Although my initial art training was traditional and academic, for many years, my approach to art making has been and continues to be experimental, consequently, I am not bound to any particular style. One thing has led to another and although my work may seem stylistically varied, I see a consistent development, for whatever happens, I try follow wherever the experiments lead.
For about twenty years I explored the ramifications of the gray scale and even wrote a 500 page dissertation on that subject. That research took me to such institutions as the Paul Klee Foundation in Bern, Switzerland, the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin, numerous museums and research libraries , plus correspondence with notable artists, such as Herbert Bayer, Hannes Beckmann, Richard Paul Lohse, Victor Vasarely etc. Josef Albers was the artist-in Residence at the Rochester Institute of Technology while I was a graduate student there and while doing research at the Paul Klee Foundation, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with Felix Klee, son of Paul Klee.
The study of tone-gradients eventually led me to Ruskin’s, “Elements of Drawing” wherein he states that he could make mud glow if allowed to graduate it from light to dark. I tried Ruskin’s suggestion, quite successfully, I thought and this expanded into further use of natural pigments (soil, earths) in a binder, such as acrylic and a summer researching and utilizing the natural materials found along the beaches of Lake Michigan and another summer doing similar work on the Isle of Wight, where there is an abundance of natural pigments of amazingly varied colors.
In making experimental art, I have utilized powerful magnets, mechanically induced vibrations, computerized spectrophotometers, air compressors, air brushes, heat, cold, gravity, flow forces etc, as well as traditional tools and materials. I often play a creative game in which I ask such questions as, for example, what would happen if I did whatever ? I then try to answer that whatever.
Here is one example of how I work. I wondered what would result if I produced bubbles with a mixture of watercolor pigment, liquid soap and water, that would then be allowed to fall on a prepared ground. Could I capture the bubble’s image? Through trial and error, I did eventually captured the image but with unusual and varying results.
Another experiment made use of water and oil and the fact that they do not easily mix and in that case, I used a glossy, black plastic paper that was allowed to float just under the surface in a pan of water. I then blasted the surface with an oil enamel under considerable pressure. The results were quite surprising and engaging. The original piece of art was quite small. I had it either photographed or scanned and enlarged digitally on canvas in tones of black, gray and white. I then added to it by glazing it with coloured oil glazes, as in the technique employed by the Renaissance masters.
That poses further questions. Where does this hybrid digitized print fit within the various categories of art? Indeed, is that question of any importance in the 21st century when almost anything passes as art and the traditional art boundaries are constantly being breached?
These experiments are sometimes, but not always immediately successful, but with time and persistence and always being open to wherever the experiment leads, interesting results have been achieved. I look forward to further art experimentations in the future. Who know where that will lead. That is part of the adventure.
Amazingly, in much that I do, even when experimenting (playing around), I see in the end-results, elements of the sea and seashore. Having spent much of my life around the ocean, quite possibly I read into my art, the environment most familiar to me.
Photos of Charles’ current work can be sent at request.
Example not in Gallery: