REFLEX GEOGRAPHY

Cristina, February 2021


On view through February


Artist(s):

Paul Cristina

About the Exhibit

This new objective of dissecting and analyzing my work for the purpose of future developments became the absolute top priority in the ongoing effort to move my work forward to the next stage of growth. Most of my…

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Words from the artist Paul Cristina about his show REFLEX GEOGRAPHY:

 

SECTION A: [basic definitions]

 

Reflex:

 

-involuntary, instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus

-automatic response to stimulus that does not receive or need conscious thought

 

Geography:

 

-The world discipline and a bridge between the human and the physical sciences

-systematic study of the Universe and its features

-study of space and the temporal database

-distribution of phenomena and the interaction of humans and their environment

-seeks to classify phenomena; to ascend from effects and causes

-to trace out laws of nature and mark their influences on man

-an all encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of earth and its human and natural complexities – not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be

 

SECTION B: [ journal]

 

Within an unconscious landscape arrives a visual messaging delivery system that is perpetually extracting from years of input accumulation and arranges its sensory data into what seems like memory collages in the brain. It is the result of various life experiences and the continual ingesting and absorbing of physical, emotional and psychological material throughout daily interactions. These memory/sensory fragments have lodged themselves into a large network of nodes or quilted fibers of storage, sometimes deeply shelved into unimaginably inaccessible locations of the mind. They periodically surface and present themselves through action, provocation, external stimulation or through involuntary thought, despite sometimes having no clear association or direct attachments to the moment at hand. This re-surfacing, or in some cases, newly surfaced delivery of visual or emotional packages, can result in a reflex. This reflex can take the shape of a thought or action – it’s an impulse or a type of movement in the brain, something to be potentially acted upon. It’s intuition in motion, like an electrical signal running through copper wire. This mysterious and spontaneous arrival of sensory or visual data can sometimes be vague and clouded in obscurity, but sometimes pristinely clear and direct. It can be incredibly invaluable and moving, but also so brief that it stands to permanently vanish if not recorded.

 

That is the experience of the reflex. It serves to open the creative realm and can provoke a pathway of motion and productivity – it erupts unexpectedly from the multi-layered compression of this accumulated memory storage and collection system. The information in this storage system goes through what I think of as a type of defragmentation process, which properly sorts the files of accumulated stimuli and various input data in order to properly store for future use and dissemination. The material brought forth to the awareness by the memory/sensory delivery system (visual, auditory, emotional, etc.) ideally needs to be recorded, encapsulated in whatever way, or whatever vessel the artist determines to be most relevant and appropriate, depending on whatever their particular artistic practice happens to be (writing, painting, music composition, film, etc). This is what will determine the geography of the work. The geography is the territory where the artist’s work will be executed and put into action – the geography is the form and place in which the work will thrive and exist. In a way, it’s like the brain is responding to an objective. The brain is a type of machine acting out of necessity in an effort to provide and equip its host with the proper resources in order to accomplish a goal.

 

The geography can often be simply determined by the type of information received from the memory/sensory/intuition messaging system. The material received produces the reflex. The reflex determines the geography: A reflex (often unconscious and involuntary) arrives and presents itself, then is put into the geography (form of one’s choosing: the “temporal database”), which allows the idea/impulse to thrive and develop and take shape into what we see as the artist’s work. In conclusion: The reflex geography is the documentation of the Temporal Database.

 

Process / Development:

 

The most recent paintings that serve as the foundation and main focus of this new work are a series of large oil on canvas abstract paintings. The direction of this new work gradually developed over the past two years while I was attempting to explore a new aesthetic territory within my own paintings. Little by little, for a wide variety of reasons, I began to grow somewhat dissatisfied with most of my work throughout 2017-2018 and desperately felt the need to explore new ground within my thought process, hoping that it would eventually evolve into an entirely new phase of creative challenges for my future work. Throughout 2019 I began focusing in on the primary aspects of my work that I found to be the most problematic or unresolved and was gradually able to determine the proper course of action that would pave the way for some new developments to take place.

 

This new objective of dissecting and analyzing my work for the purpose of future developments became the absolute top priority in the ongoing effort to move my work forward to the next stage of growth. Most of my thinking at that time involved a relentless obsession for the need to further abstract and distort the form of my work. I wanted something much more unfamiliar and something alien to my understanding. I wanted something that defied easy categorization; therefore, certain old ideas of mine simply had to die in order for new growth to take place.

 

During this time of new development, I was also being very careful not to simply tread familiar and generic ground that may result in my work resembling the look or style of another artist. When an artist desires the need to abstract the figurative form, it becomes almost an impossibility to avoid referencing Picasso, for instance. And it becomes extremely difficult to avoid even mimicking his work to some degree. So much ground in the history of painting has already been covered by various artists of the past that it is almost inevitable for some obvious resemblance to take place, or at least this is the case when trying to exercise new ideas throughout the initial brainstorming stages. For example, DeKooning was also very troubled by this attempt to avoid having his paintings resemble the work of those that influenced him, such as Picasso or Gorky. He fought for several years and caused him much torment trying to eliminate the blatant presence of these influences from his paintings.

 

Influences will always be there, but they should be firmly tucked away under the immediate aesthetic surface, in the same way that a finely tuned magic trick hides all seams under a swift secrecy of delicate movements, so as not to give away the answers to the mystery. In this respect, the artist’s influences should not be present and should not be made readily available on the surface of the work in such a way as to have them be easily recognized by viewer, especially such viewers with a discerning eye and those who possess a deep and broad knowledge of art history who can potentially sniff out a hack from a mile away. My goal is to always have my influences carried along with me, nicely shelved away in the back of my mind, but to not let them be seen on the surface level of the work. Influences need to exist, but if the artist has done their job well, they should not be easily recognized.

 

Picasso was one of the many artists who I started to study very heavily during the time of establishing a new direction for my work. I wanted to develop an understanding for his evolution as a painter and how he went about continually innovating the manipulation and distortion of form. I wanted to understand how he created solutions to the various problems and challenges he was attempting to address. This education, which simply consisted of library books and ones that I was lucky enough to have scavenged at used books stores, proved to be one of the most invaluable sources of insight and awareness towards the future growth. What soon followed throughout the year, in parallel to my book studies, was a series of mixed media paintings, countless sketchbook drawings and a series of over 100 sumi ink drawings that were executed in rapid succession in order to help think through this process of new development. It was about killing old ideas while discovering new ones along the way. To put it simply: I wanted something new and surprising. I needed a new world of challenges and new territories to explore. I wanted something unfamiliar and alien that I had never seen myself do before – and ultimately, I wanted something unpredictable and unexpected.

 

A lot of what I found myself doing in the past two years was to go back and rediscover the frame of mind I was in during the years that I spent writing and recording experimental music. This occupied a very large portion of my life throughout my early teens up until my early 30s. This frame of mind and creative state that I typically operated in during my music years was comparatively much more free and fluid when I thought about in contrast to making paintings. Painting has been a fairly recent endeavor, continually riddled with indecisiveness and uncertainty, which basically means that many inhibitions were still getting in the way and preventing me from achieving a higher degree of creative freedom that I had become so accustomed to while making music. To put it simply, I was not nearly as free with painting as I was with music. So the confidence, the free association and the conviction of vision that had been always present for me while making music, was evidently absent to a large degree while attempting to make paintings, which resulted in constantly second-guessing my work and thinking of my efforts as being relatively inadequate.

 

With all of that being said, the prime directive for my art simply became: the act of painting needs to more like making music. This is what I needed to achieve in order for any future artistic development to continue in a more expansive direction. The more creative freedom I have, the better the work will become. Without that I will stumble and stifle and potentially fall down into dark pits of doubt and uncertainty. It was absolutely necessary for me to establish that same level of creative freedom and strength of confidence that I had with making music. So I needed to find the common ground and the point of intersection where my creative sensibilities of music met with painting. How are these two disciplines similar? How are they different? What can be brought over from the music world into the thought process of painting? This questioning of the relationship between different artistic disciplines and the sensibilities associated with them led me to the realization that the music I was involved in typically dealt with a lot of abstraction. I felt that maybe it was the abstract nature of my music that facilitated that type of creative thinking. I was then curious if I might be able to translate those abstract sensibilities in some way to my painting practice. I had done abstract paintings several years ago when I began to experiment with painting on canvas simply as a hobby, which was heavily influenced by Rauschenberg at that time during 2014/2015. I remember enjoying this type of work for a variety of reasons, so I wanted go back and revisit that mode of thinking.

 

When working abstractly, it feels very similar to the way that I would construct sound and music. It has to do with the way that elements are combined and layered and pushed around to create a certain atmosphere without having to dance around a figure and without having to concern myself with any narrative, which can be a personal burden for me in most cases. So I needed to go back to something much more visceral that had a closer relationship with the music I had once made, which mostly dealt with atmosphere, emotion, movement and visceral intensity. Once again, the paintings for me at this new point of development needed to be more like music. This is a type of thought process that the early 20th century painter Kandinsky was very closely aligned and he had spent much of his career exploring the various relationships between music and abstract art. This is basically where my head has been for the past couple of years. How do I get to a place with my art that feels more honest, natural and visceral that would allow the entry into new levels of intensity and depth, while simultaneously eliminating anything unnecessary that stands in the way of this progress? Through trial and error and experimentation solutions gradually revealed themselves.

 

In regards to process and execution, the idea for these new paintings and how I would go about creating them was basically to adopt a method of working that I have been using off and on with my painting for the past two years, which is to troubleshoot and construct compositional ideas in the digital sphere of Photoshop, then execute the painting as it appears in the digital collage. Initially I began using this method only as a minor problem solving or error correction procedure. For example, if a painting had a problem area that I was having a difficult time figuring out, I would take a picture of it, bring it into photoshop and then troubleshoot various solutions to the problem. This allowed me to freely audition a wide variety of solutions in a short amount of time with any fear of damaging the work. For me, it started out as a basic a time-saving procedure: try a bunch of things in the digital space and then see what works. I would print out a hard copy print of my corrections, and then execute it on canvas. This method gradually grew to the point where I began constructing entire compositions from scratch within photoshop and would reconstruct the painting based on a digital collage. I found that I really enjoyed this method of working as it allows for many interesting and unpredictable possibilities to take place that I normally never would have thought of in the studio.

 

All of these new works on canvas were created in this way. I created digital collage compositions consisting of imagery from a wide variety of sources, including my own paintings, and then I meticulously reconstruct those digital compositions on canvas with oil paint. Everything is planned out ahead of time before the painting begins and the execution process is streamlined. I have done my fair share of spontaneous “in the moment” painting, which I generally love very much. But I could never create these types of paintings in that way. These need to be very tightly constructed with very little room for error and second guessing. And I approach each body of work simply by establishing the idea (the look, feel, aesthetic, etc) for what type of painting I want to do, then I just determine what the best and most effective method and approach is necessary in order to accomplish that goal. What materials do I need? What tools should I use? Find out what’s needed and determine what’s not needed. In this case, for this particular work, these paintings needed to be very carefully planned out digitally and then recreated in a very meticulous manner with oils.

 

One of the main intentions with this type of work is to create paintings that do not tell you how to think or what to feel. It’s a matter of the individual and what their mind brings to the table. I enjoy allowing people to think and feel in their own way, rather than the piece dictating that response for them through narrative or metaphor. In that sense, it’s much more like music. Nobody listens to a Beethoven piano sonata and asks “what does this or that piano phrase mean?” That doesn’t really happen, rather we just hear it, feel it and then respond, nothing else.

 

 

Exhibit Images


Opening Night

ROBERT LANGE STUDIOS

TWO QUEEN ST, CHARLESTON

Robert Lange Studios