Suggestion Box

Kasimir Malevich, Red Square: Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions, 1915. Oil on canvas, 20 7/8 x 20 7/8 in (53 x 53 cm). State Russian Museum, St. PetersburgI woke up at 4:30 am with a colored rectangle in my head and a fully-formed idea that would not let me go back to sleep. I tried. Each time, I woke again with a new rectangle, a different color and a different idea.

I don't know quite how it got there, except that I have been reading Jonathan Lehrer's Proust Was a Neuroscientist, lingering for weeks over the chapter on Cézanne, whose instinct that the brain makes up much of what we see drove him in his late works to play with how much he could leave out.

Quite a bit, it turns out. Our brains don't need a whole lot to go on in order to create a tree-covered plain or a mountain out of blank white canvas. However, I don't think Cézanne anticipated the advent of textual accompaniments to paintings, which of course is cheating - or conceptual art, depending how you look at it.

I say it's cheating because to me, text and the purely visual language of art are two entirely separate things, just as music is separate from lyrics, although they have become so entwined that there is rarely room anymore for a purely visual experience - if nothing else because everything has a title.

The way I see it, visual is visual, verbal is verbal and while many exciting works of art can result from their intersection, I believe it's worthwhile to separate them out, the better to appreciate how they affect and inform one another.

I wasn't thinking of any of this directly when the red rectangle grabbed me in the wee hours and made me sit up in bed, informing me that it was in fact a rose. Neither was the memory of my mother traveling in the course of a single conversation from describing the frustration she felt at seeing an all-white painting in the 50's in London, to excitedly proposing that perhaps it depicted something white, only zoomed in so close that she couldn't make out its form.

Suggestion Box is a serious experiment in how many clues can be removed and still evoke a specific object; in the power of our minds to see something that isn't visually described; in how words and minimal visual elements (a box filled with color) can interact in the brain to create an experience. A little bit of a tongue-in-cheek jab at conceptual art you ask? I don't know what you're talking about.

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Suggestion Box
Comments welcome