The most perplexing and important aspect of being a visual artist for me is the question of what to paint. I react to paintings largely on an emotional, instinctive level which has much more to do with the subconscious than any specific rational or cognitive thought. Unlike literature or music, a painting can be experienced all at once so the initial response is almost involuntary and subliminal. This perception is difficult to articulate for it manifests itself in an intangible "feeling" that does not easily translate into words. I want to be enthralled and moved by art as well as involved and interested. These desires are essential for inspiring and sustaining the creation of a work and make my choice of subject matter especially critical.

Human presence in a painting has untold potential to provoke strong emotional responses for nothing else is nearly so compelling as ourselves. Virtually all pictures of people function as mirrors to some degree, but in order to see through myself and beyond I invariably look to women. Their eternal ties to the earth's regenerative powers and its unwavering cycles are indisputably profound, particularly as seen from the vast distance of my male vantage point. So much so that women's mysterious blend of ancient spirituality, temperate nature, innate wisdom, and absorbing sexuality is my irresistable and primary theme.

As solid as this general conclusion is to me, fertile ideas for individual paintings can be extremely difficult to come by, which makes them all the more rare and valuable when they do appear - sometimes in a flash, but more often lured from the depths with a mix of visual stimulation, free association, and focused concentration. The actual process of execution with its myriad of technical problems is quite painstaking, but if the original notion is worthy there are always visual solutions. Matters of color and compostion are becoming increasingly obvious to me; as clear as math or grammar but quite beyond logic or even my direct control.

As I fluctuate between confidence and anxiety while painting, it is this enigmatic yet reliable sense of certainty about what looks right and/or beautiful that makes the thousands of sequential decisions necessary to see a work through to fruition. Regardless of planning or expectations, it's impossible to accurately envision a picture prior to completion. Consequently, hopeful anticipation shifts to full-fledged excitement as I progress and often I'm as stunned by the final cumulative effect as anyone.

Martin A. Maddox, 1991

Martin Maddox
1954 - 1997

 

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