Beneath the Paint

by mitchellgallery

Sometimes when I look at a painting, I don’t look at the painting itself. My eyes drift to the aged wooden frame, to the rabbeted grooves and to flaking varnish and gold leaf that dust the edge of the frame. I have to remind myself to it is not the unpainted matt that is the art. I get lost in the tapestry-like threading of the taut canvas fabric and the variegated texture of heavy weight paper.

No, focus. I must look at the painting itself. After all, that’s what I came into the art gallery for in the first place.

I look. But I find myself again drawn to what is not the painting. I love how oil paint cracks over large surfaces. Beneath the paint, the cracks form a mosaic, a second image beneath the painting. The cracks spiral and weave. Some seem to form organic spaces, others form clear geometric shapes. Underneath painted clouds, there are fractals of billowing shapes that twist about the canvas. Like looking at real clouds or spilt milk, my mind imagines shapes and forms. The cracks of the oil paint seem to form the shape of a whale amongst the painted clouds. In other place, I seem to see a tree of cracks growing from a painting ocean or cracks forming a human face emerging from a painted bowl of fruit.

This is not something that the painter intended to create. This is not a part of his art. It is the melding of a painter’s art and nature. Here the nature of oil paint, the process of drying and cracking, come together with the images that are painted. The result is beautiful.

Yes, the painting itself is also captivating. But for a brief moment, I am lost amongst floating whales in painted clouds. I am lost in a painting that is not the painting.

Holly Huey – St. John’s College student