This Is What It Isn't
by Frank Bramblett
I define painting as the fluid process of the mind merging with the fluid material of paint to form a visible invisible. What intrigues me about painting is how paint, as a common material bearing identical physical facts and visual codes, can be transformed into meaning. And how a particular method of application combined with a specific way of seeing might be called a Cezanne. We call the painting a Cezanne, but the image within the object is a representation of apples. Our recognition of both the apples and the paint has been rendered invisible. Is it then not what is invisible, the dead and buried Paul Cezanne, that is relevant? What is visible as we stare at the frozen paint is the fluid mind of the artist. In our experience with the painting, have the real and the cognitive reciprocated? Our mind becomes a surrogate for the mind of Cezanne. Is the painting "natura morta", or is there "still-life"?
I smear some paint on a surface, and it is called an apple. Then, I peel the skin of an apple and it no longer looks like the smear of paint. Which is now the apple? At what point does an identity change, or is there truth in an identity? I paint an artificial apple that is recognized as a depiction of an apple. Is alluding to an illusion of something that it is not, a deception of an illusion? I pour a purple spot that should be considered an abstract circular purple shape. It is next to the apple, and is identified as a plum. If the purple shape, and not the apple, prompts the viewer to salivate, is this a false experience? Can the abstract purple shape be convincing enough to make the rendered apple be viewed as a red circular disc? Would this be a false-false, or truth?
I paint what is identified as bunches of grapes and grape leaves, but it is actually a depiction of the molecular structure of various caustic chemical compounds combined with the pawprints of my German Shepherd bounding across the painting. Does the mastery of technique fool the eye, or does the context fool the mind?
I spill a pool of cement that is believed to be paint, but is identified as a cloud. Can reality become the illusion of an identity of something that it is not?
In a contiguous surface, I bury blue dots that, in context, are identified as blueberries. These dots are arranged as words in Braille. But, the dots have no positive dimension of form as they are embedded within the marble-like surface of what appears as a clear blue sky. As the Braille is visual and not tactile, can it convey its true meaning? Can both our acceptance of an illusion, and our belief in a reality be questioned simultaneously through the intermediary of painting?
A painting's black surface of polished graphite is punctuated with tiny holes that are identified as constellations in a pitch dark night. A star is a mass of burning gas whose residue is light that renders objects visible. But in the painting, light reflects strongly off of the reflective surface turning the painting into pure light, and negating the sense of objectness of the painting. The holes, which are empty black voids are now visible. Does painting then not exist in reality, but can what is real be questioned through the manipulation of paint? Do the mutations of the mind, which allow paint to depict reality, conversely not allow a painting to be replicated within the real world? If reality can be an illusion, and illusion can be real, is reality then a deception, and an illusion truth?
Marie Rainier Rilke, the German poet and philosopher, once described Cezanne's method of depicting an image as a momentous shift in the way that we define representation. Rilke formed an analogy to Cezanne's method by rearranging a simple five word sentence. Prior to Cezanne, artists exclaimed, "This is what it is!" In rearranging the strokes in depicting an apple, Cezanne asks, "Is this what it is?" Painting must not become dependent on the seduction of the politicizing subject, but to remain viable, it may use any subject to question the very premise of experience. I approach each of my paintings as a separate essay. I give myself permission to paint what I cannot keep myself from painting, and wonder. I ask why, in Genesis, is the apple used as the object with which to deceive?