The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life,
by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later,
when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.
William Faulkner (1897 – 1962), Interview, 1958
While showing a painting I was asked if I remember specifically painting that work. This idea came to me; that of a visual sense memory.
Have you ever caught a scent that took you back to a certain person, place or time? Or heard an old song that transported you into your youth? Let’s call this a sense memory. It is not nostalgia, but more a reawakening.
For me, every painting that I do acts as a trigger for this effect when I see it later in time. I can remember the circumstances, the location, the emotions, and the successes and flaws immediately. Perhaps it is the intense sense awareness that you have when you create. Being alive in the moment that causes the ability to recall this memory so acutely.
I am curious if any of you visual artists out there have this visual sense memory when you see your past work?
You can see details about this image psalm 181 and the last image from this series of autumn paintings psalm 183 at my web-sight RVJart.com
As the air has turned cold and the dead bare season of November has cloaked our New England scenes in whites, tans, and browns I, indeed, am awakened to the sense memory, not of a particular fall but of the composite that have given me exhilaration of the shocking bright orange you caught on the days you brought this painting to life.
Thanks for that Chris, I’m glad that it touched you.
When I read your musings I’m carried back to my studio in Maine, 14 – 16 years ago, when I was actively working as a visual artist and part of a cooperative gallery in the mid coast area. I have strong memories of moments when I would reach a stopping point, not always the end, of a picture and know I’d gotten or started to get somewhere. It was often a sense that something bigger than me was in control. I’d stand back, take a break and look in amazement at what I’d done.
The creative process is such a mystery. Often a work would take on a life of it’s own and I’d discover an image emerging that I had no idea would come. It even happened occasionally when I was working with photo references and doing something fairly mundane, like a house portrait. It might be a detail, or the way the sky lit up or a tree that was particularly interesting. But more often it was a piece that was more from my imagination, that was especially evocative. Several come to mind right now and I’m grateful to be reminded of them, like remembering old friends I haven’t seen in years.
Thanks Roger, From Sheila
Sheila, that is exactly the way I feel when I visit with collectors and see my earlier work, It is like visiting old friends that you immediately pick right up with where you left off. Thanks!
So true….the arresting of light and capturing color in that moment of time also applies to taking photographs for me. (As I haven’t learned how to paint….) One in particular comes to mind… a waterfall spilling over the top…the movement continues in my mind even though the photo stops it; the way the light shines on it…in it; the rushing sound of the water plummeting down can’t be heard in the photo, but my memory of it is there and I’m transported back to being exhilarated and full of joy in that moment.
Thanks Roger for the inspiration and the memory.