Behold the Light

by Alden Cole on December 23, 2013 · 0 comments


aka Show of Hands, aka Sleight of Hand, oil on canvas, 27″ x 46″     $1242

2010. In February, Robin Hotchkiss of Salon des Amis gallery in Malvern PA called to see if I would be interested in participating in her upcoming spring group show – Show of Hands. The usual size requirement applied:  1 large piece, 2 mediums, or 3 smalls. I was delighted to be included in such a themed show, and immediately set to work on a new large piece, using a stretched canvas that had been sitting in the studio for years, untouched, unclaimed by any idea that said “Paint Me!” Suddenly I had a subject to develop on this blank, waiting surface. Revisiting some old sketches prompted a concept, which prompted some photographs, which prompted setting to work in early spring. The painting sessions flew by, even the more tedious final steps of applying the sparkle. Reaching a point of stopping is always a delicate dialogue between the part of self that wants to press on with more experimentation, even at the loss of simplicity gained, and the spontaneous beauties that emerge when one paints in the abstract. Then there’s the part of self that recognizes when to stop, the moment of truth and ultimate action, as revealed by a statement from Simon Schama’s excellent history, Rembrandt’s Eyes:

“Rembrandt has understood — and acted on — an optical principle which was beginning to be understood (though seldom practiced) but which would become a commonplace of modern painting, namely, that the rough surface engages with, and stimulates, the activity of the eye far more powerfully than a smooth surface. The rough and the smooth surface, in fact, presuppose quite different relationships between artist and spectator. The unequivocally completed, clear and polished work of art is an act of authority, presented to the spectator like a gift or a declaration, something requiring acceptance rather than an answering-back. The roughly fashioned, apparently unfinished painting, on the other hand, is more akin to an initiated conversation, a posed question, demanding an engaged response from the beholder for its completion. Smooth artists necessarily take pains to conceal to the utmost any of the revisions and alterations they might have made on the way to the finished object. Rough artists deliberately expose the working processes of composition as a way of pulling the spectator further into the image.”

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