GEORGE NICK: THE WORLD IS FLAT

That is, in relationship to painting the world. 

Mirror, Raven, Rose, Lemon and I, 20" X 20", 2011

We are in constant motion and the motion seen with two eyes gives us information about our place in space and the relationships of forms within space. We have since babyhood developed a keen understanding of the world as form and space. We
use this knowledge plus the flat world we see (if we don't move) to paint images. 

What is the flat world we see? Monocular vision?
Even though we have two eyes, what we generally see is one clear object. Or think we do. Up close if we look with only our right eye we see the object and a background. If we close our right and look at the object at close range with our left eye, we see the object slightly moved and the background moved quite a bit. Because we are focusing on different parts of the site we do not notice this discrepancy. The mind makes it simple for us to see what we want to look at. Like peripheral vision. I remember Dickinson telling us that when we are studying an object to close one eye to see it clearer. And that is monocular vision.



The mind has made it easy for us to select our sight. We really see too much, so the mind has simplified our seeing. This knowledge is both personal and technical. We know a lot and we use that information unconsciously to make our way in the world.

Is there a way that this information interferes with our ability to see what is really there? Does making a painting involve an effort to put aside what we learned in infancy in order to see what is there?
Absolutely not! The information can only intrude if we think about it. We use all we know. We have an immense stored knowledge that involves personal history and technical knowledge capable of a high degree of analytical powers. In painting I try to find different ways to accomplish that.

Is this difficult? When in your painting life did you realize that there is a difference between pure perception and our understanding of the world? How did the awareness of this difference change, for you, the process of translating the seen to a painted image?
It is difficult to paint. It is pain and we add the T.
In the beginning, I always felt I couldn't remake the world but I would like to try. I didn't know how so I tried different ways. I am still doing that. I am not that focused. I go out to paint. I look for something to paint. All these ideas stay in the background, out of sight, until I am through painting. I get ideas from the act of painting and it guides me either into a dogma or chaos. All my paintings start from what is seen. The painting marries in different ways and set up its own laws, which I try to deduce and follow. The awareness did not change the painting. The conclusions of the finished piece changed the process of translating the seen.
I have used the same tools for 50 years. The method is not mechanical. It has more to do with dreams, desires and pot luck. Since there is no method, the results vary by how aggressive or focused they are. Since the paintings differ, there are surprises, because the search — once begun and noted — must be followed, and a painting takes on its own life in the process.

Sitting on our deck looking at the back yard I see the cherry tree I planted 30 years ago and cut down after I wrote this. While thinking about The Flat World, it occurred to me that looking at this tree might serve as an example of some of the ideas pertaining to my personal knowledge, feelings and understanding of form and space. I was watching birds chirping and flitting in and out of the tree (which had the width and volume of a previously owned VW Vanagon). It was about 40 feet from where I sat (which was twice the length of our raised vegetable garden). I saw through the branches some birds flying to a purple beech tree that I had planted 16 years ago and that reached a height of 17 feet (the width of my old studio). I could have constructed an accurate sculpture of all these forms and space.This was personal, immediate knowledge. 


There is a generic knowledge of all trees that I gained as a child when I walked around them, looked up, felt them, climbed them, felt their texture and solidity. I vaguely understood all trees from the few that we had in the yard.

We know much more than trees. Our extensive knowledge of the world is almost infinite. How we choose to select and when we choose to select from this huge bank varies depending on our quiet momentary needs and desires. But this information is selectively used in painting though we are not conscious of doing it. We think directly in terms of our practical tools with which we are making true images on a flat surface with color and tone.

I try to be objective in what I see but the sight is adulterated by how much I know. I squint to simplify what I see and to gauge value. I try in that way to be more objective and not think of art so that I can get closer to myself within the framework of my learned skills, habits, capabilities and desires.