What is it That I Share With a Physicist?

Artists often use the expressions, "that works" and "that doesn’t work." When discussing their work. It’s clear to me and to most artists what those kinds of expressions mean, but difficult to explain.

Though I haven’t been trained in the science of physics, I have always been interested in the way the Universe and the Earth are formed. I like reading lay literature about scientific theory. This search for the truths of the Universe is a driving force many of us feel.

As an artist I am concerned about truth. My paintings are strong when they express things that are true. But as an artist I don’t prove truth with the scientific method. Artists operate by building a lifetime of intuitive insights about what works in art. When a painting works there is something solid about it. Its forms fit together right. They’re turned on. If anything were changed the structure would fall apart. To a person who is seriously involved in art, form that works feels right. This form that works is something rich, deep, strong. To me it’s honest and true. It’s like being a physicist, able to use the structures of the world or able to conjure up new structures with the same kind of truth, to invent structures that work. I know this is not an objective proof for truth. There is no objective proof in art. As we travel our paths in art we develop intuitive understandings of art truths. These art truths give art its power and Its significance.

What we see with our eyes as we look at the world is not necessarily the truth about things. Optical realism is often an illusion. Copying the world as we see it with our eyes is a good starting point, but it’s not the truth. Paintings may be about many things. They don’t have to be copies of what our eyes see of the world. They may interpret what our eyes see. They may restate the forms to get to the core of things or to emphasize things that are important. They may be about what we could see if we saw a truth from our minds. Then we would say that they worked, and we would be moved.


Howard Ganz

June 30, 1999