November 21, 2018

When A Painting Speaks To You
Part II: What Makes A Painting Work?

In Part I of “When A Painting Speaks To You”, we explored how one can be drawn into an abstract expressionistic painting. By allowing oneself to feel the energy of the painting, the viewer often connects to the artists’ process of creation, resulting in feelings of completeness, wholeness and peacefulness—of things being “right.” In this way, abstract expressionism can be a mirror for life, where the “unexpected” shapes and directs what follows. This is what pulls us to the painting—our innate resonance with a very natural and sometimes spiritual process.

As our life journey weaves through the interconnectedness of pre-birth, death and perhaps beyond—maybe over multiple lifetimes—our ability to allow the unexpected to become part of the canvas of our life allows us to continue moving toward increasing levels of internal wellness. In this way, individual paintings can facilitate our personal evolution and change.

Expressionistic paintings are akin to musical compositions, like jazz, where improvisation and the unexpected contributes to, and shapes the art. Shapes, colors, and textures become “notes” on the canvas. The only “goal” of the expressionistic painting is to have it “work” in a way that creates visual harmony that can be felt by the viewer.

Fluidity of Grace
56×72

So what is it about the abstract expressionistic work that speaks to us—that pulls and pushes our emotions to evolve—that makes us smile and feel a part of something that is greater than ourselves? As we connect with what is happening on the canvas we begin to resonate with who we have the potential to become—in essence, who we were meant to be.

On canvas, paint is used to integrate and balance contrasting elements such as light and dark. For inner wellness to develop, we must do the same by balancing contrasting emotions and experiences. To fully experience joy we must also allow ourselves to tolerate sadness—to fully be engaged we need the ability to tolerate loss. Abstract expressionistic paintings mirror this natural process related to the need for integration and balance.

Artists refer to the contrasts—light to dark, square to round, straight to curved, soft to rough and so forth—not as opposites, but rather as complementary. Where opposites often polarize, complements fit together, forming a yin/yang effect that creates harmony. What speaks directly to the heart from the canvas is the push-pull interaction, or dance, of these complements. As art syncs with our own emotions and experiences, we become engaged in a similar dance.

For the viewer, the creative process of the artist that manifests on the canvas allows them to join with painting while the integration of the contrasting elements on the canvas opens the heart to a feeling of harmonious completeness within. The painting may strike a chord—it’s composition resonating with the harmony of color, form and texture often inspired by music— to create a combination of contrasts that can be perceived as vibrant harmony.

The Dance of Uncertainty 40×72

While solely listening with the heart to the call of an abstract painting may not be sufficient for lasting emotional healing it can sometimes lead us to a glimpse of what healing feels like.

I find myself repeatedly drawn back to the paintings of Jonas Gerard. I understand the appeal. He is a master of incorporating a diverse array of complements. Depending on the painting or sculpture, one can see and physically touch almost every element of visual and sensory contrast to fully experience the colors, shapes and textures.

For me, Jonas’ paintings push and pull my consciousness to expand into ever-deepening levels. I encourage you to listen when an abstract painting speaks to you with a greater awareness of the artists’ process and dance of the complements. While visiting Jonas’ galleries, I have frequently had the joy of observing people consider whether to bring an abstract expressionistic painting into their lives. Innately reacting to the diverse presentation of complements, often without fully understanding why—but just as often succumbing to the mind’s chatter, telling themselves, “Someone won’t like it. It won’t match the decor or it is too blue.” My suggestion is to listen to the heart’s initial inner voice and allow the painting to push the fear aside. Take a risk! Change the decor of the room to match the painting! You may be surprised at what can happen when you listen to the painting and allow the pull/push integration of the elements to take you wherever it leads. It’s likely your life will be enriched by taking the risk.

By Carl B. Gacono, Ph.D., ABAP
Author/Artist – Asheville, NC

3 thoughts on “When A Painting Speaks To You
Part II: What Makes A Painting Work?

  1. Margit A Steimle says:

    This comprehensive essay puts into words the journey of our soul in this physical body and art being a vehicle to experience and feel being a part of something bigger than ourselves and a glimpse of temporary harmony and balance.
    Some additional thoughts.
    A painting takes us on a journey ,on a dance and opens our heart and mind to possibilities.It makes us connect to inner feelings buried in our sub consciousness. It touches something buried inside of us and makes us turn inward instead of focusing on the chatter of the outside world.
    As our eyes wander over the canvas ,we might find elements and emotional responses of ambiguity, concealment,surprise ,imagination and at the same time harmony and balance.
    As the observer ,we might seek realism,familiarity, known objects but instead the painting might surprise us ,even shock us and / or it will give feeling of harmony, serenity and peace and moves us from our mind to our heartspace.In either case, it will connect us with our soul.
    Any great piece of art will revive us and want us to be an inhabitant of that world.

  2. Margit A Steimle says:

    The essay expresses comprehensively and eloquently how a painting can elicit a feeling of harmony and being part of something greater than oneself and a feeling of harmonious completeness within.
    Some additional thoughts.A painting can take us on a journey within,on a dance and opens our mind and heart to possibilities.It makes us connect to our subconscious and takes us inward to listen to our inner voice instead of the chatter outside.
    As our eyes wander over the canvas we might find elements of ambiguity,surprise,concealment,even tension and at the same time harmony and balance ,just like life itself.We might seek realism , familiarity of objects,composition and form but instead it might surprise us,even shock us or give us a feeling of harmony, serenity and peace and moves us from our mind to our heart space center.
    Any great piece of art wants to revive us and wants us to become an inhabitant of that world.

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