Monday, June 6, 2011

Clocks and Clouds

Sorry for my absence.  I recall a "Mainer" once proclaiming , "if you can't improve on the silence—don't".  I guess I have had nothing to say,
I have been reading, The Social Animal, by David Brooks, Random House, 2011.  I believe that there is much to learn about painting contained in this book.  Give it a read.
In the chapter," Intelligence" there is a section titled "Clocks and Clouds". The science writer Jonah Lehrer sometimes reminds his readers of Karl Popper's distinction between clocks and clouds.  Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be defined and evaluated using reductive methodologies.  You can take apart a clock, measure the pieces, and see how they fit together.  Clouds are irregular, dynamic, and idiosyncratic. It is hard to study a cloud because they change from second to second.  They can best be described through narrative, not numbers.
Paintings are not clocks that can be made using scientific calculations.  We sometimes, and usually with poor results, attempt to analyze art by inspecting the parts used in the making of it.  Paintings can be orderly, neat and exact.  Paintings can also be sloppy, chaotic and defy systematic analysis, unlike a good clock.

Paintings are more like clouds irregular, dynamic, and idiosyncratic.  Paintings may come from mathematical equations, but art does not. Art happens when the expression is free from formal recipes.  Design is not the art, anymore than a key is the clock, design is only an aid in making art.
  Art is much like a cloud and the artist we most admire are those artist who live in the "clouds".  The world of imagination, creativity, possibilities, and authenticity of ideas. I  wonder why we revere the works Picasso, van Gogh, de Kooning, Motherwell, Rothko, and many others we categorize as creative expressive and genius and take workshops emphasizing technique, design, and imitation. Are we trying to turn clouds into clocks?  Making paintings based on  rules can make paintings that resemble art but in truth they come from a place that is not personal or creative.
Studies have found that if given a task requiring problem thinking people with high IQs score higher than lower IQ people.  If, however, the task is without rules high IQ people do no better than the average population.  Art is not about IQ or even talent: art is about honesty, integrity, and a commitment to doing some well.  So put your heads in the clouds, dream big and throw away your "clock"