Noise is often thought to be an auditory experience exclusively. But I think its helpful when considering a visual encounter to employ a sensory analogue for seeing. Noise is apparently derived from the Latin nausea, which itself doesn't require explanation, but which adds a rich nuance to my understanding. Bad art (qua Thomas Kinkade) makes the mistake of capitalizing on noise and distraction, constant sleight of hand, chromatic charlatanism. As though it beckons the viewer, "look here, now here, now here!" There is no rest for the viewer, no invitation to contemplate. Bad art is like advertising, it punches you in the nose and is obvious and beats you with banality. The only complexity employed is in its design to fool and manipulate you. It tells you how it should feel or what experience to have.
I think good art is suggestive of what we already know, it slows our attention and brings us face to face with ourselves and some aspect or the wholeness of our humanity. It is a reminder of our uniqueness as humans insofar as we are consciously endeavoring to create things and think, talk and feel about them. Good art reflects a far reaching intentionality of an artist who is creating out of care for culture and individuals. Pictures aren't necessarily created for something, for an end, as mere or even primarily utility (this point is articulated well by Makoto Fujimura). Good art is born out of love for something and especially others. This love takes on weakness, it under-girds, edifies.
I painted the flowers above for my wife. I was inspired by the work of Edouard Manet, who is one of the best painters of flowers I've seen. He didn't waste time bogged down in the details, though he was surely more aware of them than most. Manet taught me to focus on the essential as it relates to the whole. Painterly Parsimony would describe a quality in his work that I want in my own. Too much concentration with detail suggests an overwhelming concern with how the artist will be received, which I think is a disordering of priorities from the primary importance of how the picture will affect the viewer. The shift of concern is from outside to inside. From them to me. Detail fixation constitutes an evil species of worry, on elements that aren't essential, and that might end up detracting from the overall thrust of the picture. What I'm suggesting here is that we keep in view an Ocular Occam's razor.
There is a danger though...While it is important to focus and return to the big picture, the details cannot be ignored wholesale. They are after all the parts of the whole, and the whole is at least the sum of the parts. I observe that my own tendency is to forget/ignore certain particulars altogether, failing to consider whether or not their inclusion is necessary for success. I might have for instance, simply blocked in the large shape of the roses in a single color, without any attention to the internal complex and delicate folding that characterizes a rose. This would have saved me time and I could have "finished" the picture faster, but the effect would have been diminished. Appropriate attention to detail often sacrifices efficiency and expedience to include those marks and visual cues that will invite the viewer into a particular experience, one ultimately constructed for them and their care.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.