Alone Together

I have been thinking a lot lately about whether social networking is worth an artist’s time. Do curators ever read that Tweet about your day in the studio? Does the “art world” notice when you post a pithy comment on Facebook? Does anyone really care about all those images you love on Tumblr or Pinterest or Instagram etc etc etc? Does any of it really matter? Isn’t it more important to spend every precious moment on actually making work?

In a Toronto Star article last year, the issue was mildly debated between super-savvy tech artists like Alex McLeod and purely analogue artists like Vanessa Maltese. But the theme of the article was marketing, as if that were the only reason to have an online presence as an artist.

I write this as I continue to debate with myself about whether my online presence is distracting me from my studio practice, if I should just shut down my Twitter account and my Facebook page and even end my blog (which I haven’t been too attentive to anyway, a common story among many well-intentioned bloggers). Would anyone really care? Would anyone even notice?

Author Jorge Luis Borges once remarked how the people who loved his work formed a community of “invisible friends”. 

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by the artist Agnes Martin: “I paint to make friends and hope to have as many as Mozart.” Although I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean Facebook friends, I wonder what she would have thought of these online forums that enable viewers and artist to connect not just through but also beyond the work of art itself. Would she have posted her beautiful writings on a blog? Would she have tweeted pictures of the sublime landscape that surrounded her secluded studio? I think she might have.

In Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts”, Cain remarks on how the seemingly extroverted and exhibitionist nature of the web was originally designed largely by introverts. Is the urge to make art similar to the urge to share our internal musings online?

There will always be the crude and uninteresting purpose for an online presence – to satisfy the cynical demands of building a brand or persona. It's boring, and when framed this way, I recoil, procrastinate and often remain silent. But when embraced as an opportunity to think aloud, to synthesize random or complex ideas, to reflect on the bombardment of images and information to which I subject myself, to delve deeper into why any of it really matters, I am rewarded with a clarity of thought and purpose that I never really have when I don’t make the effort to share it with others.

So for now, that’s my answer. Of course, it takes time to ruminate coherently -- time away from the studio, and time I will have to find and re-commit to. But maybe the studio does not offer all I have to learn. And maybe there are still some invisible friends out there who can relate to more than just my painting.

Kenny Dorham – “Alone Together”

Open Source

I don't usually post the source material I use for my paintings. There is always the risk that it will ruin the magic of the illusion I'm trying to create. But this is a studio blog after all, and maybe just this once, I feel compelled to pull back the curtain for those who want to take a peek.

The finished painting is entitled "An Apparition of Two". It's 42" x 55", oil on canvas. This is an installation shot from a recent exhibition.

"An Apparition of Two", 42" x 55", oil on canvas, Amanda Clyne (copyright 2012)
The composition is a merging of two images, both of which I dissolved through my inkprint process that I've described before. The original images are from a fashion editorial from the March 2010 issue of Vogue (Russia) and Gustav Klimt's "Mäda Primavesi" (1912). It was a weird twist of fate that I even tried to layer the images together, but once I did, the relationship between the two images became immediately and eerily apparent.

I'm intrigued by the ambiguity that results in the final painting. There is a strange merging of faces, of eras and of media. The two faces become an unstable apparition of a girl that appears no longer young yet not quite grown. Mirroring Klimt's iconic image of the past, the painting catches a photographed pose of the present in its reflection. Photograph and painting come together in a vulnerable exchange of emotion and empathy.

It was the first time I painted with glazes of color, and the richness of the surface surprised me. I want to push that more in the works to come, and hopefully continue to find fated pairings of source imagery. I may not share the source material again in the future though. So for now, I hope this peek behind the curtain enhances and doesn't detract from your experience of the painting.

Mirroring Empathy

A few months ago, I started a new series of paintings that, instead of fragmenting multiple versions of one source image, I began building new portraits by combining sheer layers of multiple source images. The paintings aren't completed yet, so I have no great reveal for you right now, but since I began this work, I keep bumping into parallel universes that are signalling to me I may be on the right track.

Inspired by the connection of the mirror/image to the desire for empathy and intimacy, I felt the fates twist in my favor when I recently came across a reference to "mirror neurons". Seriously, MIRROR neurons? If things couldn't get any better, it turns out this is science's name for those neurons in the brain identified as the source of our empathic instincts. I just had to know more. To start, I found this pretty good video produced by PBS's NOVA series that explains the current research findings.

And if that wasn't awesome enough, I then came across a random Tweet about an amazing artist, Megan Daalder, (who I am now painfully jealous of!) who took this idea of the mirror neuron one step (or perhaps more accurately, a million steps) further by creating a "mirror-box" to enable two individuals to physically merge their mirror reflections into one another in real time. It is a living, breathing version of what I am exploring in my paintings, and it could not be more inspiring. I beg you to watch the video about her work -- it's an amazing story of the power of art, the promise of technology, and the mysterious science of empathy.

Happiness Bores Me

At the artist talk that I just gave to a group of artists this past Friday night, a man asked me why I didn't paint portraits of women smiling. Why did I have to make them all look so sad? Without hesitation, I responded, "Happiness bores me." Everyone laughed (I didn't mean it to be funny), and several people looked at me with an almost pitying look. Doesn't everyone want to be happy? Why not paint happiness? But for better or worse, throughout my life I have always sought interesting over happy. And just 24 hours after my artist talk, reading the last few pages of the book The Psychopath Test, I found a kindred spirit in its author, Jon Ronson:
"There is no evidence that we've been placed on this planet to be especially happy or especially normal. And in fact, our unhappiness and our strangeness, our anxieties and compulsions, those least fashionable aspects of our personalities, are quite often what lead us to do rather interesting things." (The Psychopath Test, p. 271)
Happiness seems simple. Personally, I like complicated. One of my favorite quotes about the nature of art asks:
Amanda Clyne, "Silver Variations No 2", oil on canvas, 2010
"How is the artist's perception unique? I don't think that when you see the most extravagant, extraordinary exhibition [...], you're really seeing the art. These are maps or charts or clues to the process that makes the art. The art is [the artist]'s perception of the world. The art is happening in [the artist]'s head. These are the maps to that art." (Arnold Glimcher, speaking at an interview with artist Louise Nevelson, quoted around minute 19:00 of the video)
I like to think that people are similar to artworks in this way. In trying to understand others, we can only go on the clues that they may offer or reveal by way of their words, actions, appearance and deeds. Clues from happiness seem to offer little in the way of insight, and perhaps more often than not only serve to mask the more interesting flaws, struggles, fears and desires that remain hidden behind those smiling eyes. For me, happiness just seems too cozy with that equally deceptive and ever-suspicious "normal" and its nefarious kin "perfect".

These curiosities lie at the core of my art. How do we connect to one another and on what basis? What do we allow others to see of ourselves? What are we sensitive enough to see in others? How much do we miss? How closely do we really look?  And how do we navigate through all the fragmented and often irreconcilable clues to understand a person in all their meandering complexities? The veneer of happiness seems to offer little in the way of answers. So don't expect to see one of my paintings smiling back at you anytime soon. :-)

De Kooning Debrief

I have no interest in writing a "review" of an exhibition I've seen. I'm not an art critic or art historian. My interest in seeing the works of other artists is as an artist myself. And as a painter, there are few artists that are more instructive or inspiring than Willem De Kooning.

Inspiration on Steroids

At the entrance to the exhibit was this portrait from 1943-44. I visited the show with my friend and fellow artist Nitasha McKnight, and as the two of us stood in front of this painting in awe unable to move, Nitasha said, "I get the feeling we are going to leave this show crying in pink." I think I already was. 

We were finally able to pry ourselves away from this portrait, but we found ourselves continually immobilized by almost every single painting. His complex, labored surfaces offer so much subtlety and depth, while the fluid drawn lines insert an intentionality and confidence that so elegantly evokes sexy, sensual forms. These forms are repeated throughout his oeuvre and begin to form a language that becomes evident as you patiently work your way through the exhibition. Of course De Kooning is known for his bold merging of figuration and abstraction, of figure and ground, but until I had the luxury of walking through the annals of his entire career in one day, I don't think I fully appreciated the continuities and linkages among his seemingly disparate bodies of work. But there they were, available for all to see if you could just spend enough time looking. And as we stalked our way through the different stages of his career, every leap seemed more understandable, more inspiring.

Half way through the show, Nitasha and I had to take a break. We had spent hours studying the first few rooms, and we hadn't even come to the Woman series yet. Our heads were ready to explode as we tried to memorize every stroke and sensation that lay before us in charcoal and paint, analyzing and grappling with each and every major and minor development we could glean. Our eyes were exhausted from having to accommodate the demands of his scrambled, anarchic but palpable spaces. And the endless array of marks and gestures, scrubbed surfaces and impastoed passages, frail glazes and fearless over-painting, we were consuming it all in a gluttonous visual feast. We needed some time to digest.

We went downstairs for a coffee and sat there for awhile in silence. Finally, we both confessed that the show was inspiring to the point of shaming. Our own practices suddenly looked timid and cautious. We had viewed barely one-half of the exhibition and yet we had seen enough breakthroughs for at least three careers. De Kooning was ambitious, brave, constantly pushing his ideas into new territory in ways that were risky and fearless, never harping on one idea for too long, incurably restless and rigorous in his pursuit. It is an incredibly inspiring - and humbling - model for an artist's career. Nitasha and I agreed, we will have to do better.

Hidden Gems

De Kooning's "Black Untitled", oil on canvas, 1948
For those of you who know me, you know that I am really interested in the genealogy of images, in the influence of past images on the making of new images. This painting ("Black Untitled") by De Kooning is not one of his more famous images, but I was completely smitten with it at the exhibition. When you first approach it, it looks like a strange process-based piece, a relatively inconsequential work that must have been a mere stepping stone toward the more iconic masterpieces like the black and white "Painting" from 1948. But this modest untitled work just wouldn't let me go, and the more I looked, the more I saw.

The photograph of the painting looks much more graphic that the real thing, of course. The painting has a ghostly quality that is eerily dramatic. The longer I looked, the more figural references I came to see, and the tension and angst it evoked brought other great black and white works to mind. Most obviously, it seemed to have a lot of similarities to Picasso's Guernica:

Picasso's "Guernica", 1937

And once I put De Kooning's work in the lineage of Guernica, it was impossible to not see the spectre of Goya's "Disasters of War" etchings (1810-1815).

Etchings by Goya from his "Disasters of War" series

Most of the visitors were only giving this modest De Kooning a cursory glance as they walked through the exhibit. And it certainly would never have been a painting that I would have paid that much attention to if I had only seen it in reproduction. But standing before the painted object, I was completely seduced. Offering it my time and contemplation, it more than rewarded my efforts. These were not painting of instant gratification. Thankfully, Nitasha and I had the time to revel in each work, and the rewards would grow exponentially as we continued our epic trek through De Kooning's career.

Die Hard

By the time Nitasha and I had worked our way through the Women series and later figurative works, our knees were beginning to buckle again. Feeling like exhausted prizefighters entering the ninth round of a boxing match against the world champion, we took a moment to breathe deeply, trying to reinvigorate ourselves. We had to shake off the latest visual onslaught so we could brace ourselves for the body blows that we were certain would come. And come they did.

In the next room, the paintings were hung so close together you could practically see the curators throwing up their hands in surrender, unable to edit even one of the brilliant works out of the tight line-up. But there were two paintings that captured our attention for the longest.

De Kooning, "Untitled", oil on canvas, 1977

 The first was "Untitled" from 1977, the watery blue painting with the red high-heeled shoe. In reproduction, it's hard to see what makes this painting so hypnotic. But in real life, it towers over you, the swaths of pale blue paint forming spaces that are positively pillowy, inviting you to dive in. The dark pthalo brushstrokes recede into delicate crevices, and the suggestions of surf, sand and sex is irresistable. As we walked around the room, I kept looking back at this painting, continually surprised by its visual depth and frothy surface. It wouldn't leave me alone.

The definitive punch that finally knocked us out was "Untitled III", also from 1977. Nitasha and I must have stood in front of this painting for almost half an hour, so long that we started to strategize ways we could pocket the 6 foot painting and run away with it forever.

De Kooning, "Untitled III", oil on canvas, 1977

Among the million and one things that we loved about it was the crazy color choices he had made and how perfectly they played together. We had been noting his color choices throughout the exhibit. I have always associated a particular pink with De Kooning (a juicy pink made from cadmium red light), but despite all of his well-known fleshy hues, throughout the exhibition I couldn't stop remarking on his use of yellow in particular. Any painter will tell you that yellow is a tough color to use well and with subtlety. It can easily be neutered into Easter egg pastels, or poisoned with too much complimentary purple. With the tiniest bit of red, it can succumb to the pressures of orange. Or in an attempt to dim its blinding brightness, it can quickly become fatally drained of its fragile vitality. But De Kooning uses yellow masterfully, unpredictably, never making it come off as staid or cliche, often making it the life-giving artery of the picture.

And don't get me started on his enlightened use of greens.

When we came upon "Untitled III", we just stood there in amazement. At first glance, it's just bloody gorgeous, but as you try to imagine the process of making the work, the subtle and bold choices of color become curiouser and curiouser. Admittedly, De Kooning has his muddy moments, but they always seem to be alleviated by an unusual and inspired remedy. One could look at this painting forever. I certainly tried.

We stared at this painting for as long as we could, hoping that if we just looked long enough, we could absorb his spirit and later replicate his genius in our own work. But overhwelmed and slightly dazed, we finally had to leave. Ever since, as if the ghost of De Kooning himself were whispering in my ear, I keep hearing a voice in my head repeating over and over: be more brave. Get back to the studio and be more brave.

In The Flesh

I admit I am slightly tortured by the idea that 99% of the people who will see my work will not be seeing the real thing.  They will see it on a screen with different brightness and color settings than I see on my screen, and they will have to imagine how this little digital avatar might look in the flesh, so to speak.  And indeed, "in the flesh" seems the apt expression.  They will not see how the light reflects off the oily mushy paint strokes, how the color changes and shifts depending on whether the sun is beaming through the window or dimmed incandescent lights are quietly liberating it from the dark.  They will not see how big it is, how each face is larger than life size, how the painting stares at you as you wander around it, how the whole painting relates to their body.  They will not be able to look at it from different angles, from different distances, to move around the painting and experience the image collapsing into abstract details as they approach closer and closer.

Walter Benjamin described the work of art has having an "aura", and famously warned of the consequences of the future omnipotence of the reproduction.  California artist Robert Irwin never wanted his paintings to be photographed, since "Irwin felt that a photograph could capture none of what the painting was about and everything that it was not about.  That is, a photograph could convey image but not presence."*  For me, that seems true of all art that manifests itself as a physical object.  I heard Chuck Close say one time that the modern perspective of the history of art was not an examination of the history of painting but merely the history of slides -- frozen, stale reproductions, where all emphasis is given to image and little else.

One of the greatest compliments I can get for my work is, "it looks so much better in real life!".  I love having that experience myself -- of anticipating a particular experience with a work that I've seen online and then just being blown away when I get to see the actual work.  I had that visceral thrill most recently when I went to see Mark Grotjahn's spectacular exhibit in New York at Anton Kern this past summer.  Unreal.  So real.  Of course, too often, it can go the other way -- sadly, some paintings are much more impressive in reproduction.  I'll refrain from giving examples.

Here are a few different versions of one of my recent paintings ("Veiled", 48" x 28", oil on canvas).  Each image is "accurate" according to particular screens I have viewed them on.  I don't know what you see.  Each one of them is only an idea of the painting.  I wish it could be more.  I wish you could see the real thing -- in the flesh.

* From Lawrence Weschler's amazing book on Robert Irwin, "Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees"

A Weird and Glorious Beast

This is a gorgeous review of my work recently posted on the amazing Flavorwire blog.  (Thank you Emily Temple!)

It comes just a day after I received coverage on the Artist A Day blog, which inspired a number of supportive comments:


It has been heartening to receive so much coverage lately by the blogosphere.  All I want is for people to see the work and for the work to find its audience.  But building an audience online is a strange process that often feels more like an old-fashioned popularity contest than a meaningful exchange of art and ideas.  It's so easy to become self-conscious about how many "fans" Like your facebook page, how many "friends" will comment on your posts (on blogs, Facebook, Google+, or seemingly endless new networks that I can't keep track of), how many followers you have on Twitter, or how many times your work is re-tweeted.  Some sites even rank which artists are most "popular" on their sites.   It is a never-ending tally of statistics and quantitative data that measures every eyeball that lands on your work, and publicizes every response (or lack thereof), grading your significance or "success".

Lately I have been struck by how much art seems to be merging with entertainment.  Galleries and museums compete with entertainment venues for their audience, and instant audience feedback is courted as a critical element to the "interactive" experience.  But this call for ranking and spontaneous judgement of work seems more suited to entertainment than art.  Is the painting a thumbs up or a thumbs down?  Should the work be given 5 stars or just 3?  Did you like it?  Did you have fun?  Throughout history, it has not always been the most popular artists who are the most significant or important.  Can the artist ranked #954th still find its way into history?  And is the #1 artist really "the best"?  Just because you don't "like" it, is not worth looking at again?

I admit that the thoughtful review of my work on Flavorwire and the longer comments posted on the Artist A Day blog are encouraging.  They indicate a real engagement by the digital crowd with the work, and as long as the comments are thoughtful and interesting, I love the feedback, good or bad.  I just hope art can sustain its place in the world as something to contemplate, to experience and to debate, and not just a momentary distraction to glance at, rank, and forget.

Clarification on Inspiration

"Today, Clyne is most influenced by the fashion industry and the images of perfection and beauty it perpetuates." Lara Cory article, Escape Into Life blog
This was written last week as part of a beautiful review of my work by Lara Cory. But this particular line has been haunting me since I first read it. Although seeing a critique of the fashion industry's obsession with perfection is an entirely fair reading of my work, it is not what influences my work. It is not what inspires me to make the work.

So what does inspire me?

Fundamentally, I am inspired by images and questions of why we want to look at them, of what desires they satisfy, feed, create. I'm inspired by the different ways we experience images -- does the meaning or role of the image change if we see it on the screen of our laptop, or in a glossy magazine? Does it matter if it is experienced as a huge painting amidst the lush display of an old European museum, or as a photograph imprisoned behind glass on the white walls of a gallery? The experience of images is never determined solely by the picture itself. It is an experience of the senses, of memory, of fantasy -- ultimately, of desire. As W.J.T. Mitchell writes in his book What do Pictures Want?: "...the question of desire is inseparable from the problem of the image, as if the two concepts were caught in a mutually generative circuit, desire generating images and images generating desire." (p 58)

So if images and their relationship to desire are my subject matter, then why do I choose to paint portraits? There seems no better object of display to inspire viewers to look than the human face, an object to which we are more highly sensitive to than any other object. My paintings anthropomorphize the image, presenting portraits not of women, but of images. And by using the face, the viewer is confronted with an unsettling and seductive exchange when, as James Elkins writes, "the object stares back". In fact, it is one of the greatest moments in the process of painting for me -- when I step back to look at my painting and the tiny fragments of eyes merge together and my painting looks back at me.

And then there's fashion. Why do I steal from the pages of fashion magazines to make my paintings? At its core, fashion, like images, is about desire and illusion. To put it simply, for me, fashion is the embodiment of image-making.

I hope that clarifies things, although inspiration is of course never finite, and not always easy to articulate. I should have done a better job at clarifying my influences to Lara Cory. What others view as the most interesting aspect of your work is not always the same thing that motivated the work.

It takes me back to the moment I knew I wanted to be an artist. I had quit my job as a lawyer and moved out west, and began taking basic art classes at the local art college. My first class was a course on principles of design and composition. Our final assignment was to create a self-portrait using the principles we had learned. When it came to the day to present the work, our instructor informed us that the person sitting next to us (ie. a random stranger) would present our work. Whatever we had to say about ourselves had to have been said in the work itself. When the student next to me presented my work, she said not only the things that I had hoped the work would convey, but so much more -- and all of her insights were entirely accurate descriptions of me. The work had said more than I had ever intended, had been more revealing than I ever imagined. I was hooked.

Self-Portrait, collage, Amanda Clyne, 2002

Now, as an artist, I struggle to contend with what I hope to express through the work and what others glean from it. Is your work about what you say it is, or is it about what others see in it? I think it is unavoidably and necessarily both.

Too Much

I have too much to say. Way too much. So much that I have found myself unable to say anything at all. I've written countless unfinished blog entries, all of them totally inadequate ramblings. I have so many ideas lately, inspired by so many disparate things, I can't find the time to sort through them and articulate what it all means for me and my work. As the ideas pile up, I don't want to post my latest finding without catching up on the older ones first, but I can't seem to find the time to catch up, so the ideas pile up and pile up. I no longer know where to begin. The longer I leave it, the more the ideas shift and move, overlapping and looping around each other. They feed off each other, growing bigger and more complicated, becoming so thoroughly intertwined that I can no longer find a way to disentangle them into neat, compartmentalized postings.

I know the ideas are working their way through my paintings. I can see the influence in my latest compositions. But I continue to experience an unshakable anxiety that if I do not find the time to sort through, synthesize and articulate my responses, the ideas will start to lose their potency and will begin to suffocate within the tangled mess of incomplete arguments, fragmented thoughts and forgotten connections.

I've had strep throat this week, so my mind is fuzzy and my body aches. I'm exhausted with illness but wired from boredom, and the combination is pushing me perilously to the edge. More often than not (and especially at times like this when I'm sick), I find myself frustrated by the gap I experience between the possibilities I see in my mind and my ability to execute them in a sufficient time such that the products of my efforts don't feel like old news when they are finally complete. The speed of my body can't seem to keep up with the speed of my mind. I recently read a book about the California artist Robert Irwin (a goldmine of inspiration that I have been working through in my recent series of unpublished and unresolved blogs) in which he laments our culture's emphasis on performance:
"We are past-minded, in the sense that all of our systems of measure are developed and in a sense dependent upon a kind of physical resolution. We tag our renaissances at the highest level of performance, where it's really clear to me that once the question is raised, the performance is somewhat inevitable, almost just a mopping-up operation, merely a matter of time. " (from Lawrence Weschler's "Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees", page 90.)
I so get that! In the last couple of months, I feel myself caught in a deluge of questions that my work just can't keep up with. I know I must accept temporary resolutions, whether in order to complete a painting, post a blog entry, or write an artist statement. But be forewarned: these works are not definitive statements, they are merely a series of still inadequate working hypotheses.

It makes me return to my favorite quote that I posted on August 1, 2010 by Arnold Glimcher about how artworks are but a series of clues to the art that ultimately resides in the mind of the artist. But even that assumes that the art is fully formed in the artist's mind, and I'm not convinced that this is always so. I certainly love the idea that the art is already there, somewhere inside me, and that all I need to do is sort through the mess, excavate through the comfortable and the obvious, and free it from deep within. In fact, in moments of inspiration, like when I was reading Weschler's book on Irwin, the ideas strike me not as foreign entities, entering my consciousness from somewhere unknown and external, but much more like liberated P.O.W.s, at long last released into my thought processes from that dark, secluded place inside my mind that is otherwise inaccessible to my available modes of expression. I love that art can be the source of such liberation.

I could go on and on. There's so much more to say. I feel like I should end with some definitive conclusion to all this. But alas, I have none.

The Opposite of Intellect

Some people think I'm crazy to have this blog - all those thoughts, ideas, even a few (dare I say it) feelings about art, painting and being an artist. It may all come back to haunt me one day. It may be haunting me now. How much should we say about our art? Is it better to be the elusive but uber-hip Andy Warhol, the evasive but brilliant Chuck Close or the diaristic, soul-baring Tracey Emin? Is it all contrived anyway? Is it just persona-building and market-savvy calculations?

I've been thinking about this in the context of writing (and forever re-writing) my artist statement. How much does the viewer really need to read about the work in order to experience it fully? How much should I, as the artist, attempt to guide the viewer into the experience of the work? The intellectual aspects of the work can be explained, but the non-intellectual elements are not so easily defined. I've been trying to think of a word that captures those other aspects of the experience of art, the non-intellectual, non-rational side. "Emotional" is one way of describing it, but that can suggest an element of melodrama or intensity that isn't necessarily appropriate or adequate. "Spiritual" is sometimes used, but in today's culture, it smacks of new age philosophy and Oprah. "Sensual" conveys a contrast to the intellectual. I like to think of the term more broadly, as those responses that are "of the senses" and not just by way of touch. But even the dictionary on my computer tells me that this use of the word is naively optimistic, if not wholly incorrect:
"The words sensual and sensuous are frequently used interchangeably to mean ‘gratifying the senses,’ esp. in a sexual sense. Strictly speaking, this goes against a traditional distinction, by which sensuous is a more neutral term, meaning ‘relating to the senses rather than the intellect’ [...]. In fact, the word sensuous is thought to have been invented by John Milton (1641) in a deliberate attempt to avoid the sexual overtones of sensual. In practice the connotations are such that it is difficult to use sensuous in Milton's sense. While traditionalists struggle to maintain a distinction, the evidence suggests that the neutral use of sensuous is rare in modern English. If a neutral use is intended, it is advisable to use alternative wording."
But what would that alternative wording be? And if there is no adequate word to describe it, how are we, as artists, expected to explain it with respect to our own work? And how can our attempts to describe our intentions be conveyed to the viewer without the risk of being dictatorial, limiting, or disruptive?

I like to think that there is a lot more to my work than expressions of intellectual curiosities and opinions. But I'm not convinced I need to talk about it. Susan Stewart (in her collection of essays "The Open Studio") writes, " artwork can be completed without reception." My job as an artist is not to create an experience for the viewer that mimics my own, or worse, proscribe to the viewer the ideal or "correct" response to a work. The intellectual aspects of a work can be described (which may or may not add to the viewer's experience), but all the rest must surely be entrusted to the viewers to determine for themselves.