Apples of My Eye

A perceptual approach to painting is not synonymous with rote observation.

— Matthew Ballou

Perceptual painters,” artist Matthew Ballou says, dwell on two surfaces at once: the surface of the object and the surface of the canvas.

The artist daubs paint on one surface (the canvas) in order to create the illusion of another (the object).

But that’s the least of it.

“Creating an illusion of things is of only partial importance when it comes to the fact of the painted surface,” Ballou says.

“Subjectivity, shifting focus, and temporality are also vital as indicators of life, sensation, and thought in the artwork.”

I love Ballou’s concept of a painting.

A painting embodies both the experienced thing and the artist’s experience of painting the thing.

And, in embodying those two experiences, a painting preserves them for the viewer to enjoy.

Consider the lowly apple.

Rene Magritte, The Son of Man

When David asked God, “Keep me as the apple of your eye,” he was asking God to preserve him (David was surrounded by enemies).

“Apple of your eye” is a poetic rendering of the Hebrew expression “little man in your eye,” the reflection you see of yourself in another’s pupils.

To be the “apple of your eye” means you’re being watched over—you’re being preserved.

A painting is an artifact, Ballou says, that preserves two reveries, two epiphanies; an artifact that calls you to experience the “progressive revelation” which observing and painting comprise.

“That is why Cezanne’s apples are not just apples,” he says.

Cezanne’s apples are the apples of my eye.

Above: June Apple. Oil on canvas board. 10 x 8 inches. Ships framed and ready to hang.