A series of narrative improvs painted Oct 2006 to May 2007, by Chris Wayan
I just decided to explore what I REALLY love--what REALLY makes me happy--ignoring practicality! Idealists get dismissed these days with "That's utopian." But why not dismiss all the current manufactured crises with "That's myopian?" I want to look long-term. Deep. Beyond this dystopia.
What are we ignoring?
ROOTS AND INTENTIONS
UTOPIA is a set of 36 images forming a narrative--not a graphic novel but a graphic poem, I guess; almost a painted song. The nearest parallel I can think of is Glenn Dakin's gentle rant Abe: Wrong For All the Right Reasons (Top Shelf, 2001) but in fact I read Abe a month or two after finishing Utopia. My real inspirations were much older: underground comics from the hippie era, trying to express the inexpressible insights of meditation (and lots of 'shrooms), like Dan O'Neill's wild, funny Hear the Sound of my Feet Walking, Drown the Sound of my Voice Talking (Glide Press, 1969) and Susan Morris's dreamy acid-head Eternal Comics (Last Gasp, 1973).
I wanted to speak freely from the heart and paint entirely from... behind the heart. That deeper place. Where shapes and colors come from--if you let them.
It's all improv. That was the only rule. I could paint anything, but throw nothing away. Well, I allowed myself a single scratch page to work out lettering, since I'm bad at it. But that's all. To redo an image I had to paint over the old--couldn't toss the page and start on a blank. If I got stuck, I couldn't go back a few pages and veer off, avoid the path of trouble I'd painted myself into. I had to build on what I'd done, no matter how stupid. Like history, politics, life.
I painted with acrylic diluted so it was almost watercolor. But not: if I let a page dry, and then put more "watercolor" on top, the older paint didn't bleed as real watercolor would, while the wet stuff did! Amazing stuff, acrylic. Rather like layers in Photoshop!
I painted on paper--card stock designed for an inkjet printer, glossy, smooth, and clay-coated to absorb ink and keep it from spreading. But I was pouring watercolor on it! This war between saturation and sponging caused weird bubbly, granular and streaky textures you never get on art paper or canvas or wood panels. I liked it. I've reproduced the pages so big to show how they really look; displayed small, the real texture's lost. Also, I was working very close, and they looked this big to me; I often felt more like a cartoonist working panel by panel than a painter seeing the whole piece. Or a politician trapped in daily crises, unable to see let alone implement the whole of a heartfelt vision... I groped through a maze, and it shows.
Midway through the set, I started tearing the papers, too. The black background should show off the shapes. (My, such alliteration!)
These are vertical pages 800 pixels wide and about 1050 tall, so make your browser window big or turn your phone vertical.
Try to read and view simultaneously, or at least switch back and forth as much as you can--don't get hooked on one and ignore the other! Your reading brain follows the argument in words, and while that rationalist is distracted, the viewer can swoon with ecstasy (well, psilocybin) at the patterns and textures. Sigh-key-delic!
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