Tad Spurgeon oil paintings


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      This website will remain up until the end of October 2022. Thanks to everyone for their questions, support of the work and book over the last twenty years.

      "Less wilderness and more order I object to."
       -- Frederick Law Olmsted


      I was born in Philadelphia in l955, went to a Friends school there, William Penn Charter, then to Andover, and then left Yale after a few terms, having learned something incredibly valuable there: that I needed to connect the dots my own way. From 1982 to 2014 I lived in Vermont, but am now back in Philadelphia, in the neighborhood where I grew up. It's interesting after so long to be back in the place which, for all its complexity, qualifies as home; the wilderness is now within. I studied large format photography at Yale, but am self-taught as a painter. At the same time, I'm fascinated by the traditional craft of oil painting, the basic work with the materials that turns color into light, paint into meaning. The thought that something important might have been misplaced from the older craft began years ago when I first noticed that modern paintings tended to look better in reproduction than in person, whereas the opposite was true for older paintings. I began to question what I had been taught, began to look at painting with different eyes. It was odd: I had grown up with the great newness of Modern Art, but the more I looked, the more it seemed to lack something important in relation to work generated by the older ideal of artists and craftspeople in service to society. The original triad was head, heart, and hands, and all of these remain vital. At the same time, Old Master worship and the new perfect surface both make me uneasy. Turning back the clock doesn't ever seem to work, the important thing seems to be to go to the root and transform the definition of time. When I discovered Morandi's work in 1989 I began to work with a simplified realism. Morandi wrote: "One can travel the world and see nothing. To achieve understanding, it is not necessary to see many things, but to look hard at what you see." This makes sense to me: it is about existing, and expanding, in the present moment. Other 20th century painters of great interest to me are Walter Vaes and Gwen John. At the same time, the show of Matisse cut-outs at MOMA a few years ago illustrated that simplicity could be orchestrated more deeply than I'd ever imagined. The work I do is determined by the code or ur-language of Nature hidden so well in plain sight. I'm intrigued by the ongoing tension between paint, depiction, and the way meaning can take realism beyond itself.

      There are many different attitudes about what this activity called painting is really about. Theory means little in practice, painting is a visceral or physical response; a way of transforming the complexity of experience into the resolution and relative simplicity of art. Simplicity means, however, that there is no place to hide. The experiential nature of painting -- the way it functions as an analogue of life -- offers a sure way to learn more about the structure of reality. Like a resident of the Middle Ages, I have always seen the structure of the visible world as a set of highly detailed teaching metaphors, and, in this context, the circuitous process through which mimesis becomes meaning in a painting is basically nurturing or affirming. The process is about discovering what is natural within a given situation, then developing a koan of form and feeling in whose context nothing can be added or removed. This means that a finished painting somehow manages to be more than the sum of its parts, an experience that evolves, and seems impossible to outgrow. While the search for what is really there is both fascinating and endless, realism is ultimately not the goal but a vehicle for the unconscious languages of colour and form, and the underlying but insistent kinetic message -- the throb -- of the paint itself. Inhabiting this arena has proven relevant because it is clear that, as with the craft itself, things work out better the more I relinquish conscious control over what is happening. Given the opportunity, my hands know what to do next, whereas serial brick walls have demonstrated that my mind does not. This suggests that creativity is a manifestation of a physical intelligence located beyond conscious ideas: an old fashioned, even ancient, concept. The work has taught me to focus on what feels best on a given day, to follow the energy of the process where it leads. The simplicity of this allows an element of complexity to occur that feels relevant, as opposed to manufactured. So, this means I'm not interested in style, the obsession and opium of the 20th century, but in what lies beyond it. The paradox that, on the surface at least, a painting must have a style, has meant that the focus of this often changes in unpredictable ways, but these changes form a pattern within a relatively slow, if not exactly ancient, version of time. As with life itself, there's a recurring sense of looking into the distance, being on the verge of discovering what painting might actually be about. Of course this cannot really resolve itself, and I'm reconciled to this as a fundamental situation, and simply document it in the work as the ongoing tale of the process and the pea. Still, it is intriguing that the outcome of a given painting, whether it takes hours or years, always reveals a previously unknown element. And while it makes sense that the solution lies within what has yet to be envisioned, the solution nonetheless always contains a surprise. As in life, painting reveals new aspects of itself incrementally, but also recedes further into yet another quality or orbital of mystery. Creativity can be explored, but not owned, or even defined. It is always leading into new territory, and therefore new questions about both the work, and itself.

      Genuine culture is neither rigid nor chaotic, always expressing a numinous balance between unity and diversity. In this context, it seems best to accentuate the positive; to transform the inevitable lead of experience into the gold of understanding. At the same time, the truth is most often more complex than either: an alloy of inscrutable mien. From the more syncretic, or hermetic, approach of the 17th century, it is logical that Newton's Third Law of Motion ("For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction") would hold true in the metaphysical realm as well. Life is capable of infinite magic: the self-perpetuating confines of empiricism can be transcended. A leap of faith is necessary, and whether this leap is wise or foolish cannot be foretold within life's cramped, pragmatic context.

      Or can it?

      The paintings here feature different techniques and permutations of painterly realism. You might enjoy an overview of the work.

      Slide shows of the technique used to make various different paintings are here, these are alas somewhat dated, it is increasingly hard to paint and take pictures at the same time.

      Much too much information about recreating older technique is here.

      Have fun, and please feel free to contact me with any questions.

       Tad Spurgeon.

life with lily


      12-8-19: It's Lily's fourth anniversary! She arrived under the porch the first week of December in 2015. I always liked cats, but, actually "owning" one -- an absurd, but oh so human concept -- never happened. This is the first picture I took of her. Me: Um, well, here we are. Lily: Ha-ha! You're mine now!


      8-25-19: Lily is a very patient and relatively oblique teacher. She'll do the same thing over and over again until I begin to understand what she's getting at. You would think I'd realize what's going on, but sometimes I'm just in too much of a hurry. For the last few months, she's been developing this ritual at the front door when I come to get her in the morning. I used to just let her in, say hi and pet her for a while, then we'd go upstairs: she'd always start after me, but beat me to the top. But over the summer, she's been slowing everything down, going up a few steps, stretching, then pausing, over and over: extending the time on the stairs in all kinds of different ways, even going back outside briefly a few times, until she only races me a few steps to the top. Now, I like spending time with Lily, but the stairs, being sort of a semi-public space and not exactly the smartest locale, wasn't my idea of where to do it. So I found myself a little impatient with this and wondered now and then what the heck she was up to. Then, this week, out of the blue, I finally realized that she wants me to be more aware of my unconscious inner categories: to stop judging any place or time as less than, and instead see each moment as an equal opportunity. To just be there, without an agenda to be somewhere else instead. Not to hurry up the steps, but to treat each step as an equal part of the process. Outside, steps, inside: all aspects of one continuum. So, the last few days, I've been slowing down on the steps, talking to her more, making it more of a ballet, and of course she has noticed this because the stairs are now more fun. Sometimes her eyes sort of light up and she gives me this knowing look, like, "Well, I knew if I gave you about a hundred chances you'd get it." I haven't gotten that look yet on the stairs, but it might be coming soon.


      10-6-19: Lily does not often give me advice, but when she does it's pretty obvious. And, given her hopelessly refined sense of politeness or fairplay, I may well have invited this by my version of advice earlier in the week about the wet paint. Anyway, the classic Lily form of advice is to interrupt something because she considers it not in my best interests: she'll lie down on the keyboard if I've been at the computer too long, or lie on my taxes, repeatedly, while I'm doing them in March. Earlier this week, she flopped down on some astrological paperwork I was doing, driving myself crazy extracting a pattern from a chart. And those things have always been easy to accept. But then, bright and early the next morning, something different happened. I had decided that I could make a painting early, then begin to paint the porch later in the afternoon. I'd set up the medium and the paint, had mixed the medium with the paint on the palette, and was just about to start, when Lily showed up under the easel, put her front paws on the crossbar, and hopped up onto the stool I was about to sit on. I'd never seen her do this before! But it was very well done: she knew exactly where to land, and how much her arrival would move the stool. And it was also clear she was there for a reason. I was a little bit surprised: this was clearly another piece of advice! I didn't even try to puzzle it out, just decided not to continue. On the one hand, I felt I owed it to her as a way of balancing my earlier advice about the wet paint, and on the other, she hears things I don't here, sees things I don't see: why wouldn't she know things I don't know? I mean, look at that look. Thanks goodness she only weighs twelve and a half pounds. Any more sheer cosmic gravitas would be overwhelming: at least, at this scale, it is possible to ignore her, feel that she's "the cat." More design genius by the Universe, but the egocentric free will of humans to ignore the superior capacity of animals is maintained at quite a price. Anyway, it turned out she did know something I didn't. I put the palette in the freezer, shifted gears, and went out to begin work on the porch. And stepped, bit by bit, into an unusually challenging day: the first day in a while that seemed custom-designed to find, then push, buttons I didn't even know I had. Philadelphia, of course, can be very good at this: many of its citizens spend decades with their buttons firmly pushed, and, as such, example this attitude with both vigor and finesse. This particular challenge went on for another day before I got finally things to be less reactive again. So, just as with colour and form there's always more to learn, there's always more to learn about what is being suppressed instead of acknowledged. Progress naturally leads to confidence, but confidence inevitably leads to paying less attention, which leads to an event designed to refocus the attention at the next level. Have to admit I spent some time feeling resentful about this over the last few days, but it seems logical that infinite irritation is the simplest way -- and probably the only way -- to assure infinite growth. The key to the process is to accept the inevitability of its cycle, instead of becoming reactive about it. But, like pretty much everything we encounter within the grand illusion simply called life, there are going to be days when this is easier said than done.




      Lily only weighs 12.5 pounds, but sometimes her moral or ethical weight makes her seem much larger.


      The leap.


      Sometimes it's nice to spend a few quiet minutes in the pantry.


      Occasionally Lily stops playing cat for the camera and looks more like her real self. Always interesting to see who the actual being is beneath the role, or the mask. But how do we develop the discernment to tell the difference? Have a feeling that may become focal in the next few months.


      Lily in her impregnable fortress under the kitchen table, an evening activity. She is protected by full boxes of books, and waits impassively for someone to be foolish enough to extend their hand on top of the boxes. Then she erupts like a Jack in the Box, one paw on top of the box for stability, the other flailing away with utter, frenetic abandon. Too funny, always makes me laugh.


      Well, the battle raged tensely all week. For the first few nights it was under the bookcases, and she couldn't get her paw in there. Or behind the radiator, with the same problem. She would watch it intently even though she couldn't see it, with her tail wagging like crazy and thudding against things. Last night, she had just gotten up on an old wood chair, and when I looked again she was unusually still. Then she took off like a bullet into the closet across the room, thudding against something on the way in. Well, I have to admit I was sort of rooting for the mouse. It's hard not to if you've never even seen it. At the same time, its great to see her be so adept at being herself. This morning she was cavorting in an unusual way at dawn, hmm, I got up and saw that she had gotten another one. Went back to bed but couldn't get back to sleep. When I got up again there was nothing left but the tail, which I of course stepped on while looking for the whole thing. Life with Lily. She was in a really good mood this morning!


      A rare action shot that worked. Usually these are just fur and blur.


      Mid-October on the front porch steps.

The Navajo-Hopi Prophecy of the Whirling Rainbow

      "There will come a day when people of all races, colors, and creeds will put aside their differences. They will come together in love, joining hands in unification, to heal the Earth and all Her children. They will move over the Earth like a great Whirling Rainbow, bringing peace, understanding and healing everywhere they go. Many creatures thought to be extinct or mythical will resurface at this time; the great trees that perished will return almost overnight. All living things will flourish, drawing sustenance from the breast of our Mother, the Earth.

      The great spiritual Teachers who walked the Earth and taught the basics of the truths of the Whirling Rainbow Prophecy will return and walk amongst us once more, sharing their power and understanding with all. We will learn how to see and hear in a sacred manner. Men and women will be equals in the way Creator intended them to be; all children will be safe anywhere they want to go. Elders will be respected and valued for their contributions to life. Their wisdom will be sought out. The whole Human race will be called The People and there will be no more war, sickness or hunger forever."

In the Labyrinth

      Once upon a time, there was a Labyrinth. It was not a traditional labyrinth, constructed of stone in one plane, but a Labyrinth made up of ideas and beliefs, and it had many dimensions. Two people were given the task of solving the Labyrinth. One of them was called Mind, the other was called Heart. They were, in one sense, related, a team, but in another sense, they were very different. As they stood before the massive Labyrinth, Mind took charge and said, 'Okay, leave this to me. This is exactly what I'm good at. You'll only get lost and slow us down.' Heart thought a second, then asked, 'Are you sure you know what this is?' Mind said, 'What do you mean? Use your eyes, it's a giant Labyrinth!' 'Do you remember when we…' Heart began. 'We don't have time for this!' Mind interrupted importantly. 'Look, we've got a job to do, and I'm going to do it. Just follow me and we’ll be in and out in no time.'

       And so, Mind set off boldly into the Labyrinth, with Heart following a little way behind. The complexity of the Labyrinth was staggering. It went up, down, sideways, diagonally. It was full of signs pointing out where to go, and how long it would take to get there. But these were clearly not accurate. In the Labyrinth, things were often topsy-turvy. Up was down, and dark was light. 'Wow,' said Mind, 'Whoever built this was a total genius!' 'I'm not sure we're getting anywhere,' Heart said. 'We're doing just fine!' Mind responded, 'This thing is complicated! Just follow me and we'll be out of here in no time.' 'Do you remember when we…' Heart began. 'FOLLOW ME!' Mind shouted, and started running down a new corridor.

      And so, on it went in the Labyrinth, year after year. Mind made diagrams and kept copious notes, which were comforting, but didn’t seem to actually be helpful. Finally one day Mind stopped, looked around and said quietly, 'You know, I think we've been here before.' 'Yes, we have,' Heart agreed, 'Twenty-seven times.' Mind took a deep breath and said 'We haven't tried this way, that must be it.' 'You said that last time,' Heart said, 'And we have tried that way.' 'Okay, okay,' Mind said, 'Just give me a second here, I'll figure this out.' Heart waited patiently. Suddenly, Mind began to pound on the walls of the Labyrinth, shouting, 'Get me out of here! Get me out of here! I can't figure this out!' Heart now took a deep breath, and then asked, 'Is it okay if I show you something?' 'How can you show me anything?' Mind asked impatiently. 'You don't think, you just feel.'

      Heart raised an eyebrow, then walked right through the wall that Mind had just been pounding on. 'What?!?' Mind said, 'You can't do that! Why, that's cheating! You have to play by the rules!' Mind then seemed puzzled, thought a moment, and added, 'Wait, HOW did you do that?' Heart walked calmly back through the wall. 'You believe what you see is real,' Heart explained, 'So the Labyrinth is real to you. I could feel that the Labyrinth wasn't real as soon as we got in here. It's made up of lies in costume, so they look like the truth. The key to the Labyrinth is not to believe what it’s telling us, but to look beneath the surface.' There was a pause. 'You knew this all along?' Mind then asked. 'I felt it all along,' Heart said. 'Why didn't you tell me?' Mind asked. 'I learned a long time ago that I can't tell you anything until you're ready to hear it,' Heart said. 'So, you can get us out of here?' Mind asked hopefully. 'Follow me," Heart said.

      And so, with Heart leading, and Mind following, they emerged from the Labyrinth a few seconds later. The sun was shining. Birds were singing. It was an unusually beautiful day. ‘I can’t believe we wasted so much time in there,’ Mind said, looking around distractedly. ‘We have forever,’ Heart explained. ‘There was something we had to learn in there.’ ‘Who would build such a thing?’ Mind asked. ‘It wasn’t a Labyrinth, it was a Trap.’ ‘It was a teaching tool,’ Heart said. ‘The important thing is what we learned from it.’ ‘Well, I learned that you’re a lot smarter than I thought you were!’ Mind said admiringly. ‘Well, that’s one way of looking at it,’ Heart said, laughing. Mind took a deep breath, then sighed. 'Okay," Mind said. 'I learned that I have limitations, and that those limitations can be used to fool me completely. I thought I was smarter, or better, but that's exactly what got us so lost. I see now that I need you, that we were designed to be equals.' Heart paused and then asked: 'What if we are more than equals?' This puzzled Mind, who asked in turn, 'How can we be more than equals?' 'By being a team,' Heart explained.


      I keep wondering how the universe is going to wake everybody up. I mean, the way it works, they're all being given non-stop news full of violence and fear, and they believe it, so they reinforce its existence, creating the opportunity for more violence and fear. A simple equation, a feedback loop, it goes on and on. The universe, love incarnate, has been very patient, very gentle, with this endless self-fulfilling prophecy of doom stuff. After all, we have free will, to the extent of being free to concentrate on maintaining a dark illusion. Except, most people have no idea that our collective subconscious is the actual network. So, is that our collective responsibility, or is it okay for us to have help seeing the truth since it's become so convoluted? It's been a dark vs. light stand-off for months now. The linchpin of course is the media: they lie non-stop but most people believe them. So, if I were the universe, and I wanted things to get a move on, that's where I'd focus. What if one of those popular hard-hitting reporters got on the air one day and said, 'Well folks, actually, my job isn't the news, it's manipulating popular opinion so you guys don't have a clue about what's really going on and continue to generate your own vibrational dungeon. The truth is, I've been lying to you every night for years now, about everything. And I'm not exactly the only one, there are dozens of us popular hard-hitting reporters all over the networks, well trained to keep you as much as possible in the dark.' A lovely thought. But, have a feeling that's too easy a solution.

The Unity of Infinity

       It's pretty much a given at this point that the universe is infinite: always expanding, goes on forever. Which means that it is beyond the concept of a number, no matter how large. It simply can't be counted. Yet the universe is also full of things that are quite obviously different from one another. There's an interesting paradox in this: if something is beyond number, it is therefore unified, a whole in spite of having parts. This seems logical enough, but also means that all the diversity within the universe is an illusion, allowing unity an experience it could not have otherwise. Which means that everything in the universe is made up of the same thing, it is all simply the universe exploring itself. So, this means the universe is a multi-dimensional fractal: there are lots of different forms superficially, but they are all the same in essence. There are even structures that literally repeat at different scales: the electrons go around the nucleus of an atom, just like the planets go around a sun. So, in terms of our lives as human beings, this means that we each contain the universe. This is a somewhat shocking concept, since we are trained since birth to consider ourselves puny mortals. Yet, infinity cannot function any other way. This is why the consistent message of an actual spiritual discipline is to look within. Because this is where the Universe is. Not just some of it, but all of it. Everything everything everything. It cannot be any other way. So, what I want to suggest, in case you're weary of your culture having turned into an endless re-run of a meaningless melodrama, is that everything was designed to be, has always been, and remains, our destiny as human beings. It's true that we have to look for it, shifting our focus from the outside world to the inside world, and it's true that we live in a culture that has made every attempt to lock our awareness on what is outside of us. That's because if you do look, the first thing you do is realize that the constant melodrama is not real, it is manufactured, a movie. It is possible to struggle with this situation, and say, this isn't culture, this isn't humanity, and I did this for a long time. But it finally occurred to me that if I stopped being distracted by the ridiculous, it would be possible concentrate more effectively on the sublime. Yes, the ridiculous has become so pervasive that it's not that easy to realize that it can simply be turned off. Yet, doing this means our existence suddenly begins in an altogether different frame of reference. If the universe of galaxies and planets knows no limitations, the same must be true for the universe of atoms and particles, and the same must be true for us. When we leave the unreal limitation program behind, we begin to experience something real: the positive and dynamic version of life that is our cosmic birthright. We respond to those vast and awe-inspiring photos of infinity from space because they remind us of who we really are: everything, everything, everything.

An Infinite Constant

      The Golden Ratio is expressed algebraically as 1 plus the square root of 5 over 2. It is an irrational, i.e., infinite, number. There's tons of interesting information on the way this is used throughout nature on the internet. But let's look at the way the ratio itself is generated. A circle is drawn from the midpoint of one line of a square. The square is then extended to incorporate part of the circle's radius. So, conceptually, the rectangle is created by integrating the opposites of the square and the circle. The square is stable, but also static, a rational, material if not quite profane symbol. The circle is mobile, about wholeness, the bigger picture, and irrational by virtue of containing pi. We can draw a finite circle, but mathematically, the figure refines itself without end. So, an interesting background aspect of the Golden Ratio as the foundation of many types of organic form and growth is the way it allows unity to manifest as diversity with integral harmony. Each chamber in the nautilus is larger, but based on the same proportions as the one that preceded it. So, by integrating geometric opposites, the ratio itself is a paradox: an infinite constant.

In Plain Sight

      "Within itself the soul sees all things more truly than as they exist in different things outside itself. And the more it goes out unto other things in order to know them, the more it enters into itself in order to know itself." Nicholas of Cusa, De Aequalitate 1459.

      We develop a shorthand version of the visual world in order to navigate through it, but what we see is quantized into further levels of information and meaning. Painting from life relies on looking at things closely over a period of time. One would think this would be boring, but an interesting phenomenon occurs during the process: the greater the search, the deeper the perception. At first the mind rebels: "Why are we staring at this apple?" But once the mind relinquishes its shorthand version of the visual world, this first level is quickly past: "Oh, because we really know very little about this apple." Trust that the process brings results begins and further levels can then be explored. Whether looking out or looking in, there is always more to see.

       Imagine the simple process of drawing the apple from life with a pencil. At first the outline is drawn lightly, then the process of correction begins. Why? Because it is not quite right! At first this is frustrating, but this also provides the energy that is used to correct the situation. The errors provide instant clues to their solution. Bit by bit, the outline gets better. Bit by bit, more of the subtleties and intricacies of the form fall into place. It is essentially round, but not like a circle is round; there's more. But is any place actually flat? No. Are there any concave places? Oh, yes. How can a single contour be so articulated?

       This is the beginning of nature's great lesson. The visual world contains tremendous built-in complexity that we tend to take for granted. In our day to day life, we are in fact often involved in attempts to create an alternate world, instead of exploring the one we just may inhabit for a reason. To the extent that we are willing to slow down, and look more closely, nature reveals more about both its structure and its meaning. Nature's gentle but inherent profundity is not available to someone in a hurry; an apple, in this case, is just an apple, preferred as a snack or not. This attitude may be necessary in daily life, but is it useful for art? The answer depends on how art is defined: as an initial or spontaneous response, or one that is achieved through study over time. Matisse made apples that are flat, Cezanne made them out of planes, Chardin made them three dimensional without copying them pixel by pixel, Magritte made them appear real, but with an unnerving perfection designed to question the concept of "real" itself. These approaches to the pictoral role of the apple are all different, yet succeed on their own terms as varieties of transformation: the viewer knows that the painted apple is, and isn't, the actual apple, and that this paradox is intrinsic to painting. Reconciliation between the philosophical and the practical point of view may never be achieved in larger terms, but it can occur -- is, in fact, necessary -- within the context of a given painter's style. Each painter approaches this individually. Yet, the created world is so detailed that to comprehend something as conceptually basic as the outline of an apple, it is necessary to pay attention in a different way. The fact that the things we see are capable of more than their mundane identity has been a staple of painting since antiquity, probably originating in the Platonic concept of the visible world as a material projection of the invisible world. Delacroix (10-17-53) refers to depicted forms as a hieroglyphic language, leading the viewer on to deeper levels of meaning. At the same time, meaning is always optional, and the painter's intention may or may not be clear to the viewer. Painters have often complained about this -- occasionally insulting the public back with equal directness -- but in the larger sense it is only fair that the viewer also have the option of exercising perception that is personal. The validity all types of seeing -- from the casual to the committed -- for the individual involved develops an interpretive tension between the surface and what may or may not lie beneath it. When does an image have a meaning, a coherent message, when is it simply a document? Over time, this tension serves to refine the process of visual communication within a given culture.

       Exploring seeing actively, as a process rather than a given, leads to the interesting paradox of more being created from less. When we put a hold on temporal activity, our consciousness stops ranging around on the surface and begins to settle down. As it settles, it naturally goes deeper. How deep does it go? There are plateaus, but then, as in quantum mechanics, a sudden shift occurs and one finds oneself somewhere new: the apple of an hour ago is not the apple of the present moment. The observational skills necessary to paint something as deceptively simple as an apple can be a great exercise in developing patience; in both searching, and waiting for, the next level. When is it merely rendition? At what point does it become art? Does this transition occur through more complexity, more simplicity, or a combination of both that was unavailable prior to committed observation?

       A fascinating reciprocity comes into play, an awareness of the relativity or unreliability of perception itself. If the painter is constantly in a state of seeing more, how can anything ever be as it seems? The object being observed changes, but so, necessarily, does the observer. The apple is an object, but concentrating on it allows it to function as a doorway into further levels of knowledge. What appears to be an act of mimesis actually becomes an act of mutual transformation. The observer is taken beyond the confines of imitation or symbology into a realm where the microcosm and the macrocosm are interacting in the present moment. Once this is experienced, a quantum change takes place. Nothing can be perceived as "the same" again, because identity itself has been shown to exist in flux. As a result of paying attention, there is no such thing as plain sight: seeing has become analogous to evolving.

The Climate of Delight

      "Delight is a secret. And the secret is this: to grow quiet and listen; to stop thinking, stop moving, almost to stop breathing; to create an inner stillness in which, like mice in a deserted house, capacities and awarenesses too wayward and too fugitive for everyday use may delicately emerge. Oh, welcome them home! For these are the long-lost children of the human mind. Give them close and loving attention, for they are weakened by centuries of neglect. In return they will open your eyes to a new world within the known world, they will take your hand, as children do, and bring you to where life is always nascent, day is always dawning. Suddenly and miraculously, as you walk home in the dark, you are aware of the insubstantial shimmering essence that lies within appearances; the air is filled with expectancy, alive with meaning; the stranger, gliding by in the lamp-lit street, carries silently past you in the night the whole mystery of his life...
      Delight springs from this awareness of the translucent quality in all things, whereby beauty as well as ugliness, joy as well as pain, men as well as women, life as well as death -- the grinding clash of opposites between whose iron teeth all systems of philosophy are crushed at last to pulp -- are seen as symbols; in the true meaning of a symbol, whose Janus-like face contains at once that which exists in time and space, and that which transcends it."

--Alan McGlashan, The Savage and Beautiful Country, Houghton Mifflin, 1967


      'The details generated by experience with a given set of materials create a system that is more than the sum of its parts. This happens most simply with a system based on becoming oneself through the materials in the present moment, however this naturally comes into being. The system may use handmade materials, or it may use commercial materials, but, to succeed, it needs to be based on the details of practice, not the bravado of theory. This means acknowledging that things are not quite as they seem, ever, and being willing to investigate, always. But, in the hall of mirrors that we blithely refer to as visual reality, looking more closely is also not quite what it seems. We base our conclusions on what we know. How can we know what is there unless we see it? Until we understand that our vision is limited, that there is always more to see, this possibility is not within our frame of reference. This deceptively simple process is grounded in creative uncertainty, the awareness that, in an infinite universe, frames of reference must expand to remain viable. Our knowledge – however high our opinion may be of it – must be considered partial to have an opportunity to grow. This approach sets the stage for resolving the compelling paradox of representational painting: the creation of an illusion that tells the truth.'

For further information on technique or a specific painting please contact tadspurgeon@gmail.com
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