Episode 4 : Not Interpreting

Apr 2, 2014

In this episode, Stewart Cubley encourages you to let your painting tell its own story.

An excerpt from Not Interpreting . . .

One of the defining principles of process painting is “not interpreting,” not having an overriding story, not creating a narrative that explains things that arise in the painting. This is not so easy, because we’re used to building a narrative. And most of our narratives are self-referenced, they mean something about us in some fashion, they define something about our world. We’re very used to doing this, and it comes up very strongly when you begin to paint. A shape emerges, and you may say to yourself: It looks like a tree. This is simply recognition, there’s no interpretation — a tree is a tree. And then you find that the branches of this tree want to reach up towards the top of the painting and even further — reaching so far that you need to add another piece of paper. And there’s something that feels good about the movement as you extend the branches upward.

Then somebody shows up. The interpreter sneaks in. He’s very convincing in his subtle and insidious way. He says: This tree represents my spiritual nature. This is a statement of my reaching towards that which is beyond. And then you notice that everything slows down — in fact, everything has come to a screeching halt. Because now you’ve got this big idea, and the painting has become a means to an end. Creating the narrative defines the painting — and now that it’s defined, it becomes precious. You say to yourself: I really want this to be a profound expression of my spiritual yearning. I wouldn’t want something coming into the painting that showed other than that, that wasn’t even more of an expression of my spiritual yearning. In fact I think others might like this. I wonder whether this might even go in a gallery?

And so you can see how the mind will take the reins and start running. At this moment I’ll often ask, “Is the painting leading the story or is the story leading the painting?”

Listen to learn more!

Share this: