One of my reasons for painting is an interest in how the human brain gives rise to the mind. Certain aspects of artistic behavior – specifically those tied to creativity and language – seem to be unique to humans, and it is possible that the biology underlying art may be a part of what makes our brains different from those of other species. I believe that an examination of the seemingly inscrutable t
raits that comprise artistic behavior could yield clues to help us understand the mysteries of human consciousness. My paintings reflect my curiosity about the human brain, and sometimes serve as crude experiments testing artistic experience. For example, one aspect of art that interests me is the mechanisms by which some paintings are able to look realistic. How is it that a twodimensional painting can cause a viewer to perceive something three-dimensional? I believe that rather than requiring a detailed copy of the physical world, realism depends primarily on the portrayal of a few particular depth indicators. Human depth perception comes in part from lighting cues such as shading and contrast, and research in neuroscience suggests that the brain processes this lighting information separately from information about color and detail. By painting in grayscale, I am attempting to achieve a degree of realism through the portrayal of light, without relying on color or the accurate representation of shapes. In a sense, I am trying to determine the minimal amount of information that needs to be included in order for a painting to look realistic.
I am also interested in our emotional response to paintings, and in the factors - such as novelty and familiarity - that can affect such responses. Here again, light seems to contribute to the emotional meaning of scenes, as evidenced by the strong emotional impact that phenomena such as sunsets, candlelight, and darkness can have on us. The evocative nature of light even suggests a connection to primitive instincts, perhaps because light can signal environmental variables that were once crucial for survival and reproduction - variables such as shelter, nightfall, or the presence of another organism. The connection between light and instinctive emotion may be reflected in the fact that the part of our visual system that processes spatial information is evolutionarily older and therefore more likely to maintain closer connections to these more primitive instincts. With this in mind, while focusing on the portrayal of light, I hope to convey some of the emotion of the scenes depicted in my paintings.
The present series of small paintings is intended to provide vague views of landscapes, the pieces functioning like snapshots that contain just enough detail to evoke some of the feeling of what is depicted. Some of the scenes may look familiar, but the identity of the places is not meant to be precisely defined: I am trying to portray light and feeling rather than specific locations. Thus these paintings could be thought of as an attempt to glimpse landscapes that can be felt but never visited - like reminiscences of something from a dream.
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