To this point I have not made a distinction between contemplation as a source of artwork and as a result of artwork. Generally speaking, there is no need to separate the two. Contemplative art generally arises from contemplative engagement. However, this need not always be the case. Artists, digging deeply into the psyche, may access a place that they identify as contemplative, however this process may not produce anything that is healthy for the viewer. More interestingly, an artist may both begin with a contemplative sensibility and end with one, yet the process might take many twists and turns in between. An artist may in fact use rather violent means to achieve contemplative ends. I think of the process of pouring iron, blowing glass, or firing pottery with extremely high temperatures.
As I mentioned recently, my friend Lynn Speaker uses gunpowder in the creation of her work. She prepares a ground on panel or paper that will be responsive to a controlled burning. Then she lays natural objects on the ground, covers things with gunpowder, and lights a match. The resulting explosion and scorching of the picture plane is not what I would call a contemplative event. But Lynn’s process is redemptive – I have yet to hear of a better use for gunpowder – and there is no sense of violence in the finished work.
So contemplative art might come into being by many different routes. My concern is artwork that elicits a contemplative gaze. In my next entry I hope to talk about my own artwork, it’s subject matter, its temporality, and it’s form.