One of my most complex works at this size. I had reservations regarding posting it online as it has many layers and a subtlety that is not possible to see at 72 dpi.
This painting has been hanging in my bedroom for over three years, so that I can wake up to it in morning light. Graphite and pastels in raw titanium white acrylic. Live, it almost looks like an oil, except the ghost-like aspects of the pastel pigments in the more highly transparent acrylic medium would not quite work in oil, unless perhaps you were using a lot of alumina hydrate pigment in oil to get a much higher transparency without losing paint viscosity.
Once someone sees opus 1681, they are more likely to understand why many of my pieces can only be truly seen live. No digital manipulation or camera can capture the special nature of this piece, because its perceptual situation is intrinsically caught up in the nature of the cognitive processing necessitated by our two-eyed visual apparatus. You simply see things that are not there, or, more accurately, invisible to a single-lensed camera.
In the recent film Ex Machina Jackson Pollack’s concept of automatic painting is mentioned in conjunction with testing whether an Artificial Intelligence is displaying programmed behaviour or willfully conscious behavior. It’s a subtly complex issue, both for AI and art.
The programmers in the movie also make the astute point that if Jackson Pollack had to be rationally aware of each action, its meaning, and its significance, it would probably have been impossible for him to make a single mark. Rational awareness, and rationality, has its own built-in limitations.
It is virtually impossible for a machine to create a truly random sequence, because its activity has to be programmed, that is, determined by something, or constructed via something that cannot be random called computer code.. Mathematicians have shown that even the so-called “random number generators” of computers are precisely not random.
In that case one has to exploit data from certain phenomena which exhibit specific tendencies to chaotic behaviour under certain conditions. In this way, a machine might be made to generate what seems to be random-like sequences. This turns out to be far more difficult than it would appear at first glance.
It is also very difficult for a human to make something that is not willful. Certain states have to be attained or cultivated that permit more freely unmotivated behaviour or actions. There is an interesting gray area or set of fringe situations where things seem to be somewhat random, but aren’t, but are completely program-free, even rational-free. It is this area that has become increasingly interesting as the search for AI continues and our exploration of the problem of human consciousness continues as we gain deeper insight into human consciousness, both ontologically and epistemologically, and the human mind’s awareness evolves of what, specifically, makes it a human mind.
This is precisely the territory that my painting explores. I further constrict the limitations on randomness by consciously outlawing some of Pollacks devices, such as flung paint. Every mark is made via a deliberate action of the human hand, my hand, so that human intention is inherently involved. But all traces of rational structure and “programmed” process are also eliminated.
This is one reason I’ve never been much interested with what many have come up with in terms of mathematically or geometrically determined art. To me, such art is exploring the very territory that is most irrelevant to our future understanding of human, and on the converse side, artificial, intelligence. If it is mathematically determined structure, then the problems above are solved, known, and relatively straightforward. It is in the cases where no mathematical or geometrically generated structure manifests that the demarcations and issues of human, or non-human intelligence get really interesting.
Erik ReeL, Opus 1678, acrylic on archival paper, 30 x 22,
Art may be many things, but sometimes it is simply a reminder preserving a better frame of mind, an alternative, a weapon on the side of everyday folks in their daily fight against drudgery, despair, despotism, disenfranchisement, and death. The five Ds.
The great thing about works on paper like this is that they are easy and relatively inexpensive to ship to anywhere in the world. Since they are on unsized or lightly sized printmaking papers, they roll easily and flatten out again easily, so they can be safely shipped in a tube.
The other thing about this work is that if someone likes a piece in digital view, they’ll love it live. So it is easy to make a decision on the internet and order an original painting without waiting to see it in a gallery or museum [besides you usually can’t buy the pieces showing in a museum anyway].
If you are interested in something you see here or in the Art page archives, drop me a line via my FaceBook page or profile [Erik Reel for profile; Erik ReeL for page] and I’ll give you an email box to communicate with me. I no longer post my email urls directly on this site because they get bombed if I do and makes the email box unusable. Sorry. Most of my works on paper are $3,000 US [see pricing page for more information}
… are doomed to repeat it. This last winter I re-read Herodotus. While things are never really exactly the same, it is a shame that Congress and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the USA leaders had not read Herodotus before they decided to invade Iraq, or if they had, did not pay a bit more attention to the fallacies engendered by the hubris of the Persians as they, disastrously, invaded Greece,
Herodotus basically not only explains what happened, he inserts enough philosophical commentary and “teaching stories” to map out most of the basic mistakes and psychological fallacies involved, and later committed all over again by the Americans and British in Iraq.
When will the human race learn? Wars do not solve problems; they only create a new, and usually more extreme, set of problems.
Worse, war is unpredictable: so beware ye who start one.
Symphony in dark green.
Blues, a la Miles.
An acrylic on paper for the day. Enjoy.
This painting, Opus 1670, is unique for me, done on a sheet of smaller and very fragile paper that allowed a slightly different working surface with its own unique possibilities. In spite of its lightness it has a certain weightiness and vigor that belie its fragile substrate.
The Third of May, a famous date for the history of painting. Here’s my Opus 1668, a more positive and ecstatic tribute to the human spirit for today, even though we may live in times no less dark than Goya’s.
Also on lighter, thinner, more fragile paper than usual. This paper inspires a lightness and openness to the work, and is capable of very subtle coloring, hardly given justice by the digital gods.
Something for you for Spring. Spring without Spring colors. Think of pollen impregnating the world.
Also on thinner, smaller, more fragile paper than usual.
In Opus 1665, I am using a paper I usually don’t paint on. Its very lightweight, less than 130 Kg/m2 and does not take the same degree of textural effects as what I usually work on. In some ways this makes things clearer. Exuberant energies at work here. Enjoy.
This came out of a continuation of the working sessions that created 1660-1663. Even though I am posting this one on the web, it really has to be seen live, especially for the dark blue marks and background areas, to get the overall real impact of the work.
By the way, I will be showing at the Morris Graves Museum in Humboldt county in 2016 [dates not set yet].
You can see that I was on quite a roll from opus 1660 to 1663. Since the general process per painting takes at least about 5 days due to drying and setting times of the paint, I tend to work on several, up to a dozen, at a time, .
Ironically, I tend to do an oil painting in less time than a similarly-sized acrylic, partly because I use a lot more layers in the acrylics as I exploit the substantially greater transparency of the polymer medium.
The Opus number refers to my current studio log, which was started at the end of 1999. So opus 1662 means that this is the 1,662nd work I’ve done since the beginning of 2000.
This painting is on 30 x 22 inch [75 x 55 cm] archival printmaking paper. I am using liquid acrylic paint, pastels and pencils and charcoal and a lot of acrylic medium as well as paint. The papers I use the most are Magnani Pescia [crown watermark grade] and Italia, Rives BFK, Lana Royale, Rives de Lin, DS Lenox, and Fabriano Artistico hot press which is the only watercolor paper I typically use. Magnani Pescia, crown watermark, is by far my most favorite paper.
Unfortunately, this paper seems to be no longer available in the United States. There are people in the USA who say they are selling it, but they are not selling the watermark grade, which is the best grade and the grade I use. It seems that the people in American who order this paper cannot tell the difference between the lower grades and the crown watermark [or top grade] paper, so the mills and suppliers ship them the lower quality stuff, charge them the same price as the crown watermark paper and they, in turn try to fob this stuff onto us, the artists, and charge the higher price as well. There are seven versions of Magnani Pescia. This follows a longstanding, but growing trend in the USA of art suppliers substituting lower quality items for long-available quality items.
Fortunately, in some cases, there are conscientious, usually smaller, more specialized, suppliers entering into the game who either have started producing their own art supplies here in America, or still try to get the original, quality merchandise. If you are an artist, I encourage you to seek out and support these suppliers, especially if they are local. On the other side of things, some of the best supplies can only be obtained from their source in fairly large quantities: quality stretcher bars from China, art paper from Italy, etc., usually can only be ordered in quantities of at least a shipping container or railroad car at a time. You’d think with globalization, it’d get easier to obtain internationally produced items, not more difficult.
My acrylic on paper paintings are almost like a visual diary. It is in these works that I work out my ideas on an ongoing, almost daily, basis, before going into the larger works on canvas.
I have a general process that takes at least 5 days, depending on drying time and the number of layers I use in a piece. There can be as many as 30 layers to the paint, once in a while more.
I work with liquid acrylics and a lot of medium. It is like working with liquid color . I like a lot of transparency in the paint so the light penetrates deep down into the paint, enriching the colors. Similar to when you polish wood and it brings out the grain and depth of the wood.
Opus 1661 is a particularly deeply layered piece, almost impossible to reproduce accurately digitally. But it stil looks good.
Unlike the live image perceived by two eyes, each seeing a slightly different retinal scan and then processed in the brain, and thus extremely sensitive to depth, whether something is scratched in or scumbled on top, and enhanced by our memory as we move into and away from the image obtaining new visual information regarding surface, color, and process, a digital image is created via a single lens, set a specific distance from the painting, and then takes all data and reduces it to a single number, without any consideration for layers underneath. Thus a digital map of the painting is significantly reduced from what our brain processes during a live encounter with the image. Bottom line: if you like the digital image of these pieces, you’ll love the work live.
“Perhaps the strongest showing of work in this exhibition comes from Erik ReeL.”
Santa Barbara Independent
Painting as exploring mark-making itself; mark-making freed of all its referentiality to the material world, to history, to story-telling, to materialistic pretension.
One question that immediately arises: What makes mark-making specifically human, and if human, hand-made [as opposed to human and human-machine-made]?
Another is: What if everything else is stripped away and we only see marking? Marking without explicit representation anywhere? Specifically, marks on a flat– and thus “to be read” surface, thus de-emphasizing, even denying, its material thing-ness?
The German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling [1775-1854] in his Philosophy of Art [1802-3], said that “architecture is like frozen music” , a sentiment famously echoed by Goethe in 1836. Since Paul Klee, a similar equivalence has often been proposed for describing abstract painting.
For many, much architecture and most painting has probably felt to fall far short of the musical, though I suspect it also depends on what music one is listening to. For me, my painting has been directly inspired by and in some cases explicitly linked to specific music. I’ve mentioned elsewhere the inspiration I’ve received from the jazz of Miles Davis, Monk, Ornette Coleman, and others.
One composer whose music feels very close to my present work is the mature work of the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski [1913-1994]; in particular, his aleatoric ad libitum technique that dominates his Chain compositions, piano concerto, and the third and fourth symphonies. This is especially true of much of my work on paper, which constitute a virtually daily visual diary and reservoir of ideas for my larger works on canvas.
There is no explicit connection between us, but I can often hear his music in my own paintings. There is an openness and freedom in his music that I seek to express in my improvisational work. Both of us, I suspect, have our inner dread of the predictable and pre-determined.