The Voice of the Pigments
The Voice of the Pigments
Hear them with your eyes.
By Paul A.L. Hall
Think of the eye as an ear, just for a second. You don't have to, of course, but your vision is a treasure beyond imagination. To grasp certain realities of our bigger universe we've got to stretch our comprehension. So imagine the eye to be the ear that can "hear" the most magnificent instrument that ever existed: the photon.
Light itself is the treasure of the vision. When I was in tiny rooms of cheap hotels around the world and fighting off depression during times when I was taking a break, so to speak, I learned about this. I would lie on my noisy lumpy bed (usually what I had to do when I'd get a room is oil the springs and cross metal straps on the cheap beds or the squeaking would wake me up at night!), and look at decrepit walls. The sun light would play through the window and bathe those walls in each place wherever I was in the world, Paris, Caracas, Sydney, Jakarta, and would turn a dive into a palace.
That was why I emphasized color in my abstract expressionist works I called "Planet Paintings". I concluded that the average person I was trying to paint for was liable to suffer from an impoverished environment. I ran an experiment on that in Bethel, Connecticut, where I did a "Drive Through" painting that was a third of a mile long. I was wondering why the average vehicle was doing 80 mph on a road posted for 35 mph. You might think, "What's to wonder?" but if you study it, people where taking risks and having accidents because the destination was that much more important than the commute. They were watching a strip of tar. They should have been watching the whole road, but they were only mindful of the surface of bitumen.
After the work of art was completed, the average speed went from 80mph to 15mph. There was one point where the main part of the work was situated that I labeled "The Voluntary Stop Sign", because almost every car stopped at that point. Though my pixels were reflective, I used fine art pigment in a glaze over the areas averaging one quarter inch. Experiments like these take Aesthetics out of the realm of the subjective and out of the discipline of The Humanities and bring it into the realm of the empirical and into the discipline of the Sciences.
I call it the science of "Applied Aesthetics", one of the uses of which is safety. As Pete told me when I went walkabout in Australia, "Mate, when you're out there and you see something beautiful, don't touch it; it's probably poisonous". And so a certain form of aesthetics in nature involves warning.
But warning is by no means the sum of the matter. Just as in nutrition there are many items necessary for the human diet, so in the visual world there are many things necessary for psychological stability and acuity. I used to call my planet paintings "energy feed". In fact, I've got a little song about it called "Energy Speaks" [(c) (p) 1987 by Paul Hall]:
Energy speaks. It's greater than you. But then, you must think with energy, too. If you've got a crisis and things have gone wrong, it's maybe you're weak when you thought you were strong.
Energy speaks. It teaches the fact. They say the truth hurts you, but don't you look back. In the world of the "take" there's also the "give". Though you've come to existence, you must choose to live.
So feed with the energy feed. It's done with the heart and not with the mouth. Lifetimes of mystery. Don't ever doubt. The surface deceptive is all round about.
But then we have to return the subjective as the bigger subject of light itself takes us beyond or simple abilities to measure and to reason. It's certainly a stretch to be talking about hearing with the eyes and now eating with the eyes as well. There are other metaphors to use before I'm through, one of which is that I thought of my paintings that I was making for people to be for them as if it were, visual gymnasiums of use to them for the development necessary to envision a greater world beyond; a world of significance that was theirs and that they were privy to.
Now the point I'm making is that the oil painting is the most powerful collection of pigments because of the nature of the binder, oil. Linseed oil holds 80 to 90 percent pigment, more than anything else in the art world except pastel which is pure pigment held in place by a bit of gum arabic. But pastel, though rich in color is held in by the tooth of the picture plane and by application of a fixative. Not as powerful as the oil painting using linseed oil which polymerizes and oxides turning the oil paint into a film so slowly that it takes a century to really "dry" (though in a month or so, depending on the relative humidity, it can be dry to the touch) and can easily last a millennium if applied properly.
This article is not about the medium of oil or gum arabic, but rather I'm writing about pigments, here. I might add here that the paintings seem to be able to retain a lot of their characteristics even when transposed through the digitization of the photography and computer as well as the phosphors of the monitor screen. The digitization of the image acts as an analog presentation of the work itself in a way.
What you're looking at when you see the paintings is the voice of the pigments; compounds of cadmium, zinc, copper, aluminum, iron, carbon and so on. It is the substrate for the instrument of light to bring their message to the eyes of the observer. In this way the work of art is far more than mere composition or detail, but it is also a symphony of light which brings to the observer the voices of the very pigments themselves that speak of universes beyond eternity and promote the lowly human to a greater station of life. No longer a consumer but now an observer. There is now a wonderful purpose to the function of that person.
It brings out the indispensable role each of us can and must fulfill as individuals rather than mindless cogs in a dysfunctional machine given the flimsy excuse of "team".
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Paul A. L. Hall
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