The Studio of Eric Valosin

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Drawing on Philosophers

More drawings!  Here is the continuation of the series of drawings I started, weighing Plato's philosophy of truth and meaning with Heidegger's, ultimately trying to find some third compromise between the two.

The first in the series, of course, was the charcoal drawing of the bust of Plato with Heidegger's old boots.  The second, which has gotten particularly good reviews amongst faculty and peers (and is my favorite too), was Heidegger's boots as drawn by Plato.

Next - Plato's bust as drawn by Heidegger.  Guided by the revealing/concealing light of Aletheia, I blackened the entire page and then drew out the form from the center of the void using an eraser.  As Iain points out, outlines and borders are a great way to draw something you know exists.  But if you're truly struggling to find Heidegger's kind of truth, you can't logically draw in a manner that presupposes that you know what exists.

The 4th in the series attempts to put the two in the same space and watch them duke it out.  The Temples at Paestum (which Heidegger references in the same text as the boots) is created in the shadow of the Platonic form (using the more definitive, mimeographic nature of graphite), but then sheds Heideggerian light on the land around it (using the charcoal aletheia technique).

The fifth strives to reconcile the two with a sort of Pauline or occult duality in which "things above are as they are below." The only way for Heidegger and Plato to both be right would be if Plato's ideal forms were just as contextually dynamic in meaning (the "above") as Heideggers boots or temple (the "below"). The temple "below" is drawn in platonic ideal graphite, but the space made for it is cleared with Heideggerian aletheia charcoal erasure.  Inversely, the "above" temple is given a definitive space within the Platonic graphite realm but fleshed out with the Heideggerian charcoal.

Unfortunately, the natural visual outlet for this philosophy seems to have already been discovered by Downton Abbey...


The sixth therefore makes the case that "everything is spiritual" and thus nothing in the spiritual realm suffers by being subsumed by Heidegger's aletheia.  As it turns out, the ideal forms outside Plato's cave only acquire their meaning given their context of being outside the cave and the prisoners having been ignorant to all but their effects prior (which essentially is Heideggers point in the first place).  Heidegger writes that Plato's allegory is in fact not about truth so much as education - the process of informing the shadows with a new context.  Truth is therefore not in the ideal forms, but in the newly in-formed shadows that have taken on a deeper and richer context given the knowledge of the forms creating them.  And so, Plato isn't so very un-Heideggerian after all:

Interestingly, I was able to use an accidental flaw that showed up in drawing no. 3 to clever effect here, in which the pressure of the pencil lines from the lower half of Downton Abbey (as it shall be called from here on) pressed through and engraved the page beneath.  When the charcoal fills these etching like crevasses, the erasure gives the drawing a "memory" of the prior drawing.  And so the memory of the overlaying of Heidegger and Plato in the last graphite/charcoal endeavor shows through as a ghost that informs the erasures of this Heideggerian drawing of Plato's forms.

I'm going to continue on with this series, if nothing else, just to keep exercising my noggin. But I hope, in part two of the series, to elaborate on the merging of the philosophies in a way that begins to transcend Heidegger and Plato into a more Valosinian (...that's terrible) expression.  The goal is eventually to have developed a method of drawing that embodies my unique take on reality.  We'll see.  This blog is getting way too dense right now though.  I'll have to make sure my next post is relatively devoid of substance...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Because I'd Hate to Leave You Hanging in Suspense

This afternoon I finished that drawing I mentioned last night - here's how it came out!  Blur you're eyes and it's Van Gogh's Heideggerian boots, focus in and it's nothing but shadows and Platonic forms.


I Think Art is Smarter Than Me...

It's been pretty fascinating working on this reactionary shadow painting.  If nothing else, for the simple fact that I have no idea what's happening at any given moment!  Accommodating the projector's lack of luminosity and thus working in the dark means that I can't actually see much of what I'm painting.  From my perspective, my marks are only true given the context of the projection.  Once the light is on and the projector is off, it becomes a completely different image with an unforeseen composition, and it not only fails to make sense to me anymore, but it utterly shocks me visually!  Here's what I mean; the first image is the painting at one stage in it's creation, with the corresponding moment of projection.  The second image is just the paint, with no projection and the lights on:

Moving a few layers later, another instance of this is shown.  With the residue of so many transitions and layers, the painting takes on a depth and memory of its own, bringing the past to light (no pun intended!) in the midst of any present moment of projection.  The next layers of paint and projection then are forced to interact with and respond to the past, unable to be unaffected by it as if it were a blank canvas all over again.  For instance, the ambient rays of light from the window yielded this painting (eventually the paint resisted the light, attempting to blot it out and thus created a sort of negative of the light patterns):

Yet add the projection a few moments later, and this fantastically complex moment results:

In a sense, this is proof that this project is doing exactly what it was designed to.  The fact that I can never quite grasp the truth of the situation as I'm painting in reality all the more reinforces the conceptual act of grasping at Plato's truth by painting Platonic shadows.  And that the truth is really only discernible (if at all) through the contextual joining of the projection and the paint means that Heidegger is beginning to win the debate!

My independent study advisor, Iain, told me this week that I'm essentially acting as a philosopher-artist with my painting and drawing, and I think he's hit the nail on the head.  What started out as a bland philosophical commentary has become a richly confusing and illuminating philosophical process of discovery.  The paint becomes a chronicle of my groping for truth - a moment of true spiritual discernment if there ever were one!

My drawing exploits are coming along as well; Iain would like to see my charcoal piece parlay into at least 5 more in a series.  I next want to draw each object as it would be understood by it's contrasting philosphical counterpart:  I'll do a bust of Plato as Heidegger might draw it, but first I began a graphite drawing of the boots as Plato would understand them - shadows, compiling illusory platonic solids.  Here are some pics of it in progress:

(yes it's a bit blurry, you can stop rubbing your eyes).  Well, that's it for now, but I just wanted to share my excitement!  Quite a bit more to go, but I'm ok with that.  My projects are teaching me a lot!  ...Though I'll probably need a new fuzzy paint glove considering I've actually disintegrated the inner lining through use.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two Posts in One Day? You Know What That Means...

All-nighter at the studio.  Well, almost.  A coffee and a RedBull shamefully behind me, I think I'm going to opt for a bit of shut-eye after this post...

Lately I've been trying to find any excuse to get back to drawing, so I figured I might as well stop trying to find excuses and just draw something!  As I'm thinking through my other work, and my philosophical position somewhere in the tension between Plato and Heidegger, I decided to start thinking with some charcoal (which may develop into a small series of drawings).

Essentially Plato says reality (and meaning) as we perceive it is just a copy of the ideal - some truly real form that we can only strive to know.  Heidegger on the other hand says that since we can never know such a thing it's a moot point, and that reality (and meaning) is derived from use, context, and the world that an object opens up.  He famously depicts this with Van Gogh's painting of a pair of worn out shoes.  In The Origin of the Work of Art, he describes the world the boots imply (a society and culture that would cause such boots to be necessarily made, used, and then depicted as art), setting up a correspondence theory of meaning.

I'm finding in my own conception of Spirituality and reality, there must be room for some ideal, perhaps outside of ourselves that we are to strive towards (Plato) and yet the rubber has to meet the road somewhere so as not to ignore the obvious contextual meaning things accrue through function (Heidegger).

I decided to pit Heidegger's theory against Plato's, representing Plato with a drawing of a Roman copy of a Greek bust of Plato (which he would argue is still another step removed from the true essence of the thing!).  To start the series, I sat my copy (of a copy of a copy of a copy) of Plato next to Heidegger's world-making boots, and drew them in a style that would in some way begin to merge the two.  I decided on charcoal for its inherent tendencies towards deep shadow (very Platonic) but rendered with a hint of Van Gogh gesture (very Heideggerian).  Stir in some irony and a big fat unresolved philosophical question, and this is the result!

I haven't really used charcoal like this in a few years and I forgot how much fun it is!  ... But now it's time for bed.  At least for a few hours!

Shadows and Fuzzy Mittens

 Remember that episode of platonic shadow puppet tai-chi marionette manipulation a while back?  Well I haven't forgotten about it.  In fact I've been hard at work fleshing that project out.  It's transformed a bit since its conception.  With Iain, I started to discover that the shadow videos I was compiling had something compellingly John Cage-ian to say: in it's ambiguity it began to embody the questions I was hoping to raise in the first place.  Similar to the way Cage's non-objective light/dark video work begs questions of origin and purpose, the platonic shadows draw the viewer to a dialogue of purpose and origin.  And after all, grasping at idealism is fundamentally a grasping at philosophical truth (the entire reason Plato even concocted his cave allegory was to get at the truth behind the things we perceive), and truth is essentially the reality of origin and purpose.

Therefore, my approach to painting this canvas has taken a far more abstract turn.  Just as the platonic solids are like shadows on the cave wall, my action on the canvas becomes cave painting on that wall; a grasping at the truth and purpose of those shadowed ideals.  So my entire palate is more or less reduced to various tonalities of white, and the canvas merely shifts in compensation, anticipation, or refutation of the shadows playing upon it, as if to grope for true paintedness.  Here's an example of the canvas itself, sans-projection, in one of its middle stages:

You may have noticed some odd peripheral equipment in the shot... If you'll remember back to my tai-chi video, the rest of this project's process has been no less ridiculous.  Firstly, I needed a way to project the shadows onto the canvas while I'm painting, as well as a way to then photograph the image I paint (without the shadow projection).  So I rigged up this little projection/photography stand/tripod:

I then rigged up a wireless camera remote to the wall next to the light switch so that after I turn the lights back on (after projecting and painting in the dark) I can photograph the canvas without jostling the camera:

Finally, to make matters as utterly ridiculous as possible, I decided not to use brushes (well, for the most part).  I needed a way to apply large, vague, amorphous areas of paint without distinct brushstrokes, so I went out to home depot and bought one of those absurd fluffy pipe-painter's gloves for some glorified finger painting!  Thus the process goes a bit like the following, repeated over an over again for each frame painted:  (actually its pretty gross how much my camera washed out the projection in this video - I apologize for that.  Check out the stills for a better idea...  You'll have to wait and be surprised by how magical it actually looks in person, with a warm amber glow and stark blueish shadows layering over my paint marks!)


Eventually I'll compile all the painted images into a stop motion animation, layer that with the projected shadow video, and project them together as a video onto the canvas once it's painted back to white.  Its hard to tell right now how long this should end up being, but I've got about 10 minutes of shadow video footage compiled and edited, and about 70 painted frames.  It's pretty enchanting the way the canvas glows with the projection though!  It's keeping me entranced long enough to keep painting so far!  We'll see what feels right for the concept (for instance, there are about 4:15 of just natural light through my studio windows projected onto the canvas before the magic starts happening, taken from a study of my own devotional time.  4:15 was the time it took me to clear my head enough to pay attention to anything remotely divine.  How that translates then to the overall duration of the piece is yet to be seen) More to come when this is further along!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Shelter From the Storm

I'm excited to announce that my submission for the Gimme Shelter exhibition at the Boatworks in Belmar was awarded 2nd Place out of the 70 or so submissions in the professional category (92 I think, including the student category).  You can read a bit about it on the Belmar Arts Council's Blog as well as in my older post.

The opening was quite enjoyable, with live Jazz, refreshments, and plenty of schmoozing, and I had a great time getting to know some of the people who help make the Belmar Arts Council run. 
There were quite a bit of very outside-of-the-box approaches to the task, and some very impressive pieces that are worth checking out.  As I mentioned before, the show will be up until March 23rd at the Boatworks in Belmar, NJ.  Here's an installation shot of my piece.

You can check out the actual video projected onto it on my website.

At the request of the gallery, I wrote up the following to potentially be used as a wall text for my piece:
Like a seemingly blank wooden board in a gallery, issues of affordable housing, or of poverty in general, can be all too easily overlooked.  Addressing such issues demands a certain intentionality of those in a position to do so.  Similarly, it is only after bearing with the seemingly untouched house shaped panel for a time that all the layers that contributed to its apparent “blankness” reveal themselves.  The process of creating this blankness - of painting the board through several layers and evolutions, ultimately back to its original state - is digitally projected onto the completed board as a sort of stop-motion video.  As the piece perpetually creates itself before the viewer, it explores the duality of shelter as both luxury and basic necessity as well as the struggle for an elusive ideal.  

There were many foibles involved in the creation of this project (which spanned something like 80 hours of studio time).  In the hopes of educating posterity away from similar foibles, I'd like to share some things I've learned:

- wood does not magically grow after it's left the tree, but it does magically shrink to about 1/16" shorter than you wish it was.
- the carpentry adage is wrong: measuring twice actually leads you to cutting 4 times
- old table saws kick.  hard.
- Horizon Fabrics is not a fabric store, and while they don't lock their doors, they do set their alarm
- No matter how judiciously you select your wood, a pedestal will be better made from that MDF board you didn't buy.  You're wood however will make a superb cutting board.
- Final Cut will do magical things, but not the things you need it to do.
- Netbooks do not, under any circumstances, play nicely
- There is not a program in existence that adequately reads .mov files on a netbook
- Even Apple Support will take 3 tries in suggesting a program that can convert .mov to .wmv without losing quality for under $500
- the internet lies, but YouTube can solve just about anything.
- turning off a netbook while taking 30 minutes to automatically install update 2 of 11 can corrupt the operating system
- 2000 lumens is NOT bright enough
- galleries typically don't know what to do with a projection piece
- the bolt size for a standard tripod screw is 1/4."  Projector bases are not standard.
- "machine screw" is a technical term for "bolt of the desired thinness but measured in an arbitrary system you can't translate to a ruler and therefore will take at least 3 trips to Home Depot to find the right one."
- wood is heavy and Montclair's Car Park Diem is very far from Finley studios
- if you have a deadline, expect the most off-the-wall complication to surface for the first time the morning of that deadline.
- wherever you have to go for an opening, your business cards will be an hour in the opposite direction.
- recounting stressful experiences while writing a blog entry can apparently lead to a bloody nose...