FLUIDISM = Painting + Photography + Philosophy
An accidental splatter of paint shaped my attitude about the fundamental nature of reality.
Kitchen Sink Revelation
One day in 2001, I was judging colors of acrylic paints to determine which of two colors looked best for a painting I was planning. I dabbed two blobs of paint onto a small sheet of paper that I held over my kitchen sink. I accidentally dropped the paper into the sink, and I watched it hit on its edge, colliding the two small paint masses into one another.
In that instant, I had a profound visual revelation. This seemingly mundane event led me to realize a style of painting I eventually called fluidism.
Fluidism = Painting
After the kitchen-sink accident, I started causing accidents on purpose, which sounds contradictory. What I mean is that I set up the circumstances where different colors of paint could collide. I tweaked the collisions. I nurtured them. I developed a feel for how to direct them. I controlled how far paint collisions could spread. I contained them within set boundaries. I eventually started adding formal shapes to them.
My original technique in fluidism involved taping a drawing board to a cardboard box. I adjusted the viscosity of my paints, and I poured the viscosity-adjusted paints onto the taped down drawing board. I picked up the box, and I shook the box. I inverted the box, or I simply held the box in various ways where the fluids on it could flow freely. Sometimes I destroyed the edge of a box under the repetitive force of manipulating it soaking wet.
When I felt that I had achieved an acceptable composition, I allowed the paint to dry, removed the tape, painted the raw edges of the painted drawing board, and bonded it to a panel of painted wood.
This was fluidism – the original version, where real wet paint dried to hold its turbulent designs, creating an artifact that could hang on the wall as decoration.
Fluidism = Photography
What I soon came to realize was that I had stumbled onto the true meaning of the word, “painting”. “Painting” is not only a static object that hangs on a wall. “Painting” is also an active, progressive verb that is always in the process of becoming something different.
A person can say, “I have made a painting”, or a person can say, “I am painting a picture”. The first sentence uses the static, finished meaning of the word, while the second sentence uses the active, never-finished meaning of the word.
What I came to understand was that any one painting is actually many paintings. As I went through the process of creating a fluidism painting, I actually witnessed many different fluidism paintings. I stopped at only one of many possible stopping places. I could have stopped sooner, or I could have stopped later – sooner or later stops would have been different paintings.
I sometimes felt that I took a painting too far, as I preferred a previous appearance to a later appearance, but I could never return to the previous appearance, because it was gone forever. I also noticed, when I looked very closely, that some fragile patterns would dry out of existence. In other words, the freshness of particular shapes or designs would disappear after drying. Some patterns could not even exist dry. Wet designs simply looked best wet. Drying killed them. How could I capture those wet designs?
Photography was the answer. I could focus close-up on wet designs and capture them in an entirely different medium than their original medium of wet paint. Strange, how I had to use another medium to preserve some fleeting essence of the original. But this is what photography enables. In photography, we can see a quality of motion even in a static snapshot. The action of moving has a lasting signature. Motion has a look. Motion has heightened appearance, a fullness of shape, or a best curvature. Capturing fluid motion truthfully has a more fulfilling visual impact.
The most profound moving (dynamic) qualities of fluids, thus, register most strongly in photographs of their peak performances. Peak peformances are what an audience looks for. Any static painting, therefore, is a peak performance – it is the best collection of efforts an artist can assemble into a composition.
Photographic fluidism became my search for peak performances in fluid dynamic flow. The art of it was the act of judging, the act of setting up a stage, or the act of capturing what came into existence on its own. Nature actually created the scenes. I simply recorded them. I became a recording artist, because nature was a better creator by chance than I was a creator by intention. This realization opened my senses to even more profound truths.
Fluidism = Philosophy
Nature created me. I (my body) is largely fluid water. Water is the origin of all life as we know it. Spoken language rides on fluid air. The universe is mostly fluid plasma.
Reality, thus, is ultimately fluid.
Science’s solid atomic classifications do not express the true nature of reality. Reality is an ocean of smaller oceans that contain smaller oceans still.
Fluid collisions are creative instants as much as they are destructive instants. The structural features of fluid flow exist in cosmic expanses of space just as they do in microscopic extents of protoplasm. The words that describe fluid flow apply to every level of reality, from the sub-microscopic to the super-galactic.
Fluidism is the philosophy that allows reality to flow, and harmony to dance with disharmony on equal ground according to great fluid laws. A person might even say that God is fluidity, and fluidity is God.
In going from paint to photography, my staging areas grew smaller – from drawing boards soaked with pigments to salad bowls slightly filled with small pools or thin liquid films.
In going from photography to philosophy, my staging area grew huge – from small pools and thin films to the ends of imagination, where the biggest ideas originate.
I first saw the whole universe in a puddle, and the universe spoke to me in the visual language of liquid – the most primal language of all.