The wire outline
I was at lunch with an artist today and asked him about his work.
“I keep pushing ahead and it changes,” he said.
I asked him to describe a creative phase that was particularly distinctive.
He became animated as he talked about the challenge of adding a third dimension to his painting.
“I painted a very realistic sky and I took a piece of wire and stretched it across the canvas. I took more wire and made a man. Arms and legs, hung him off the wire. It’s a tightrope. It came to me in a plane one day.”
Was he able to capture the tension embedded in the juxtaposition of the flat canvas and the twisted wire sculpture, I asked.
He wiggled his hand.
“Maybe ten percent of the time,” he said.
I wondered aloud what he saw first when he looked at the world.
“What do you mean?” he said.
I showed him a black and white photo on my phone. This is how I see it, in the relationship between objects, the shadow and light.
He grabbed the phone from my hands.
His fingers were long and nimble. He cupped the phone gently. He traced an imaginary line around the shape of the young boy in the photo. The imaginary line was confident and precise.
“This is what I would do,” he said. “I’d take a bit of soldering wire and run along the outline of his shape, here, and I’d stop right here.”
He held his fingertip on the terminal point. For one instant, I could see the whole outline, the wire like a tracer of mercury around the inky figure. It was beautiful.
He handed me back the phone and we finished lunch. There had been a moment of Art, and like every moment of Art, it had passed.