Wednesday, July 24, 2013

130 Art both rich and strange

LIKE MANY artists I occasionally listen to videos as I work. Some of my habitual favorites are TED talks. TED (short for Technology, Education, and Design) provides a venue for speakers in a wide variety of disciplines. By design the messages are intellectually accessible and I usually get the point without having to review the talks. One however escaped me; J. J. Abrams' talk entitled The Mystery Box. I was intrigued by his theme but unconvinced of his thesis. I respect Abrams for being young, ambitious, and successful in a field where being young and ambitious doesn't guarantee success. Perhaps I needed to listen to his address one more time.

The second time I got his point. Although Abrams doesn't address painting specifically his idea was nevertheless applicable; there must be something in art that facilitates participatory emotions. Paintings must perform some kind of magic to fully engage the viewer. Allowing mystery into the work is one way to induce that participation. Such participatory emotions neutralize self-asserting egoist tendencies. Great art dissolves personal struggle in the vastness of an all pervasive, oceanic feeling.

But what are we to do with this injunction to add mystery to our work? In some cases it will be a matter of doing less, allowing some ambiguity into our work like the loose brushwork of the French Impressionists. In some cases it might be as simple as depicting stories with untold endings (a path going around a corner inducing curiosity about what's around the bend). Allowing our subconscious minds to have more sway as we create might be an answer. Ultimately it might be as simple as providing more visual questions than answers.

What is needed of art, is a simplification of life into something rich and strange.– T.S. Eliot

Brad Teare July 2013


  1. I like your quote from T. S. Eliot.

    I think some mystery in painting can ring true. I don't know if it's relevant, but I think of the Mona Lisa. Who was she, why is her expression so ambiguous?

    Or I think of Hopper who always seems to get one thinking about some of the mysterious elements in his painting.

    I don't know that people look at art to find answers. I look at art to transcend the natural and to seek peace and serenity from life's pressing problems.

    But mysteries in art can be engaging for sure!

  2. Interesting post. I like the idea of mystery too, I like Eliots's quote, very true.

  3. How you doing, Brad?

    you're unusually quiet...!

    I miss your posts! :)

    1. I've been working on a large commision (60" x 60"). Since it is for a pre-existing patron I feel reluctant to blog about its creation. But I may post an image of it when I get done. I'm probably being too sensitive. Plus filming the painting of such a large piece would prove difficult I would think (getting the lighting right, etc.).

      I probably have a few more weeks working on it. It is fun though!

    2. Well enjoy the process and I hope your patron enjoys the result and the experience!


Thanks for your comments!


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