Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Jim Phalen Two Pomegranates 12x12 inches oil on canvas
Poached from Painting Perceptions interview with Jim Phalen
"I was just visiting the wonderful painter Jim Phalen’s website, which shows his magically and intensely observed still lifes of pomegranates, Styrofoam trays, fishes and various other objects of interest to him. His paintings are worthy of careful investigation but I was struck by his home page statement “I am committed to the practice of working from life. I seek to capture the integrity of experience through seeing. Without nature there is no conversation. (my emphasis) For me painting is a physical manifestation of the act of seeing-a manifestation capable of deep emotion.”
This is so true. I strive to work in this statement’s spirit but I also have a tendency to modify it somewhat. Whenever I deviate from from my usual painting from observation and instead paint from photos or imagination, it can be useful or liberating but often it’s like there is no two-way conversation, I’m just talking with myself, recalling thoughts and sights, thinking of other paintings, trying to recapture some experience. Doing this often puts me at risk of the painting becoming clichéd, dry, over worked or too self-conscious. On the other hand, painting directly from life is often like talking with a room full of needy caffeine freaks all demanding immediate and equal attention. Sometimes you need to shut up nature’s jabbering so you can hear yourself think.
In the seconds you take your eyes away from the subject and instead look on your canvas you operate from a freshly edited memory, you are never truly working directly from nature, there is always a slight lag. This silent pause allows you to work in a painting language as opposed to just copying nature inventory style. You can use this language to communicate parallel world of your vision of what is before you. In order the keep the conversation with nature down to a manageable volume so you can bring this parallel world to life, you sometimes need to put nature on hold for a bit. Perhaps this just comes down to who is running the show, the creative right brain or the analytical left brain. I like to think that painting from intense observation is a meditative act, like chanting a mantra, that quiets left brain chatter and always opportunities for epiphanies and art to occur."
David Graeme Baker