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.
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.
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.
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].
“Perhaps the strongest showing of work in this exhibition comes from Erik ReeL.”
Santa Barbara Independent
Once I stripped all extraneous referentiality out of my paintings, instead of encountering the expected: a minimalistic, reductivist abstract modality, I quickly discovered richer, non-reductivist, possibilities that presented a seemingly endless range of emotional responses and readings.
This richness exists in part because there is a similar range of open possibilities in how the human mind appropriates marks for its own meanings and cognitive purposes, even without a specific spoken-language or any of its possible representational schemes.
What was clear at all stages was the fact that it was possible to create profoundly different emotional responses within a surprisingly highly constrained visual idiom.
Thus, again, we come to: Oh. Wait, there’s more that can be said and done.
There were painters who I felt had come close to what I had in mind such as Twombly, especially in his graphite and paint work of the 70s. But these painters and their mark-making were always eventually subsumed by historical, literary, even mythic referential concerns that I not only considered retro-grade–if not outright Romantic in a specifically unnecessary way–but as compromising the more radical aspects of the marks as marks.
Not that this is evil or anything. In Twombly’s case, for instance, it is usually a personal and refreshing tactic to bring in latent emotional and historical content that deepens and expands our experience of the image. It works, but is also contrary to what I wanted to do.
The truth is, this referentiality, this re-presentational, representational modality detracted from the, what was to me, more core, possibilities of exploring marks for their intrinsic mark-making characteristics as marks in and of themselves. This leads to exploring marks in terms of cognitive processing, rather than history.
Yet, there is a line not to be crossed on the other side as well: when, instead of deeper forces and cognitive processing, a sort of emotive, self-absorbed, bathos-logical processing leading to amorphous content-free therapeutic effusion is indulged. The superficiality and emptiness of the results of this approach are frequently all too apparent.
A key test: when work descends to this level, it can be exhausted in minutes, if not seconds; while people stand for hours arguing in front of mine, or call me months after buying a painting to tell me how much more they have seen in it. In short, there is living proof of the depths, richness, and communicable meaning to be found there..
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?
Eventually I, too, came to feel that in painting there was still more to be done, that there was meaningful, and possibly visually arresting, territory yet to be explored.
What remained, I felt, was a certain exploration of mark-making itself.
Mark-making freed of all its referentiality to the material world, to history, to story-telling, to materialistic pretension and dysfunction.
The added bonus, for me, was that this also placed such painting against the materialism buried deep within the culture around me. Painting that stood against materialism in both radical and subtle ways.