At times, I stop working on a painting even though I am sure that it is not finished. Having no idea what to do with it, I leave it alone. I walk away from it and come back to it the same night or the day after. In some cases I visit the painting over and over again for months, until my hand musters enough courage to work on it. Most of the time I realize that all it needed was a small finishing touch, which could be erasing something from it rather than adding anything to it. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said “In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” The painting always has a way of telling me if it’s happy. There are times, when I start reworking on a piece by making very minor alterations, but soon the piece changes identity and by the time I am done, it becomes a completely different piece.
In some cases a painting comes too easy and I find myself with too much energy left in me to stop. I feel that I have not purged enough, or the catharsis is not over, so I turn a deaf ear to the painting and continue working on it until I kill the piece by overworking. This is what Gorky meant when he said “When something is finished, that means it’s dead.” And this is exactly why the best paintings, writings or films are the ones that have an unfinished quality about them. They are the ones that are not completely dead, the ones that are still breathing and that is why there is something disturbing about them – an aura of captured experience that makes you stop, ponder, feel and live with. The more finished a piece of art is the more uninteresting it becomes, because there is no room for interpretation, no room for freshness.
“Antilias” 60 x 72 Acrylic on Canvas 2008. Collection of John Densmore (Drummer of the Doors).
Photo: Mher Vahakn