Through Concentrated Breath

the making of images from memory

Narrative, the Past, and Beyond 1

12 December 2017 by Rey Armenteros

I was cooking up reasons why I was even looking at this old work. Actually, the truth was that I didn’t need any reason. I was looking through it and contemplating doing something with it so many years after its creation simply because it had some value. When I first went into an old box and dug out this forgotten art from my days in Shinchon, Korea, I was awed by how adventurous it was, how different it was from my art now. Swept by this excitement, I started showing it on my different social media sites in the hopes of garnering interest in my origins before giving my followers views of my newer art. But then I started thinking about how this was a new forum for this work that never received any venue. My original intentions when I lived in Shinchon were for these tiny drawings to be cards like you would find in a deck of Tarot but with concrete storytelling potentials. I moved from Shinchon before I could fulfill my storytelling plans, but when I started scrutinizing them recently, they were giving me a view at something cohesive.

I was now looking for a reason for this body of work because I was seriously thinking of publishing them as decks of cards. To this end, I was plumbing the depths of old desires and plans, searching for the intentions behind the work, trying to recall where I was in life and what was important to me. It was not easy. I ended up grouping decks according to both the subject matter and to the emotive quality behind the images. I was also comparing the cards that included text with those that didn’t, and in those that had text, I distinguished between the text that was personal and the text that was not. Looking through three hundred drawings, I formed five decks. And suddenly, I did find a latent story between these decks of cards, and I promptly sutured them together as one long narrative worthy of a graphic novel format. I was even entertaining the possibilities of an actual printed book to go along with the cards. To me, there was an actual story flying through the images, even if their connection was tenuous.

Finally, I showed them to my wife, and unfortunately, she found very little connection to the narrative sequences. She thought it was not likely the viewers would find anything there as far as a narrative. And she was right. The story I thought was there relied on much too much abstraction. Many of the images were already abstracted in some way, even if the images were mostly figurative. On top of that, the esoteric text supplied another level of abstraction. And if there was also abstraction in their logical sequence on top of it all, then that would be a third level, which meant that the adhesive I was using to put this alleged narrative together had no sticking power.

It is interesting that even in abstraction, you need something concrete to bind it all or it won’t make any sense. In the old days, an abstract painting had a title, which might not provide much, but at least it grounded the work. My wife suggested a couple things. They were subjects, in a sense; she asked me why I didn’t group them into one deck of portraits, and another of landscapes, and such — and forget about trying too many things at once.

My wife made me realize that I was complicating the issue. I was now going to stick to the basics. Alas.

A man sharing his art with the world at large.

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