I came upon this short entry from 2007. It’s a good fit for the conversation I was having yesterday evening with Chuck Ceraso – trying to get to the bottom of this thing, painting.
September 16, 2007
If I paint this cup, it isn’t the cup that is the true subject of the painting. It isn’t even the perception or the investigation into the perception of the cup that is the real motif. It is the awareness of the perception of the cup – that is the real motif – that is the real subject. The painting is alive when it awakens within us a sense of awareness. “Oh, look!” Not “oh look, a cup!” or “oh look, how I perceive a cup!” but rather “oh look, I am seeing! I am awake!”
This makes me think of a little still life I did not too long ago for an exhibition at Prographica in Seattle. I had forgotten completely about the journal entry. There were some beautiful works in the show – here’s a link: Prographica, “Observing Observing (a white cup)” and a piece by Laura Swytak from the show (first image)
And one I submitted (second image)
It seems to me this is the power that lies in great painting, this quality of wakefulness. I remember seeing the magnificent exhibition of Velazquez at the Metropolitan back in 1989. I fell in love with all of the feet in the portraits. The paintings were hung rather high so at eye level what I could see squarely were the feet! — so masterfully seen and painted. It knocked me out. I couldn’t find any good details of feet, but here’s something worth looking at. A detail of Velazquez’s portrait of Juan de Pareja, 1724 (last image)