If we make marks, and they start to be interpreted in terms of too-narrowly-tied-down meanings, there is a problem.
Schopenhauer made a comment on this in The World as Will and Idea. He observes that if we see a painting, and are able to make a one-to-one map between iconography in the image and an explicit reading of a meaning for each form, then that not only makes it easy to read the image, it also weakens the art in a very fundamental way.
Schopenhauer claims that visual art has togo beyond the intellect and get into the realm of Will. Will does not work within strictly mapped ideas. It is much subtler, it is much more powerful. It is a more fundamental reality. Good art needs to work in that reality, the reality of the will, not confine itself to the the realm of the Idea.
As I was getting to something closer to what I wanted; that these marks actually carried a lot of emotional content. Looking at them, the eye becomes more sensitive to color, and there is this sort of spatial moving in and out and all.
What was I doing? As I was eliminating all these references, the work actually got richer. I realized what I was doing was tapping into what Schopenhauer called the realm of Will rather than the realm of Idea. And that the work got substantially richer. In a certain sense, this stops the intellect of someone wanting to make little maps to what’s referenced. Those are gone. In a certain sense, what’s left is nothing. Or another way of saying it is that it’s a process of looking for a more spiritual point of reference in the content, or a subtler form of art—or what someone might call subtle, instead of spiritual. But it means something is there beyond the material world.
I was already looking for an art that was more of a critique of materialism.
We’re wrapped up in this materialistic, one-dimensional nature of things. The physical world. Well, that’s a problem, when you’re painting. One of my problems with other painting is that a lot of painting just celebrates the physical, material world.
We’re a materialistic culture. We want to own things. So we want to paint pictures of things. We want to have things. People are going for sensate sculpture and thing-ness. We want that thing-ness because we’re very materialistic. We’re like the Romans, we want huge monuments and military power, huge wealth, huge amounts of material stuff, and we are empty on any subtler levels.
I wanted to clean out those [materialistic references], that surface. That’s the problem with reference as well. That’s the other problem: with reference, you start painting those tables and chairs and recognizable things, it just hooks into and keeps you on the material plane.
It just reinforces the crass materialism of American culture. American art has been reinforcing the crass materialism of American culture. And I wanted to get to the subtler level that is a critique of that.