No semblance of meaning

Abstract Opus by Randy Titus

Exploring the Art work of Randy Titus and his 2005 Abstract series, discovered in a dumpster.

    According to legend, the great abstract artist Kazimir Malevich experienced a spiritual vision in 1913, when he painted a black square on a white field, demonstrating that a painting could exist completely free of any reflection, or imitation of the external world.   In his defiant brush strokes he managed to transform Art itself from the dead weight of the real world and appropriated a black square into a symbol of iconic negation.   He wrote:   “Objectivity, in itself, is meaningless, the concepts of the conscious mind are worthless. Feeling is the determining factor… and thus Art arrives at non-objective representation.” 

   Malevich’s Suprematism movement ushered in a new receptivity in Modern art that could transform the pictorial arts into a  “supremacy of pure feeling”. Malevich became one of the most important artistic voices in Russia’s post-Revolution. In 1928 his painting, Head of a Peasant, created chaos in public opinion when as critics claimed, he reduced the human face to meaninglessness.   By then the Stalinists had taken power and declared Socialist Realism as the only official Art form, his work was destroyed and Malevich was forced to paint representational art until his death. 

   Another abstract artist working with Non-objective art  was Wassily Kandinsky. He believed color contained a spiritual level that transcended meaning, and moved beyond representation; one could feel the essence of each color.   Art became an emotional aesthetic experience for Kandinsky as he created paintings that were non-representational, and full of “spiritual vibration”.    He felt that only a true Poet and a Master of shape could create abstract art, his influence was nothing short of a cultural grenade with his conviction that Art should be concerned with the spiritual, rather than the material. 

No Semblance of Meaning is a 2005 painting portfolio by local artist Randy Titus. Abstract Art served as an inspiration point for the piece, particularly Malevich’s  Suprematism manifesto, and it’s strange theory that the visual phenomena of the objective world was in itself…meaningless.   To test this concept out, Mr Titus began to paint non-objective shapes on a series of Squares. Typical of the Abstract Art world, he would describe his process and what lead to the creation of the work.  “I paper-masked the squares quickly and painted the opening pure white as a base to push color into”. These odd abstractions of shape attempted to be “devoid of meaning” or had no recognizable symbol of reality.

    This spiritual art experiment also had a root in Mr Titus’s dedication to Zen Meditation.   He explored the Buddhist idea of “mu” or “no-mind” in his artistic creative process and completed the first part,  relatively without meaning. As his oil painting squares became a portfolio, and the layers of the work manifested, he sought to recreate his own experience for the general public.    No Semblance was meant to push the viewer into a journey of non-meaning, but strangely he began mapping meaning over the images with absurd text and small graphic symbols.   The totality of the project was similar to a Zen Koan, in that it would confound the viewer into a hyperbole of meaning.  

The finished piece was titled  “No Semblance of Meaning”  and contained twenty four squares all filled with shape, color and meaninglessness.  The individual squares were labeled, numbered and text descriptions were applied with absurdity.  Example: Plate 7, Dance of the Gods,  relates to the discovery of ceramic tiles in Hesperone.   The tile designs were based on a traditional dance of the Gods for the upbeat vestibular gavotte, a metaphysical choreography of a forgotten civilization.  Of course there is no Hesperone or ceramic tiles, Mr Titus was making it all up. At the heart of the piece is a supremacy of feeling that is not easily described in words, a notion that moves the viewer from non-meaning towards a transcendent understanding, one that ushers us hopefully towards our own non-representational spiritual experience.  

   Randy Titus  was a classically trained Painter, Philosopher, Graphic Artist, Teacher and a Chess club coach.  He was fond of saying about his Art….”you either get it or you don’t.” He passed away early last year, and his legacy is currently being discovered.  

(original edit of the Article for All the Art Magazine.)