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Reductionism

September 15, 2015

How do you progressively reduce the complexity of a visual idea?  When does an idea become over-simplified?  I'm regularly taunted by reductionism.  Its a challenge to take elements out of an idea without seeing the larger thing quietly fall apart.  

 

 

These reflections, in Pink Flight Afloat (60 x 40 in | oil on panel) may still seem complex but they've undergone significant iterations of reductionism, a ruthlessly simplifying of forms: Three lines becomes one line;  A gradated shadow becomes a flat plane;  A spectral color transition becomes binary or even unary.  It takes diligence for me.  It's a challenge while painting: to resist seeing (and therefore painting) ever more detail.  

 

Whenever I lapse into a meditative painting trance, I eventually awaken to find that I've veered off always into every more imaginary detail, like a plane nosediving toward the ground.  It is my bizarre nature to keep adding details: dividing hair into single strands floating alone, adding goose bumps to flesh, adding compound colors to shadows, and on and on and on.

 

But I often see that as I add more and more detail, it ceases to improve the image and perhaps even detracts overall.  It may become more realistic but less real.  Right then I see that I'm getting farther and farther from the universal, abstract form of the image as I get closer and closer to the particular reality of it.  And this is probably what's good about my work, if anything is.  My images stand for an abstract concept even more than a particular woman on a particular day somehow.  Its precisely what the Greek philosophers meant by saying that ideal forms were more real than particulars, the abstract over the concrete.  I think this is a key difference between hyperrealist painting and photography.  A photograph is literally always a particular representation.  And I think that by reducing the particulars from an image, it may, ironically, become more general, more universal, and more real.

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