David Hockney, technology and the naked eye.

Last month I made it back to the De Young Museum to see David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition. The show was amazing and I was inspired to see such a huge proliferation of work, most of it outstanding.

Besides being recognized as one of the greatest painters of our day, Hockney is known for his important ideas on the history of painting, namely his theory that the old masters used the optical tools of their day to aid in creating painted images.  For this reason, Hockney is avidly interested in the optical tools of his own day and the I-phone and I-pad drawings and paintings in the exhibit are beautiful.  

I share this interest in the technology available to contemporary artists, particularly painters. Digital images play an important role in the way I paint, allowing me to process information in exciting ways. Each painting begins in a very real physical, three dimensional landscape. However my connection to the motif develops and deepens as I use simple tools to view and edit digital photographs taken on site. These tools allow me to navigate a single image in compelling ways, zooming, cropping, literally swooping into the image, observing detail and finding images within images.  Drawing applications also come into play, allowing compositional and color adjustments.

 What is so fascinating about Hockney's exploration of digital processes is that while he revels in the possibilities that they allow, he is aware of their limitations and he always returns to the traditional tools of art making.  The plein-air charcoal drawings in the exhibit are amazing.  As are the oil paintings, based on iPad sketches.

The more I experiment with digital images, the more I am reminded that no camera or software can take the place of experiencing a landscape directly with all of one's senses.  After all, the camera is, as Hockney puts it a "paralyzed cyclops", incapable of true representation.

Direct perceptual drawing is the most authentic way to capture the perceptions of the naked eye, always the truest version in my opinion. For me the joy is here,  in the traditional, tangible, physical materials: paper, pencil, canvas, brushes, solvents and paint.  My practice is rooted in direct perception and the connection between eye and hand but informed nonetheless by the mind boggling array of today's digital tools.





Diebenkorn and abstraction vs figuration

I made my second visit to the Richard Diebenkorn show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Im hoping to make it back one more time before the show closes on September 29. ( My birthday by the way!)

Diebenkorn's work has inspired me ever since I came across the Ocean Park paintings at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC in the late 80s. I was a museum guard there, my first job after graduating from high school. The Phillips is a gem, a small collection  of 19th and 20th century paintings housed in the Dupont Circle home of Duncan Phillips, an avid collector, patron and friend to many 20th c artists including Diebenkorn.  It was my job to greet visitors and make sure nobody touched the paintings. Mainly I stayed in the cozy galleries all day long developing my love of painting. 

Diebenkorn was an old man by then but periodically came to the Phillips and I remember him on one of his visits, hunched over a cane shuffling through the galleries. Not quite the tall, handsome painter of  the great  photographs in the exhibit.  Still it was a thrill to see him even though I had no idea then,  that I would be a painter living within walking distance of Ingleside,  the neighborhood of Debenkorns childhood. 

The de Young show focuses on the period between 1953 and 1966 when Diebenkorn lived and painted in Berkely. It was during this time that his work began to shift from abstraction to figuration.  His previous work had mainly adhered to the style of abstract expressionism but by this time he had begun to feel frustrated by the requirements of the ab ex school. He made his way to figuration while still employing the ab ex hallmarks,  "gestural brushwork, surface richness and emphasis on formal qualities of paint and canvas" (from the museum wall blurb)

What makes Diebenkorn's work so interesting to me is this tension between pure abstraction and pure representation.  It seems to me that good painting is always somewhere in the middle and I believe that a where painting falls on this spectrum of abstraction to representation is where the artist's truth can be found.

I have more to say on this topic, especially on the subject of Diebekorn's landscapes but will keep that for a future post.

Notes to Myself on Beginning a Painting - Richard Deibenkorn

I came across this at Deibenkorn, the Berkeley Years, currently at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.  Some of these are useful to me as I contemplate getting back to the studio after a summer of traveling.

More on that amazing exhibit later......


Notes to Myself on Beginning a Painting - R Diebenkorn

1.  Attempt what is not certain.  Certainty may or may not come later.  It may then be a valuable delusion.

2.  The pretty initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued --except as stimulus for further moves.

3.  Do search but in order to find other than what is searched for.

4.  Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5.   Don't "discover" a subject of any kind.

6.  Somehow don't be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7.  Mistakes can't be erased but they move you from your present position.

8.  Keep thinking about Pollyanna.

9.  Tolerate chaos.

10.  Be careful only in a perverse way.

Welcome to the new incarnation of catherinesky.com

Although this new site has been long overdue, my heart is somewhat heavy as I bid adieu to my former iWeb creation.   I hope this new format will lend itself more flexibly to the work as it evolves. 

Artist's Statement

My work begins with the simple act of moving through a landscape. 

Then come questions of location and vantage point. How does the point from which one is looking relate to where one has been? As the motif becomes transformed by recollection and revisitation, observed over time and under the influence of digital tools, images within images emerge and series evolve. 

My creative impulse is rooted in a deep respect for the natural world and a fascination with the places where the organic and the human-made meet.

While mapping a journey through the physical landscape, the work strives to navigate a course through the abundance of information encountered at the intersection of nature, digital media and the artist's perception.