Painting this series of gouache on paper, I became a conduit for one of the great paradoxes of fine art: the concept of an idea. Does an idea drive the art or does the evolving work form the idea? I found I painted these works much the way a Japanese artist or Buddhist monk would practice ENSO, the circle, a common subject of sumi-e ink painting and Japanese calligraphy, though I did not know this at the time. The Japanese practice of ENSO is creative and disciplined, fast and mindful. It is considered a spiritual practice for self-realization and emblematic of minimalism in Japanese aesthetics.
This is how I felt when I painted these, at once mindful and free. The brush, loaded with paint was held over the paper as I prepared to make the stroke. My limits were clearly defined: an approximately 6” x 6” square, one color,
one brush, maintain integrity of each stroke, no corrections. Within those confines, freedom. As the brush touched the paper, each stroke involved an element of risk and surprise, technical experience and naiveté
OKU is another concept of Japanese philosophy which interests me and relates to these works. OKU can be described as peeling away the layers of an onion to reach something which is profound and interior. It implies something abstract and less accessible. Thus, executed in the spirit of ENSO and driven by a philosophy of OKU, these gouache pieces are abstract layers of green light hemmed in by opaque black space.
My artistic process is comparable to Matisse, who said, “ he is simply conscious of the forces (he is) using, and driven by an idea that (he) usually grasps only as it grows with the picture.”