Vacuum Powered Art

Aug 20, 2006 at 7:19 PM
I decided that if I could own the collected works of only one actor - from start to finish - it would be Bruce Willis. Three of my favorite movies have him in them. He is thoroughly undervalued as a dramatic actor. Bruce knows how to underact. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think Bruce Willis gets short shrift being thought of as primarily an "action" guy. The reason he succeeds at action is because he uses non-action well. He knows the power of the pregnant pause.

Some call it the calm before the storm, but it is often the calm during the storm, too. In music, it's called a rest. In painting, it creates atmosphere.

Supposedly, a scientific study was once done on the different between Beethoven and his contemporaries. The study was to discover what about the music made Beethoven so much more memorable, so much more impactive that his music still remains amongst the most played in the world. And the computer that was given the job of comparison came back with that the difference was the use of silence.

Beethoven knew when to place a dramatic pause, knew when nothing was more powerful than something. It gives the audience the time to react, to absorb and acknowledge something. To allow for the communication to become a communication cycle, allows the music to become as much a the audience's as it is the composers' or the performers'.

Another person who bravely worked new ground in using emptiness to punctuate a communication was Rembrandt. Look at this portrait. You have to enter it to find it's value. You can tell the coat's texture, the weight of the lace in his collar. You can tell he isn't completely pulled together. You have to peer into the places where it appears to me mostly just shadow. When you do, you don't see perfect detail. You do see everything Rembrandt wanted to communicate about himself. He was 23, and his whole life is in his eyes, which themselves are buried in the shadows of the painting. You can tell his lips are parted, but the details, the focal points of his communication are barely painted in. I feel like he's about to do something, and it makes me want to know what that is. I want to communicate to the person in this portrait.

And for that, I think his portraits are amongst the most powerful examples of understatement in the known history of art. This portrait is early, before he was a famous master painter. This self portrait elicits a reaction from me.

That is the goal of my art: to get my communication, my emotion, to be completely understood so that a reaction occurs at the other end. To take a breath - make use of the lack, the silence, the rest - the power of the vacuum - in addition to the form, the swirling and colorful, the forte.

The rest is a powerful part of why the remainder of the artwork impinges. It is the moment when the flow reverses to some degree. Beethoven knew it, Rembrandt knew it.

And for it, society recognized something powerful enough to cause their art to be the most remembered of their entire time period.

And every great actor has to live it to some degree.

The best paid actors out there. Think back to the moment you remember best. For me, they are the powerful moments of silence, pregnant pauses.

The vacuum.


  1. Tim says it is funny that you like the landscapes, because not so many people do. Robert is always confused about this point, because he (Robert) really likes them.

    I'll have to tell him.

  2. desi Says:

    Wow! Nice to hear from you, Rachel. Are you Tim's wife?

    I think that the fact that Robert can brilliantly duplicate and re-work reality in his portraits is one thing, and an amazing thing at that.
    But I think that Robert turns landscapes into a higher art -- way beyond his usual level of amazing. The pictures on the website are all so small that they can't possibly do justice to them. Robert makes landscapes that evade description and blow the top right off of your head, all with what appears to be a minimal use of paint. That is why I included him here. I think he, like the Dutch painters he reminds me of, uses the vacuum beautifully.

    Nice to meet you Rachel. Give my love to my ex-boss, would you?