Have you ever wondered what it means to see? Not the physical act that occurs via the optic nerve, but the seeing that, as artists, we are so keen to attain. In his classic 1972 text, Ways of Seeing, John Berger says, "It is seeing that establishes our place in the surrounding world." He continues, "The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled." It's the "never settled" part that pretty much sums it up for me.
Creative people achieve seeing in infinite ways. For me, it means de-cluttering the mind and unfocusing to take in the big picture- not just in the studio, but anywhere. I see by observing, futzing around, and by asking simple questions of myself and others- Why is it put together like that? What makes it work? or Why isn't it working? How is it connected to other things? Is it part of a pattern? How might it feel? How do I feel about it? Why? What is the evidence? What is my responsibility to it? What happens if I take this action? How does it change? How do I change?
Note to self: When you're defensively certain about something, chances are good you're probably not really seeing. More questions! More experiments! Don't be afraid to mess up!
In the studio, because I work with no fixed subject, and not from drawings or sketches, a large chunk of my time is spent looking and thinking- what's next? If you were peering in on me, you'd think, "What on earth is she doing? How long can she stand there, staring at those blobs?!" The answer is- a long time, as long as it takes. Time inevitably leads to action. For me, the action of painting an oversized canvas is physical, immediate, and energetic, while the act of creation moves like a snail.
Seeing merges the visual with the emotional and intellectual to make something new. My own seeing improves in direct correlation to the questions I'm asking and my openness to experiment. I keep asking, processing, messing up, and making new things.
You can see "The Moon is Pink" along with some close ups here.
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. Her abstract landscape paintings cultivate connection to the lands she explores.
©2020 Michelle Louis All rights reserved. Content and images are property of the artist.