Monday, April 16, 2012
Exploring Automatic Drawings 16 - 30
Notes from Robert Motherwell
“What Art Holds”
Mary Ann Caws
From his reading of Anton Ehrenzweigh’s
Psychoanalysis of Artistic Vision and Hearing: An introduction to a theory of Unconscious Perception”, Motherwell took ammunition for his views about automatic scribblings or doodling as indicative of something below the normal and expected surface. Ehrenzweigh emphasizes the way in which the human psychology, longing for a smooth, understandable gestalt, is likely to “cover up and smooth out symbolic forms” in order to restore an articulate structure and what seems a rational entity, ruling out any psychology of depth.
But “to a great extent, the creative process remains on an unconscious, inarticulate level where unconscious perceptions communicate themselves directly to the artist ‘automatically’ writing hand”. So the task of the artist is to ‘disintegrate the articulate and rational surface perceptions and to call up secondary processes in the public” calling on the secret life of the emotions, those techniques of scribbling that have there direct outcome in emotional power. The musical equivalent of this is the accidental glissando and vibrato, those unintended inflections that express something more profound than the smooth surface.
In order to open up these possibilities, Ehrenzweigh shows how the techniques of the modern “automatic” painter manages to retain the “ initial stage of fluid gestalt- free perception by suppressing all definite formative ideas/”
It was this technique that most interested Motherwell. As for the general particular tensions between the verbal and the visual, they came radically personalized in surrealism
... From Matta he took the idea that forms could be torn, like wounds in the picture - again like the moral statements art could make, must make. Most important of all, it was from Matta that he learned about the automatic beginnings of the painting gesture, what became the Motherwell “doodle” or spontaneous scribble at the origin of many of his works. It is what starts you into your spontaneous creation; it is at the source of enthusiasm.. It is far from trivial.
Motherwell - In my case I find the blank canvas so beautiful that to work immediately, in relation to how beautiful the canvas is as such, is inhibiting and, for me, demands too much too quickly; so that my tendency is to get the canvas “dirty,” so to speak, in one way or another, and then, so to speak, “work in reverse,” and try to bring it back to an equivalent of the original clarity and perfection of the canvas that one began on/
... So the doodle mediates between nothingness on the empty page and the mind eager to express itself. The term ‘improvisation’, as in a 1991 work of that name, prepares exactly the aesthetic ground on which the witness to spontaniety occured.American as improvisation may sound, Motherwell’s doing them was tinged with the Oriental, because at the moment you let your “hand take over,” it is as if you’re painting with someone’s hand. You have to give up the major emphasis on yourself... here the thinking is in the doing, in the painting, in the enthusiastic way you open yourself up, give yourself over, to the spontaneous start.
...”Doodling, “ Steinberg had said, “is the brooding of the hand.”
... The initial contact with the canvas, say, this line or stroke thrown down, just like that, can lead where we may want to go.