Fast Read, Slow Read

Last week my sister blogged about her response to a new piece I was working on. It was an interesting post because she wrote about something I tend to think a lot about when it comes to my work – the “slow read” and the “fast read.” More specifically, the difference between what you get from an initial glimpse vs. more contemplative looking.

Let me begin by saying both are good. I wouldn’t pit them against each other. There are no wrong ways to look at art but there are different ways, which can cause diverse reactions from viewers. 

I often hear from people that they were immediately attracted to the frenetic energy and colors of my work. They say the painting ignited their senses. I also hear that they initially reacted to the physical markings and humorous figures on the canvas. These are examples of a fast look, a first glance that grabbed your attention. But I feel that if the artist’s technique is accomplished and sophisticated then the piece should keep you enthralled.  That gripping moment when you want to walk over to a painting because it has stirred your emotions, should proceed to keep you there. If the work is convincing on multiple levels, conversation will ensue. Unpacking. Deciphering. Discussions about the multitude of layers you see before you should be examined. This is what I like to call the “slow look.” It’s the gift that keeps on giving to its viewers. 

One way to explain this is through the French term called, trompe-l’oeil, which literally means, “Fools the eye.” It’s a style of painting in which the artist emphasizes the illusion of tactile and spatial. This method is often a component of my work.  There are times when one sees a raw texture on the canvas and believes it is made of additional material. People do not always realize it is paint until I explain that to them. Many times children, believing silver marking on the canvas is duct tape, will want to yank it off the canvas. In reality, I’ve created an optical illusion meant to make viewers look deeper into my work and process.

You also see me “trumping” the eye when a marking on my painting looks like it was made inadvertently, as though; I slapped it on the canvas as an afterthought. This is not the case. In reality, the movement was deliberate.  This, amongst others, is a skill I use to unmask the conceptual underpinnings in my work. My paintings are physically expressive upon first look but as you let your mind marinade in the colors, textures, historical influences and other elements you see how revealing they can truly be.