I paint on old paintings for many reasons. One, the materials are already there. Two, the painting demands a different structure because my world has changed from when I painted it. Three, there is a type of sacrifice in the willingness to destroy your own. I often contradict what I had been.
Malcolm Gladwell’s blog “Halleluia" on iTunes gave me an idea about why I repaint works that others consider done. Gladwell makes a distinction between the conceptual genius - “First thought, best thought - Picasso - and the experiment innovator - Cezanne (I would add Degas) -" a painting is never done". I am certainly the latter. Paul Simon's “A Bridge Over Troubled Waters” took 15 minutes. Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluia” took 15 years (and at least 3 different composers). Some things take their own sweet time. I once wrote on a webpage: "If you like a work, buy it, otherwise it will probably be repainted."
Like nature I make new forms of old. I remember nature. I imagine and re-image nature.
I try to maintain a certain balance between what Lionel Trilling has called sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity is the social contract, authenticity is being true to the personal. I am committed to a traditional pictorial legibility. Yet if I am true to myself and the way I perceive nature I cannot paint a traditional landscape. Somehow impulse becomes energized by feelings, thoughts, memories and associations and comes out as an abstract form but one that is legible in terms of the history of painting. To paraphrase Emerson you paint but what you are. What I am is an old man. An old man whose forms are often jagged and disturbing. Abstract paintings that resist abstraction.
Addiction or vocation? Both?
Shapes appear, each an object and yet the subject. They contradict one another and yet lead to each other by sharing color or outline. A landscapes appears and then disappears into the canvas. I ship rocks on the sea while blinded by the light. I paint not what I have known but what I am just beginning to know. In that slight gap I find connections. Each painting is a brief universe formed by tearing a chunk out of the chaos of reality.
I find that I pull out forms from chaos. The process is turmoil.
Random forms, suggested by bends and folds in the canvas, often contradict the more structured areas, and yet are the predominate forms. To be part of the rich and varied tradition of allusion and painting is a very lucky thing. Winston Churchhill said the farther backward you could look farther forward you can see. Look at the paintings as opportunity for a personal experience.