More Unfinished Business: Mandala Madness

by Alden Cole on August 16, 2015 · 0 comments

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes (29 Aug 1809 – 7 Oct 1894)

KosmoFleurWPKosmo-Fleur aka A Crack in the Cosmic Egg • egg tempera and oil paint on two 48″ diameter 3/8″ plywood half-circles hinged together. One wintery evening in 1977 I found a discarded table top on the streets of New York City returning home alone after a walk in Riverside Park where I was yet again up to no good, “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
#3.Mische1stStageWPArt kept saving me though, as evidenced by what I did find that night; my first major found-surface scored solely for the purpose of making art; a solid recyclable substrate perfect for a big painting. Although I did not know it at the time, this particular surface was going to become the ground for my third mischtechnik painting, which I started that same spring week around Easter in 1977 as the two previous Unfinished Business paintings featured recently. Circles were perfect for creating mandala forms which inspired much of my work at this time. Above, what the first circular panel looked like after the initial session using egg tempera to create the highlights over which color was later glazed in thin layers in order to preserve the luminosity underneath. A great start that reached only partial completion sometime in the early 80s when I realized two things: that my initial vision exceeded my technical abilities of the moment; plus I lacked the patience to try rendering a sea of figures that ultimately reminded me I was simply imitating my teacher/friend Linda Gardner’s paintings which were filled with dancing figures. And so I stalled sometime in the early 80s, in mid-finish, enamored with the vibrancy of the central flower, disappointed with the unresolved, muddled area above it. Another example of work which reminded me at the time of how far I had come in such a seemingly short time, and how far I had yet to go. Talk about ‘bucket lists’ – I still hope to bring these incomplete statements to a level of finish worthy of their conception. Which is why these unfinished works have travelled with me from city to city, rather than being discarded along the way. Each of these Unfinished Businesses expresses enough beauty to my eye that I still look forward to the day when the rest of the painting lives up to its beginnings.

2CirclesMischTechnikWPAt left two more early mischtechnik paintings started that spring of ’77, using mandala motifs, and painted on more found-on-the-street surfaces; a pair of recycled 30″ diameter plywood circles that were the original ends to an industrial spool wound with electrical cable, complete with center holes… good for hanging and rotating? Whereabouts of the left circle: unknown. The circular panel on the right did get colorized and is still in my possession, but was never finished or even photographed properly in its present state.

Self-Portrait2StagesWPSelf @ Age 33 • egg tempera and oil paint on masonite panel 24″ x 18″ • collection of the artist. Left: first stage of mischtechnik, started spring 1977. Right: colorized stage, reworked with oils sometime in the early ’80s, and never finished; I know, because the eyes are still brown.
This was my first attempt at a painted self portrait. I’d done numerous pencil sketches in the past from the mirror; but this was much more serious in my estimation, not to be treated lightly. This was definitely in line with my general thinking at the time; these panel paintings revealed that I was moving into new territory in my work. With the exception of a few rare pieces on canvas at the very beginning, almost all my creative work from 1974 to 1977 had been done on paper, which I sw as transitory, considering paper’s inherent vulnerability versus the more substantial nature of canvas or the solidity of panel. In 1977, with the study of mischtechnik and seeking out of more resilient surfaces to paint on, I felt like I was finally getting ‘serious’ about making art.

DiamondHealingWPDiamond Healing • egg tempera and oil paint on canvas 44″ x 44″ • started in fall 1977; last reworked 2002 • collection of the artist.

This was the first painting using mischtechnik done on canvas, as opposed to panel. It was an early experiment in which I moved away from strict adherence to the techniques explored in earlier panel paintings using mische. I learned to loosen up to the simpler satisfaction of painting thin glazes of oil, without the intervening egg tempera layers which required much longer periods of drying time. Chalk it up to the impatient experimenter in me, and wanting to achieve similar effects using new methods explored on my own; admittedly with varying levels of success. Life is a learning.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” – Walt Whitman (31 May 1819 – 26 Mar 1892)

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