Michael Kessler

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Inner Dynamics /Natural Process
Nature provides the basis upon which my work exists. Thirty-five years ago I began by painting landscapes, but through prolonged and careful observation, it was the inner dynamics of the natural world that grasped my attention. The questions of how and why nature looked the way it did began to drive my work. I wanted to peal away the surface so that I could better understand the inner workings of nature. I wanted to do this within the realm of art, however, not science. I began to sensitize myself to the natural processes that were responsible for the appearance of the natural world like sedimentation and erosion. Gradually my painting process took on the characteristics of these natural processes. I invented the process, and that process created the images that became my paintings.

The Painting Process
The process involves the application of many layers of marks and skins. A sandwich of information is built up to reveal the passage of time and its own creation. Structures both organic and geometric are laid down under and between translucent skins of paint. These skins are applied with a variety of trowel-like tools I’ve invented or adapted. The pressure used during the application of a skin determines the degree to which the underlying structures and gestures appear or disappear. Much of the initial painting is buried beneath subsequent layers of paint, but remains visible to varying degrees.

A painting can appear to be very simple, but upon closer observation, many hidden or partially hidden aspects become felt. In this way discovery is a big part of the experience of the piece. It is the many surprise discoveries that keep me connected to my work.

Intuitive Procedure
There is very little planning involved with the work. It is an intuitive procedure like a kind of “call-and-response” whereby each new set of marks or skins is a response to the previous set. Throughout the development of the work, this constellation of visual information goes through a metamorphosis and transitions through many varied states. In the end what is left is a kind of record of this transformative journey. In this way the work is improvisatory.

Appearances are deceptive, and anyone who is interested in the true nature of the universe knows that there are far more questions than answers. “The more we know the more we know we don’t know.” I want my paintings to reflect both the desire to know and the futility of trying to know. The main thing I want my work to convey, however, is a sense of awe and wonder at the vast universe we can never comprehend. That is how I feel about the world we inhabit, and those are the feelings I want my work to express.

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