An Interior Life
Thomas W Schaller
15x15 inches August 2017
The paraphrased Wordsworth quote - "Mother Nature is the best teacher" - is often accepted by painters as something approaching gospel. And in truth , there is no substitute for actual site observation in our attempts to understand the many complexities of color, texture, and light.
But for me, there are many other teachers of equal importance. Dreams, memories, and the creative invention of pure imagination are just as critical to the artist in the attempt to tell the stories we may wish our work to tell.
We are all products of our collective and accumulated experiences. Even as we grab our painting kits and head out with the aim to simply paint the world as it is outside our door, we cannot experience that actual scene without input beyond just the the simple act of looking. It is almost an impossibility to see anything with such unfettered clarity. For example, there are always fragments of our memories of having seeing it before. We may also be informed by how we may wish to see it, or how we hope to portray it in our work. In addition, we can often be influenced by how others have seen and/or painted such a scene as well.
In short, it is all but impossible to ever paint exactly what we see as much as we paint how we think and feel about what we see. Whether we are aware of it or not, we cannot help but be informed by our thoughts and feelings about - and our dreams and memories of - the world around us. And I believe this is as it should be. In fact, if we explore this truth, it can expand our potential as artists. It truly is not what we see, but how we see that can make all the difference. And so if we broaden and deepen our vision, we can begin to look and to see in new ways, and with new eyes.
What I often try to do in my work is to find ways and methods of bypassing actual "reality" and tapping into these less tangible means of perception. Like anything else, the more I do this, the easier it becomes. Like all of us, I have a large "internal library" of sights and sounds, impressions and memories of my years of life , of moving through the world. And the fewer filters I put between those banked experiences and my easel, the more inventive, personal, and communicative my artwork can be.
My painting ,"An Interior Life" , posted above is a completely imagined view. There is no such place or view in the "real world". It is an example of the process of being inspired less by any specific thing I have seen, and more by impressions and memories of things I have experienced at some other level over the years. It is meant to be "beyond time". It could be set in the present, the near future, or in some bygone era. And the story it is meant to tell is both straightforward and intentionally vague - both quite personal and broadly universal as well. In fact, it is a tribute to the many ways we may all be inspired and motivated as much by other worlds. The realms of thought, feeling, and memory - writing, books, photographs, drawings - and the study of such pursuits, are just as real as any other sort of direct observation.
And in part, it is inspired by the Wallace Steven's poem below. I have always loved this beautiful piece of writing and the themes addressed hit home in a particularly powerful way.
Thomas W Schaller Los Angeles - August 2017
Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour
Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:
Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.
Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.
Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.
Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.