Ronald DeWitt Mills-Pinyas
Artist Statement (2024)
Thresholds; sketches on the fabric of time and space
In honor of the Slipping Glimpser
As Susan Sontag asserts in the Aesthetics of Silence, “every era has to reinvent the project of spirituality for itself.” The challenge I enjoin in this body of work is a response to advances in scientific understanding and new visual proof of the astonishing and incomprehensible universe(s) around us. To do so I find identity as a painter in the notion of the “slipping glimpser” of painter Willem De Kooning1, and I connect that unwieldy posture with the vastness and unimaginably profound realities we are discovering from deep space probes, molecular science and quantum physics. Orders of dimension, and our ability to count it, to position ourselves as humans relative to it, are indeed humbling—yet wonder persists, and through it I seek to “glimpse” what has been called “the cloud of unknowing”.
Through my art I assert no manifesto, have no political critique or special agenda, no social declarations or dialogic complaints. My intent is open, to create surfaces and transient imagery tapping on the door of infinite depths, expansive lacunes; exploring intricacies an voids we barely understand that seem to reflect a predominantly unknowable luminosity that seems to imbue our collective being. Through the process I find grounding, alignment, a reflexivity with the way things are beyond art, perhaps beyond humanity, per se. Through painting I address perception as a phenomenological process, rather than using it to name or illustrate a given object, or even more so the depiction of fixed subjects. Shimmers of light, metallic reflections change as optical incidents viewed from multiple angles and external light stimulate a conscious, engaged and moving observer. The object of art is therefore ontologically ambiguous. The mind searching to see as a fixed item experiences it as fugitive, perpetually in flux, redefining itself through immanent perceptions. The subjects appear to be a fragmented and illusory fantasy of what the object might be, positioning the viewer within a liminal space of doubt and delight, compelled to dance around the void between what is tentatively certain and yet not fully formed, as indeed we are compelled to do more broadly in life embedded as we are in one or more three-dimensional fabrics of time.
In the studio I apply heavy acrylic gel to canvas, followed by dusting the wet surface with metallic powders. I then whip and tease the surface with branches to conjure a scratchy but structured surface that eventually hardens and oxidizes into a patina, often teal in color. Sometimes vinegar is applied, creating malachite blue-green from the copper, into which I paint with valences of pigment densities, thereby marking disparate incidents as more or less evident.
Passages, as I imagine them in the moment, in different light, are structured and diffused with highlights, defining, marks, accents and cellular tracts. I keep a light hand and heart, articulating half-seen bits, chimeras as the eye scans the surface, unfocused and then riveted, seeing and not seeing—not caring which—the mind incessantly tempted to group bits and pieces into possible gestalts, or none at all as forms dissolve under our gaze. The brush dances with the body, tracing what is half-seen, completing the incomplete, dissolving one into many. One imagines more than sees. Images, in a conventional sense, appear to be absorbed into an infinite field, perhaps cubistic but from an infinite number of points of view. Naming is dubious as pareidolic images are non-discrete, simultaneously one and many—or are gone entirely; the creativity of the viewer creates what is “seen”. The art merely facilitates the process. In the studio I apply heavy acrylic gel to canvas, followed by dusting the wet surface with metallic powders. I then whip and tease the surface with branches to conjure a scratchy but structured surface that eventually hardens and oxidizes into a patina, often teal in color, sometimes vinegar is applied create malachite blue-green from the copper, into which I paint with valences of pigment densities, marking disparate incidents more or less evident. Passages, as I imagine them in the moment, in different light, are structured and diffused with highlights, defining marks, accents and cellular passages.
1. The optic and the position I associate with connect with the work of the famous “slipping glimpser”, of pioneering abstract expressionist, Willem De Kooning. A slipping glimpser is someone who slides along a beam of light, finds the eternal in the transitory, and communicates it to the rest of us.
“You know, the real world, this so-called world, is just something you put up with like everybody else. I’m in my element when I’m a little bit out of this world: then I’m in the real world – I’m on the beam. Because when I’m falling, I’m doing alright. When I’m slipping, I say, ‘Hey, this is interesting.’ It’s when I’m standing upright that bothers me… As a matter of fact, I’m really slipping most of the time. I’m like a look slipping glimpser.”
Artist Statement (2023)
My paintings seek to point to, what is fragile, even possibly frail in a world of powerful simmering explosions of color and beautiful molecular sub-realities. The delicate and sometimes daunting balance in nature we sense in my work has nothing to do with insubstantiality, but rather it hopefully evokes what is truly essential, uncovering the fundamental nature of being, what is beyond individual parts to show true essence.
Artist Statement (2021)
The COVID situation casts an existential, touchless, sometimes troubling light on the identity and relationship of individuals to one another; to relationships within families; to relationships within nations, all of which challenges us anew to define a more inclusive personal and global culture. As a painter I seek to form a wider aesthetic context in which adjacency and unity is found in the aggregate; in what carries over panel to panel through gestures; though what bridges across boundaries with color and texture; about how luminosity exposes the depths of darkness.
Language names the feelings of loss, isolation, separation and doubt. I hope to transfuse something more tangible, something to touch. The work is, in effect, an intent, a brooding, a conjuring, a healing, a calling out, perhaps an intercessionary prayer for others to manifest more than what we are a single individuals, even when was are lost in doubt. The gravity of those questions lurk, always unanswerable, mystifying, veiled. The issues transcend all that can be said, read or discussed, yet through art one is invited to experience the state of unknowing phenomenologically—with the body, mind and heart.
Artist Statement (2020)
The more formal, intellectual mathematical concerns in work from 2019 have changed. My current interest is now more urgent, tied to issues of loss, isolation, separation, doubt and hope. The visual syntax is similar, though the motive is more existential, more urgent and situational.
Through seeking to create a kind of visual dialog between multiple abstract panels, my studio work is, to me, about forming alliances, connections, the adjacency of pattern, color and gestures. Gauguin's famous existential work entitled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? has been influential to me as a painter for many years.
I am calling my current body of work Gauguin's Doubts; glance and look away. Sometimes the gravity of those questions escapes my focus but they lurk, always unanswerable, mystifying, veiled. The questions transcend all that can be said, expressing the state of unknowing on a very basic level. These panels were originally painted in Barcelona in 2017-19, some of which were grouped as the Qualia series but some of them have now been recombined and reconfigured, some repainted substantially, some with relatively minor changes as I have sought to have the panels relate, allude and in effect "talk" to one another.
Artist Statement (2019)
My work is about learning to count to one. I attend to how the eye traverses one visual quality, one composition, toward another, how awareness jumps and connects, how it is diffused and distracted; how it reconfigures sight, associative groupings, gestalts, how in the process of painting the hand, the eye, the mind and the spirit are reconnected.
Awe, for me, is found when verbal thinking is overwhelmed by the delight, that delicacy, the tumult and the weighty drama of sensation, before such is named and made fully conscious. The ineffable experience we often terminate with a declaration of its beauty, even "terrible beauty", still produces a kind of psychic vertigo; a longing and an implicit reminder of our personal insignificance in the sweep of time and space. Such meditation, for me, stills the mental chatter and provides a new platform from which to experience an eternal moment, rooted in the here and now.
In this way, my work is not about transient situations, per se, but enduring conditions.
How does the mind come to interpret sensory data, those tender, delicate, terrible, even brutal, jolting, life-changing qualities? The perception, the presence of mind to be fully with such sensations, and to be actually composed of them without flinching, often comes in kindness and stealth, in beauty, the searing sadness and pain of what is most unbearable, speechless generosity, abundance—sometimes found in grandeur, sometimes in the tiny and seemingly insignificant, in the penumbra, in the periphery of awareness, in silent depths that frame the multitude of joys, sorrows, anxieties and insecurities of life.