The latest painting, “Good Dog” is resting in the attic pending a final decision on whether it’s done or not. I’m thinking over the idea of adding upholstery tacks to the collar but will probably take it to the scanner as is. The final piece might be kicked up a notch with a playful bit of 3-D bedazzling, but experience teaches that prints will look better without it.
The piece is inspired by a recent interest in medieval illustrations of hunting dogs. These often include fairly realistic figures set against ornate backgrounds of grids and flourishes, presumably done by specialists. My version looks more like a couple of Mexican tablecloths, but the effect is similar. I admire the strangeness of the medieval visual vocabulary. The workmanship and care lavished on illuminated manuscripts seems excessive, foreign and frankly alien to modern sensibilities. There is a commitment to beauty in these backgrounds, yet the central figure is often strange and creepy to an extreme. The visual tension between the beautiful and the grotesque has a perverse appeal and forms the source of the recent fascination.
Photographic realism tells a lot more about how things seem to be than how they really are. Perhaps the medievalists painted from a visual laundry list of attributes not because they didn’t know any better, but because they recognized and prized this paradox. Surrounding a strange-looking dog with elegant, repetitive figures strikes me as a devotional gesture to the impossibility of ever knowing anything for sure. The world can’t be seen as it really is, only respected, admired and loved.