Luis Geraldes Book
Bricolage and Deconstruction
A number of contemporary artists have engaged with the notion of deconstruction, among them Jasper Johns as is evident in his painting, “Racing Thoughts” (1983), a work that combines encaustic, wood and collage on canvas.
The painting is particularly informative because Johns rejects logical and factual reality by incorporating a multiple technical approach and a variety of technical devices to uncover and break down the identity of the image. The painting thus relies on the viewer to decipher the codes that have been applied to achieve the awe of the interconnection of the various compartments of the artwork. According to Hugh Cumming (1988), Johns challenges “the traditional notions of the conceptual and the visual”:
Johns chose symbols that had specific universal connotations, yet was able at the same time to use them in a variety of contexts that divested them of any suggestive value … At the same time [he] merges an irreverent iconoclastic stance that breaks down images, styles and planes with a deep respect for the unpredictability of the creative process … Johns approaches science by destroying the sense of pictorial illusion by variation in pattern, sequence and tone that provokes a concept questioning of the image’s validity and harmony (Cumming, 1988:71).
Johns constructs a painting by juxtaposing and using “bricolage” to express parallel views and circulatory systems of reading and deciphering a painting. In “Racing Thoughts” (1983) Johns uses symbols on the various quadrants as a unifying theory of time and space, contributing to a universal language that carries within the spiritual through the association of time versus space. I employ similar techniques of arrangement in my art. The divisions of the painting by juxtaposing rectangles and the distribution of images across the painting parallel my own style of composition.
Imants Tillers is another artist who has influenced me. Tillers’ style of constructing the painting using a series of “tiles” is graphically illustrated in his canvasboards titled, “Izkliede” (1994).
For the past two decades, Tillers has presented his work, with mannered detachment, as a boundless set of jigsaw pieces. Each individual work is a momentarily coherent mosaic made from the multitude of small store-bought canvas boards he paints on.
In my view, Tillers is one of Australians most vigorous postmodern artists. His technique is meticulous; his lustrous surfaces are made from a combination of acrylic, gouache and oil. Each painting is part of a jigsaw of small canvas boards that are juxtaposed to express parallel views, creating various systems of reading a painting. Tillers approach to deconstruction came about from his desire to express “dependence on representational systems”.
He engages with deconstruction in order to draw attention to the fact that identity is merely one part of an interdependent system. In my own paintings, such representational systems are the complement of circulatory systems of our common micro and macro dependence.
Other artists who draw on esoteric influences in their art include Hilma Klint (1862-1944). Klint was a close associate of theosophists Helena P. Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner. As a result of their influences, Klint’s works incorporate symbols and colours often associated with the spiritual/invisible realms. In “Ages of Man, for example, Klint depicts a variety of circular spiral and elliptical forms as well as a diagram of a mandala.
The work appears to express the power of duality, drawing strong symbols often associated with the realms of spirit and science. The symbols appear to float rhythmically over a vibrant orange ground, suggesting a synthesis of conscious and unconscious states, expressing harmony and peace, and suggesting an emanation of radiant positive energy.
In his works, Onslow-Ford (1912), moved beyond the visible universe. He sought to move beyond the three dimensions we associate with the psychical world, to explore the fourth dimension, namely time. Onslow-Ford believed that in his paintings “matter is only the misshapen shadow of reality” (Henderson, 1986:229). Onslow-Ford sought to “reawakening of the unity of mind and matter” in his paintings. He used “great spaces” to create a correspondence between the nature of the universe and to evoke infinite by superimposing over it the large chromatic abstract surfaces and mystical sources which he related to the fourth dimension of spirit. Symmetry often features in the work of artists seeking to express the power of the esoteric. The works of Morris Graves (1910) contain such dialectics.
The symbols used are central to the composition to achieve a psychic equilibrium. Graves locates symmetrically shaped radiant concentric circles around elliptical shapes as if they adore a divine identity. His interest in myth and the unconscious took Graves to Zen Buddhist practices. Robert Delaunay, (1885 – 1941) a contemporary and personal friend of Wassily Kandinsky, (1866 – 1944) sought to capture the radiant light by applying bright yellows, oranges reds and the warm blues. Delaunay transition from his cubist-like representations of urban environments to abstraction brought a strong colour spectrum analysis creating a new aesthetic category.
Delaunay’s combined fragmented modulation of colours and elliptical shapes to achieve wholeness and a sense of the transcendent. The circle symbols have a powerful and resonant influence over the human psyche, assuming a holistic and planetary relation that reflects a collective unconscious mind.
Above image, illustrates a process that features in my paintings, the dividing of work into “tiles” each depicting some aspect of the cosmos that combine into a single canvas to convey a sense of the majesty and power of the universe. In the “Galaxies Dancing”, the diagrammatic symbols draw upon a traditional Tibetan and other eastern religious symbols used to depict the cosmos.