1954 - 1960, The Early Years in New York and Paris
September 7 - December 17, 1999
Emily Lowe Gallery
"When Leonardo Da Vinci walked down the street his source of light created an illusion of sculptural dimension. Candlelight, sunlight, these shaped the direction in which the accustomed eye saw its reality. We see and perceive differently, even though we may continue to be accustomed in our minds to see as they saw. Our light world is caught in refraction, interpenetration. Sometimes we really wonder if we are seeing what we are."
-- Paul Jenkins
Extract from "It Is" New York, Autumn, 1958
"An Abstract Phenomenist"
A painting wants nothing to do with me after it is done. It is finished with me. Although it will tell me things about myself I never knew were there, it remains its own 'it.' The experience of painting is what remains. The attempt to validate with words what has been done seems needless, and has nothing to do with the act, the act when painting, which is a composite of compulsion and humility. There is a temptation, however, and sometimes a necessity for the painter to write about his painting. The artist argues for the right to paint though it may not seem essential or responsible to his society at this time, yet I find the artist today is one of the most responsible members of his society; he does not reject his own right to be an individual, even though he is encouraged to. His example, in my estimation, is true responsibility to others by the effort to be himself. He risks bringing forward something which has a kind of value not immediately evident, but which may be invaluable to his civilization. This is essential. And because there is such diversity in work see, certain rational minds think there is confusion instead of adventure. ....
Whatever may be an artist's personal idea, there does come that inevitable moment when he is asked openly or mutely, 'Do you feel nature has any serious relation to your work?' I answered this as I could in a statement to the Whitney Museum.
We are so inextricably bound up with nature that we cannot help but be affected. To what extent one is drawn to it objectively always remains the difficult question. For me to approach it directly would be a self-conscious act of painting 'at' it or 'about' it. It is the very abstract elements of the sun and the moon, however, that dictate a visual demand in my painting experience. One radiates light, and the other reflects light. With the concept of reflection and radiation, one is not limited. One can paint in black and white and still achieve reflection and radiation - or the double positive rather than classical positive-negative. One can conceive a painting with a positive-negative relationship and still have them interact on each other subtly, creating vibrational emphasis rather than romantic illusion.
To approach life and nature indirectly is not necessarily devious. Peripheral vision is an endowment of nature, not an invention of the devil. We often misconstrue the 'unknown' into an image comparable to the 'edge of town' - a place to keep away from. The insurance our civilization has for lasting continuance is 'to know the unknown.'
When I see nature directly, it looks at me. I cannot begin to see it. I have to approach indirectly through the meshes and foliage of darker memory. The painting experience becomes visualized in the act of painting. But this in no way means that I have nothing in my 'mind' when I start a painting. Nor does it mean I have visions. The very size of the canvas dictates to me. A white canvas does not frighten me, the grain of the canvas gives me a clue, the time of the year gets into the act, everything involving nature is there, and it is a veritable Pandora's Box. Sometimes it is like keeping a storm door shut with one hand and painting with the other. Keeping the known out so the unknown may enter.
The immensity of entering the unsuspected and unexplored does not offer a solution, and it destroys its own conventions as soon as they are made. Nature for me has most meaning when, through a state of being, rather than watching it, I am able to achieve cognizance of original meanings.
Excerpt from "The Abstract Phenomenist"
The Painter and Sculptor
Vol. 1, No. 4, Winter 1958-59