Frequent Questions

Robert January


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Tassili N'Ajjer Region, Algerian Sahara


 Table of Contents

  1. Why these questions?
  2. Why paint?
  3. What's art?
  4. What to paint?
  5. Why figurative versus abstract? 
  6. Why the human figure?
  7. How to paint?
  8. Why art?
  9. Why support the arts?
  10. How to visit studio and gallery...or get a description (size) of works and price list...or get answers to other questions?

 Why these questions?

          “An art website is already a contradiction in terms…digital flattens the human experience/expression.  So, these are brief words pointing to the missing dimensions  of the works you see images of here... and to encourage you to see the original works in person. "

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 Why paint?         

          "In 1987,   I experienced first-hand the prehistoric art of the very difficult to access Tassili N'Ajjer in the Algerian Sahara.  Imagine human voices from thousands of years ago suddenly crying out to you. From that moment on my hands would not rest until I allowed them to draw, sculpt and paint.   I paint because my hands, the tool of my heart and soul, suffer if I don't paint!"

          “To understand being.”

          “Biological creation by other means…”

          “Express the mystery of my accidental origins…my pointless ends…and the impossible possibility that the opposite might be  the case.”

          “To find out why I paint."  

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What's art?

          “That which is expressed by great artists…Michelangelo, Titian, Shakespeare, Homer, Emily Dickenson, Faulkner, Cezanne…”

          “That which only can be defined by its own expression, in prose only indicated by what it is not.”

          “That which cannot be defined by philosophy,  mathematics or science, though at their highest expression these disciplines can themselves become art.”

          “Human discourse, prompted by economic pressures and greed over the last several thousand years,  has dulled away the poetic, our original language, creating the greatest emptiness and unhappiness.  Prose, the language style of economics, has sought precision instead of fertility and abundance of imagery.  We are imprisoned in this limited discourse more than any stone prison.”

          “Religion—Eros—art,  all come from the same source…result of our search for the deepest part of our being…for “being.”

          “Art is magic.”

          “Art is the laughter at the final ding dong."

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What to paint?

          “What moves me...the human figure, the human heart and nature’s inexhaustible reply to my question what to paint.”

          “The great prehistoric art was made by humans who understood their subject from the inside out.  That’s why it feels so alive and fuels our imagination...I paint where symbols won’t go.”

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Why figurative versus abstract? 

          “All great literature is “figurative”…some form of metaphor or trope, turning of the phrase.  In literature there are hundreds of types of figurative language.  In English literature there are apparently four primary ones…irony, syndochee, metonym and metaphor….i.e. poetic.  Art and the poetic are perfect synonyms.”

          "A painting is something concrete, not abstract."

          "Our experience of nature, of being, is both abstract and concrete simultaneously." 

          "I'm trying to bring volume and weight back into art without losing the restore the fruit to the husk."

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Why the human figure?

          “Same reason the Greeks took man as their primary focus: know thyself.”

          “Same reason the ancient Hebrews believed God had made man in his own image.

          “The kingdom of God is at hand."

          "It stirs my imagination and heart."


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How to paint?

          “All great art seeks to create life…a living organism.  This child of the artist, partly an expression of the artist, is mostly an expression of itself…i.e. it takes on a life of its own at birth.   In painting,  life is unity, where form and color become one.  How to make a canvas live?   Composition—great masses—economy of detail—all totally devoted to expressing the original concept."

          “When color and form proportions are one, the painting suddenly jumps alive.”

          “With Michelangelo, Titian, Cezanne, the Greeks, the prehistoric artist of Chauvet Cave, etc., it all comes together in one:  figurative, decorative, color, volume, abstract.  What’s not there is symbol.  These great works of art may have become symbols…or icons.  But for the artists at the time of creation, they were live organisms.  And if we really look at them carefully, they cease to be symbols and become live organisms again.”

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Why art?

           "Art has played a vital role in human evolution and the development of human consciousness for over 500K years…and probably much longer.  Human brain case didn’t expand until the thumb dropped down to oppose the fingers.  Bone record shows man has evolved but highly questionable that art has.   History of art is more like a US eastern forest succession than a farmer’s field:  a great fire burns the forest to the ground, grasses eventually grow, followed by small bushes, then cedars and eventually deciduous trees…oaks, maples, hickories, elms.  The canopy of the deciduous trees kills the grasses.  Eventually white pine and hemlock take root, grow, tower and overcome the deciduous trees…until the next fire.  A fire has been raging on earth since the death of Cezanne, the last great evergreen.”

          “Art is at the heart of the creation of science…about vision, feeling and expression.  When scientific or mathematic discourse reaches the, caresses “being.”  These too are expressions of man’s experience of “being,”…the unmentionable in ancient Hebrew theology.”

          “Art is philosophy by other means.”

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Why support the arts?

          “To fill that missing dimension in our narrowly defined modern lives…to fulfill the hunger no food can satisfy.”

          “So we have something to serve the mystery guest at the final ding dong.”

          “To find out why we live.”

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How to visit studio and gallery...or get a description (size) of works and price list...or get answers to other questions?

               "E mail: "

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Tassili N'Ajjer

Copyright © 2010  Robert L. January, All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/07/10.


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