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Richard Diebenkorn

One of my favourite artists is Richard Diebenkorn. There is so much I could say about him (and probably will on this blog, given time) but today I will limit myself to this. Something especially appealing about his work is the sense of layers, of even more stuff happening below the surface, occasionally glimpsed, occasionally hidden. I’ve tried many times to explain to myself the nature of the appeal. Was it because it showed the creative process in action – actions and their revisions, a fascinating groping towards a successful conclusion? I am sure this is part of it but it never felt like an adequate answer. However, recently I read (in “The Art Instinct” by Denis Dutton) that from an evolutionary perspective there are certain features of a landscape that seem to be innately appealing to people everywhere. It’s a fascinating list, and one of them is what follows. The environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan have stressed that, in a landscape, we have…

‘a preference for an element of mystery, which they define as a feeling that “one could acquire new information if one were to travel deeper into the scene” – following a path or looking around a bend….. More than any other component of landscape characteristics, mystery stirs the human imagination and as such is vitally important to landscape as an artform.’

If we do have an instinctive love of mystery then this is probably a better explanation for the appeal of Diebenkorn’s layers. There is a sense that there is more here than we can quite grasp.

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