Chasing Phosphenes

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As I began to prepare for my solo show I struggled to come up with a unifying theme or direction. Initially I thought I was going to answer the frequently asked question of “where I’m from” and chart out the different cities I’ve lived in, through my paintings. But then I soon realized that when I make an effort to represent a place, feeling or idea intentionally, the image falls a bit flat. I took a look at some of my older work and the pieces that I’m not 100% satisfied with are the ones that I attempted to give them meaning. Then panic started to set in: I was stuck! How was I going to come up with a theme and then represent it and then create pieces I was happy with?

Monica Melgar - 7 Phosphenes - melgart

This problem made me start to analyze my process in a way I never have before. Up until recently I was obsessed with my technique and was not even open to changing it in any way. However, because I had experimented some variations of my technique on my tablet, I started to play with different brushstrokes too. Amazing what can happen when you get out of your own way and allow new things to come through you! Suddenly I felt so lose and open to whatever else I did differently. And that’s when it hit me, if I don’t try and instead I allow, part of me creates on its own. What I have now discovered is that the pieces I am most satisfied with were not intended, they just became. So, although my problem was to still to come up with a new body of work that somehow spoke to a theme, now at least I knew what NOT to do.

So where do my images come from if I don’t intend them? If it’s not a conscious choice to make something representational, I believe that my subconscious mind must be to blame. A while back I started paying attention to the light patterns in my eyes during the onset of sleep (hypnagogia) and if I “saw” something interesting I would try to remember it the next day and I never could. But not long ago, during some sleep deprived, insomnia induced state while I was trying to force myself to sleep…something happened. I observed for a long time (or what seemed a long time) actual patterns and forms change from one to another, different shapes and colors and move and disappear. Eventually I saw actual scenes like watching a movie. I know I wasn’t asleep, but I also wasn’t awake. And I was not influencing or intending any particular vision. This was again my subconscious creating images that I was seeing without seeing.

The new work I’ll be showing at Galeria Regina is an exploration of these visions with some new textures and brushstrokes.

Phosphene :  phenomenon characterized by the experience of seeing light without light actually entering the eye.


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