It is always helpful to know something about the artist so as to make the work more comprehensible to the viewer, perhaps providing some insight or commentary. If art does in fact mirror life, then it is true that knowing something about the artist’s life, and better yet, understanding just a little of what she is thinking can add an extra dimension to standing in front of a work and trying to make a connection.
In my life, discipline and structure are always at odds with freedom and abstraction. When I first read “Tonio Kröger”, a short story in an anthology by Thomas Mann, I immediately re-read it for I could not believe that someone else could be struggling with this very same situation. Tonio, a poet seems to have one foot firmly planted in Bohemia and the other in the very commonplace world of the bourgeoisie. When he favors one at the expense of the other, he feels irritated and unhappy. Mann writes that Tonio was a “bourgeois who went astray into art, a bohemian homesick for his decent background and an artist with a bad conscience....I stand between two worlds, I am at home in neither”.
This ongoing struggle is, to my eye, visible in virtually all my work. If one looks carefully, always there is structure, geometry and discipline that is working in defiance of a brush stroke and palette that is bold and free. Past attempts to complete a work that was all about color and a lush brush stroke failed utterly, and other pieces in which there was no softening of rigid structure, no complement to power and form also failed in terms of being a complete and satisfying work.
What I find most compelling is that even if the quest for balance appears to be resolved in a particular work, it still forms the framework for further questions that require resolution in the next painting. For the moment, at least, the need for discipline and freedom have learned to co-exist.