A Conscious Surrender

“It is when I have completely switched off my will that my body and my nerves, my subconscious self, know best when and where to let the sand fall." - André Masson

See more work by Carol Browning

Whether you’re an art history enthusiast, an art collector, or neither and know little about the history of abstract expressionism, it is likely you have heard the name Jackson Pollock. Famous for his spontaneous drip paintings, often referred to as splatter paintings, Jackson Pollock is the face of unconscious work. He was reluctant to speak about the work he produced; the inspiration and the interpretation of his paintings, crediting his pieces to his unconscious mind.

Since Pollock’s time, abstract expressionists have strived to create pieces of work which surrender to the unconscious mind, like he had, creating narratives through the paintings and sculptures themselves rather than through the written words provided by the artists.

Ben Strawn, "Portent", 56x68, acrylic on canvas

See more work by Ben Strawn

In approaching and appreciating abstract expressionism, the verbal words that you, as viewers, use to describe the pieces in front of you are equally as important to the interpretation of the pieces, as are the artists’ words to the interpretation. You must surrender your unconscious in the same manner that the artists have surrendered themselves to the creation of their work; you must surrender your desire for the interpretation to be given to you, in the same regards that the artists had to surrender their unconscious thought in order to create pieces which were not methodically planned out. As viewers we crave the meaning of abstraction; the hidden personality of the artist; the emotions felt at the time of painting; the epiphany made by the artist, however, we must repress this and ask ourselves what the painting means to us, rather than the painter.

See more work by Sara Pittman

Abstract expressionism is about the fluidity of the painting which creates unexpected results to the artist and viewer alike. Artists aiming to succeed in abstraction must come to a canvas, a panel, a paper, or a sculpture with little thought. They must dismiss any ideas of what the piece should look like and allow themselves to be immersed in the piece, allowing the mediums to take over and do the work. Abstraction is not a melody of the artist, but a harmonious song between the artist and the mediums. What results from this harmony reveals the inner mentalities of the artist; displaying a piece which reveals the artist’s personality.

See more work by Deidre Adams

The result of the unconscious mind alludes to the idea of a blank narrative in which no words can be brought to the meanings of these pieces. While each artist has provided a statement for their pieces, abstraction is not simply about the words that the artists’ share, but about the reaction and words that your mind comes up with, connecting the piece back to your life and your unconscious. After all, can we truly ask an artist to reveal the meaning of their pieces if their work was conceivably created without thought? Viewing abstract expressionism is an experience in which your interpretation reflects the triumphs, heartbreaks, and fear of your own life as a way to make sense of the chaos and uncertainty in front of you.

In this exhibition, A Conscious Surrender, we ask you to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, to judge a piece by its surface value. Approach the piece and forget that the artist had an interpretation in mind, acknowledge the emotions the piece elicits; your tie to the work in front of you, and then find missing links between the artists’ statement and your own words.

A Conscious Surrender will be on view from July 13, 2018 - September 8, 2018

Featuring Deidre Adams, Carol Browning, Anna Charney, David Mazza, Ben Stawn and Sara Pittman.