Landscape Paintings - Draft Copy/written 11/06/04
The abstract landscapes using Chinese brushes are a combination of sumi ink and watercolor. They reflect my interest in traditional Chinese painting, the force and energy (Chi) represented by mountain and natural earth formations and the relationship of human spirituality and the natural environment. The recently published translation of the 1831 text "Nine letters on Landscape Paintings" by Carl Gustav Carus (The Getty Research Institute-2003) has been a guide in formulating my artistic direction. Carus was a Philosopher, Medical Doctor and painter who was a component of German Romantic Philosophy movement which strove to identify the connection between the natural world and the soul of humans. They were reaction to the beginning of the industrial age and the separation and isolation of man from nature through the introduction of non-agrarian life. Carus proposed that the soul was present in the cell and as it divided upon fertilization the soul was present in each division. Following this thought, every cell has a soul element and all of natural life is connected with it.
The essay entitled “Nine Letters on Landscape Painting” has been of special interest to me since I paint from an interior experience that is informed by natural observation and knowledge. The large and crude brush strokes of the landscapes represent the mass of the mountain form (gestalt) and they representing the creating forces (chi) that created the earth in geological time. The brush gestures make reference to the fingerprints of God that the German Romantic philosophers felt were present in the creation and maintenance of the natural world. The watercolor inter-painting (between the strokes) represents the temporal forces of trees and vegetation, animal life and erosion triggered changes in the mountain surface. The energy spent walking up and down the mountain and the views enjoyed and the natural phenomena observed inform the watercolor choices and brush hesitations, forming pools and eddies of intensity of color and brush strokes. In an attempt to draw out the unconscious experience of the observed mountain walk, a pathway is opened and the brush takes direct communication from the mind and the eye constantly adjusts the drawing process. The images are gathered in the eye’s peripheral vision and enter memory as unfiltered ray of spirit (chi) and energy.
The brush marks/gestures are a record and represent a calligraphic interpretation of a natural language made up of a vocabulary informed by segments oak tree, the outlines of the ridge against the sky or the random appearing rivulets in the trail fashioned by recent rains. The visual language produced is not read but understood. The message is energy and growth, atrophy and decay: the cycles of nature, the balance and harmony of life. To be interest in remembering a certain place in nature, an attracting “ether” must be present. A special golden light or dramatically dark sky might become the catalyst to make the presence felt in a natural place. All the world can be qualified as being of nature or natural but augmentation by elements of perceived beauty, absence of interruption by human progress, or spiritual embodiment (as a sanctuary) reclassify certain natural zones as memorable and become teachers of the essence of existence.
We learn from our environment, and often the lessons we choose to influence us are that nature is a silent victim to our progress. Relocation is the preferred solution to the ruination of the natural world, there is no solace in manufactured nature, a simple creek bed can take years to reconstruct into anything close to its original function and physical presence.
I painted the landscapes daily as part of my meditation on the natural world often after a long walk in the Claremont Preserve and the hills above the Berkeley campus.
Afterword: These loosely painted sumi-ink/watercolor sketches are an immediate and pre-conceptual communication with observed and remembered natural formations and phenomena. The study of Chinese landscape paintings, Taoist writings, travel in Japan and China, and time spent in Kauai and the Sierra Nevada mountains provided a continual source of inspiration. In addition to mountain studies I painted an extended series of "Meadow Studies" inspired by our meadow at Sea Ranch. This body of work produced from 2002 to 2009 includes more that 500 painting on paper.