In the most lovely rejection that I have ever received, the galleriest involved set me thinking when he wrote of my pieces, “…I find many of them really perfect.”
I was intrigued by how much food for thought this simple comment gave me.
Perfect still means…well, perfect. And yet the word has acquired a bad connotation in some instances, becoming almost not PC. We are frequently chided for trying to be perfect; that the effort to perfect something is a bit rigid; and that perfectionism is soul-destroying (and probably elitist).
My process involves laying in a slightly transparent layer of paint during which time I find my composition and colors; move shapes this way and that; paint things in and paint them out and maybe paint them back in again differently, or elsewhere. After this layer dries, I continue with a second, making any needed changes that I didn’t catch the first time, and creating richer color, more complex edges, deeper blacks, and subtlties of surface and shape.
This second layer feels as if I am polishing the piece like a gem, bringing out the luster and so making visible the intricacies of composition, shape, color, and edge that weren’t fully developed before.
So yes, I am indeed trying to make my painting perfect. The process is done when the whole and every part of the piece hit my eye just so and vibrate to deep satisfaction, pure joy, or uninterrupted absorbtion as the eye travels around the canvas.
This version of perfection (and of course there are others) is a process of refinement. In my version, the compositions and shapes are softly flattened, and detail is reduced. My feeling about minimalist work is that what is there must be just so because there is not a lot of detail to distract the eye.
While reading the introduction written by my brother-in-law Harold Augenbraum for his recently published book, The Collected Poems by Marcel Proust , I was struck by his closing observations, including that the poems “…were not rewritten many times, and they represent a shortening of the distance between creator and reader, not a lengthening”.
Mulling over this concept, I asked myself why a creator would want distance between themself and the reader/viewer. Surely we don’t want to hold our audience at arm’s length?
The answer is to create a space, a sort of moat, where our viewer can plunge in and participate. A leap must be made not just from creator to audience, but also from audience to creator. This open space, though, in my case, is actually created by the process of refinement, which allows all of the parts and aspects of the painting to unite to invite the viewer in to spend time.
There are probably as many permutations of perfection, through refinement or directness, as there are artists and creators in other fields. I love hearing discussion of how they strive to arrive at their perfect.