PHILIP GERSTEIN All is optional but not art
"Indeed, I believe that color, 'in and for itself', is always alive, and that only bad painters possess the gift of 'killing' it."
"When you look at a keyboard, ALL notes are there. But you gotta use the ones you MEAN".
“The purpose of art – is to provide the significant experience that one can have in only this way”.
"In nature, light creates the color; in the picture, color creates light".
(1) “What you do is get rid of everything
freedom from ideas and responsibility
If you live by inspiration then you do what comes to you
… you can’t make promises
The future’s a blank page
I pretended I was looking at the blank page
I used to look in my mind for the unwritten page
If my mind was empty enough I could see it“.
(2) “That which takes us by surprise – moments of happiness – that is inspiration. Inspiration which is different from daily care. … Inspiration is there all the time. For everyone whose mind is not clouded over with thoughts whether they realize it or not. … It’s a peaceful thing. It is a consolation even to plants and animals. … It is an untroubled mind. Of course we know that an untroubled state of mind cannot last. So we say that inspiration comes and goes but really it is there all the time waiting for us to be untroubled again.”
ARTIST NOTES / DIARY
My work is expansive, not reductive -- even when minimalist.
Emotions are tangled in surface textures, in the undeniable impression of depth, of breadth -- of quiet or potent space.
Color is my guiding star 🌟.
These paintings are a temporal journey from emotion to emotion, saturated with color.
Kandinsky defined understanding in art as the "Heranbildung des Zuschauers auf den Standpunkt des Künstlers" (education of the viewer to reach the standpoint of the artist)...
There are many kinds of abstraction, all expressive in their own way.
Decades pass, standards of beauty change in the eyes of the beholder – but the wily abstraction, now 100 years young, keeps reinventing itself.
Colors whisper, sing, exclaim, entice, convince, and transport. Textures rise and smooth away; the light, pulsing, reflects or is absorbed. The eye sees movement where there is none.
The balance is upset, regained, remixed in the layers of paint, along their edges and boundaries. Dualities are alluded to and set aside; every dot, line, squiggle, and interval counts.
What makes every human invention a part of Nature?.. – it’s the capacity to perceive simplicity and complexity at the same time… it’s our ability to hold on to several contradictory views simultaneously… it is our inclination to hold fast to familiar patterns, paired incongruously with our yearning for freedom to embrace adventure and change… .
Abstraction would not exist without these seeming contradictions and the liberating capacity of our minds ever to renew themselves.
The sound of color, the music of movement -- this is the spacetime continuum of my painting.
About mistrusting words to describe a visual art... here's a timely note of caution from Elliot Ross, photographer: "...I think I was trying to avoid the phenomenon known as verbal overshadowing in which the left hemisphere of the brain, which thinks in words, displaces the product of the right hemisphere, which thinks in pictures -- the description that kills the image."
So often an artist searches for a kind of perfection for their work. Will they also hear this Zen quatrain from our songmaster Leonard Cohen ("Anthem"):
"Ring the bells that still can ring!
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything --
that's how the light gets in!"
How notable in the art of the past century a periodic revival of interest in "spiritual art". What Rothko tried to do through feeling -- to move the soul with color -- many Minimalists attempted to do through silence. (Minimalism = the art of the interval.) I am thinking of Agnes Martin: her enigmatically enveloping paintings; her magically spare writings.
I greatly admire the high achievements of Abstract Expressionists and of Minimal Art. However, one would look to their roots in Kandinsky and in Chinese Art to find more direct antecedents to my painting.
Frowned upon for most of the 20th century, it is now an open secret: many artists paint in more than one style at the same time! I have decided to designate different strands of my own work as "minimal" and "baroque".
Where a tempted reader might take this terminological wordplay too literally, a post-modern viewer will see through it to a lyric poeticism of times past -- a remnant symbol amidst a metaphor, tucked inside the enigma of art historical notations that pass for our common cultural heritage.
To put it more "minimally", these distinctions (along with the titles of my paintings) are best viewed with a lyric eye of a poet.
It is high time we reconsider Kandinsky -- and not just for the pre-eminence in his painting of color - a trans-stylistic element of major lasting importance.
It is the fresh relevance of meditational space, of the updating of the illusion of spatial warp and woof, and the continued attempts at incorporating geometric figures as a vehicle to impose pictorial order, that have emerged again as the pivotal painting issues.
My paintings are informed by all of these preoccupations as well as textural concerns, in a continuity of spatial representation interests that hearken back to the classic art of the Far East, and thence forward to the contemporary work of Brice Marden and Joan Snyder.
I am interested in the “mood setting”, emotional effects of color. To that effect, I utilize shape, line, and texture in an arrangement that comes in a series of unpremeditated, interactive flows, alternating with periods of reflection and a kind of meditation, all aided and abetted by music -- another great mood setter.
It is a process that involves time and rewards prolonged acquaintance (richly, I hope). Particularly, since the works are done in a “major key” and can, as one of their complex messages, lead to an emotion of joy.