PORTRAIT OF A WAVE

25 Sep

The 17th century mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz observed that you cannot deduce reality from a single source. Everything was interconnected and such things, material and otherwise, “cannot be conceived in their bare essence without any activity, activity being of the essence of substance in general.” By then, inquiry into reality had been an art project for some time. Painters had, it was agreed, reached a certain understanding. Two hundred and fifty years later this understanding, built largely on mathematics was being challenged in France even as it consumed the Western world.

In the Autumn of 1876 a young, struggling Swede visited Paris and was confronted by the work of the Impressionists. He was hostile at first. But he quickly understood. Monet was not painting a bustling throng of people, he was painting the bustle. A bustle “is a movement after all – is it possible to paint a movement?” August Strindberg would go on to succeed as a writer. But, less famously, as a painter he answered that question in his own way.

A wave is nothing but a movement. When one looks at the waves one sees the place where metrics end and a new conception of reality begins; the particle fluctuations, the way things really are. In landscape, in waves especially, one finds the Truth that cannot be expressed in words. I find landscape a very personal thing. I don’t plug in too often.

Tim Bruce’s “Tumult” is a portrait of a violent wave, it seems to me, on a moonless night. It’s a medium sized canvas from white to almost black blue. An emotionally subterranean picture: not an objective look at a wave (no such thing). Instead a feeling thru of the wave’s way; please forgive the lousy Lao Tzi riff.

Vivid blue darts strike down against the white foam evocative of birds. From under the waves do I see some mysterious gathering on a beach? A storm has arrived, we are frozen in the violence of its first blow. The picture is a chunky mesh of pigment; no brush strokes: rendered by palette-knife. Dancing on the end of the waves, bright yellow glints hook the whole thing together. Sunlight glints but no sun, strange. Where does this intense light come from amidst such destructive darkness?

Tim used to be a meteorologist which doesn’t explain his work. But it makes him more interesting. The weather is chaos. Chaos and flow in that order. A meteorologist’s job, as far as the economy is concerned, is to subject that chaos to the rigors of rationalist efficiency. Lots of maths, involved, and politics too these days I’d wager. But “Tumult” like every other Tim Bruce painting I’ve seen has nothing to do with measurement.

I guess Turner might’ve been the first artist we know about who faced the truth that the you can’t really draw a cloud. That waves and clouds show us how everything moves and that in this movement the raw force which is Nature’s more primal truth reveals itself to us. Can you paint a movement? Indeed you can but you must look in to do it. Bruce does it, check it out.

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