I personally agree with Kandinsky that ' ... form is the outer expression of the inner content. Therefore, one should not make a deity of form. ' (All my citations are from Herschel B. Chipp. Theories of modern art. University of California Press.)
The resonance of the artist's inner content with his time is what will generate the form of his art work. In other words the art form is somehow generated automatically when the artist's ideas are in sink with his time. Thus the necessary precedence of the content of the art work, the content is indeed the essence of the art work.
In this lies the fundamental difference in the contemporary approach of the visual arts with the realism of traditional times. Before, form had to bend to the accepted reality. Form was assumed to be derived from the subject of the work, it was thus dependent on the 'no-brainer' first degree image reflected upon the retina. Twentieth century artists rejected this assumption and tried to define a new approach.
In the past, I mean in early modern times, the first degree image on the retina was the imposed content of visual arts and submitted artists toiled to reproduce this image on the canvas. The intellect of the artist was discouraged. Today, it is assumed that each and everyone should make the best use of his intellect and visual artists struggled to reconcile the first degree image on their retina with the use of their intellect. But this was an impossible task, the intellect can't be constrained by such a narrow perception as the first degree image on the retina. That has been the dilemma of the impressionists, the expressionists, the cubists, the futurists and the surrealists. They never were able to quit this first degree image on the retina for a higher plane. To reach this higher plane, the intellect has to be let loose in order for it to flourish. But then how to let the intellect derive a visual form out of its activity?
Artists struggled with this question for all of the twentieth century and an accepted answer has still not been found.
It is my own assumption that form should not be derived from content but that content should be derived out of form. In other words, I think that the artist's culture and knowledge should be let to flourish freely out of visual forms. I believe that this is the only way to reconcile the intellect with artistic forms.
If we agree upon this idea of the precedence of content in an art work then we recognize that one content is not equal with another content. Content is relative. The ideas of the artist appear in his feelings and are thus expressed on the canvas through the automaticism of his expression. But his ideas are not necessarily the same then another artist's ideas, thus the relativity and when we speak about relativity we speak about judgment. Every individual judges but the judgments of different individuals generally do not coincide. So then whose judgment do we speak about in relation to the content of an art work? Or is there a way out to give all individuals a sort of viewing key that could lead them to judge less subjectively?
First, we have to clarify what is being judged, what are the parameters of the judment. If history is a good reference then we see that the content of art works that resist the realm of time always made sense out of the period in which they were created. In other words, those works expressed the 'Zeitgeist' of their period, they indicated how the future worldview was shaped in that present.
In animist societies, the content that is represented is what preoccupies all the individuals, food, sex, the sky and so on. In the times of the gods, the religious message is central and in initial modern times, the house and the landscape where one lives are giving its centrality to the new idea of ownership. So what do we find in later modern times and in our present day reality that is really shaping our societies?
Is there one central theme or could there be multiple themes?
I firmly believe that there is one central theme and it is 'how does our universe function'. Not only the universe far away, the macro view of the universe but also the micro view, the view of the infinitely small. So the question of our times, at least this is what I think, is how does our universe work from the infinitely small to the infinitely large and what is our personal place in all that. I believe that the central question that best characterizes our times for most of the individuals is 'how do I fit in all that'.
Starting with the idea of knowledge, we know for a sure fact that the most advanced scientific undertakings are in the field of the sciences of complexity. How does life start? Is it a godly creation or is it spontaneous emergence under specific conditions?
My views are derived from the conclusions reached by contemporary scientists and also from the study of the civilizational building blocks in Europe and principally in China. As I already stated earlier, contemporary rationality seems to fuse with traditional Chinese wisdom. What is considered central in the principle of reality is change with no start nor end, no good nor bad, only the change from one state to another state, from one moment to the next moment.
The 'Tao Te Qing' conceives of the sky and the earth as the combination, the ordering of an infinity of elements (ten thousand things) derived out of chaos. Once order is established, the sky and the earth are entering a non ending dance of changes that directly impacts on humans' lives. Let's relate this to astronomical studies and the ten thousand things become the elements of change following the big bang, their combination and ordering taking place along the 13.7 billion following years.
Life itself is then perceived as a gradual process of change starting some 4 billion years ago with the spontaneous emergence of unicellular organisms. The search for more complexity that is inscribed in the program of all cells (genes) leads then those unicellular organisms, over the following one billion years, to combine together to give multi-cellular organisms. The next steps of evolution then lead to ever more deeper levels of complexity to reach some 100,000 years ago the human form with its present day characteristics.
Religious believers doubt this presentation and ask about what comes before the big bang. Seeing that science is without any hard fact as of today about what came before the big bang, they conclude that god must have been the originator. But it is not because science, today is still without any hard observations about what came before the big bang that it will not tomorrow succeed to grasp such observations. Suffice for now to notice that traditional Chinese wisdom is not without answers. In this vision, the big bang is only the start of our universe following the moment of maximum concentration of all the energy that follows the implosion of matter in the universe that preceded. Our present universe is still expanding and will continue to to so till it uses all the energy liberated by the big bang. At that moment it will start to shrink till the maximal implosion of all matter into the highest concentration of energy that is bound to explode creating a new starting universe and so on.
Following this reasoning, we reach the conclusion that our universe follows a circular movement corresponding to the cycles of matter expansion and energy concentration. A cycle that appears strangely similar in form with the cycles of change described by the Yi Ching and the movement from the Yin polarity to the Yang polarity and back to Yin and so on.
Visually I see an unending spiraling life, life being the principal of change itself.
The cosmos follows one spiral but the 'ten thousand things' within the cosmos follow each a similar spiral and thus what I see now are ten thousand spirals within one huge unit that is the spiral of the universe.
That's the background of my painting, my visual perception of reality. In the foreground comes life near us.