When Light Makes Noise

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Noise can be considered a background event like clutter which we must see through to find meaning like,”where did I leave my keys amidst all this clutter?”

Noise is usually an atmosphere of interference through which we must sift to find meaning or, we can reorganize it through simplification. Our visual world like our auditory world is packed with cluttering ambient noise. We quest into the noise to find decipherable patterns. For example we look at the leaf litter on a forest floor or the rustle of leaves in a tree. Here there is too much information to find meaning so we dismiss further looking.  But, if we pause to take a restful breath we inevitably start pulling meaning from the leafy chaos. We can be surprised by emerging patterns that look like faces, or bodies, or animals. We have found images; we found meaning other than the keys we were looking for.

We look with expectation as we look for our keys amidst domestic clutter. Our looking with expectation/anticipation  blinds us to seeing what else lies in the visual clutter. But, if we are relaxed and unhurried we can be surprised by what else we see when looking into visual clutter.

By looking with anticipation we project qualities of order onto the visual noise. If we relax and dismiss the idea finding our keys we allow our mind’s eye to start conjuring images from the chaos, we find something else. This is how Pierre Bonnard built his landscape in example 1. He found the landscape while looking at the paint. He found the landscape that lived in front of him in Le Cannet, France and the landscape that emerged from within him.

Example 1. Pierre Bonnard, Landscape near Le Cannet.

If we are unhurried and relaxed we can become distracted by new discoveries. If we are focused on finding the keys then, we don’t encounter other discoveries. We only see what we are looking for. If we can stop looking for something we will find something else.  By purposeful questing we miss opportunities for alternative discoveries ripening within the visual clutter. We can’t help it. It’s the way we are wired, we always quest for meaning. However, If we are relaxed we can be surprised by stumbling over something else of value other than our keys. Painting works well this way.

In my work I try to generate fields of luminous noise which offer opportunities for discovery. I then compulsively start to organize the noise around my discovery. It’s difficult to sustain the noise but, if I can then I will have created a tableau which invites sustained looking and investigation. Others will attend to my arena of noisy possibilities.

Here are a couple of examples.  In looking a photo of wet city streets at night a found patterns of sparkling lights that aggregated into a cityscape (see example 2). I reorganized the visual noise. And after looking at a photo of a wild meadow garden I found new dancing patterns light and dark shapes. Again, I reorganized the visual noise (example 3 and 4).

Example 2. Night Lights, oil on paper, 18×18,

Example 3. Step one, “Finding Light Patterns” oil on paper,

Example 4. Step two, “Finding Light Patterns” oil on paper which borrows conventions from centuries earlier mille fleur patterns,present state,

In example 5, 6, and 7 you can follow me as I try to order the noise of light patterns into a coherent design.

Example 5. Step one, building a loose chaos,

Example 6. Step two, finding patterns within the chaos.

Example 7. Step three, adding more noise but within a more unified pattern/design.

I invite you to join me in my online Zoom classes with painting demonstrations and individual critiques at either daviddunlop.com or Silvermineart.org.


9 Responses

  1. Vicki Smith

    Wonderful information! The examples really express your words! Loving the light! Thank you for sending this!!!

  2. Sandy

    I find I am distracted by the uncertainty in the air. I am trying to be gentler, kinder to myself so I can focus and be relaxed in my painting. I relate to your comments about being unhurried so we can become distracted by new discoveries. Finding something else. A letting go. Thanks.

  3. randy k davis

    Awesome concept to break free of apparent “same old thing-ness”! Thanks so much

  4. Signian McGeary

    Seems like a lack of focus brings new awareness or that is what I understand you are suggesting. The freedom of expression is the goal. That is the mantra I try to embrace as I take brush to paper. Thank you for the inspiration and permission to just do and find meaning in reflection in the process of doing.

    • dd_admin

      Signian, thank you so much for your response here. Best, David

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