I decided to compose two large abstract paintings for The Goose Game series using rolls of the dice and the old European board game, the Goose Game. I’d let chance dictate the process.
I used notebook pages and wrote either thematic or painterly elements in a list , randomly numbering them 2 to 12 to correspond with dice rolls.
You can see it’s a real mix: all the way from “use neocolors” to “holy spirit.” This way of working does have a lineage. John Cage used the I Ching to compose music, notably “Music of Changes”, including the notorious Roaring Silence segment. I found out about this during the eighties in New College, San Francisco, where a teacher, either Robert Duncan or Duncan McNaughton, friends of poet and musician Lou Harrison, who apparently also used the I Ching to compose, brought it up in class. Less known is that John Cage also used it to compose prints, monoprints and lithographs, during the seventies, at the end of his life.
The best article on this I’ve found on John Cage and his use of the I Ching is on S J Marshall’s fine site, Calling Crane in the Shade. For painting, I found the process beautifully meditative. Quiet and slow, it let each element unfold by itself until I was done with it, with little anxiety or the press of “I could do this, I could change that.” Most important, it gave comfort to be rid of the tumult of “What should I do?”
It was calming and centering to give away the control to a larger element, as I did when I was walking the Camino de Santiago. The Goose Game is an ancient European board game that has many metaphors for pilgrimage, which is why I chose it. This all sounds so odd. I find it interesting that abstract composers and artists are drawn to chance in creation. Something larger moves through us.
I’ll be happy to share more about my process at the opening of The Goose Game, Friday May 1st, 2015, 5-8 PM, in the Backstreet Gallery. I’m located down Art Alley in SOFA Santa Rosa. I’ll give an artist talk at 7 PM. You can play the Goose Game if you visit.