creative incubation

"X equals an Orange Rabbit", the Swiss painter and sculptor Meret Oppenheim wrote in her high school math class notebook. Later, her fetishistic sculptures, fashioned from teacups, fur, high heels and other feminine domestic objects, address the themes of food, sex, death, cannibalism and bondage, always with a mischievous twist. Her famous fur-lined teacup was instantly embraced by the Surrealists as the quintessential expression of their movement. Strange things bubble up in your creative imagination if you allow natural incubation and this is a good example!

art object by Meret Oppenheim

When you allow yourself to zone out to the sound of concrete numbers and mathematical data or the equivalent noise that makes your brain emit alpha waves while you are wide awake, you can make interesting correlations. You are in a state of creative incubation. You can prolong this state through rabid housework, scaring yourself with real estate nightmares, falling in love, or never leaving the house, creating sufficient boredom to stimulate the imagination.

tightrope walker

There is a golden egg under my comfy chair and I am waiting for it to hatch and divulge its rewarding contents. I had come to the half way mark in abstract painting so I already knew what abstract painting was. I knew it well. It was the expression of a kind of visual meditation transforming mind into matter and expressed as energy moving in space. At least that's how I conceptualize it. Everyone has their own interpretation. Essentially there is a terrifying range of possibility associated with this much freedom of expression. Choices in production are infinite. Where should you begin? Some artists become so terrified of falling off the tightrope they have created across this space, that they paint the same painting over and over again! They are afraid that if they step into freefall they won't know how to fly. These are the artists that will likely become famous. Although I have been told by esteemed critics that I don't have to re-invent the wheel each time I create an abstract painting, I am always seduced by the options that lead to new possibilities. It keeps the work alive for me. How lovely! How intriguing!

I am fascinated by pure, infinite freedom where I can wander among the stars or the weeds and dream up new ways to make paint sing. I was intoxicated with color while creating large paintings on canvas and started incorporating line, abstract drawing, into the color fields. And the painting became poetic, lyrical. The content that the art critic, Hegel, claims is central and indispensable to genuine art is the freedom and richness of spirit. Recently I have had the most amazing time creating digital monoprints which have had a significant impact on the direction of my painting. It was a digital joy to explore line which is nearly impossible to do spontaneously on the canvas, although some artists have succeeded very well. Abstract drawing has a huge fascination for me. Isn't it fascinating to see what kind of squiggly lines you produce when you are not drawing anything definable? These are the kinds of images produced when you are talking on the telephone. Ever look at those? You made them. I suppose we are now entering a discussion on mark-making.

digital monoprint

Red Pepper
digital monoprint 16 x 20 in.
© W.Skog


In short-circuiting this discussion, let me just say, the phone doodles are not art. You need to become consciously unconscious in order to make those marks meaningful. A piece of art is a human document and as such needs to reflect intention and depth. Especially in abstract art there needs to be some evidence of thought while containing the artist's unique creative essence.

So I sit on my golden egg some more. Oliver Sacks wrote about outlining the three essential elements of creative gestation: “This incubation period is essential to allow the subconscious assimilation and incorporation of one’s influences and sources, to reorganize and synthesize them into something of one’s own.” The richer one’s reservoir of these influences and sources, the more interesting their synthesis into something new would be. In this current state of incubation, I am providing water and sunlight for the new shoots that are stemming from everything I have learned so far as an artist through my own work and through the study of art in general. Will the work look totally different? I hope not. But if that happens, I won't be surprised. There are so many things about painting that I want to understand better and in art-making I understand best by doing.

“It's unbelievable about how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life” —Mickey Mantle

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