WORKS
Bruce Stahnke - Paintings and Prints

I paint what I love.

One day all of what we love and cherish, all that we despise and hate, and even that which we ignore and cannot understand will disappear from this earth.  We can do nothing to change this, no trace can be meaningfully preserved, no remnant will remain.  In the face of disintegration and dissolution we can only say yes.  Yes, to being here now; yes to sharing this time with all that is now here; yes to experiencing the painful and poignant beauty of the transient. 

 

The fleeting nature of living things is common to all, and through this commonality we can know our kinship with the rest of life, and our belonging to this infinitely complex, fluid, evolving, uncertain, endlessly interrelated, never-to-be-repeated world.  Painting consists of the transformation of what was seen through immersion in this ephemeral world by what was felt in its presence.  This is what I paint, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Water is singular, it joins all living things in one vast and restless ocean cycling through endless incarnations of bodies connecting them, molecule by molecule, it becomes many things endlessly changing from the snowflake to the sea, and while it itself is not living it is the medium life is born into and out of which it is made.  Water is literally what we share, and what shares us, with the rest of nature.  

Awe and wonder in the presence of nature are unmediated responses connecting the perceiver and the perceived and dissolving the one into the other.  The smallest of experiences can be enough to transport you into this dissolution.  Painting is the direct perception of the connection with nature in the presence of dissolution.

We live in an era when people have mostly taken sides over the spiritual and the scientific, paradoxically both share one belief: metaphor is a lie.  It is the literal that is pervasive, perhaps this has always been so and metaphor was only tolerated when its misinterpretation could be useful.  We have mistaken metaphor’s power for its weakness.  Yet metaphor is what we use to understand the world and find our home within it. 

 

Alice is fierce, Alice is a tiger.  Alice magically turns into a tiger at night and stalks the villagers, Alice seems like a tiger because she’s so fierce, Alice’s DNA is human so she’s not really a tiger.  All of these perspectives share the same literal approach that Alice is, or Alice is not, a tiger. The simile that Alice is like a tiger holds both apart for contrast and comparison.  The metaphor holds both up in double exposure and does not ask for a decision.

If idolatry has any meaning it is the mistaking the metaphorical for the literal.  Only when we hold in our minds that Alice is, and is not, a tiger is our reality informed by something more than each separately, something greater than both together, there is no other way to talk of the transcendent.  All art is metaphor.

When out walking very early or very late I will sometimes see something I cannot immediately name.  In this light I do not know what it is, words for it have not come, I cannot name it because I cannot place it in its category.  In this short space of time before the flood of recognition the encounter is unmitigated by language.  In this short interval of undivided attention, it can be seen for what it is and not what it is called.  This is the experience I want my paintings to engender and it is the purpose of working in that region between abstraction and representation.

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