Will Johnstone, Artist & Writer, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Natural Abstract Paintings by Will Johnstone from 2005 - 2006

During the winter, I painted a number of small paintings in an abstract and experiential style. I call this experiential form Natural Abstracts because the painting evolves during the experience of its painting. There is no sketch to go from. Nor is there truly a preconceived idea. There is just a mood and then there is a decision to make a background color and then there is an impetus to strike the canvas with paint. The process, and the painting, evolves as the experience of painting it progresses. Choices are dependent upon what has gone before, and very probably reflect the circumstances of my present life, extending back some indeterminate time, but certainly of the moment of the now and the moments leading directly up to the now. Thus it is experiential, natural, and abstract.




I have a tendency to use ochres, blues, blacks, and whites, in their pure color. In these paintings, I never use a palette except simply to place a pile of pure paint upon it in order to more conveniently replenish the palette knife.

Black has some sort of significant meaning for me. I see in the dark. I once went into a coal mine alone, with no light, and I remembered that as long as I did not look at the light I could move forward. I never turned around. The light was behind me and as my eyes adjusted and the light became fainter I could still see. After awhile there was a glow that seemed to emanate from the walls. I suspected that the coal was oxidizing, burning very, very slowly, but in that burning it was producing just enough light for me to see. I went a long way into that mine. And then I went a long way out. A few weeks later the Bureau of Land Management sealed that mine forever because it was too dangerous. It could have collapsed at any moment.




The fog is a kind of blackness with light, or perhaps it is just a darker brightness, or a brighter darkness. It spreads across everything, momentarily, softening the background that otherwise tends sometimes to define itself as an encapsulation. But the background is not that. The background is a diffusion of the edges of the foreground, a muddling of the memories and expectations of the present. If it were not in fog it might overpower the present.

In the very middle of the night there are memories. There are suppositions. There are traces of thoughts and experiences that have been and that have only been imagined. Occasionally, suddenly bursting above all of this, there is a new idea, a new suggestion of direction in which to move, a newly conceived mode of relationship to the world of experience and encounter. Sometimes I move on these moments. I wake. I rise. I paint. I sculpt. I write. I make note of them and I change my future actions in relationship to others. Sometimes I do not. And sometimes these flashes of insight are no longer there in the morning.




I actually dwell in blue. I always have. I do not actually dwell in blackness. I am just comfortable with it. Everything - black, ochre, white, ... - is overlaid upon blue. In the essence of the universe, to me, everything is usually blue. Ideas burst upon the experiential universe in definitive structures, and yet always less than solid, and the universe, almost always, shows through.




Occasionally a gardenscape grows within my experiential canvas. I do not plant it. I spent no time in its design nor trimming nor watering and growth. It simply grows to be out of the strokes of paint impacted upon the canvas, carried by the palette knife from the jar and the tube to the rapidly covered surface of woven cotton muslin. Perhaps they must be weeds because they grow there on there own, un-manicured, and they seem to thrive. I wander through them as they grow and then decide at some arbitrary time that they have grown enough. At that instant I freeze them into the moment, captured, hanging there, no breeze capable of shimmering their leaves, nor sunlight altering their shadows.

Among gardenscapes there are occasional ponds overgrown with water-loving weeds. Weeds, weeds, and more weeds. Weeds hanging from above and reaching up from below and spreading out upon the surface and acting as if weed-dom is a defined and accepted mode of being. Does a personally experiential pond have ownership? Is this now your pond or mine?




In late Autumn, gardens go back to plots of land. They become memories of what has grown and fruited and died. Upon this we place our suspicions and pretensions of what we might lay out for next year's seasons of birth and growth and flourishment and fruiting and demise. But we are swayed by moments that have yet to be, this way and that, and the winter's forgetting coverlets are likely to leave all of those pretensions a ghostly image superimposed upon a used-to-be. Most likely, our pretensions will vanish. When the next planting comes, it will bring with it its own reason for being.

Floating, our being seems solid, yet our hopes and aspirations seem loosely linked and riddled with intricacies through which filter experience and alternatives and suggestions and disguised opportunities and subtle imperfections and perfections overlooked.

I dream my dreams. My dreams superimpose themselves upon my experiential being and my being floats in the eternal blue and the infinite opportunity of experiential creation. I reach out, tentatively, cautiously, into a fluid universe, touching it only so far as my senses reach. It always stretches far beyond.