt about them or not. What I am reaching for is this: to visually render what I like to refer to as my filter; the lens which characterizes all of my experiences (waking or otherwise) and how this filter fluctuates with my own inner growth. Like the way the world often appears fundamentally different after we’ve come to realize something such as the answer to a complex math problem or obscure riddle. Describing this phenomenon of perceptual evolution and affected insight is exactly what I’m after when I set out to paint. And, I may be splitting hairs here, but for me this has always been more of an expression of psychedelia than surrealism.

   Copyright 2014      Charles Wish

   Copyright 2014
     Charles Wish