art & meaning


One aspect of artistic images that strikes me is that the image exists as independent of the the intentions that underlie its creation. For example, in observing the work of  Heironymous Bosch, one is struck by their wild fantasy, the entirely invented reality of his pictorial realm. The works though were never created for us to marvel at the inventiveness of this imaginary realm for its own sake. The images he created served a religious purpose best illustrated by his Garden of Earthly Delights.  In this triptych one panel shows us the innocence of the old testament's creation, and the final one the consequences after the abandonment to earthly temptation. The weird and the marvellous world in the central panel is an illustration of the types of temptations that lead into the final panel. All the weird and bizarre temptations, imaginary, possible, impossible, the implausible possibilities never considered by anyone, all illustrate the excesses of abandon that lead to the burning landscapes of the final panel of the triptych.

Yet is this what any of us see?  No. What we see is the fantastic, a realm of impossible fountains, imaginary sexual romps with bizarre hybridised fauna and flora. We marvel at his invention of this fantastic realm. His religious message is lost on us.

My own works are no different. The philosophical basis of their coming about is shed. What remains is the marvellous existing as inexplicable dreams captured and brought to light; a celebration of the fantastic.

Unfortunately there exists the psychoanalytical approach to images, where it is not understood what actually motivates one to create the image. The error in this method of analysis is the assumption that elements are chosen randomly and "unconsciously", that they are no more than symbols of the subconscious that the artist is unaware of. This underscores an inability to understand that elements are added into a composition because they are the ones that best fit, that balance it, that introduce characteristics to differentiate it from a previous composition. In art there are always aesthetic concerns, yet somehow the psychoanalyst remains oblivious to this. This method confuses the choice of individual elements within the composition as being open to psychological analysis rather than understanding that it is instead what motivates one to paint anything at all  that is. It must always be remembered that it was by applying this method of analysis that led one critic to conclude that Magritte's Red Model was an unconscious articulation of his fear of castration....!

The only time the subconscious plays a part in the process of creation is in the resolving of a composition. A composition can present itself  as a problem to be resolved where certain elements don't seem to fit, yet out of nowhere the solution comes. This is best illustrated by the story of Archimedes' resolution of an ongoing problem  when he stepped into a bath tub, displacing the water and then jumping out yelling "eureka!eureka!". But, you do actually need to be consciously pursuing the "solution" and have a preconceived idea of what it is you are striving for.

In the realm of the fantastic it is the unexpected twists, the leaps of logic that are fascinating. These leaps are anything but random, they are carefully cultivated. In my art the only real criteria that count are that the image is an unexpected impossible reality that cannot exist but rendered in a manner in which the illusion is that it actually does. When the exclamation how on earth did he think of that  is elicited by the image I know the image is a success.

Ultimately it is a visual testimony of the victory of the imaginary over the banality of the commonplace. It takes no effort depicting the banal. We are surrounded by it!