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 Chaos & The Void

Photographs by JR Compton

Attention by Jeanne McIntosh

Jeanne McIntosh - Attention, 36 x 60 inches - oil on canvas

Nightvisions, by Jeane McIntosh is at 2520 Gallery,
2520 Fairmount, February 21 through March 13.

   

IN NIGHTVISION, her show at 2520 Fairmount, painter and printmaker Jeanne McIntosh gives us her record of a lengthy dialogue with Chaos and the Void. Several pieces present the personal Void as it fills with images of the Divine.

The other, and less prevalent vision in her work, gives us the Void within which we stand, and is presented as Emptiness. Yet again, in a set of prints, she also offers defenses against the Void / Chaos / Emptiness.

Of course, the Void is never nothing. There is always something within the Void, as it is the yawning emptiness out of which all appears. As Lao-Tse says:
 

The Tao is an empty vessel;
it is used, but never filled
Oh! unfathomable source
of ten thousand things!

#4, Tao Te-Ching
  

And, Chaos is not disorder, but is rather the profusion of imagery, idea, fantasy, emotion, dream, and coming into being that has also been called the 'collective unconscious.'

McIntosh has studied at Brookhaven for 8 years. Her influential instructors have been Marla Ziegler, Chung Chu, Don Taylor and David Newman. She has travelled to Venice and studied painting and printmaking with the Pratt Institute of Art from Brooklyn New York. While in Italy, she went to Padua to see Giotto's chapel, and was heavily influenced by his use of strong color.

In these oils, Ms. McIntosh has chosen to work intuitively, waiting to fill the canvases as the images present themselves. She says she is never going after an image, or working from an idea.

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YOU COULD SAY HER CANVASES ARE A FORM OF AUTOMATIC WRITING in the hyperlinked and oneiric way the images layer and relate to one another, pointing at once to the personal and domestic, while at the same time gesturing outward to the unknown and the mystical.

When questioned about a piece that has a number of eyes within it, she says, "Well, I was having a lot of trouble with my eyes...." In the same way, she last year entered a canvas into a show that depicted a pair of suffering feet.

Her remarks on it? "Well, I was having a lot of trouble with my feet." This clear, simple mindset allows her to make herself as free of conscious intention as possible.

In taking this approach, Jeanne is offering herself up to the Void and the ten thousand things, (...it is used, but never filled...) making herself available as medium for what wants to appear. As she sets up her canvas, she drops a hook into the sea of being, waiting for something to grab hold.

In so doing, she places herself within the tradition of Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Magritte, et al. However, her technique remains rough and immediate, her paint does not disappear into the canvas. There is obviously a human being laboring on the end of the brush.

Attention is the one piece in the show depicting Void as empty. Against a blue/black/turquoise background, and huddled in the lowest section of the canvas, are two figures with hands folded in attitudes of prayer, their mouths open in shock, or horror, or disbelief, or simply in their everyday unconcsious noisemaking.

In the lowest right hand corner, a figure McIntosh identifies as God is standing an a platform, shouting into a megaphone. He is ignored. In the lower left, a ladder reaches up to the uppermost regions of the canvas. In between the ladder and the two people, there is what appears to be a television.

 

A POWERFUL ALLEGORY DEVELOPS as we allow the image to begin to tell of the emptiness of everyday life, which we attempt to fill with devices, all the while 'God' is shouting at us to look up, to look into the "unfathomable source of ten thousand things". Hence, I would imagine, the title, Attention.

The painting succeeds in its composition at conveying the sense of individuals surrounded by a meaningful emptiness which is ignored, and which could itself be interpreted as 'God'. Probably eighty percent of the available space is a featureless field of blue/black. By using only the most minimal number of figures, Jeanne strengthens the painting's theme of a vast, mysterious emptiness filled with divine emanations. I consider this to be one of the strongest pieces in the show.

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Reflection by Jeanne McIntosh

Jeanne McIntosh - Reflection
36 x 60 inches - oil on canvas

 

Reflection presents the image welter of Chaos. There are boxes, chambers, and mechanisms. The colors are brilliant and primary, a seemingly intentional use of the child's pallette to accentuate the speed and lack of forethought going into the creation of the piece, as if the images were arriving almost faster than the artist could work.

Oddly, the canvas seems to be a two dimensional screen upon which images are displayed, but the artist says her one brief for the piece was to create a sense of depth and perspective. In this, however, she does not succeed.

 

DOES THIS MEAN THE PAINTING HAS FAILED? No, not at all. It only means that the momentum of the image making has taken over, and made the canvas its own. As she continues to grow and gain confidence in her creative process, McIntosh will learn to balance the imperatives of technique with the creative flow.

Among the scatter-gunning of images, there is the appearance of no fewer than ten staring, single eyes (well, I was having trouble with my eyes...)

This is telling. Had she used pairs of eyes, Jeanne would have been depicting the organic, human eye. In using the single eye, again in an entirely unconscious way, she has shown the all seeing eye of God, the relentless eye of paranoia, the eye of inner awareness, or more accurately, the Gnostic eye. If you look on the back of your dollar bills, you will see this same eye depicted above the pyramid, with rays of omniscience emanating from it.

Again, Jeanne is depicting the presence of the Creator in her creation, her dialog with growing inner awareness, and with the need to respond when he/she/it presents itself. For the Gnostics, when we fully develop our divine inner awareness, then we develop the eye of God, and are able to see our relation to God as being one in the same. In effect, the Gnostics see each person as a 'flame of God', or a 'divine spark', the originators of our own universes.

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Dream by Jeanne Mcintosh

Jeanne McIntosh - Dream
48 X 48 inches - oil on canvas

 

A figure with hands folded in prayer is alone in the dream void. There is a dark space behind her head. Floating in the dimensionless space of the unconscious are a pistol (...I was angry...), a horse, and more gnostic eyes, calling to mind the watery, oneiric depths of Joan Miro.

There are five angels on this canvas, making it an aperture through which step the messengers of the Divine. The image is also replete with an ambiguous form which McIntosh refers to as a 'cornucopia' ... it is seen here as a mysterious snail-like entity traversing the canvas like one of van Leewenhook's 'beasties' first sighted under his primitive microscope. And, like the Dutchmen, we are peering for the first time into a world that exists under our noses, lacking only the instruments for seeing.

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GOD ALSO APPEARS in this image, again as the little man on the platform, shouting into his megaphone. Jeanne is asking us to look with her through the lens she provides with her canvas into the teeming world that exists just beyond the tangible.

 

Capricious by Jeanne McIntosh

Jeanne McIntosh - Capricious
36 x 36 inches - oil on canvas

 

At first look, you see a surface riotous with flowers in colors van Gogh might have chosen — brilliant yellows, reds, oranges, intense blues. As in the other pieces, they float in the familiar blue/black space. A cityscape appears near the lower center border; at the lower left are empty chairs, an angel is in the upper central field. In the geographic center is 'image box' — a TV, computer monitor, movie screen?

McIntosh says angels began to appear in her work after her husband's near tragic bicycle accident and recovery last year. She admits that her effort in this piece was to 'paint flowers '... what she has accomplished is a juxtaposition of the natural and supernatural world with that of the media and the built environment.

This is not a new theme in the history of Twentieth and now Twenty-first Century art, but Jeanne is unafraid to continue to explore the ways the infinite continues to break into the finite, seemingly unnoticed by our service to the media god we have built.

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Circus, print by Jeanne McIntosh

Jeanne McIntosh - Circus
5 x 5 inches - monoprint

 

First in a mounting of four, four-color monoprints, Circus presents the same basic image in a series of four interations, each colored differently. A Chaotic field or depth containing no recognizable forms is over laid with a semi-random black cross-hatching.

These prints are the only images in the show in which defensiveness or resistance is displayed. It is as if we are looking through a small window the artist has created for us in the print, and beyond the protective cross hatching we see what is going on 'in there' or perhaps 'out there.'

 

SO CONFUSING OR MENACING is what she has seen that she has provided a protective screen for us in the crosshatching on the surface of every print.

Ms. McIntosh has simply and honestly portrayed the way the sacred appears in her life and art. She has shown how she diverts the flow of the collective unconscious onto her canvases, and by working without preconceptions, she has laid bare the world as a place where the Divine is constantly among us, and always overlooked.

 

See Jim Dolan's DallasArtsRevue membership page for
more information by and about him, and illustrations
by his daughter.

Index of Stories by Jim Dolan.

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