The Artwork of Michael Divine

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On Consistency (or the lack thereof)

February 13th, 2010

It’s been said by some that my work is inconsistent. In a sense, I can agree. I have not painted the same painting a thousand times. I have not painted twenty white canvases or twenty vases of flowers or twenty paintings of things on fire. I haven’t gone out and made twenty mountain landscapes. I haven’t sat down and created a series of still lives. For the record, I do have two still life paintings. They are of The Stapler and a Banana [and] a Gala Apple (I will post them one day).

Someone once said to me while thumbing through my portfolio: “This could all be by different people. Why not take this painting, for instance, and paint ten different versions of it – really hone in on just that floating block right there?”

To be honest, I really didn’t know why not, other than the fact that that idea sounded really quite uninteresting. While it seemed to be an interesting idea for certain and there are people in this world who do that, I’ve never felt like I’m one of them. And I think the main reason is that, in it’s almost scattered approach, my artwork is not an end in and of itself. What I mean is: it’s not my goal to paint the most singularly terrific silhouette that could possibly be the most emotionally evocative silhouette of all time – maybe even be the Mona Lisas of silhouettes.

I paint as if following a train of thought. I am one person with a thousand different facets (Maybe even, dare I say it, ten thousand!). By understanding all of these facets, by exploring them and allowing for them, I can become a better person. By becoming a better person, I can relate better to others, act more compassionately, etc. By doing this I and others can lead, perhaps, a healthier existence. When I focus my attention on any particular facet, that light/energy/vision that is this conduit of “me” passes through that facet and creates an image that is a reflection not only of me but also of my surroundings, my state of mind, my set and setting, what led up to that particular experience of life, etc. In order to see explore that particular facet, I go about painting some representation of it. “It” being a state of mind, an emotion, a psycho/spiritual understanding. When I am done, I look up: I am a changed person – subtly at times, vastly at other times. Sometimes such a length of time has passed and such a depth of experience has been poured out onto the canvas that finishing the piece is like closing a chapter on my life. And opening a new door.

My art is not about any singular experience. That singular experience changes, it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. Life: it is passing and changing and morphing into new and different visions while maintaining echoes of everything that has come before it.

it is because of this that my website is laid out not in any kind of numerical system or specific thematic order, but instead by place. I’ve lived in a number of different locales and, if history is to set a precedent, will continue to do so. Each of those selections of paintings represents a series of moments in my life that reflect my personal growth as it was experienced in that place and time. Ojai, Vermont, Costa Rica, etc… These places had a certain quality of light, I was a certain age, there was a specific energy about the time, and the places had a definite affect on me. What I ate, with whom I interacted, where I walked, how I spent my time, the landscape I traveled – both inwards and outwards: all of this gets translated onto the canvas. What you see when you look at my artwork isn’t the work of a person with a consistent studio who is assiduously retracing his steps ten dozen times to make sure he has really got the gist of the floating brick and, if asked, can paint the best floating brick ever. There are many people like that out there and that is all well and good and they are, in some cases, quite masterful and I applaud them and, at times, find them quite inspiring. However, for me, I find that every time I close my eyes and look inside for something to paint, there is something… else, something new. The visual representations of my path, my personal explorations and my archetypal language are always expanding – new words, new symbols, new passageways constantly want to be explored. If I deny that, then I feel like I am squashing my growth and, in doing so, am doing a disservice both to myself and others.

I’ve spent a lot of time disabling the inner “self-editor”. To allow it back in to say: no, no, no more paintings of anything other than the star pattern for, say, the next ten paintings. This seems like burden, a heavy weight on my soul of trying to fit into a mold.

Sometimes I find myself beginning the same line over again – and I try to interrupt it. What do I mean “the same line”? I mean a line that is so familiar – a curve, a silhouette – and I play “What happens if….” And it leads to new places… The mind is like this: if we travel the same synaptic pathways we create deep patterns in our minds – it becomes a part of the basic flow of our brains. If we dig deeper, ask “what else is in there?”, and really attempt to negotiate that space with an eye for what we might be missing, we might suddenly see something new – something different. And, in this, look at our lives with the same opened eyes.

Sometimes I think that the criticism of my semi-scatological approach to painting is because it would simply feel safer if I didn’t jump around so much. My work seems, at times, to be unpredictable. To be honest, I don’t often know what might happen next, what else might paint, what color scheme I might use. However, I think that the deeper underpinnings of my work are always there: a connection to the divine, a sense of exploring the human condition through semi-archetypal symbols and shapes, a pretty consistent color palette and a pretty consistent line pattern.

Viewing my work is like thumbing through a dictionary of the human experience: it is only consistent because all the words are of the same language and, for the most part, people can relate to those words because it is a set of symbols that describes, explores and, if successful, transcends, the human experience.

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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