Is the way I see more significant than what I’m looking at?

Happy New Year! Returning to the studio after a holiday break requires me to retrace my  steps in order to pick up the thread again. I had an idea to study and paint Marc Lancet’s tea bowls. I became committed to this effort. It was fresh and new and bright and exciting, and very challenging. Now I feel like I wander in the twilight, in the woods, in a land of questions. I am blind to where I am going. This place of questions can be a creative place of many possibilities. It can also be uncomfortable. How long and well can I tolerate being lost? I often find myself thinking it is bad to be lost. Is that true?

In spite of the unknowing I continue forward, painting these silent bowls of clay. img_5706
The completion of the first large tea bowl collection, the 27-painting group that I think of as a collection of “portraits of emptiness,” left me unclear about where to go next. I’m being led forward by the process, following clues and leads that emerge trying to have faith. As I mentioned in the post from Nov. 16th, I was struck by the way my point of view, literally the height and tilt of my head in relation to the bowl, changed the paintings. There is something important about that. A painting, even a highly “realistic” representational one, is not just a painting of an object but really as much a painting of a point of view. Sometimes the point of view of the artist may be more significant in regards to the meaning of a painting or the experience of the viewer, than the subject itself.

In tea ceremonies I have attended, an important part of the experience of the tea bowl  is the way one looks at it. It is as if the wonder of the objects does not dwell just within them but is borne out of a collaboration between the bowl and the viewer. This fascination with the power of view point led me to the next step in this unfolding body of work.

After experiencing the subtly different points of view in the collection of 27, I decided to paint two sets of nine bowls, 3 foot x 3 foot squares, from completely different points of view. Nine of the bowls I painted looking down into them and nine I painted looking up at them. I chose the shallower bowls to look down into and the ones with steeper walls to look up at.

I was surprised at how powerfully the view affected the “meaning” of, or impact of, the image. Some of the tea bowls are open like an open hand, a flower petal, a shallow pool. The others look closed and impenetrable. Like a tower on a hill or a monument, they look down at me. 

Collection of 9 tea bowls, oil on panel, 12″ x 12″

The images gazing into the bowls make me feel welcomed, they are unguarded. There is an offering there, you need only travel into the bowl and it will accept you, enfold you. That point of view is so particular, passive, vulnerable and inviting. It is so different from the bowls that I am looking up at, fortified and impenetrable.

A collection of 9 tea bowls, oil on panel, 12″ x 12″
I know that in some sense both have the same kind of beauty but they have a totally different attitude and emotional effect. I think it’s interesting that I say it is their attitude when the difference is, actually, largely my point of view. Every bowl has both an open and a closed aspect and each aspect has a very different character. I can change my art, and life I suppose, by changing the outer “reality” (the subject) or by changing the way I am looking at that “reality”. One could  say that in these two collections of paintings, the choice of point of view becomes more powerful than the choice of subject matter.

This is a reminder that I can never separate what I am seeing from the way I am looking at it. And, like with these tea bowls, often my point of view has more influence over my experience of what lies before me than does the thing itself.

10 thoughts on “Is the way I see more significant than what I’m looking at?

  1. Are’nt we all made up of what our inner beauty is, even though we might take a little time discovering these qualities.Most have it in them! As we go by in this life we see experience and inhale mindfully a lot of beauty in the nature(man made cannot compare Nature) around us, We see, observe & contemplate some out of the many, but like love,the more you give the more the capacity to give,Finally the more mindful time you spend looking hearing and feeling you discover that you only surround yourselves that beautifulness.While we go about our routine , i have discovered that plastic,or artificial beauty repels me,…but now i am in peace with it, as i have hardly any around me, and do not mind not judging you if you have a reason for liking it !

    Art has to be part of our behavioral life, totally integrated in our routines,That what grace, sensitivity and celebration of lfe is all about.


    On Sun, Jan 15, 2017 at 3:28 AM, Adam Wolpert Painting wrote:

    > [image: Boxbe] This message is eligible > for Automatic Cleanup! ( Add cleanup rule > > | More info > > > Adam Wolpert posted: ” Happy New Year! Returning to the studio after a > holiday break requires me to retrace my steps in order to pick up the > thread again. I had an idea to study and paint Marc Lancet’s tea bowls. I > became committed to this effort. It was fresh and new and br” >


  2. Strangely the “impenetrable” ones appear more compelling and beautiful to me. Their mystery is deep. Is it harder to paint the open bowls? Or harder for me to see them?


  3. ADam…I really think your fascinating essays and wonderful paintings should be a book…so many people would be able to look at art in a different and more informed way….understand the process better…
    And just enjoy the beauty of your words and work….Magda


    1. thank you Magda for reading and enjoying! I so appreciate your words of encouragement and i am always open to talking to publishers or curators, if you happen to know any please send my contact info along, i will always follow up!There is nothing like word of mouth. Happy New Year. adam


  4. Hello Adam, welcome back from wherever you have been. This morning I was giving old friends a tour of our newer life in the chicken coops, and my beautiful movement room, when Kimball Hurd said, “wait a minute, floating fruit? Is that Adam’s work?” Alisa admired it too, and we shared our fondness for you. Again, loving the bowl paintings- thank you for doing them! I hope you are well, we leave for Australia next week, home mid march. I look forward to catching up, and moving new possibilities with you either here or north in the spring. Enjoy the continuing of winter rains!

    Heather >


    1. Yes I love those guys! I’m not surprised you know them, spent countless hours listening to them play music long ago… have a safe and happy travels, by March I hope you still want to come back to this country! I look forward to our next meeting whenever that may be, I’ll be back at Esalen in May
      Take care, Love to you and your family


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