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Last semester, I decided that a painting was done whenever I saw a hippo in it. I chose the hippo because of the way the word “hippo” sounds. Hippo is two syllables. It is a jolting skipping “hip” that falls carelessly onto a waterbed of “o”. There aren’t many words that sound quite like hippo. Just say it a couple times.
The association of sound with color and form is based on my interest in the dynamics of poetry and painting. Words are read in a linear trajectory, which means that narratives unfold over time. When we talk about our lives, our interests, and our ideas, we discuss them as actions. One event leads to another that leads to something else. In contrast, paintings are read spatially, and the viewer absorbs the totality of the painting in a single moment.
The relationship between Time and painting is complicated by its spatiality. When I put down a mark, I do not put them all down at the same time. Thus, when a viewer looks at my painting, they see the residue of time passed and are left to imagine my painting process.
My painting process is centered on the interaction of forms and color in space (space being my canvas, not like, the universe, that would be cray). This objective is vague and unattainable. Forms and color interact differently in almost all situations. How, then, am I supposed to understand it?
To start this larger discovery of forms and color (in space), I established parameters for myself. The “hippo” is one of my parameters, the first of many. You would think that boundaries come naturally to the painter, based on their “interests”—Figuration, abstraction, feelings, philosophy, etc., etc., etc. But I am not interested in specific ideas or solely expressing myself. At the core of my work, I am interested in the way feelings, ideas, ideas of others, and external forces interact. I explore that interaction through the interaction of color and shapes on a canvas.
It seems I have whittled everything down to colors and shapes. Last semester, someone pointed at a purple blob and asked, “So, is that Lacan?” No was my response. I’m not trying to make associations between purple and Lacan. But, if Lacan was involved in the creation of that purple shape, I’m okay with it.
I could have explored this interaction with figuration, academic study, dance, etc., etc., etc., but I chose to explore it with paint. Paint is a medium that makes that makes the most sense to me. When I put down a peachy pink against an icy blue, I think everything makes a more sense—Renaissance Rome, that random text message I received two days ago, Structuralism, the anxiety that comes with moving on after college. Everything seems a little clearer.
I don’t know why paint does that. I can barely articulate it to myself. So maybe, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
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Wong, Jean, "Forming Colors (In Search of the Hippo)" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 279.
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