|A Conversation between the studio manager Victoria Chapman (VC Projects)and Shane Guffogg|
Hollywood can be hot during July and August. The heat can zap your energy. Summer is a time to go on vacation and rest by the shore with toes buried in the sand or hike in the mountains sleeping in a tent under the stars or traveling to a faraway place. For me, during this time I reflect on my creative and spiritual practice. I am not talking about religion, I am talking about something inherent in oneself, finding the joy or peacefulness within. In continuing with Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, I have had some feedback asking why the need to explore such philosophical texts? Hegel’s book was written as a manual for understanding, consciousness, truth and self-certainty, observing reason, and much more. It shares a view of how our minds work — the understanding of self, as well as emotions. I am also reminded by Spinoza’s sense of cause and effect, and by being aware of these modes of understanding, it could engage an inner freedom in pursuit of creativity. I often wonder where the conversation begins. Are we merely a projection or are we reacting to the physical world around us? Is the goal of art only to remind us of the beauty or devastation, or to create an illusion of our so-called paradise? Have we turned our backs on humanity by not contemplating this? Can art possibly mirror the individual experience? Shane Guffogg once said in an interview, “We are human beings. Being is part of what we do.” To all the artists out there, by being, art is made, and it can be shared with the world, to inform the masses, or at least reveal itself to those who are awake.
|Part 3 – “The Life of the Artist and the Creative Process”|
VC: In Part 2 of this conversation, we began to unravel Hegel’s text about notion of force, and I found a passage on time and space (another big topic), where he says,
|“It is necessary that motion be split up to time and space or again, into distance and velocity. Thus, since motion is only the relation of these factors, it—the universal—is certainly divided in its own self. But now these parts, time and space or distance and velocity, do not in themselves express this origin in a One; they are different to one another, space is thought of as able to be without time, time without space, and distance at least without velocity—just as their magnitudes are indifferent to one another, since they are not related to one another as positive and negative, and thus are not related to another through their own essential nature.”|
What I am taking away from this deep, philosophical statement, is that Space and Time are two separate things. I bring this up because as we are talking about the relationship between the work of art and the process of its creation, I am questioning what the viewer gains from observing art.
We recently recorded audio on Sound Cloud, about the painting, “At the Still Point of the Turning World”, 80 x 100 inches, dated 2016. I asked Shane this question, “You mentioned a point of gravity at the center of the painting and how through the act of painting, you were recalling all the patterns that make up your daily life. You are guiding the viewer to an area in the center of the canvas, which for you is a void and an object at the same time. You talked about the neutral colors that are made of cool and warm tones, and that you wanted the painting to visually pulsate. This was an emotionally strenuous painting to create, and needing time and space to reflect on it, you put it away for some time while you traveled to Venice Italy. Upon your return, you knew what it needed. How did you know and how does this happen?”
|Shane Guffogg: It’s hard to explain how I knew or how I know. There isn’t a thought or thoughts, or my inner voice speaking to me. It is a feeling that goes beyond where words go and when I know a painting is done, I can sense it and I become more relaxed because the painting is breathing on its own and will continue to do so after it leaves my studio. It’s interesting that Hegel talks about Space and Time being two separate things and he denies the idea of One. But the painting is being informed and guided by the Oneness of everything. I am more inclined to think of Time and Space as two sides of the same coin. |
VC: You went on to explain how the color became a visual harmony and the movement became a perfection. Through the process of creating the painting, it pointed you in a new direction. You painted this one for yourself, and it has become very personal and quite meaningful. You said it is a painting you will never be able to repeat.
|Shane Guffogg: Yes, this painting has a serene and subtle balance of push and pull, but it is so subtle that the viewer needs to stand in front of it and let their eyes adjust for a few minutes while also letting go of any thoughts. I made this painting for myself because this visual serenity was something I needed. If memory serves me correctly, I worked on it for at least 6 months, on and off, of course. Having a studio in LA and on my ranch gives me the luxury of going away but always having a place to go and things to do, like working on other paintings. There is a conversation that begins to happen between the paintings I am working on and they help each other along, informing one another. Kind of my own little buddy system. I remember coming back from a trip to Venice Italy and walking into the studio and seeing the painting with fresh eyes. I sensed what the painting needed, and then I worked on it for a solid month. But I will say that when a painting is that subtle, after a couple of hours, I can’t see it anymore. Eye fatigue? Like being caught in a snow blizzard and after a short while the hypnotic white snowflakes make it hard to focus on any one thing. That is what happened to me in this painting. I would have to stop and go do something else to give my eyes and mind a rest. It would be impossible for me to make a second version of this painting, even if I used the exact same colors because the movement of my brush would be different since I am in a different place in my life now.|
VC: Another intriguing element of the Sound Cloud recording, was when you described the painting’s influence, and how the excitement became part of your experience. Your ideas arrived on the canvas and those actions, much to your surprise, revealed something different on the canvas. Flashback to you, and somehow your first impression. These changes, and the process of painting, taught you something about yourself as a person, not as an artist, or even an alchemist. By this very act of unknowing and knowing, little by little, you have become over many years a type of shaman.
Can you explain this and how this reveals itself in the act of creation? And why is one painting more special than another? I would imagine this is the lifelong journey of being an artist.
Shane Guffogg: I realized in my late teens that I was learning more from my paintings than I was from the teachers and classroom situations at the Junior college I was attending. Making paintings changed and continues to change the way I look at the world. One way to understand this is when I look at a tree, for instance, I don’t see it as a tree. I see it as shapes and colors. The unbridled energy of nature is what I find so beautiful and what I acknowledge first. The idea of a tree or what type of tree it is an afterthought. As I see the world in a different way, my thoughts are changed, and I find myself asking countless questions instead of just accepting the status quo. All of this leads to how I interacted with the world around me. These inquiries are like an excavation of time and space, digging through history, thoughts, and events to find me at the moment now.
My paintings all start with an idea. That idea is usually vague, like a ghostly hologram that is floating in my mind’s eye. Then the challenge is to allow that transfer from my thoughts onto the canvas. But the first moment that the brush touches the canvas, the original idea begins to fade and the physical object of what is in front of me becomes my reality. But that reality is in a constant state of flux as it becomes something akin to a bridge between my subconscious and conscious mind. Just as the shaman takes journeys to the spirit world, I am taking a journey within myself, and my findings are what manifest in these paintings.
VC: Through studying Hegel’s writings, I found Spinoza. The 17th-century Dutch philosopher believed in the inherent nature in all things and there is an interwoven connection that flows between all beings and all existence — there is no dead end. He didn’t believe in the big bang theory or that God ruled the land. He said,
“In nature, there is nothing contingent; all things have been caused by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.”
Shane, you have always said; “It’s about asking the right questions.” By asking questions, your findings will reveal themselves. I think yearning and curiosity go hand in hand, and inquiry leads to thoughts that become ideas. This all might be unconscious, and the visuals may come in dreams or in moments of realization. Over time, after nurturing these ideas, some of these concepts reveal themselves as discoveries, which come forth through the process of making art. These magical moments of creativity are recorded in various mediums, which can be shared and the observer receives a certain gift. That’s when I am transfixed, lost in time and space within the lines of this painting, At the Still Point, experiencing being in the moment. This is what drives me back to your studio to see your art and continue these conversations. My question to you is, what does this mean to you as the maker?
Shane Guffogg: I am both the creator and observer, so what you are saying and how you are describing your experience are very similar to what happens to me. As the observer, I am witnessing myself as the maker, which I think is a clearer way to explain what I said earlier concerning the subconscious and conscious mind and the art is the bridge that connects both.
VC: Then YOU must be Time and Space?
Shane Guffogg: Ah, now we have come full circle where the beginning is the end, and the end is? But back to your original question. Yes, the ideas or images of future paintings come to me in dreams, or just walking, especially in nature. But they don’t come as a complete picture. They are more sensorial. Like this morning I was walking along a field of corn and the morning sun was shining through the leaves of a lone stalk of corn, changing the dark green to a yellow-green. That made me think about light in general and how it can pass through some things, changing their colors. Then I think about my work and how do I capture this moment in paint. By the time I am back in my studio, that moment is now a memory, but I can sensorial relive it, and that sets up the moment to begin painting.
VC: I would imagine on some level you would agree with Spinoza’s comment, that truly, we are all interconnected and these invisible lines from each thing to another, whether it is coming from the sun or a tree, a rock, the land or an animal or a thing are interlaced. To me, consciousness is so important, especially for the life of the artist and the creative process, otherwise, the art is dead on arrival.
Shane Guffogg: I agree. There is nothing more boring than “art” that is dead on arrival.
Let’s talk about abstraction and realist art. What is the difference? What happens in the mind?
Kandinsky writes about “the spiritual revolution in painting …” that artists may express their inner lives in abstract, non-material terms.” He goes on to talk about the psychology of colors, the language of form, and lines. Ultimately, the responsibility of the artist, and how abstract art came about. I don’t see a disconnect when Spinoza writes,
“I shall consider human actions and appetites as if it were questions of lines, planes, and bodies.” I believe he is talking about cause and effect which unfolds life itself. Comments?
Shane Guffogg: These are some big ideas you are exploring. As you know I am a big fan of Kandinsky and read his book, The Spiritualism in Art, when I first began taking painting seriously as a means of communication outside of a spoken or written language. Abstraction versus realism…hmmm. I started out painting realistically and was trying my best to replicate in paint what I was seeing. It didn’t take long for that to become a mechanical process, and creativity was nowhere to be found, or at least that was how it felt. I quickly became disenchanted with the process of replicating in paint and was more interested in what the brush could do with paint while I served as a vehicle of expression instead of the driver of the vehicle. And yes, it is, we are, all connected. With that idea, here is another idea for you to ponder; we have created this crazy thing called the world wide web that can be accessed through a screen that acts as a portal into a 4th dimension. And there it is, spelled out for us as WWW, the last W standing for Web. We are all now virtually connected. But this human-made connection is superficial. There is a deeper, more infinite connection that we are losing sight of. And this is why, in my humble opinion, art and the arts, are so important. We cannot lose sight of the real invisible web that connects all things, all thoughts, and all time.
VC: It is so interesting to connect my own dots from these philosophers to your work and process of making art. Your last comment reminds me of an article I recently that talks about the future and what life may be like. I will save that for the next newsletter.
Thank you Shane for this exchange of thoughts concerning the creative process.
Learn more about Shane Guffogg and his artwork at: www.shaneguffogg.com