Sonata in Blue
February 22, 2001
While I make single images that stand on their own, I tend to work in series. The series acts as a container, binding together a number of similar themes and pointing the way to correlations with work in other series. The web of connections found in individual images binds together a variety of work, suggesting a wholism of thought.
This image is part of a set of interlocking series. The Études, Preludes, Sonatas, Nocturnes, and Variations share a set of similar concerns. They share an interest in closely matched color, where subtle nuances in hue, saturation, and value are particularly evocative. They share an interest in a comparison between color and music, both being vibratory experiences. They share an interest in proportion. The Variations display proportions shifting within the same subject, side by side.
The series as a whole has led to some of my most abstract work to date. The origins of this work can be traced back to a series of studies in pastel, now done purely digitally as well. In these images color and tone are paired in specific proportions, which are successively refined, not unlike tuning an instrument. The preliminary studies serve as blueprints for future work but the final results of each image is profoundly influenced by the particular contents of their surfaces. In this sense there is a highly improvisational nature to these images.
Correspondence is an important aspect within my work. Formally the cloud acts as an echo of other events within the larger environment, in this case a circular current of water below, implying a larger connection between what seems at first unrelated.
The small hovering cloud is particularly potent symbol. It reoccurs again and again within my work. It’s possible that this symbol can be traced back to the religious paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance that impressed me so much as a child. Or it is possible that the icon arose spontaneously, welling up from the collective unconscious if you will. I think it is important that the archetypal be approached without preconceptions. The material is so strong that if it does not arise spontaneously work generated around it can easily become forced or contrived. So, I prefer that a theme or subject announce itself during the working process.
Sonata in Blue III has a companion image, Nocturne in Blue III. The composition is the same but darker, less saturated, and with stars. When you look at the two together, you watch day turn to night. Serial imagery and motion pictures have been an interest of mine for a very long time, an interest so strong that I have begun experimenting with making pictures that move with video. Here the serial nature of the imagery performs a dual function; it highlights the constant transformations of time we are subject to and it highlights the highly ambiguous nature of the surfaces we make records of photographically and navigate by in daily life. As the angle of the sun changes relative to us the atmosphere grows increasingly transparent until it becomes invisible, and then we see the stars behind it. As the angle of our view changes we move from seeing the sky reflected on the water’s surface to seeing the world below it. The water is largely visible as a result of the images it contains. If they are not entirely subjective, the recordings we make of these surfaces are certainly as relativistic as they (and we) are changeable.
While I look forward to the day when I use purely digital capture for my imagery, today I use color transparency film and scan it. All of the image editing is done with Adobe Photoshop. I then make giclée (or state-of-the-art inkjet) prints. Recent advances in printing technologies have enabled me to refine the final prints I make of this image, almost on a yearly basis. The current (Epson) papers and inks I use yield a more richly saturated color than I have previously been able to achieve with other media. What’s more the new prints, once fugitive, now last many times longer than conventional color prints. The coatings on new papers are particularly bright and smooth allowing the highlights to be exceptionally clean and hold detail without sacrificing the velvety surface of giclée printing. I prefer to print on the sensual matt surfaces of rag papers. Quite appropriately, the papers and pigmented inks I use today bear a great deal of similarity to the papers and pigments I used for the pastels from which this series was first drawn.