Thoughts on Altar (1/2)

September 15, 2017 1:06 pm Leave your thoughts


Like with most of my work, Altar started off with a vague concept and a desire to paint something because I liked the way it looked. It was a domestic scene from my girlfriend’s mother’s house that we’d now visited enough times for me to become familiar with and move from absently gazing at to actively capturing. I took a few clumsy photos of the empty windows with my arm stretching up toward the kitchen light – the illusion of 3 separate arms created by the oddly angled plates of vintage glass.

After sorting through the photos, I decided to cast everything in an inky blue similar to the fluid in a magic 8-ball with the lighter areas gradually revealing themselves like the rubber white pyramid. I wanted to make the piece huge so as to give the viewer the impression that they’re looking through actual windows, and the final piece is actually one side of an earlier diptych turned horizontally. I found as I worked on the diptych, I was sacrificing the nuances of the image for the larger size. Important visual elements were getting lost and large masses of color were being applied begrudgingly and with no enjoyment.

The title comes from my first impression of the scene. The two votive candles and framed centerpiece were left as I found them – positioned symmetrically as they might be at a place of worship – and I started playing with the idea of an altar for the faithless. The scene provided an opportunity to capture the imposing black void of the windows while also playing with the reflected light in the left window glass. My hope was to convey a blank minimalism with enough representational imagery to avoid total flatness and provide the viewer with a refracted view of the interior space they couldn’t see. I struggled endlessly with selecting the perfect hues until realizing that I could use Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson for pretty much the entire painting (and some newly discovered Manganese Blue in the dome light). If only I could magically replenish all that wasted, expensive Cerulean…

When a painting lasts long enough, you have ample time to project onto it whatever it is that’s currently concerning you the most. In the finished piece, I see all the concepts that went through my mind while creating it woven together – consciousness / unconsciousness, movement / stillness, familiar / unknown, spiritual / faithless, struggle and peace. None of them wholly define it and that’s the way I want it to be – begun with serious intent but ended as something malleable.

Learn more about the concepts behind Altar >

(Click on first image and use left/right arrows to view slideshow)

Altar timelapse original

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This post was written by mryczek

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