Thursday, August 16, 2007

Craig Stephens: Star Thistles #5

This painting is overpowered by the ambiguous background. It is unclear whether it represents a wall somewhere inside an apartment or the darkness of a starless night outside. Not entirely starless: the two flowers may conveniently replace the absent astronomical bodies, as their name aptly implies. Though the milky surface upon which the bottle stands reflects the soft moonlight, the yellow blossoms are the two brightest objects in this piece, emphasized by the contrasting black behind them. Indeed, they are the stars of this piece.

Which leads me to a furore of another kind: the slender flowers remind me of a ballerina performing a solo dance. If we focus on the events inside the glass, the two stems appear to be walking, taking a step after a graceful step, and perhaps carrying the container with them. The bottle refracts the light, breaking their straight lines; several floating yellow petals denote the presence of water, which further distorts the original image. On top of that, the structure of the stems allows for segmentation and the emergence of knees -- all of these modifications add up to produce an illusion of movement, performed by the elegant legs trapped inside the green bottle.

Out of the glass, the flowers remain static until, if we follow from the bottom and upward, we find the blossoms, two bursts of energy. Actually, such violent outcome would seem unfitting for a ballerina dance. Perhaps a cheerleader should take over: the pompons are already there. After all, there is a prima donna in every dancer, be it on stage or on the grass of a football field. And in this associational spirit, it is impossible to ignore the victorious "V" formed by the stems.

I think that every viewer can find something for themselves in this painting: there is a point of strong tension in the center of the piece, where the bottle and the two flowers meet. It is so distorted, it may even be difficult to make out where each stem goes. On the other hand, there are the two vivacious yellow spots, laying on beds of perky white thorns. And yet still, the bottle green and the black background offer a stolid, calming distraction. Perhaps the artist intended for the viewer to alternate momentum and focus on a different theme with each viewing, or during a single session. It is either that, or you have to be performing an entrechat while observing it -- just like I did.


ming said...

what would a painting be without a title?

a painting is our search for meaning, art commentry, is a search for meaning, within that meaning...

great commentry!

Elijah said...

...I agree, though sometimes I think this may be too of a convoluted loop. It's good that there's always the painting if words become tiresome.