The Art of Process

Conceiving a piece of work (a painting, a novel, a poem) can take 3 days or 3 years. Or it can happen spontaneously, as the brush hits the canvas. I’d think that more commonly artists chew on  the threads of a concept for awhile, as they brainstorm, twist, challenge, sharpen ideas that will eventually take form on paper, canvas, or in clay. This is all a part of the creative process. No less creative, however, are those whose art is conceived spontaneously, and even moreso, without the deliberate intent of the artist.

Zeng Fanzhi, "Untitled 08-12-19", 2008, Via Acquavella Galleries
 Zeng Fanzhi, “Untitled 08-12-19”, 2008, Via Acquavella Galleries

Consider Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi‘s technique, as shown at Art Observed:

He holds two –sometimes even four- brushes at a time, allowing him to create and to destroy form simultaneously.  As a result, the paintings convey a sensation of spontaneity and sentiment.

Holding two or more brushes in hand, an artist can conceivably control only one brush; the others are simply stragglers making their own design. Looking at Fanzhi’s works, however, you can’t separate what was spontaneously created or what was conceptually premeditated, as the two techniques are seamlessly intertwined to create the “sensation of spontaneity and sentiment.” The viewer can’t distinguish between which brushstrokes were intently applied and which ones were stragglers.

In some ways,  I think this mimics daily life. With several brushes in one hand, we meticulously guide just one brush to paint our actions; the other brushes represent our scattered, non-focused, actions. Our friends (the viewers) often cannot tell what actions/comments are deliberate brushstrokes and which are not.

And so Fanzhi has captured the process of human nature: we paint our lives with many brushes.


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