SOME THOUGHTS ON KEVIN’S COMMENTS AND HIS PAINTING

By Paul

What a fascinating and mysterious painting Kevin uses to accompany his piece below entitled “Being and Consciousness!”  And how appropriate an illustration of what it may mean to be conscious, at least in some larger sense of the term.

We have to wonder if the painting originates in the unconscious mind, either personal or collective (to use Jung’s term); or does it specifically depict the conscious mind of a gifted artist, which may be different from the consciousness most of us operate on as we go about our daily activities?  My guess, and my view, is that it is something else yet, something above and beyond either of these, associated neither with our normal everyday consciousness, nor with the unconscious mind, but instead with some higher level of awareness.    

Let us look a little more closely at the painting itself.  The two figures in the center are locked in a passionate embrace, a kiss that brings them as close to union as two beings can normally get.  They are male and female, I think that is clear, but not necessarily “man” and “woman.”  No, they are beings seemingly of some other time and place, representatives if you will, archetypes of maleness and femaleness, that each of us carries within.  They appear to be staring into each other’s eyes, and at the same time staring out at us.  That is, they are lost in each other (i.e. in oneness), but also cognizant of the otherness of the world “out there.”  In other words, they who were two have become one, while still rooted in the daily world of what the Daoists call “the 10,000 things.”  This is the realm of endless multiplicity that we see constantly surrounding us all the time.  However, through the union of their male and femaleness they have become enlightened, and they are now able to perceive the singleness of the One among the many.  They also appear to have a single nose to share between them; and so we assume they breathe as one.  This, I think, references the kundalini force, as the yogis call it, the spiritual, mystic energy that comes down from above (figuratively), rests at the base of the spine (in chakra one) and then rises, uncoiled, snake like, in yogic meditation until chakra seven, that of the Thousand Petal Lotus, has been achieved.  This is the energy that flows through the One, who otherwise appears to be two, because the state of consciousness they have reached is one wherein the duality of subject and object no longer pertain.   They – or no longer they – neither male nor female (because such duality is no longer pertinent), can now be called Enlightened.    

Each also has his or her own totem animal as a companion.  There is a long mythological tradition of enlightened beings having animal companions.  In Hinduism, for example, the Lord Vishnu is accompanied by Garuda, the golden bird with the face and wings of an eagle and the body of a man; Shiva sits astride his great Bull Nandi, and his consort (or one of them), Durga, rides a fierce tiger.   In Kevin’s painting, a serpent emerges from the forehead of the female figure.  This again refers to the great spiritual kundalini energy that has risen from the lowest level, and which is now at the sixth chakra, the Spiritual Eye.  In this state of consciousness, you see that all of creation is one with the Oneness of Spirit.  It is through love and intuition, the female “side,” that this level of awareness has been achieved.  On the male side, we see a strange creature.  It could be a dog, or a wolf, or a coyote, or some combination of all three.  The dog is the faithfulness of human affection spiritualized to that of Divine Love (bhakti yoga, the Way of Devotion), the wolf is the strength and braveness of truth and intellectual activity (jnana yoga, the Way of Knowledge), and the coyote, that great trickster of many an American Indian story, reminds us that delusion, maya, as the Hindus call it, is never far away, even when we have reached the highest levels of spiritual development, so long as one is still in the body. 

The last to appear (in my view) is the gnome-like creature below and beside the male figure.  Who is this strange fellow?  He appears to be part human, part skeleton, part dwarf.  In the old European fairy tales, gnomes are the guardians of underground treasure.  Here, the figure represents the lower consciousness of the male (i.e., chakras one through three), the part that once faithfully and even jealously guarded his coveted treasures of sex and power, but out of which the greater awareness of the unified figure has since emerged.  We can see his spine, or at least part of it.  This reminds us of and connects us once more with the kundalini power that has become fully manifest on the female side.  And his expression is both one of envy (in the lower aspect of his consciousness) of the ecstatic union that is emblematic of higher consciousness, but also of a kind of awe or prayerfulness, once he emerges more fully into human form. 

Finally, the colors in the painting are important, too.  The background behind the embracing figures is of deepest blue, as in the depths of the cosmic night. It is, however, studded with stars both golden and silver, reminiscent of the colors of the male and female figures.  They are the sun and the moon, the light of intellect and of love.  Interestingly, the artist has surprised us and switched the usual associations we have with these colors.  In this case, it is the male that is pale, moon-like, silvery-blue, a “cold color,” associated now (in my mind at least) with the precision and power of the active intellect.  The female is depicted as much warmer, with golden earth tones, associating her with the bounty of the planet, and the great humanness of the love that can and should very much be part of being in a body.  But in her case, her level of higher consciousness and enlightenment is such that even the body (i.e., in this case, her shoulder) “sees” with the light of spiritual discernment and discrimination. 

This is how I understand this lovely painting that Kevin has used to accompany his reaction to my earlier article on the nature of consciousness.  In it, and in a wholly different and, obviously, non-verbal way, he has taken the discussion to a very different level.  As he says later (in the verbal part), we cannot forget that there are many forms of consciousness, other than the merely human.  Animals, too, have their own awareness, as do plants, and even the great silent mineral life of Mother Earth. 

All of these things are reflected, and referenced, and depicted in Kevin’s painting, and in his thoughts on Being and Consciousness, and I am grateful to him for taking the time to extend so fully my own initial musings on the nature of consciousness. 

 

 

 

LIGHTENING UP! — The Shared Aesthetics of Humor and Art

Dear Paul,

Your letter about lightening up is a most enlightening upper! The fact that American Indians employed clowns in their sacred ceremonies is fascinating. Holy Mother Church could use a good dose of that right about now, don’t you agree? But it has been my observation that humor often comes with age and maturity, and the Holy Roman Catholic Church is not nearly as old or as highly evolved in many ways, as most of the native cultures of our planet are. Allowing clowns in the temple requires enough humility among the authorities to permit them to laugh at themselves and their most cherished beliefs. Many authorities can’t do that. They hold rigidly to an unshakably solemn belief in their dogmas and their own sober roles enforcing them. Allowing anyone to mimic or make fun of these beliefs would be threatening to their sense of reality and their own importance, and out of the question.

When I was only 20 in 1969, living in Aix-en-Provence, France and studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, I had the great good fortune to rent a room in the apartment of Mme Marbain, who turned out to be well-connected in the art world, and a truly great art critic. Her husband and her father had both been artists, and she had known Henri Matisse when she was a little girl and used to sit in his lap when she went with her father to visit the master. Mme Marbain was kind enough to look at my paintings and drawings and offer her insightful critiques. One day I drew a self-portrait, looking at my very serious face in the mirror. It looked a bit like Trotsky and betrayed my ponderous view of my young self, trudging through the streets of Aix in my trench coat, with long hair, goatee and wire rimmed glasses, reading Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in the original French. When Mme Marbain saw my self-portrait, she burst out laughing. I was offended, of course. I didn’t think my self-portrait or my life were the least bit funny and I did not appreciate her laughing at me, but I have never forgotten what she said next: “Is this how you see yourself?… Well… It’s the serious young men like you who grow into fun old men!” I hope she was right.

After all, what are humor and clowning but agents of change and growth? Social psychologists tell us that what makes us laugh is an unexpected or absurd twist in the presentation of reality. Clowns represent people or animals or beings who are behaving absurdly – inappropriately – irreverently – immaturely – and we find that very funny. So, humor is essentially a representation of reality with an unexpected, surprising element that strikes our funny bone. I have always felt that art and humor have a great deal in common. Art is also, largely, a representation of reality with a layer of abstraction, form, performance or interpretation placed over it, which causes us to see “reality” in a new way. Both humor and art give us the opportunity to look through a lens of excellent craft, formal technique and emotional expression, into an alternative universe. The humorist, or clown, and the artist are often saying, “Here is the world as YOU see it, and here is the potential world as I see it.” Both art and humor challenge society to see “reality” in a new way – as an evolving picture, rather than as rigid dogma – and to consider options for new behaviors, social forms, norms, institutions, and ways of being. Both art and humor are revolutionary and prophetic views of the future in this sense, and therefore, they can both be equally threatening to some elements in society that are not eager to embrace change.

Your assertion that clowning is a way of helping people to lighten up is right on target. And I have always felt that “lightening up” is one of the major goals of art as well. But in both cases, it’s more than that, isn’t it? Both the humorist and the artist, while urging us to lighten up and not take ourselves quite so seriously, are also challenging us to question reality – to deconstruct what we think we know today and put it all back together in a new form. And, of course, that process never ends. Change may be the only constant in the Universe. In some Asian religions, even God is defined as “ever-new, ever-changing Bliss.” I’ll go out on a limb here and admit that I believe both art and humor are part of humanity’s response to the Creator – our attempt to reflect back to the Heavens some of that ever-new, ever-changing Light of Creative Bliss that shines upon us every instant of every day. “Lightening up” is just that. Lightning is one of the few forms of light that moves from the earth upward into the heavens. Lightening up through humor and art is part of humanities effort to reflect what we receive, like lightning, adding our own surprising twists. We’re all clowns and artists in one way or another! It’s actually pretty funny, when you think about it. – Kevin

“Salvator Mundi,” a Priceless Leonardo, or a Fake?

By Kevin

 

In early November when I opened Paul’s envelope containing an L.A. Times article entitled “The Lost Leonardo,” I looked at the stunning color photo of “Salvator Mundi” and felt thoroughly confused. It immediately struck me as being both an authentic Leonardo, and NOT a Leonardo. The masterpiece was shown at The National Gallery in London from Nov 9, 2011 to Feb 5, 2012 as part of their exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan.” This beautiful portrait of Christ as “Savior of the World,” depicts His face softened by the master’s famous sfumato dry-brushing technique. However, the drapery, embroidery, right hand raised in benediction and left hand holding a crystal orb representing the world, are painted in clear detail. The face is so hazy as to seem like a vision or an image in a dream. Many art historians and experts question the origin of the painting. Its source is the subject of significant controversy. I request indulgence to add my ideas to the debate.

I wrote to Paul immediately, as I often do when trying to sort out my own thoughts, feelings and logical arguments about virtually any subject:

Yesterday your card with the article and photo about “The Lost Leonardo” arrived in the mail. I have spent some time considering it. The painting is compelling and very well made, but I have serious doubts that it is entirely a Leonardo. Actually, what I think is that this painting is from the studio of Leonardo and that the master’s hand is in it, but that it may have been largely painted by one of his apprentices. While the image is very haunting and beautiful, it has some serious problems that Leonardo never exhibited:

  1. The eyes are not exactly at the same level and each eye has a subtly different gaze. As you face the painting, the eye on the right is lower and looking down somewhat at the viewer’s mouth, by comparison with the other eye which is higher and gazing directly out into the eyes of the viewer. Leonardo never had this kind of trouble focusing the gaze of his faces.
  2. One hand is actually somewhat crude — the hand holding the orb. The thumb is especially rigid and wooden. The raised hand is much better and looks like Leonardo’s work, while the hand holding the orb does not.
  3. The orb is not well-defined. It is hard for me to imagine that Leonardo would not have developed more highlighting and definition in such an important part of the painting.
  4. Although the sfumato technique is very typical of Leonardo’s work, it is overdone here, as if a struggling younger artist is attempting to camouflage some problems, especially in the eyes, which are nearly dry-brushed out of existence.

 Now, having listed my concerns, I must quickly add that there are some elements of the work that are very Leonardo-like:

  1. Many parts of the face, the chest, and the ringlets of hair at both sides of the chest, feel very much like other paintings by the master.
  2. The mouth is quite reminiscent of Leonardo, and that’s where I looked first, because the corners of Leonardo’s mouths are especially distinctive. This painting has such a corner on the side near the raised hand, but not the other. I just have to observe that while this mouth is very beautiful, only half of it is a Leonardo mouth.
  3. The hand raised in blessing is utterly characteristic of Leonardo – organic and alive with flesh and bones. But the execution of the orb-holding hand is surprisingly immature and wooden.

Finally, stepping back and taking in the overall effect of the painting, it feels both overly dramatic and too rigid for a Leonardo to me, and I still have the feeling that it was largely executed by one of his apprentices under the guidance of Leonardo. It feels like a painting made by a younger artist than the others we know are from the master’s hand. This beautiful image is extremely dramatic in its ghostly quality on a dark background, and especially in the gauzy quality of the not quite matching eyes. And yet the lower half of the painting — the drape and ornate border ribbons are so rigidly and meticulously rendered as to seem like they might belong to a different painting altogether. The more I look at this work, the more I see the marks of two artists — the master’s hand is in part of the face and the raised hand. The apprentice is more and more obvious in the rest of the painting.

I was still very bothered by the painting and continued to stare at it for hours and meditate upon it. Suddenly I saw an answer – an explanation that completely satisfied me. As I stared at the “Salvator Mundi,” I found myself transported in my mind back to Leonardo’s studio, where several paintings were being produced by the master, with the “help” of his apprentices. In his studio Leonardo was a teacher, seeking ways to instruct his young apprentices. The “Salvator Mundi” commission presented a perfect teaching moment because it was an uncompromising full-face, symmetrical pose. If I were Leonardo, I would have drawn a line right down the middle of the painting, completed one half of it and given it to an apprentice to complete the other half in the same manner as a mirror image. As I scoured the painting for evidence supporting my hypothesis, I was compelled to write to Paul again:

Leonardo’s work                           an apprentice’s work 

I contend that the left side of the painting with the raised hand was painted by Leonardo, and the right side, with the orb, was painted by an apprentice, because everything on the left is much more expertly rendered than everything on the right. By “everything” I mean:

  1. The left eye is perfect and expertly formed and gazes straight into the eyes of the observer, while the right eye is badly formed and lower than the left eye, and gazes at the observer’s mouth.
  2. The left eyebrow is nuanced and very Leonardo-like, suggesting the contours of the brow behind it, while the right eyebrow is an uncompromising arc lacking in such subtleties.
  3. The line connecting the bridge of the nose to the eyebrow on the left is a diagonal line, again showing an understanding of anatomy, while the same line on the right is a rigid vertical line.
  4. The left mouth corner exhibits the distinctive Leonardo dimpled indentation and shadow, creating an enigmatic inner smile. That signature detail is missing on the right corner.
  5. The left hand as we look at the painting (the raised hand) is much better rendered than the other hand. We see and feel the anatomical detail of the raised hand, but not the other.
  6. The orb on the apprentice’s side of the painting is not detailed at all. It looks unfinished.
  7. The drapery is much more nuanced and advanced on the raised hand side of the canvas, where it falls naturally and looks photographic. On the orb side it is stiff and forced.

Again, it is my theory that Leonardo used this uncompromisingly full frontal pose to draw a line straight down the middle of the canvas and paint one side of it himself (the raised hand side) while instructing an apprentice to copy his work on the shaded side. The only exception is that I believe the apprentice was instructed to do all the intricately detailed ribbon and jewel and front fabric panel work. It looks to me like Leonardo painted the entire raised hand and arm including the drapery as well as that side of the head and face, while the apprentice did his best to finish the other side.

After discussing all of this with Paul by phone, I was truly hooked by the compelling mystery of this disputed “Lost Leonardo,” and several months of information gathering have ensued, during which I have become more and more convinced that the painting is a “collaboration” between Leonardo and one of his apprentices. One of the techniques I used to consider my theory was to flop the painting and cut it in half down the middle, matching the two Leonardo halves together and the two halves that I believe were painted by the apprentice as well. The results are rather striking:

This is the Leonardo half of “Salvator Mundi” paired with its own mirror image. To my eye this is clearly a Leonardo painting in every respect – the confident and focused gaze looking directly into the viewer’s eyes, the organic eyes and eyebrows, the refined nose, the mysteriously half-smiling mouth, the hair, the anatomy of the hands. All of it is quintessential Leonardo, and the result is a powerful, commanding, confident image of Christ.

 

By stark contrast, here is the apprentice’s half of “Salvator Mundi” paired with its own mirror image. The eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth, while compelling, do not look like Leonardo’s work. Moreover, the combined effect depicts a thin, weak, worried face with a flat nose and pursed thin lips. Leonardo’s faces are almost always sublimely serene with full sensuous lips, dimpled in the corners to provide that signature enigmatic inner Mona Lisa smile. That trademark characteristic of all Leonardo faces is entirely missing in this mirrored pairing of the apprentice’s side of the painting. While we can clearly see that this side of the painting is heavily influenced by Leonardo, it is not the master’s work, even though some may prefer it to the more robust and serene Christ image entirely by Leonardo.

According to www.italian-renaissance-art.com/Salvator-Mundi.html, there are 20 versions of “Salvator Mundi.” It is evident that 19 of them are copies of this painting produced in Leonardo’s studio, because infrared imaging has shown several “pentimenti (artist’s alterations) in Leonardo’s painting. Those final changes are mimicked in the 19 copies, but, of course, infrared imaging shows no changes in their painting process. The Leonardo image is composed of pigments characteristic of his work, and it is painted on a walnut panel that was produced in the correct era, consistent with other Leonardo paintings. His depiction of a crystal “mundus” is a unique innovation that also links the painting to the master, because he was something of a rock crystal expert.

There is strong documentary evidence that in 1506 Louis XII of France commissioned Leonardo to produce a painting entitled “Salvator Mundi,” which was completed in 1513. The work is documented to have been in the collection of King Charles I in 1649 and sold at auction by the Duke of Buckingham’s son in 1763. The painting fell upon hard times after that, and was lost until 1900, when it was purchased by the British art dealer Sir Frederick Cook. Several very poor restoration attempts made the painting very difficult to authenticate, and it was sold at auction for about $125 in 1958. In 2005 it was acquired by a consortium of U.S. art dealers and properly restored. After a seven-year authentication process, “Salvator Mundi” is now generally believed to be a Leonardo da Vinci painting worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 to 200 million. For its recent exhibition, The National Gallery in London cataloged the painting as a newly discovered Leonardo.

To all of these inquiries, studies, disputes, discussions and controversies, I add my own humble little theory that Leonardo used this full-face portrait of Christ as an opportunity to teach an apprentice his techniques, by asking the student to copy the master’s work from the left side of the painting as a mirror image on the right. After all… the right side was in shadow, and if necessary there was always the possibility of obscuring it further with more sfumato blurring – the 1510 version of Vaseline on the camera lens. The resulting two-artist painting is powerful, mysterious and both aesthetically and spiritually moving. In this disciplined exercise the apprentice learned a great deal from the master, and so can we when we deeply concentrate upon the transcendentally beautiful “Salvator Mundi.”

UNCLE SAM NEEDS YOU!.. to contribute your fair share of taxes

Taxes Are a Pain

It’s so hard to pay taxes. I’ve struggled with that April 15th deadline all my adult life. I’m almost never ready, and I usually have to estimate what I owe and file for an extension when I send my check. Tax time often brings a financial crisis for me even though I’ve tried as hard as I could to keep up with quarterly payments throughout the year. But there is something gratifying about it too. The annual creation of my detailed books is a review of my life. It’s surprising how emotionally compelling the lines in a checkbook can be when you really focus on a whole year of them one by one. A checkbook is like a diary. I always feel like I have completed a therapeutic review of my life with my accountant – my financial therapist – when my taxes are finally finished. Then there’s that moment of actually writing the tax checks. It hurts. Sometimes it really hurts a whole lot. But I always feel a sense of pride and satisfaction too. It’s like the feeling of civic pride that swells in my chest when I vote. It’s a moment of thanksgiving and gratitude for everything the Founders and the Constitution, and the country have given me. I know the system isn’t perfect, but I did what I could to help.

There are a whole lot of things that my taxes pay for that I do not believe in or agree with. Doesn’t everybody feel that way? It really frustrates me that such a high percentage of my tax check goes to the military and wars that should never be fought. It infuriates me that some of my hard-earned tax dollars help to comprise huge subsidies for the wealthiest corporations in the history of the earth – the oil companies. That’s just wrong. And it angers me that many multi-millionaires and billionaires pay only 13% to 15% of their enormous incomes in taxes, while I have to pay 30% to 35% and often have a very hard time scraping it together. But my overarching emotion when writing that tax check is patriotic pride and gratitude. I want to help support my country. I like thinking that some of my tax money helps educate our children and feed and house those who are down and out. It feels good to know that a few of my dollars are funding libraries and infrastructure improvements and even the arts. I think a few pennies still go to the arts. It should be a whole lot more. I’d certainly pay more taxes to help fund the arts.

I’d Pay More Taxes

I’m not just a liberal. I’m one of those famous “tax and spend liberals” you’ve heard so much about. I’d pay more taxes for all kinds of programs, benefits and services that advanced democracies around the globe have proven can be efficiently and effectively provided by government – education, healthcare, transportation, research and development, support for the poor and elderly, the democratic process, and (yes) the arts.

  •  Education – I’d pay higher taxes to guarantee that every American who wants technical training or a college education after high school would get it from well-paid educators.
  • Healthcare – A lot of us would be willing to pay more in taxes for a real single-payer public healthcare system that would cover all our medical needs from cradle to grave.
  • Transportation – With Global Climate Change and the price of gas, isn’t it time we all paid a few more dollars in taxes to build real mass transit systems across this nation?
  • Research & Development – When did Americans stop believing in the power of science? We need to fund research in medicine, alternative energy sources, and thousands of projects.
  • Support for the Poor and Elderly – We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. A civilized society would not allow 40% of its children to struggle in poverty and abandon its elderly.
  • The Democratic Process – Let’s pay more taxes for government-funded campaigns, and get rid of these PACs that are ruining our free and fair electoral system. No, corporations are not people, but they should do their patriotic duty to help government fund democratic elections.
  • And (yes) The Arts – An advanced democracy that wants to be the leader of the free world must do what it can to advance culture and the arts – the soul and conscience of any society.

Responsible Citizenship

My parents are hard-working, service-minded, solid middle class Americans in their mid-80s who also happen to be some of the most progressive people I have ever known. They taught me to strive to be a responsible citizen and do my fair share to help society work for all of us. When neighboring towns were flooded, they loaded all of us in the station wagon to offer our clean-up help and labor. When our church called our family to lead a service project for a profoundly poor village in Mexico, we piled into that station wagon again and drove thousands of miles to dig wells, start a school and petition the Mexican government for electrical service. I was the official translator for that project, with only two years of high school Spanish. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My parents believe in being responsible citizens of theU.S.and the world, and they act upon their beliefs. I have never once heard them complain about paying taxes or tithing for that matter. That’s what responsible citizens do. They carry their fair share of the load gladly and enthusiastically. They do whatever they can to help make society the best it can be and to lift everyone up.

It’s Time to Pay Your Fair Share, Wealthy Americans and Corporations!

I wish the extremely wealthy citizens and corporations among us would feel some of that civic duty and patriotic pride in supporting Uncle Sam and become willing to pay their fair share. At a time when middle class families are struggling to keep their jobs and homes and feed and educate their children, does it seem fair that they should also have to pay two or three times more as a percentage of their incomes in taxes than do the wealthiest Americans? Is it fair that some enormously wealthy corporations, now sitting on more cash reserves than they have ever had inU.S.history, should pay almost no taxes, let alone receive subsidies of tax money from the struggling middle class? No. These things are not fair, and they are certainly not practical in our current national economic condition.

Uncle Sam needs you to contribute your fair share of taxes, wealthy Americans and corporations! It is your patriotic duty to do so at this time in the history of the United States, when the interest on our national debt is threatening to engulf us and our economy is struggling so valiantly to get back on its feet. The middle class is doing everything it can to fight the good fight – and succeeding! — but having a very tough time. It is your turn, wealthy citizens and corporations, to express your gratitude for the opportunities this great nation has given you. You have worked hard and benefited enormously. You have realized the American dream and become the most fortunate among us. Now it is time for you to help save the nation and lift us all up. Dig deep into your pockets and contribute at least the same percentage in taxes as the middle class pays Uncle Sam. He will deeply appreciate it, and so will all the rest of us. Most importantly, it will be good for your souls to know that you have done your part to save the nation and put us all back on the path to greatness and prosperity.

— Kevin

David Hockney and the Scientistic Vision of Artists

Dear Paul,
 
Thank you so much for sending me the clipping from The Times Literary Supplement, Feb 3, 2012, about David Hockney’s show, “A Bigger Picture,” at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Hockney continues to thrill me with his brilliant mix of scientistic vision and ravishing aesthetic appeal, as he has done throughout his career. Even the TLS color reproductions on newsprint of Master Hockney’s recent work knocked my eyes out of my head and into my heart and stomach and cerebral cortex. But the TLS article by Clare Griffiths, “Yorkshire’s Prodigal Son — David Hockney’s Awakening from the California Dream” — made me realize once again how influential Hockney’s scientistic aesthetics have been for all 20th and 21st Century artists, including me.
 
When I first became aware of Hockney way back in the ’70s and ’80s, I was a gay man living in Southern California, and so was he. I understood his swimming pool paintings on a visceral and experiential level — the light, the heat, the beautiful young swimmers. But what grabbed me by the throat was the immediate realization that he was seeing the world — my world — with a radically fresh new vision, and an aesthetic built upon all of art history — especially starting about 1800 with the English landscape painters, then the impressionists, the fauves, the colorists and eventually the cubists. Hockney’s unabashedly sensual, fruit juice and candy application of color as if it were a sexual lubricant, was captivating in and of itself to say the least. But his deconstruction of visual viewpoint through reverse perspective, multiple viewer and vanishing points, and fractured visual planes also tickled my aesthetic intellect.
 
Hockney as never stopped demonstrating that while we artists are certainly motivated by our passion for sensuality, light, color, line, mass and form, we are also given to a scientistic way of seeing the world which would surprise many laymen, if they could step into our heads for even a minute. The essential elements of an artist’s vision are analytical. We dissect any scene like a biologist exploring a cadaver, but then we put it back together again in a new way. We seek to understand the mechanics of positive and negative space, perspective and light. We examine the crucial balances and tensions between contours and masses. We study every nuance of the interactions among colors. Yes, artists also create from emotion and passion, but that is largely about content. The process of seeing analytically in order to create art is as scientistic and disciplined as is the mastering of materials, tools and techniques. David Hockney is the artist who best articulates and demonstrates or reveals the reality about the analytic artistic process.
 
Beyond his lifelong dissertation about aesthetic vision and analytic process, Hockney has also pulled back the curtain on the artist’s obsession and constant search for new tools and technologies that will serve our desire to produce a new aesthetic to dazzle the world. This, too, is scientistic — this deep interest in technologies and tools. As it happens, while cleaning house two days before receiving your TLS clipping, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a 90-minute David Hockney documentary on the Ovation TV Network, entitled “A Beginning,” if I remember correctly. In this fascinating film, Hockney is an aesthetic detective, seeking to prove by scientific methodology that the renaissance artists achieved their shockingly natural new images through technology. He proves convincingly that as early as the 1400s artists were projecting images of their subjects onto their canvases by using curved mirrors and tracing the optically accurate forms. In the 1500s the camera obscura was invented, or more appropriately, “discovered,” since it is little more than a hole in a surface, capable of projecting a completely detailed photographic image of the artist’s subject, albeit upside-down, on a small canvas. It turns out that we artists have been “cheating” by using optical technology for at least six centuries. Not to leave us disenchanted with art, in his documentary Hockney points out that it is not the optical accuracy of an image that makes it art, but its brilliant aesthetic execution.
 
What woke me up at 3:00 am this morning was Hockney’s use of the iPad to create large prints for his current show at The Royal Academy. He is also creating images with his iPhone, and creating landscape films using 18 cameras and projecting images on multiple screens. Again, I identify thoroughly with Hockney, because I have been creating digital images with my scanner, computer and Wacom drawing tablet for many years. Several years ago I began printing them on large canvases with the help of my friend sign-maker Dave who lives and works in these woods down near the river. He helped me print a 3 x 4 foot image of my digital composition “I Miss Smokin’ SOooo Much…” (see below.) One of those just sold to some good friends in New York.
 
Lately I have become increasingly worried about the competition for time between the income requirements and demands of daily life versus the imperative to create art. Let’s face it, at our age you and I are hearing the clock ticking louder and louder and thinking more carefully about how to spend each moment and get the most out of our time. I thought life would slow down as I got older — especially living like a hermit in the woods — but it is speeding up instead, and I find myself analyzing periods of time that I used to waste and thinking about how they can become productive moments. So I awoke at 3:00 am this morning with the realization that I have to buy an iPad! I have frequently carried sketchbooks for the last 50 years, and created some pretty interesting images in them, too, if I do say so myself, but almost nobody ever sees those drawings. It’s time to take the hint from Hockney and my own years of stationary desktop computer digital art, and trade in my sketchbook for a portable iPad so that I can continue to make sketches as I have done for five decades, but then develop the best ones and email them to sign-maker Dave to create large prints. Thank you for waking me up David Hockney!

 And thanks again for sending me the TLS clipping, Paul! Love, -Kevin
 
P.S. See more about Hockney’s exhibit at www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney

Below: “I Miss Smokin’ SOooo Much…” 2009 digital print — line art drawn by hand by Kevin who then scanned it into his computer and colored, shaded and detailed it with his Wacom digital drawing tablet. Sign-maker Dave in the woods then printed the image on a 3 x 4 foot canvas which Kevin stretched on a homemade pine frame and varnished before displaying. 

I Miss Smokin' SOooo much -- digital art by Kevin