Thursday, April 17, 2008
Versions of Truth
When you're painting from life, there's a funny kind of dual reality happening. You're painting a scene, but it's a *painting* ...you look at your trees, your telephone pole, your outhouse, whatever, and you try to sketch them out accurately, but at the same time, you're creating something altogether original.
Recently there was an article in The New Yorker called "Just the Facts, Ma'am" comparing history and fiction. They each have their own kind of "truth," and the facts of history can be as misleading as fantasy if they aren't understood in context. Every historian has a point of view, historical sources are incomplete and were written by people who were not under oath and cannot be cross-examined.
It reminds me of the difference between a painting and a photo of the same scene; the photo might be factual, but the colors might be off, the dark values might conceal subtleties, the details might overwhelm the view, and even the perspective can be distorted by the camera lens. The artist brings his/her imagination and judgments to the work, creating a more meaningful version of "reality."
Or, it's like the difference between a realistic painting and a more expressive version. Like Wolf Kahn here, who gives color a life of its own. He probably has a head start since he uses pastels, and all the colors are there for the choosing, no need to mix the color you want. You can try any color just by holding it up to the painting. Let's see, lavender and...lime green? ...and...coral!