David Carlson

Arlington, Virginia, USA

Taoist Geometry

My work has an undertone of geometry to it, not in the classic sense, but on a more esoteric level. I like to use the word poetically. On the surface, there are recognizable shapes, mostly circles, but also rounded forms and lines which are used to create movement and structure in the space. Someone observing my work once asked what the circles were all about, and I told them I felt they came from the movements in my practice of Tai Chi and study of Taoism. The circles are not direct representations of anything in particular, but come from the natural movements of the Tai Chi form and the cyclical rhythms of nature. The circles act as gathered energy or can be windows into hidden layers below the “skin” of the painting. By their physical nature, circles become fixed in space between the more gestural lines and layers that create a sense of time. Like many modern abstract artists I have no fixed ideas when I begin a group of paintings. I find the work through process. Past the obvious physical qualities, the paintings are more about intuited psychological space.

In the later part of the 1900s, I had been looking for definitions and constructs to make some kind of sense or definition of the changes and slip-stream mentality of society and the virtual era we live in. Much like the modern artists of the early twentieth century such as Miro, Klee, and Malevich, I began looking deeply into my own inner being and also to subjects outside the confines of my own culture. Through this process, I became interested in time, space and energy. The ancient idioms, a time that’s not a time and a place that’s not a place, were very important in opening the door for me to explore the idea that past, present and future coexist at the “same time.” My imagination could slip between the cracks and play with the possibilities. Even though this idea was difficult for my logical “conscious” mind to comprehend, I have found it interesting that contemporary physicists have constructed computer models that support this abstract idea about the nature of time. The paintings’ layered surfaces include heavy texture, scraped areas, fresh paint and milky veils, which allude to the collision of random sequences not found in the tightly wound world of linear time.

These concepts of time combined with the influences of my travel to other countries have produced new interpretations in my work that explore movement and a sense of place. Every country and culture adds something new to my life, and with these experiences come new twists in my work. Earlier concepts and archetypal ideas that I had been working with prior to my travels abroad were thrown out the window when I was exposed to cultures that still embraced these realities, which had become dreams in the contemporary world of techno-cultures. Abstraction crosses the perceptible boundaries and without having specific objects or identifiable “real” sources for subject matter, it allows me to look directly at these diverse ideas in an intuitive manner. Ultimately, I feel I am headed in a direction to make paintings for the world. By blending Western sensibilities of modern painting with Eastern philosophical ideas rooted in Taoism and Buddhism, I have been constructing contemporary mandalas that play with the nature of movement and space in a densely packed turn of the century free for all. In what other time could one listen to a tape of a Mexican soul singer who lives in Canada, while riding in a Citroen on a back road near the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.

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