Wednesday, 4 May 2011

emergence, once more

I seem to continually be discovering what I see to be the truly emergent nature of (the kind of) drawing and painting (that I'm currently doing). As I write this, I wonder if all drawing and painting is emergent in the same way, even though a more representational focus might appear to suggest otherwise. Because even if you're trying to paint a grape to look like a grape, what happens in front of you has, in some strange way, a life of its own. You see the grape, you make colours in paint, you put down what you feel you're seeing. But even the most representational painting is still, irrevocably, paint, rather than grape. And I expect the painter of grapes probably also feels that 'the thing' is emerging in its own way in front of her eyes, almost inspite of all her intentions and skills.

She perceives the paint, and makes an adjustment. The adjustment changes everything, and she responds again, changing everything, again. And so it goes on. Sometimes, at the time she decides to stop this process, what has ended up on the page or canvas seems to have appeared there through some process largely beyond the control of the hand that held the crayon or the brush.

And what of the judgements involved, the so-called decisions? A painter friend of mine apparently once said that you shouldn't stand back and look until you've finished, or at least until you've done a fair bit of this working and responding without thought. Someone else said that you can't trust the judging mind, even when it's your own, about your own painting. Because sometimes that judging mind gets it wrong. How can the mind get it wrong about its own process? Good question.

But it happens. Sometimes you feel, after some time of this kind of process, that your painting is quite lost, complete rubbish. If you manage not to immediately destroy it out of your frustration, you get up and walk away, finished with the whole sorry business. And then you come back, a few hours, or even days later, and you suddenly see that all isn't, in fact, lost at all. You were wrong. It's as if when you're in the process of responding and doing, there's a largely unconscious dialogue going on between different things, which, as long as you don't stop and think too much, is self-generating, self-organising, continually emergent. The process seems to 'know' where it's going, as this movement of responding and seeing and judging and responding again unfolds through time. Eventually, the movement starts to perceive a need to begin stop itself, as the process works its way to its own conclusion. Sometimes that's a comfortable enough feeling for consciousness and emotion. Sometimes it isn't, and the feeling of needing to stop apppears along with a kind of sickening.

Being so attentive to our thoughts and judgements, at the point of sickening and ending, consciousness seems often to come in and to start to make negative judgements. It's as if semi-consciousness knows what it's doing, but fuller consciousness doesn't seem to have that connection.....

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