rev., Sep 13, 2020.
with mention of Ficre Ghebreyesus.
To start off the post-lockdown, still by reservation, season from covid, I posted about Walter Price, at Greene Naftali.
What I like about these paintings, in a subcategory of the “new figuration” or “witchy painting” or “Zombie figuration” that is sweeping through, still (and glad of that, I was fearing, the lockdown had killed the impulse), is that they are hypnagogic. What I mean by that is that they have stepped back from rational consciousness, then, too, the categorization of the rest of the brain by the rational prefrontal as either fantasy or whatever; and actually delved down into the vigilogogic altered states, or hypnagogic light dream states that we now know exist in transition to full-on REM dreaming. These zones are real in art, as I have found that by a function I call the Big Sleep movies have made extensive use of visual strategies taken from light stage dreaming to make better sense of consciousness. Also, while the political world is locked in reactive zones of hard-set fixed-opinion rational/irrational states, leading in the stuckness to endless churn of exploitational evasions, only a fuller sense of the mind and how I works will break us out of it. Strangely, then, I argue that hypnagogic painting is helpful in leading to a new age of wokeness, with a more informed and nuanced understanding of the uses of rationality (and magical thinking being the exploitational form).
Then, this means all I have to do in order to “read’ the dynamic of hypnagogy that an artist is working with is, just as with a movie still, look for the effects of the entoptic, symbolic, lattice, whoosh or REM stages. Then, second, I have to determine if there is any internal dynamic present, or situation in a place in the mind (such as fata morgana). Finally, I have to determine if the picture stays entirely in hypnagogy, spends some time going back and forth between hypnagogy and vigilogogy, wanders out into Ambience, or even goes far out into Sentience. With these three readings, none too easy, if it turns out that an artist seems to be working in a way informed by knowledge of this inner topography of the brain, then it has “visual wisdom;” if, however, the art represents the stereotypical depiction of fantasy etc as the prefrontal sees the rest of the brain, then, no; then, too, if the art is simply using strange or eccentric painting devices derived from surrealism to depict this world as that world, without consideration of the phenomenology of it, that too, I am less interested in. Painting-wise, I seem to favor “figuration” which is immersed in hypnagogy, and depicts the world as if it is too. These kinds of paintings can open up the mind.
So, what I liked about Walter Price’s work is that it IS hypnagogic, then stays primarily in the entoptic and symbolic levels. For example, this skidding, or time-swipe gesture in 1 for Mayhem, 2 for Mischief (2020)
is a clear movie visual device evocative of time moving too fast past one, but with precedent in painting too (I am thinking of some tachiste-ists).
Then, too, An Activity of the Spirit (2019) features tree clouds as they would appear in the entoptic zone of hypnagogy, floating, phantom things, also, deeply resourced.
But, then, after having established this, the pull of the painting is that it sinks in, or crosses a line, from entopty to symbolic, that is, the glass onion/coffin state. So, it drops down. There is, on a horizon, in the symbolic level, an object, an open box, mysterious, made more so by the painting seeming to, in whole, zero in on it. An interesting added detail is that Price seems to know that it manifest as a memory out of nothing, as there is a shadow of a blue outline behind that, which indicates its indeterminancy. Then, even more surprising, the box seems to emit a smoky cloud. This is the equivalent of the black cloud emitted by a construct I call the Sleeper in that precinct of the glass onion/coffin level, which suggests that, then, the partly reclining, a bit more “realistic” palm tree on the right is the other Sleeper, the viewer of this picture, looking back, upon waking up, through the cloud, to a void, which then sinks down back over the Luor, or space between waking and dreaming to make of the terrain a kind of hellscape.
In other words, no question, this is a psychodynamic painting, and, if I apply my graphs to it, it is also a a rendering of a “formation,” if out of the usual color scheme, and entailing an inanimate object, which is a void, an opened, empty box. It could even be said to represent the process of creating a painting, in the manner of a Famulus: set an inanimate object down, watch it react to the surroundings (i.e. animate), paint that.
I am also tempted to call it a spin painting, using that phrase as the less technical version of the word psychodynamic. And it certainly is a strange screwing in of my interests that just as, during lockdown, if have begun to have to create for myself, to remember and generalize knowledge from graphs, scirpographs of my charts, which sometimes look like little paintings, this would be the scirpograph version of this painting.
That is, inanimate object in the glass onion/coffin second zone of hypnagogy, it is also the site of The Sleeper, who casts up a dream over vigilogogy, which then compromises the view of another sleeper, for the phantom trees to work as the deadfall, and the grounds filled in below. The structure and the idea of the picture, reinforced by faint blue lines behind it, is that the box is the Alladin’s lamp, or Pandora’s box, of some painful memory (the blue line indicates), this then casts up a pall over light dreaming, which distorts everything else. But that spin around it also promises the possibility of figuring out what is in the box or why it triggered this response.
Interestingly, our minds pretty regularly negotiate with such images. For example, there is one primal memory from my childhood that I keep seeking after. It involves a sort of cut-out book by which one could create cardboard houses, whether for Christmas or not I do not know. I have for many years had a vague memory of it, seeking it out as the ultimate ur place of my imagination, a place of deep safety and uncanny secrecy. I have never been able to come up with it. But, in the past two weeks, for uncertain reasons, I feel it has been very close to rising up back into consciousness. I see slightly more filled in mental images of it, it might be getting close, though it still holds off. But that is why I have said that Price’s paintings seem to capture something “on the tip of the tongue,” that is, the notion that it is something of importance to know has been established, but, for some reason, consciousness cannot get there yet, it is just out of reach.
Based on the phrase the “tail of the eye,” in M.R. James, and then from his working out of scares of this sort (see my treatment of Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968)), the “conjure vector” is a five-stage model of approach by which a demon attacks one’s sense of security. This dynamic has become a powerful tool in my arsenal, in analyzing how people respond to fearful things. But, now, maybe there is a memory trace too. That would be vertical, with some hope of finding the “smoking gun” buried deep in, or under, REM. So, perhaps, something like this.
That is, an inkling appears in the mind, at the symbolic level; the mind bears down on it, believing it to be, somehow, important, a clue to something; it then goes searching for its meaning or memory in deep REM, finding it or not; if it is found, it then rises up (opposite of whoosh, but not really, a whoosh-up); this, then, results in a reaction, at the symbolic level, of either a positive response, or revelation of the “truth shot”; or a negative result, which is triggering, whereupon it is sent immediately back where it came from, repressed again. The parentheses mean that I think this IS a shallow loop in the central core (I placed it to the left for clarity sake only). By this measure, then, there is another quality added to the sleep or cloud of the Sleeper, it comes up as a revelatory cloud from deep REM, it is a menacing one, triggering on surfacing. But, then, this means that in the Price the excitement of the painting is that it is implied that the box somehow triggered a response and this painting captures its first tremoring as a result of the process of zeroing in on it, it suggests the activation of the memory in hypnagogy to find out what it means, but it leaves it there, in suspense. This creates a painting of deep visual wisdom, it rests comfortably, responsive to humans, because no human alive does not know this feeling, it’s uncanny, something about that box, what CAN it mean?
This dynamic is even more effectively worked out in the aptly titled, for that is what this is a picture of, A Tear in the Static of Everyday Life (2019).
Just on the surface, this space is familiar, psychodynamically, this is the Blue Room, a place of pain in the brain, which occurs when one is in an actual state of 7-10 level pain, shutting one’s eyes to it, and there you see the Blue Room (an afterimage of the blue dot). Since this is not full-on, bullseye Blue Room, that is, in the core, afflicted by lightning blasts, I place this one in the adjunct lattice level. Also, the memory of it is somewhat compromised by interference from reason (thus the extra “frame” of the line below and on the left, which represent a “peripteral” barrier to entirely taking it in). This suggests to me that this room, for Price, is a locked=in space, not unlike Stephen King’s notion of the lockboxes of the brain, which can only be enforced in locking by the continued interference and repression of it by the rational mind, thus the brackets and braces.
But, it is, after all, a form of the Blue Room, and a picture of pain. The fact that there is one piece of furniture in the room, then that it is overcast, literally, by an artificial rain storm, raining on the couch, animating the inanimate; then that the main feature of the room is its all-over blue walls, and, more importantly, its blue door, these accentuate the lock on it, then the “tear” is just a momentary bout of depression, which makes one think of things and be upset (I fight them off almost daily, and am often, now, prone to tear-jerk crying, even when I don’t actually care about whatever it is I am watching or writing about)
And, of course, this works as a trope too, because there is strong evidence of just this sort of bare essentials room, made use of in movies and art. I immediately see it, Price from Georgia, as a counterpart to my writing on the main room in Manos: Hands of Fate (1966), in El Paso (see link), a totally blue room, centered on a door leading to a deeper place, and then some sculptures evoking fears.
Here, with Price, it is the cloud and the rain that represent the “tear” in one’s mood in space, and that resulting in the “tear” of unreal “tear jerk” tears in impulsive crying. But, again, what makes it work is exactly its psychodynamic quality, its spin, which is conveyed by its hypnagogic style of painting just enough to evoke it, and its hypnagogic scene-setting, like a dream, but without any explicit references to the “surreal” (which is what dreams look like through the telescope of the rationalists who skip everything between them and their spied upon sighting of an element of dream). This is at present my favorite painting of this season.
Also, so that I can demonstrate that it is not about appearances, but how the mind of the artist processes and presents the trope, I also find the Blue Room in another painting, Windows (2002-07), by Ficre Ghebreyesus, at Lelong, in September, and it is the same trope, but in this case the frightening panel is a window (which make be worse than a door) but the difference here is that, Ghebreyesus works from a POV that I think is, in fact, suspended in the Luor, or the in-between, so, the painting, my post.
then my general post on his work,
But, now, a final point to be made, which I made in my post. The paintings are very open, they spin, in fact, spin is all, in this one, Mayhem Mischief (2020), possibly, then, a lockdown painting (or maybe even a comment on the demonstrations-that-always-turn-into-riots, or the “unrest” as it is now called, worrying over these dynamics in current politics), but the basic techniques are Ambient, that is, I think Price’s mind exists in Ambience, spinning around OUTSIdE of the comforts of hypnagogy
This means that his POV is spinning outside the formations of hypnagogy per se, and as such has about it the quality of high wind, ambient noises, whisperings, whatever. When I first wanted to say something I thought maybe Price had the same POV as Nicholas Roeg in his 1970 Mick Jagger movie, Performance, from a spot I call the Bridge Burner POV, but it doesn’t quite match, as Roeg sees chaos either side of his POV and negotiates the jump from vigil to hypnos between. That doesn’t happen here. At present, I will simply place Price’s POV out in the ambient zone, and he is looking back in. For this, his search has a yearning quality that adds an extra frame of psychodynamics to it, that makes things float even more.
That said, I guess I do think that the only place this sort of sideways zoom could exist in nature is in the Luor, the space between vigilogogy and hypnagogy.
As a visual device in the culture at large, it, of course, relates to other painters who did a full-brush smear, many examples.
In general movie visual culture this smear was made use of often, going back even to The Phantom of Crestwood Manor (1931), where it was used, as I worked it out, to shift from the telling of the tale, to the flashback in time to it, from the fictive to the ground stage vis a vis the audience in relation to it
It also relates to a more general device which has been revived in this “discursive era” of movies, the hypnagogic wobble-wobble reset, casting, in a whole sequence, the movie into a different place, the mirrors in Suspiria, etc; Lucy going down the stairs five times in I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) is an example.
And also relates to the more solely technical device, a screenwipe, to simply clear our mind of what it is focusing on, to get us to focus on something else.
But, then, in that flux, Price opens up two small windows (and, this is, in fact, how this works, I have seen the device in movies, out of the smear, especially in vigilogogy, a blue dot floats, then “boils,” then, as in the Sunken Place in Peele’s Get Out (2017), a detail emerges)
.But, then, finally, as to the question of where in the hypnagogic zones this is, my guess, again, is it remains in the Ambient space, and is not in the Luor, that is, this is some sort of storm Price is encountering out in the phthchth, the desert of meaninglessness, and I know this because, once again, it is set as if also, to be read with a second meaning, the stuff of a kind of landscape, or desert, and, the sky is yellow, and, amazingly, the SUN IS BLACK
From close-up, it is also suggested that this could be a sea, an ocean, something cast out into it, but, the amazing thing is the Black Sun has come up repeatedly since the beginning of the George Floyd-based demonstrations for BLM to alter by petition the policing of the Black community by white police. This is a symbol that only appears out over the phthchth, or a landscape of despair. It exists, in fact, when one goes past the Black House, another construct, or sees it from the backyard of the Black House (it is fun to think of Price maybe having this “vision” from the backyard of the Washington dc black house). The Black House is not here, but it might be the ultimate POV from which he sees things. The Black Sun is the sun of despair trying to light again, over the sentient zone beyond. So, this might go further out. To me, the original memorial mural for George Floyd in Minneapolis in the days immediately following the police killing was strong because his head was framed by a flaming sunflower, and, in that context, the black core, inscribed with the names of others killed in the same way, was the Black Sun, it bespoke the gravity of this “last straw” moment, that police oversight of black neighborhoods or stops has become not only fearful, by placing this Figment bogeyman always at the tail of the eye in the African American experience, but to signify that it has happened again, it keeps on happening so much, it is devastating the community, in ways that are making people crazy. In any case, it is interesting that it is here.
Finally, though, in Allegory of Cave Theory (2020) which might well be a lockdown painting, the dynamics have seemed to shift back into hypnagogy, with then a vertical pulI
I would say here this is a lot like Kabakov in The Man who Flew into Space from his Apartment (1989), that chair by an echo form of it above, passes over, as if is launched on a squall of yellow paint which then, once it gets up into vigilogogy, dissipates a bit; then, it seems that a photograph has been placed in the view to represent the too-much oppressive presence of a lockdown scene, this then weighs on lattice hypnagogy, to make it only possible to paint random abstract “form constants”, floating in the mind. So, like this.
The picture within the picture, though as a trope a stairwell can represent the whoosh into REM from above, here looks like a view from the apartment, so it plays the role of the High Light, a constantly intervening light from consciousness, lingering in hypnagogy, to keep one from getting to sleep; even upsetting the very circulation of vigilogic entopty formation of pareidols from which afterimages of float down into dream, here it just suspends him in the space, no resolution, entirely blocked. For that, though, it remains a perfect depiction of whatever insomnia is with painting picture-blocking?
Finally, Price does have a still wider spin in ambient space in his work. In Psychological Acceleration (2018), it seems that his mind takes an even wider spin, to take in a whole landscape, with, then, insets of symbolic presences, in the symbolic level, to from that create a dreamy impression of a drive.
He then looks back to an ambient memory, constructed of Letterspace, Icon symbolism, then more entoptic or lattice effects, above and below. And what tells me that these are almost, really, in their conception, like charts or graphs, is that these sorts of icon-like (in the computer sense) indications of content, without being the content, are exactly the same device I make use of in my graphs. All this signals, then, that his ambient imagination is, in its dynamics, always spinning from one stage to another, entering, scenically, into the world of roadtrip landscape, a tradition so rich in American movies I need hardly mention it (but, I did write about it in my analysis of Chapter 11 in Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), comparing it, also, to Scorsese’s use of it with an overlay of Camille’s theme in Casino (1990)), so, for me, these are a bit easier on the eyes, in that it is a well-traveled zone of hypnagogy, the only possible difference being (not having looked into the content) that while in the mainstream such a drive is liberating, perhaps among African Americans such a drive continues to be contested (a theme that comes up, in fact, in Lovecraft Country (2020; the novel, 2016, about the 1950s).
All in all, then, this is the second time I have found, this season, a painter who is delving into hypnagogics (the first was Brandi Twilley), which is my wheelhouse, either side of a “surreal” enhance-sploitation of rationality; or others who go off into pure surreality, none of which is real, so, now, Walter Price, his hypnagogic painting represents strategies, at a time when lockdown brain irrationality is toxic, to open up the mind to its greater possibilities again.