I want to make art that functions at three levels:
- As an interesting object that invites consideration. Because an artwork is a thing and a sign rather than a language or code it can invoke a variety of images and feelings in a viewer that become closely connected to their personal experiences. At that level I’m not communicating through art so much as sending interesting (and hopefully beautiful) objects out into the world for others to enjoy.
- As a semantic gesture. Rather than seeing art in terms of form and content I like to think of art as a gesture of communication that has its own internal logic and structure. My hope is that a patient viewer who saw several of my pieces and perhaps read my artist’s statement could construct their perceptions into something resembling the sense I had while creating the work. Of course it’s not an exact translation (that’s half the fun of art), but perhaps they can see a gesture of my idea.
- As a speculative fiction. Every aspect of my process from the theorizing I do here to the practical decisions made in the studio construct a speculative fiction–a metaphorical microcosm within the fullness of reality and lived experience. To make art is to isolate and imaginatively engage with a facet of life. Just as a work of fiction like Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 presents a picture for how the world might be, I hope the entire scope of my practice presents a model for how the world might be seen or engaged with.
© Jacob Rowan
The official definition of creativity (according to the New Oxford American Dictionary) is: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
I would like to suggest an alternative definition.
Creativity is the structuring of the chaos and brokenness of our world into some kind of order.
Within that definition everyone from air traffic controllers and bankers to painters and bakers are engaged in creative activity.
Painting on the back of the mylar
Untitled, acrylic and ink on mylar
The back and front of an element that will be cut out and included on the 4’x2′ cathedral painting I’m working on.
Proteus, Cy Twombly, 1984
The following is paraphrased from Roland Barthes’ The Wisdom of Art.
Whenever we look at a painting the question is, “what is happening here?” The picture is a kind of theater, the curtain parts, we watch, we wait, we receive, we understand, and when the scene is over and the picture gone, we remember. In a painting there occurs a fact, an accident, an outcome, a surprise, and an action.
The fact is the tangible substance we see. We imbue everything we see with meaning; the alchemy of painting is that despite the meaning the materials also remain stubbornly things (facts). Even if the painting is a result of precise calculation, there is still the impression of accident. We sometimes call this inspiration, a creative force that is the euphoria of chance. The fact and the accident together created an outcome, which is the overall effect of the work. This effect can not be located or described in a series of details. The outcome creates a surprise. In the Christian tradition we would call this illumination, a kind of mental shock which grants access, regardless of all known intellectual means, to truth. Last is the action, which is the viewer’s engagement with the painting. One can engage the painting from a place of culture (a familiarity with the references contained), from a place of specialization (an awareness of the historical and technical tradition), from a place of pleasure (aesthetic or conceptual enjoyment), from a place of memory (the ghost that follows the viewer long after they have left the painting), and from a place of production (the desire to re-produce the work that arises from an awareness of how the work was made).
WIP-Cathedral [working title]
Working on a 4’x2′ drawing constructed from layers of cut out paper, mylar, and plastic. At the moment nothing is glued down and everything is subject to change.
I was looking through Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols and found this description of Alchemy:
Alchemy is a symbolic technique which seeks to materialize spiritual truths. It is a poetic, religious, and scientific endeavor. The goal is to experience material phenomena as symbols which point to a complete theory of the universe and the destiny of the soul (the secret of discovering gold would be a mark of divine favor and thus success). [paraphrased from my notes and memory rather than quoted word for word]
While it’s not a perfect metaphor, the notion of Alchemy is a helpful model for my own artistic process.