D E B R A J A N B I B E L
Commentaries & Dialogues
SA: Last week I read somewhere that when regarding or reading art, emotions are needed as "navigator towards meaning." I've always found great craftsmanship in your art but must admit that, for me, emotion, the "love" of which Louis Nizer was speaking [in: A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.] is absent. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it contains a deeper sense of "love" which James Joyce referred to when he suggested that we "refine yourself out of existence."
DJB: Art inherently reflects the artist. In Chinese calligraphy and painting, the brush never lies. The precision and architecture of my paintings do indeed stem from my scientific analytical training in the same way as my study and practice of Asian philosophy and art influence the harmony and balance of composition. Some people do not regard steadfastness and calmness, so evident in my works, as emotions; they expect to see frenzy, anger, loneliness, and protest in art, particularly Abstract Expressionism. I do not paint negativity, I paint thusness. The Theosophist Mondrian understood this. The Pythagoreans of ancient Greece reached toward it through geometric and mathematical ideals. The Minimalists of art have explored such seemingly emotionless clarity, often to extremes. We should also remember that there are positive emotions, too, as in the joy of utter simplicity and elegance found in Scandinavian, Japanese, and American Shaker design. And I am a metaphysician who reaches beyond the delusions emotions often lead. Perhaps this is the great difference between art of East and West, as it reflects underlying religio-philosophies.
SA: A critic after viewing some art found himself calm but not tranquilized, freed from overwhelming emotion by the contained emotion. I regard some of your art as soothing. While at the same time? Bursting with vibrant colors which provides lovely contrast with the energy vibrant colors can convey.
DJB: Yes, color IS energy. The universe consists of some 70% dark energy....perhaps that emptiness from which virtual subatomic particles arise, interact, and return. My bold colors speak of that implicit energy within the calmness of no-thingness.
SA: In your Synthesis Series, I enjoyed the contrast of the surface of your myriad display of buildings with the implication of the depths that hint of sea as "shadow path" wound around as if seeking.
DJB: Yes, I am a seeker after all, and my art suggests the existence of something beyond.
SA: At first glance, in spite of your colors and precision, severity stood out. So rigid! So many straight lines! To add warmth, softness, (femininity?) to the work and myself, I found I was looking for curves! I was glad to find them.
DJB: I am not a fan of random curlicues and filigree swirls. Precise arcs and especially spirals are OK as they are mathematical fundamentals in the behavior of life and matter. I like circles because they are everywhere, are highly symbolic, and are actively complete. The spiral is the labyrinth, my dream archetype. Thus far, only a small number of my pieces, mainly early works, include spirals.
The First Brush Stroke
Applying the first brush stroke is special. As with the first of other activities, where it be the first time behind a new car, getting on board the airplane to a vacation destination, or opening the door to a new guest, an adventure commences. A risk underlies that first step. In a painting, my sort of painting, that first color, that first line, that first area on the canvas sets the stage for all that follow. A different choice will produce a different outcome, albeit similar. I often conceive of a painting with a certain cast or dominance of hues. Its presence in mind will influence color choices, but what will ensue is unknown. Each area of the painting — for instance a building — is a new choice, dictated by its neighbors. It feels good to begin. Of course, I consider and stare at the pencil canvas layout for hours before I dare that first stroke.
Painting by Gestalt
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