243: The Role of Symbolism

Sketch for Reflected World, Graphite

FINDING your way as an artist is not easy. As I look back over my career I wonder at all the techniques and styles I’ve explored. I always admired artists who seemed to know exactly who they were and how to express that identity.

In retrospect I see I had a propensity for symbolic representation yet rejected it in favor of a more realistic approach. Fortunately, one of the great things about an art career is that it’s never too late to recover lost ground. All the styles and techniques we explore can be plowed under to make rich soil for future work. The ruins of past projects become the stable foundation for future creations.

An overview of my career shows a willingness to divide the world into individual, symbolic chunks, while simultaneously resisting such division. The cloisonnism of Van Gogh seemed too prosaic in a world infused with poetic subtlety. Or was infusing symbolism via delineation a necessary aspect of his artistic project? Previously I thought delineation was simply a technique to differentiate areas of color with similar values.

The work of Rockwell Kent and the Group of Seven had the same tendency toward symbolism, often using linear calligraphy–and their paintings projected a similar power as the work of Van Gogh. My woodcuts had a type of symbolism lurking beneath the surface although rarely expressing themselves using the overt outlines of Van Gogh’s woodcut-inspired cloisonnism. I now see his delineation as a way to infuse symbolic content into form.

So I find myself at a crossroads reconsidering the form of my work–perhaps seeking a synthesis of woodcut and painting–to create a more personal and complete visual world. I feel a new phase of artistic experimentation coming on–allowing prosaic symbolism to step forward, swapping poetry for power–a phase that for the first time I will not resist.

Brad Teare– July 2015


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Updated: 27th January 2023
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