Entasi by John Masters
4, May 2011 § Leave a comment
I find myself at the crossroads. I have been here before. These moments of quiet decision, where I weigh my options and take inventory of my emotional and intellectual belongings, never cease to surprise or even baffle me. At times there is a great deal of traffic: fears, dreams, possible futures disastrous and sublime, assorted vehicles whizzing through my busy cerebral motorway. In other instances life’s intersections seem all but deserted: two dusty rural roads running perpendicular in the baking noonday sun, cicadas buzzing in the heat. Still, I sit listening to the winds for small, almost imperceptible, shifts.
My work and role in America has evolved over the past year. My physical presence at home has become less important and this aspect informs me that it is time to move along. All the other guideposts confirm it. Then what of my art? Have I refined my eye since my last missive in the spring of 2010? Last year John Pack pushed me into an abstract space of colorful and textural photography, a giant’s leap from the bearing with which I had grown accustomed. I had become lost in a dense and painful bramble of artistic faith and he had guided me out into something new and exciting, but something that was, for me, uncertain and uncomfortable. Upon returning to my little village in the Hudson Valley I continued on this orientation, tilling abstract soil, using skills I had learned, reaping a solid harvest of accessible and novel work. I built a small darkroom in which to pursue my black and white silver work as I crafted my digital images on my iMac in Camera RAW and PhotoShop CS4. I began using a Mamiya c330 medium format TLR and an old Graphlex Crowne 4×5 press camera. I followed the same procedures I had learned from Liz Carson. The black and white silver work began to occupy more of my time. It was more satisfying than the digital images which I came to see as being less evocative of my own journey. I was grateful for this shift in perspectives. I am now more aware of the abstract nature of black and white silver emulsion but also how both formats can exist and inform each other.
Another signpost of the inevitability of change has been a sense of artistic self-confidence, a quality I did not possess before the spring of 2010. I was unsure of my artistic self-worth then, but when I returned to New York I found myself welcomed as a member of a small arts group in my area. Since August of 2010 my work has been displayed in several group shows and I have sold a few pieces. I measure this as a success both for myself and for those who have guided me. My mentors handed me a new and different compass with which to plot my artistic course. That device has brought me full circle and, as I stated earlier, I find myself at a crossroads, albeit with a measure more wisdom than before.
This session, besides the two photography courses and numerous lectures, I am also working with Jane Pack and Jun-Pierre Shiozawa in Figure Drawing and Basic Drawing, respectively. I now have some more tools in my visual kitbag: perspective, foreshortening, form and mass, and the powerful negative space. I will not pretend to be a painter or draughtsman but these tools are shifting my eye from the two-dimensional abstracts of 2010 to a richer three-dimensional view of light, shadow and the human form. In using this pre-visualization I have begun studio sessions with several models in both medium format silver and digital photography. This is a challenge for me. The artistic intimacy required is daunting; the level of professionalism towering; the integrity of the imagery both paramount and well-founded. In these figure studies I envision a potent, almost mythological feminine presence. I strive for ‘entasi‘, that they might better illustrate a paradigm I feel is lost in today’s modern culture: beauty, grace and the power of a substantive Earth. These artistic choices are new for me, but I am traveling a well blazed trail, a journey many have taken. In my heart I feel that they, too, must have arrived at a crossroads. Perhaps the milieu is not original, but my perspective and philosophy is at least unique.
Working in the studio has also increased my technical skill and craft, which brings to mind the poet and philosopher Peter Abbs’ ‘Axis of Creativity’: as my technical skills and knowledge increases so do the creative abilities inspired by my dreams and the unconscious. With this I can create a solid body of work, or perhaps several while I am here. My thinking is freed by my distance from New York and all that that means. The light of Paros fills my eyes with shimmering tonal varieties and the Aegean Center grants me a haven where I can explore these creative emotional possibilities. All of these principles allow a clearer vision at the crossroads, diminishing the haze and dust of indecision. The answers will come if I sit patiently, listening and dreaming. While I am sitting, listening and dreaming I will work.