WILLIAM C. MAXWELL
Paintings, Drawings, Photographs and Prints
I am interested in moments of
slippage, where all
is possible and nothing makes sense.
Moments of slippage,
where meaning becomes nonsense and nonsense becomes knowing. Language has as its passion
definitions. Art making possesses
the incommensurability of passion itself.
My work is a process
of agnostic knowing. I seek
through the full act of painting, photographing and printmaking, from the
inventing of concept to the experience of seeing the finished work, to know how
and why art functions. I do not
want to know the work’s meaning. Abstraction,
not as an end in itself, serves this purpose by providing a way to extract and
compose sensations rather than meanings.
Abstraction allows me to passionately embrace interpretation. Not the interpretation of meaning, but
an inspection of the interpretative act itself.
Do we know? We never know! We only feel we know. My work, conceived as total process, deals with these moments of
The desire to know,
and sensing some kind of knowing fosters the perpetuation of that desire. This passion to know perpetually
intrudes and continues. The
feeling that I possess some knowledge forces me to know more, to be complete in that knowing. This is an ultimate need for
completeness, achieving perfection, even in the face of understanding that there exists only
incompleteness, imperfection. The
only “realization” of an ideal perfection, as an end in itself, is the knowledge
of reality’s imperfection.
Moments of slippage
are our most passionate moments.
These are sought in the “act.”
This is what I seek when choosing to make and see art. I seek to possess the work completely. It is the constant feeling of incompleteness
that motivates this desire for completeness. For me, the act of art making is a momentary fulfillment of
that desire for complete perfection while participating in the actuality of
Being motivated by
such a desire becomes its own passion.
To make art passionately creates the moment when the act invades me, to
a point of oblivion, where will and intent do not exist anymore. The process itself has invaded me where
it alone directs my movements, my choices, my decisions, my labor. The act alone directs the work.
The work of art as
product should reveal this struggle between perfection and imperfection. This is the authority of an artwork, of
a artwork’s beauty. To force a gaze, to force the
experience of seeing not what it means, but what you, the spectator already
know; it allows you to possess that knowledge by way of revelation.
drawings, photographs and prints reveal a search for that knowing, for the
already “known.” They take as
their inspiration abstract ideas and concepts developed out of language (the
existing doxa) and serve as homage’s to those ideas and concepts. The search, the odyssey, the quest,
this adventure into and out of abstraction allows me to feel like I am
possessing knowledge, that I have finally possessed that which I already
know. In this way, my work is self-revealing.
This is “seeing” in
its fullest sense. You see what
you know, I see what I know, and we both become possessors of the artwork.
incomplete as it is, creates the desire to see more, to “know”
completeness. The seeking, mine by
way of making the work, yours by way of gazing upon the work, is motivated by a
similar desire for perfection.
This is: a desire to see complete beauty in all its authority.
This goal, at once
doomed, is yet so inviting. The
process of making art is truly seductive, where all is possible and nothing
makes sense. Thus, moments of slippage are times
offered as potentials for affirming life.
Moments of slippage
are active, never reactive. They
stimulate the will to form, as recurrent affirmation. The metaphorical form in my works of art appears as visual
aphorisms, a terse display meant to move the viewer beyond a fixed idea (beyond
the existing Doxa) and impel one to ask why we desire unchanging truths, a complete
beauty, even when we recognize Truth as an illusion. When we ultimately realize there is no final meaning,
meaning can always be transformed.
Accepting this avoids belief and tells us we are not in
control. We want to control, and
by putting form to chaos, we feel we are more in control, we are controlling. All we have done is to control that moment while all other
moments elude us. This kind of
knowing is derived, through the invention of concepts and a creating of schema
of discovery by way of artistic instinct.
This knowing, as I
have conceived of it, is an attempt to know myself, to break from my identity,
from all identity by returning the “world” to chaos, to its original
uncontrolled character, only to control momentarily once more. To paint, to draw, to photograph, to
make prints, to create abstractly, to know abstractly is to enter these moments of
vigor, where all is possible and nothing makes sense.
William C. Maxwell