My abstract paintings are, before all, about colors, planes, textures, straight edged shapes, and the inclusion of found objects. At first glance, they look like random juxtaposition of small color fields units distinct of each other by their uniqueness. Careful observation, however, reveals in them unity, harmony, and balance, while they play also the role of a powerful medium of mutual communication between the work of art and the viewer. My goals, as an artist, are, foremost, to create order and harmony in a seemingly chaotic or disjointed composition and to foster feelings of hope, stability, happiness, and security. All the elements are, therefore, skillfully combined to create the envisioned effect.
It starts usually with one shape followed by others of different form, color, and texture. I strive, at first, to cover this way the entire canvas, while keeping in mind to incorporate new elements and ideas. The interplay of creative impulses and choice of known formulas provide continuity to a particular painting as related to others of the same category. Subsequently each work exhibits familiar idioms combined with innovative ideas stemming from a common creative pool. Unity is also maintained or suggested through the use of textured surfaces made with palettes knives or the frottis technique.
I, occasionally, manage to add momentum to my works through the use of dripping and splashing. The idea is to break the monotony and, subsequently, create more dynamism and vitality. My ultimate reward is witnessing the metamorphosis of a mere application of colors and amalgam of disparate objects on a stretched canvas into an exultation of movement and life.
The very fact that each project starts with no preconceived ideas or figurative concerns makes room for a great deal of improvisation and experimentation with all that can suggest of trials and errors. It is almost like a jazz solo session where the musician begins with an idea and exploits it to the extreme according to the amount of talent, skills, and determination involved. The only difference is that I can willfully break the spell, step back, make appropriate adjustments, or even start over, until I am fully satisfied or completely out of ideas.
Seen from such an angle, Integrative Symbolism stands also as a quest for perfection through exploration and risk taking. The modus operendi is simple: elements are weighted and compared in their interconnectedness and also as part of a whole. It happens so often that one unit or one color plane prevent a successful outcome. The tour de force is sometimes just to integrate the clashing elements into the picture without producing a disharmonious effect.
If the planes, in their mainly square and rectangular shapes, suggest mathematical order and strong structures, other elements, however, such as colors, refer, to a certain extent, to the human dimension with its references to the soul and our existence. Each found object, needless to say, is nothing but a reminder of human presence in the universe and of cultures as they gravitate between the future and the past.
Colors are arranged as panels set at different distance, thus creating an illusion of depth with darker colors at the end and the brighter ones in the front. The result is the interplay of kinetic planes receding and moving forth depending of the audience’s degree of involvement or participation in this joyful farandole of colors and shapes. At this point, each collage plays the role of focus point preventing escape or the jump into a trance like state.
I use collage as a means to enhance the telluric effect of my compositions. This is to say that the colorist in me is no less concerned with something deeper than mere appearance. This creates a tension between aesthetic means used and the final objective. The former helps to grab attention while the latter leads to contemplation, humility, and submission vis-à-vis the compelling force of nature.
The iconography used is simple. Knotted string, meshed wires, and bizarre-looking found metal pieces allows me to allude to universal symbols such as spirals, zigzags, hour glass, crowns, triangle, and many others, whose meanings are accessible to everyone, since there refer to general notions of life, time, stability, love, infinity, etc.
Figurative objects and colors, used as symbols or mere decoration, have this in common that they distract onlookers, preventing them to focus on what is essential. At this point they are a mal nécessaire (necessary evil) allowing a step forward in the direction of personal enlightenment.
This certainly explains my choice of specific objects, or if you like, my preference for amorphous, strange looking, and non figurative metal shapes. In addition to add to the aesthetic value of the composition and the human presence, it stresses the purity and integrity of the abstraction. This is to me an important dialectical stand because I have seen so many beautiful paintings being wasted since the artist could not resist the temptation to include into them figurative motifs, or any other recognizable objects, in order to satisfy a lack of artistic determination, aesthetic insights, or a need to please ill informed prospective buyers.
I am contemplating a series of works deprived of all unnecessary elements while still remained becoming. The aim is not to reinvent the wheel neither to create an array of pieces deriving from conceptual or poor art, but rather to create something à la fois deep, simple, and personal, meaning an artwork simultaneously universal and unique making room for idiosyncrasy, theoretical beliefs, and ethnical characteristics while rejecting déjà-vu type conceptual approach.
My occasional use of burlap and stitched together pieces of rag is more about experiencing with different types of surface and textures as well as drawing upon the connotation of humility and, subsequently, the tacit symbolism suggested by the choice of such media. Even though the use of burlap has recently become fashionable in contemporary art, crafts, and decoration, it remains essentially associated with goods packaging or cheaply available material useful mostly to the poor.
My drive and steadfastness, however, would amount to nothing if my work does not reflect also my personality and cultural background. In order words how to absorb all the available
knowledge associated with art while remaining original and producing influential work? Such concern, I must confess, has nothing to do with personal pride but rather with a morbid aversion for stultification and stagnation as well as commitment to excellence. The question is: What do we go after primitivism? Where do we go after L’Ecole de la Beauté? Are we condemned to beat the bushes by echoing whatever is being promoted by the establishment even if it means forsaking our own traditions and our own roots? Are we forced to chase our own shadow while indulging in overweening arrogance? Or is it time to head our boat to new direction?
Our only way out, I believe, is to join the universal art discourse and forcefully claim our contributions, efforts, and tendencies as illustrated in our visual artistic outputs. The goal is to acquire the necessary expertise and confidence in order to gain and maintain our place in the arena of global art scene.
By Fred Thomas
Link to some of Fred's creations: http://www.martellyartgallery.com/artists/fredthomas.htm