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Artist Statement — Cheryl Lins
Painting isn't so much an intellectual exercise as an elevation of mind.
When people look at my work, they often ask 'What are these paintings about?' I'm always a bit reluctant to give answers since I believe the viewers' response to the creative impulse are just as valid as the artists'. I don't want my views to limit your vision of the work. For those who are engaged with the work, each one takes away something different. Many artists, perhaps most, want you to 'get it,' to discover their secret motivation and intention for their creations. But I just can't imagine telling you what that might be, when the fact is even I don't know. Or if I do, I'm not really willing to tell you. So go explore, but here's some ideas on ways to orient yourself.
- It's about color and color relationships, see About the Color
- It's about structure and form, see About the Paintings
- It's about modern adaptations of ancient symbolism, see About the Ozieri
- It's about the subconscious, mine and yours, 'Way sub' as a friend of mine once noted.
- It's about the Ozieri being an abstract comic book. (Hmmm, I never really thought of it that way.)
- It's about the post-modern standard art justifications of birth, death, renewal, memory and loss, blah, blah. (You've been reading Art in America too much, and you like Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Matthew Barney.)
- It's about the secret art historical references I've hidden in the paintings, like an art version of 'Find Waldo'. (You prefer reading reading dense philosophical texts on art to looking at it.)
- The super-secret reason for these paintings can be found here, as well as the meaning of life.
All I can say is have fun.
Beginning in 1914, in the village of Ozieri, Sardinia numerous pottery artifacts, both functional and ceremonial, were found by archaeologists. These artifacts were made by people who lived around 3500 B.C. Similar pottery was also found at other places in Sardinia. These people were given the name ‘Ozieri Culture’ by archaeologists in recognition of the place where so many artifacts were first discovered.
I was interested in the unusual figures the Ozieri sometimes painted on their pottery. They had a wacky, childlike quality of circular heads surrounded by radiating lines or squiggles, rectangular bodies enclosing parallel lines, and birdlike feet. Perhaps these are abstract representations of their deities. Their imagery was part of a broader culture some archaeologists refer to as ‘Old European.’
The symbolism of the Old European cultures (5,000 – 50,000 B.C.) appears on tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of archaeological artifacts from across all Europe. From Spain to Greece, Ireland to the Baltic, and throughout Central Europe these artifacts hint at a common - yet diversified - symbolism of unparalleled vitality over thousands of years. Whispers of this old culture appear until modern times in the wild places of Ireland, Spain, the Baltic and Slavic countries of Southeastern Europe. It is this ancient symbolism that forms a creative point of departure for my own imaginations.
For me, the Ozieri seem very much alive. While their technological skills were primitive by today’s standards, they still sought to make their lives as best they could, raising children, farming, fishing, herding, and hunting. They certainly must have sung songs, told stories, danced and prayed. They sought happiness and tried to relieve the suffering of life. In the end, they probably weren’t very different from us.
My current paintings ‘excavate’ the symbolism of the Ozieri seeking to reinterpret their ancient symbolism in a new way. I want to bring them to life in a way that relates them to us. That way they get all the modern conveniences.
Color, shape and balance are my primary means of expression. Depicting a realistic scene of Ozieri life would be pretty uninteresting for most folks — and really boring for me. So I use abstraction as a means of constructing a different world; one where I can explore the relationships between shape and color and relationships between colors. Furthermore, I really believe that you need some kind of subject in a painting. Nonobjective painting seems to lack the feeling necessary to really involve the viewer. Without feeling your paintings are dead.
My paintings live in that place between representation and non figuration. A difficult balance yet a necessary one. But what would painting be if not for the challenge. For the first brushstroke creates a shockwave of tension across the surface of the paper. Within that tension there are other balancing forces between the colors, shapes, etc. that must be discovered and fine tuned. The exact effects to achieve that balance are not known a priori, but must be developed as the painting progresses. This means that total failure is never very far away. Life is in the balance, but isn't it always?
Colors and their relationships are an important aspect of my paintings. Colors, their context, their form all combine to reach the ultimate nature of art which is expression. To repeat, a painting must have feeling otherwise it is no different that merely some pigments applied with a tool to some kind of support. A painting is more than the sum of its parts, at least if it is a good painting.
I strongly believe in exploring color in some kind of systematic manner. My real training with color came from classes based on the theories of Johannes Itten. Billions of little squares in grid compositions beckoned and frustrated. The tedium had a tension of its own. Until one day questions arose. Questions such as 'How much blue is necessary to counteract this certain yellow-green? What qualities are necessary for this blue for it to accomplish this task?' And others in similar vein. A color gold mine had been discovered. And it is filled with inexhaustible treasures waiting discovery. My goal then is to show you some of these discoveries, to come to you and say 'Look what I have found! Isn't this cool?' But then again, sometimes you just discover lumps of coal.
While I poke fun at the post-modern artists promoted in Art in America, you could apply similar arguments to my paintings. The Ozieri culture after all has been dead for nearly 3500 years. Our global reaching culture as vast and seemingly powerful as it appears today, will one day be dust. Just like every other culture that has ever existed. Without exception. Many of the Ozieri paintings involve abstract depictions of the hypogeums (subterranean burial chambers) used for burying their dead. Every Ozieri that ever lived is now dead; has been for a long time. It will be like that for every single one of us regardless of whether we're Presidents or beggars. I have one hundred percent certainty in this claim. Buddha Shakyamuni taught this about 2500 years ago. The concept of impermanence is general to Buddhism, one of the Four Thoughts Turning the Mind. To what? To spiritual practice that will lead to enlightenment (i.e., permanent freedom from suffering) for oneself and all other beings.
Now post-modernism makes no such claims. While impermanance is central to it's self-justification I don't know what you'll get from it. For the post-modernist, once you're gone your gone. Walking away from a painting is the same as dying or the painting vanishing to nothingness. You might agree with this, but I don't. Post-modern art is essentially self-absorbed to the point of being a narcissistic nilhism.
OK, here it is, the real meaning of my paintings, why I create them, all without any fancy language to obscure my meaning and intentions. Ready?
I manifest these paintings from a non-dualistic thought domain that's beyond past, present, and future. What that means is that my mind goes to some place that isn't here or now and these paintings are the result. Maybe a fancy way of saying this is that I paint the canvas of primordial consciousness, bringing to our awareness that which is usually obscured. Does that mean that I'm an insane person? I don't really know the answer to that question. But I do know that I've never seen a UFO, never been abducted by aliens, I don't hear voices from 'beyond', and any kind of stuff like that.
Working on some new watercolors today I noticed a mental struggle between the ego and the unconscious. As far as I can determine, the unconscious is the better painter. Its color choices are really interesting but some component of the psyche is constantly challenging the shapes and placement of those colors. Maybe this is why painters like painting so much and those who just follow some formula produce lifeless work. (Now I'm certain you think I'm crazy.)
Beyond that, painting is just plain the best 'job' I've ever had. I can't think of any other mundane activity worth doing. More engaging than anything else I'd want to do. So all I can suggest is support the arts. In that way you will bring meaning to your life and the life of others, and all beings will benefit.