My cousin, Ken (or “Chet,” as he prefers) told me a while back that reading this blog was a helpful extension of my art. Because my paintings are not always easily accessible having the written word to accompany them pulls the curtain back just a bit. The view may still not be clear, but at least the window’s there to open if you want to take the time to do so.
Fair enough. True. Insightful. Challenging…
Challenging enough that his observations provoked me to try to do a painting that takes seriously my last blog on “imagination.” That seems kind of a strange thing to say perhaps since I proposed in that blog that you need imagination to see a painting — any painting. But a painting to illustrate imagination? That’s a little weird … or at least ironically conceived if not plain contradictory. (And probably not actually possible.) None the less I gave it a try for fun.
And “fun” is what this painting is. I hope it provokes a smile or a chuckle and then a little thought about what’s going on. Here’s a thumbnail of the larger version you can find in my gallery:
It’s title is, “Haiku.” The word itself is written in the lower right just below the floor line. And what’s the significance of that? Am I announcing that the painting is a haiku? Maybe. Japanese Zen painters developed a form of brush painting called haiga that could be described as a “visual poem.” The artist would write an aphoristic poem on the painting and link it with a sketch, each playing off the other. Gibbon Sengai (1750 -1837) is a most illustrious example. But this painting does something a bit differently than that. There is no poem to link the painting to. Only the word “haiku.”
I offered in my previous blog that “imagination” was a kind of “double-mindedness,” the capacity to see two things at once…two things that may seem paradoxical. So when you look at this painting in one way you notice that both the “title” and written on the painting itself is the word “Haiku” where no haiku is to be found. Then, are the poet, an unseemly mushroom, and a waning gibbous moon the subject of the painting rather than a poem? Yes and No. Yes, because they are the elements to which both the painting and its title refer. But no, because those elements are not the haiku.
But at the same time, paradoxically, they are! And if they are, where then is it? where is the poem? Just there … in your eye and in your mind. Imagination will not take you away from the painting, it will take you more deeply into it. Once there you will awaken to a haiku waiting for your mind to realize it, waiting to be seen on paper. Write it! and the painting will be complete.