Somewhat Absurd

It’s been so long that it’s a little ridiculous, if I’m going to bother to have a site at all. So much since my last post – the most recent major thing is the Hybrid exhibition at Redline. My work there included 7 paintings, 3 video works, and two monotypes. The movies were derived from the paintings and prints, and it’s hard to describe. At this moment, I won’t attempt it, and I’ll get some video posted when I figure out the logistics.  (Huh?) The video works are in editions of 10, so I can’t just post them whole, at full resolution, without wronging some collectors who’ve purchased them. (Good news, that.) I’ll figure it out, but I’ll probably edit a short “trailer” for a movie that was very short to begin with.  Let me know if you’re interested. It’ll help me get around to it if someone actually asks. This is one frame from Orange Squash, which is in the show:

still from Orange Squash by Eric Waldemar, HD video 2012

The exhibition is up until September 30th. I’ll get some photos posted. I think we all did something remarkable with this show, and I’m very excited about the work I’m showing. Go see it if you can. Paintings are going fast, I’m very pleased to say…

Brakhage, Buddhism, & the Difficulty of Sustained Attention


One reason I’m grateful for the years I spent immersed in Stan Brakhage’s films is the insight it’s given me into the nature of my own mind. This is also, of course, the central topic of Buddhist practice, and last night after Suranjan Ganguly’s monthly Brakhage screening at CU Boulder, I was talking with Homare Ikeda about how watching Stan’s films mirrors certain aspects of Buddhist meditation practice.

In Brakhage’s abstract hand-painted films especially, each individual frame is important. Though one can’t individually analyze each of the 24 very different frames that might shower onto one’s retina in a busy second, each frame, in relation to adjacent ones, contributes to the churning motion and intricate rhythms that make these movies, at their best, uniquely moving and powerful.

One knows this, that every moment counts, yet everyone who knows this body of work well is also familiar with a kind of sensory exhaustion that comes and goes as one watches. The level of attention that these films require really can’t be sustained continuously for an hour straight. The mind drifts for a moment, and the eye, involuntarily, takes a rest. One sinks for a moment into inward, often wordless, thoughtfulness. This moment of quiet mind is itself a gift, a difficult state to attain amidst the frenzy of daily life and obligation.

On the other hand, one often “wakes up” to realize that one’s mind has inadvertently shifted,  has drifted from concentration on the filmic moment into background chatter. Plans for the next day, cranky resentments, memories, errands to run. The urgency of moment-to-moment attention in Brakhage’s work makes these startled moments of awakening exceptionally intense, even alarming, like nodding off at the wheel of a fast-moving car. Bringing attention back, one is once again immersed in the texture, spark & tumble of Brakhage’s painted imagery. A moment, or a minute, or two, has passed during one’s absence.

Every Buddhist sect and lineage begins (and perhaps ends) with meditation practices that force one, again and again, to become aware of the wandering, chattering nature of ordinary, daily, busy mind. Whether one is focused on one’s own breath, a mantra, a tangka image of a deity, or a rhythmic Tibetan chant, the taming of one’s own undisciplined mind is the underlying project, and becoming aware of it is the first step.

The experience of meditation is related to watching a great hand-painted Brakhage film in this regard at least: One is reminded again and again of the limits of one’s attention. By learning to focus attention on purpose, we come to more clearly perceive our own minds and actions. To get there, though, requires that essential first insight, the realization that one is not actually fully aware. That one can be more so, and that the reward for that effort is, among other things, a richer, more vivid life, all the time.

“Devotees” of Stan Brakhage’s films and related experimental cinema are an odd breed, and one thing they share is a mind that they’ve conditioned by long practice to be capable of sustained attention, to a degree that few outside of spiritual disciplines even aspire to. As with other sects, cults, and conversions, most people in this crowd have a story about how they stumbled in and somehow got initiated into this profound and demanding body of work. I have mine.

Space churns, Time tumbles.

"Far from Home" etching/monoprint- Forlorn man in spacesuit with wrench beside tree. Eric WaldemarAs if these images  in Odin-Odeon (September 2-October 8 at RMCAD) weren’t hard enough to decipher, here’s a movie that makes several of them into a squishy, churning mass. All of the prints in the movies are made on the same etched plate, though you might not be able to guess that at a glance by looking at them side by side. The etched tones on the plates create a pull toward certain shapes, gestures and patterns, and the animation takes advantage of that common thread.

"End of Empire" - Etching/Monoprint by Eric Waldemar If you haven’t seen the show yet, come by, and if you’re reading this before Friday, September 10th, come by between 5 and 8 for the opening reception. All the info you need about Odin-Odeon, as well as several images, directions, etc., can be found here (same link as above). Of course, get in touch if you have any questions or thoughts.

Odin & Yggdrasil: Previews of “Odin-Odeon” at RMCAD

A few new items as the exhibition at RMCAD approaches (reception on September 10th). If you’re not already aware of the blessed event, you’ll find all the info you need on this page, as well as several images.

On your left, a 2 minute trailer for the show, a strange reading of Odin’s time hanging upside down from the great tree, with moving abstraction made entirely from the etchings and monotypes that will appear in Odin-Odeon. There’s a video component to this exhibition, but it will be very different from this. You’ll see.

Also, here’s a preview of the show from Anselm Etting, who is very kind indeed:

Monoprint/Etching by Eric Waldemar: "The Reward of Discipline" from Odin-Odeon“At first, the etchings & monoprints in Eric Waldemar’s Odin-Odeon seem shamelessly archaic. A warm palette of earth tones and a concern with the rhythmic mystery of the agile brush reflect a long engagement with the drawings of Rembrandt, Hakuin and Homare Ikeda. Given time, these tiny images unfold in the mind, often with several simultaneous layers of imagery. They feel weighty at first glance, but after close attention, many are subtly hilarious, especially in combination with Waldemar’s wry, deadpan titles.
Then there are the movies, displayed on a tiny screen to force close attention. A dinosaur shuffles along in a cloud of dust. Etching/monotype by Eric Waldemar.These intricate rhythmic abstractions use this series of prints as source material, transforming their already ambiguous subject matter into a trembling, bewildering dream. Tiny jewels of abstract cinema, they also suggest an approach to the accompanying prints, to which the viewer returns with a fresh eye for close detail and half-hidden treasure. “

Gosh. Thanks. See you there, everyone, and if you’re too far away to make it, I’ll try to keep adding images to the Odin-Odeon page, so you can attend vicariously. Either way, thanks for having a look. Leave a comment on the site if you end up having a thought. Thanks.

Donegal Art Celebrities, we.

Party for Rian Kerrane & Eric Waldemar's exhibition at Artworks, LetterkennyLetters and Speechlessness will soon be coming to a close after a great five-week run in at ArtWorks in Letterkenny. Rian Kerrane added text to “Velvet Letters” nearly as fast as the people of Donegal  provided it, so the piece became more and more elaborate with passing weeks. Our reception was terrific, packed with friends, family, and people whose curiosity was sparked by a great article in the Donegal News. More recently, there was an article in the Letterkenny Post (page 53) and there’s a profile of Rian in the Donegal inTouch ezine, which focuses on Irish artists abroad and includes a mention of this latest show, as well as a picture of the family from this Spring..

Crowd at Artworks, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland 18 July 2010Glass artist Michelle O’Donnell came with her family from faraway County Offaly, and sculptor Sarah Lewtas and her partner, painter Ian Gordon, came down from their hideout near Mt. Earagail. I talked about Redmond Herrity in an earlier post. Seamus Quinn was in good form, hosting the best party in Letterkenny, and we ended the night at the Cottage Bar, with our spirits further elevated by the company and generosity of the celebrated Frank Kerrane, Rian’s father. Like many good nights in Ireland, this one required a little recuperation time the next day.   Read more