Monday, October 1, 2012

Hidden meanings

Yellow Roses. 16"x12". Oil on linen panel. 2012
I have been thinking lately about this core conundrum of human existence: arguably most essential things in life – things happening within us, in our inner selves – are nearly impossible to name meaningfully. We do have names for them, to be sure, but we can never be absolutely sure what these names mean to the next person. 

As children, we hear the words, do our best to infer their meaning from how they are used, and then to attach them to our own emotional and spiritual experiences (or sometimes we are told to wait till we grow up and have the necessary experience to attach the name to). We seem to implicitly rely on the assumption that everyone has access to a universal inventory of emotions and experiences, more or less exactly corresponding to the lexicon available in whatever language happens to be our native one. But take my word for it (if you don't happen to know this yourself) these parts of lexicons vary enormously from one language to another; and some languages manage almost without it at all (as a matter of fact, I used to study a language with a lexicon of about two thousand words in total, most of it, quite naturally, dedicated to "useful", concrete things and actions). 

Being born into a language rich in names for intangible phenomena, each with its own heritage of religious, poetic, cultural contexts, inevitably places you into a mysterious forest of (names of) other people's experiences and emotions, in which you try and find your own, in your own idiosyncratic way; and then "coordinate" your system of names with everyone else's, in search of some semblance of mutual understanding, so that you don't feel quite alone here. 

Maybe that's the most obvious "function" of arts – to break, or at least make some holes in – the walls of the solitary cells that are our skulls, the walls which sometimes seem to be even more impenetrable by everyday words. And yet, this opens a whole new can of worms: the way artists (and everyone else who cares to participate) talk about art, its meaning, the process, its higher purpose, its principles, even its definition. Reading, and listening, I often feel that almost any alignment between words and meanings has been lost irrevocably in this semantic domain: people use the same idioms to refer to quite different things, and different names for essentially the same thing; and quite often, words are being just thrown around like tennis balls, devoid of any connection to meaning – and those who have direct access to meanings, don't find adequate words. And yet, sometimes something miraculous seems to happen, and we seem to understand one another, if only for a brief moment – and so we try more, in hope to encounter this miracle again. 

A bowl of apples against rowan-berries. 12"x12". Oil on canvas panel
As a matter of fact, this was the original goal of this blog post: I wanted to approach the question of relationship between the process of painting and the emergent meaning (in the most general terms) by contrasting two of my own paintings which might seem similar in their "genre" and their lack of of any direct and obvious "message", but are nearly opposite in terms of how they came to be and how their hidden meaning emerged (from my point of view, at least). But I seem to have spent the "real estate" of this post on introductory remarks, so that I'll probably have to make it into a series, "Process and Meaning", to be continued next week. 

If you have read till this point, you might probably be interested in the fact that both of these works are currently auctioning at Daily PaintWorks (so you can have a direct access to whatever meanings are hidden in them for rather low prices... ). As for me, I have a week more to gather my thoughts on the relationship between the process and the meaning.

If you want to be notified of new works offered for sale on Daily Paintworks without following me on, there are three options:

  • I will mention newly listed paintings here, in my weekly post on Mondays – so if you follow this blog, you will receive this information weekly.
  • If you are on Google+, you can leave me a comment on any post there, and I will add you to the circle where I give the links to auctions as I list the paintings (I don't send out notifications, just make these announcements visible only to those who expressed their interest). 
  • If you are on Twitter, I also try to share all these links there (@LenaLevin_paint). 

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