Project Description

Art Project

Blank Slate

2020-2021, Amsterdam
White background for Blank Slate (image by Steve Johnson)

Art Project

Blank Slate

2020-2021, Amsterdam

Blank Slate is “project zero” for Case Greenfield. Inspired by neuro-scientist Steven Pinker the artworks of this project express how a (proverbial) blank slate in art is impossible. “We, artists, all stand on the shoulders of giants.”

From the first cave artists in the stone age, Davinci, Bosch, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Klimt, up to Picasso, of course Duchamp, De Kooning, and even Koons or Basquiat. We, artists have been influenced by our predecessors. Again and again. Let it be our mission to bring art a step further. A giant leap. Just like they did.

The project evolves around the model in many an artist’s mind of being completely original in their creativity. They are not. We are not. No artist ever is. There is no 100% originality in our brain. Try it yourself: think of something, anything, that does not exist of one element of existing things or ideas. All artists are connected through ideas, inspiring each-other in an ever-evolving artistic continuum. As artists, we stand on the shoulders of giants. In a way, the Blank Slate project also is a tribute to those giants.

So, we want to stand out, be original, independent, free. How to deal with this? Are our artistic theme and voice all we have?

(August 21, 2021) Case:

After writing the story “AI Art? Quantum Art” it suddenly dawned at me why the Blank Slate art project is so extremely relevant. Intuitively, I must have felt this when I started this project. Now, I can express it in words.

It refers to the question, whether AI, Artificial Intelligence can be creative. Because of how AI works. All it does is recognize patterns in data and recognize/continue those patterns (like linear regression). In other words, whatever AI ‘creates’ was already in the pattern of the data. Not creative, one would say.

But then, the Blank Slate question arises: how creative is the human brain, really? Doesn’t every artist, however famous or ‘brilliant’ (whatever that is) or ‘creative’ (whatever that is, too) ultimately build upon the work of their predecessors? More of the same. Add a little twist, add a personal voice and continue that a life long (in an almost autistic way)? I’d say for 99% of all artists that is certainly true.

So, how about the 1%? The Jheronimus Bosch’s, Vincent van Gogh’s, the Marcel Duchamp’s, the Marc Chagall’s, the Salvador Dali’s? The misfits, the square pegs in a round hole? How creative were they, really? Creative, as in “create something that didn’t exist before, as a whole or pieces of it”?

And, can Artificial Intelligence ever be creative in that sense? Or even, can it be creative it the way Bosch, Van Gogh, Duchamp, Chagall and Dali were creative (if we call them ‘creative’)?

I guess, in the first place it comes down to the question how we define ‘creative’. What percentage, if you will, of the work has to be new? And how do we define ‘new’? Can a new combination of existing elements be considered new, hence creative? If so, can the continuation of a pattern (in data, for instance) that results in a new configuration – of spats of paint on a canvas (eg. Deep Art), for instance, or of words in a text (eg. Verse by Verse) – be considered creative?

And if so, when do we call such a creative ‘continuation of pattern into a new configuration’ art? When we like it, when we find it beautiful, when someone is willing to pay for it, when it becomes famous, when it is exposed in a museum, when … art experts say it is art?

Or is it all going to be a matter of new interpretation, like Duchamp did: “no absolute truth in art; no juries, no rejections”. The beholder’s share: creative is whatever I feel is creative, and art is whatever gets paid millions for … the end of art as we knew it?

Whether created by an AI system, based on quantum or traditionally created by a craftsman human being … the latter, just like my countryman artist Peter Riezebos: whenever the Chinese pay good money, we call it art – despite artistically being a not so creative variation of Basquiat with a twist of Karel Appel … but with a fantastic human (hopeful), personal story (“yes, you can, just stay true to yourself, however rejected or a misfit you feel … and not without Lindy, of course“), that makes it a form of art again, in my view.

The personal touch, the story makes it 21st Century art! Warm grounding!

Blank Slate steps

August 2021

Back in business!

I refound my inspiration. Went to IKEA to buy the necessary preprinted canvases with famous paintings:

  • Davinci’s Vitruvian Man
  • Van Gogh’s Starry Night
  • Vermeer’s Girl with Pearl
  • Monet’s Water Lillies
  • Van Gogh’s Sun Flowers
  • Davinci’s Mona Lisa

Unfortunately, there was only one copy left of the Girl with Pearl, so i will have to see how I will solve that.

July 2021

Study trip to Sicily

Still blocked. Nothing has happened the last few weeks. I have decided I must take a break. I will go on a study trip to Sicily.

I have written a short Story about my two week trip. Click here to read it.

June 2021

Artist block … !!

So, this is the weirdest thing. On April 23rd, I finished my first tangible piece of art, “On the shoulders of Davinci, No. 1”. And then … nothing. I blocked out. Totally. A weird form of reticence. As if I didn’t dare cross the threshold into a new room. For now, I just let it happen.

May 2021

First studies of final artworks

SOME NOTES FROM CASE:

A major step forward in this art project. I am thinking of buying IKEA replicas of popular classical paintings (118×78 cm). Putting these in a square of 196×196 cm. And filling the hole in the middel with a HEMA printed 40×40 cm photo on canvas of another masterpiece.

Something like this, as a tribute to the old masters like Davinci, Rembrandt and Vermeer:

Study for On the shoulders of the old masters

Study for On the shoulders of the old masters

And something like this, as a tribute to the impressionists like Van Gogh or Monet:

Study for on the shoulders Of the impressionists

Study for On the shoulders of the impressionists

And here’s another one. A study for On the shoulders of cavemen (multiple, now). This one is purely on HEMA photo prints, each 75×75 cm, so 150×150 cm in total. Or I could make one of nine parts: 225×225 cm.

Study for On the shoulders of cavemen

Study for On the shoulders of cavemen

And more to come, eg. one for the expressionists. But I’m not sure IKEA have those in their collection.

So, what will this art project look like?

I am now thinking of a number of bigger paintings, something like 200×200 cm. Maybe, a short series of smaller copies, but hand painted and signed, of course. And a number of prints of the original paintings on a decent size, eg. 60×60 cm, or maybe slightly larger, eg. 80×80 cm.

So, the entire “Blank Slate” project the will then probably exist of:

  • About five or six original large paintings, probably between 200×200 and 250×250 cm
  • Some ten smaller ‘original copies’ of each of those, ie. 50 to 60 pieces in total of eg. 75×75 cm
  • And prints of the original paintings, on demand.

But that is only half the project. The next phase, then, will be ‘blank sculptures’. I have only just begun thinking about those. Maybe, Le Penseur, David, Pieta, The Great Sphinx or a Pyramid, maybe a Giacometti, Moore or LeWitt, or a Balloon Dog.

By the way, you may wonder why IKEA and HEMA? Well, I’ll be very honest here; partly, out of practical reasons: it is simply easy to order and use these pre-made prints on canvas. But moreover, to stress the fact that anybody could have made these artworks. And anybody can, of course. I may think (live in the illusion, have created my own mind model), that I am unique and original in this. Well, the idea maybe, although that’s not sure either–there likely has been an artist out there who had the same idea before me–I have not done an investigation, because it doesn’t matter; the message is the same, or even stronger then. But maybe more important, especially, even actually creating these artworks is far from unique or creative. A bit of a recursive joke: showing that pure ‘blank slate’ originality and creativity in art do not exist, by making a number of very far-from-original artworks in a pretty uncreative way. That’s why.

There is no blank slate, either blank canvas or blank sculpture, in art!

That is the whole point. QED

And, maybe most important: it doesn’t matter. It still gives me joy to be engaged in creating these artworks, anyway.

April 2021

Rediscovered the ideas of Marcel Duchamp about reality

Case discovers a parallel between some of Marcel Duchamps ideas about art and his own.

Duchamp started as an artist in a time of breakthrough scientific discoveries, such as relativity (by Albert Einstein, 1905) and the fourth dimension (by Theodor Kaluza, 1919). And of course, quantum mechanics, introducing the notion of uncertainty in science (Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, many others). These insights dramatically changed our ideas about reality … and who we are, just like Copernicus’ ideas did in the Middle Ages.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

(Courtesy: Wikipedia, PD)

Duchamps interpretation was that there is no absolute truth in art. It inspired him to challenge the traditional rigid prescriptions about what is art and what not. No juries, no rejections: Nude descending a staircase (about reductionism in art), The large glass (about the unknown, the fourth dimension), Three standard stoppages (about uncertainty and coincidence in art), The fountain (about defining art and antiart), Étant donnés (about the beholder’s share). 

Case starts as an artist in the wake of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quantum Computing (QC), which will change our reality and ideas about who we are … once more. So, what is art in the 21st Century, in the age of AI and QC? What will be its role in creating realities that shape ourselves?

March 2021

Started reading Eric Kandel’s “Reductionism in Art and Brain Science”

See this story. Or click the image:

Eric Kandel Reductionism in Art and Brain Science

Feb 2021

Started studies for “On the shoulders of …”

Studio, Amsterdam

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon By Pablo Picasso - Maurice Raynal, Picasso, 1921, PD-USStudy for On the shoulders of Picasso

Study for On the Shoulders of Picasso, Procreate on iPad

(Courtesy: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso – Maurice Raynal, Picasso, 1921, PD-US)

Rock painting at Cueva de las Manos (image by Mariano Cecowsky)Study for On the shoulders of caveman

Study for On the Shoulders of caveman, Procreate on iPad

(Courtesy: Cueva de las Manos image by Mariano Cecowsky)

The basic idea for these artworks is simple: in our art, we try to ignore our inspiration, to ‘overwrite’ our predecessors. Trying to convince ourselves, as artists, that we start with a blank slate. But we always fail.

Eg. “On the Shoulders of Caveman” is inspired by the beautiful hand paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Argentina, dated about 7300 BC, ie. more than 9,000 years old.

Jan 2021

First sketches on paper, well, … on iPad

Studio, Amsterdam

Way of working at Amsterdam studio
Way of working at Amsterdam studio

Dec 2020

Idea conception after reading Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate

In the last decade – 2010 to 2020 – Case spent quite some time and effort on studying the brain. One big conclusion from his studies is how the brain creates its own realities, as a survival organ. Case wants to make this a leading theme of his art, but has no clue how, and what it means for his voice in art.

After reading, Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate, Case is thinking about his voice in art, again. During a Christmas party, it dawns to Case that there is no blank slate in art, despite our illusions about creativity and uniqueness. All art builds upon our predecessors. That is a great theme for his first art project.

The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

In the book, “Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits – a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century – denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.”

In Case’s words, we tend to create our own – mostly feel-good – realities, esp. when we try to understand human nature. The big question, now, is whether that is a good or a bad thing, and why. Or, is there a solution in between?

Blank Slate video

A few short impressions of the making of On the shoulders of Davinci no.1. The first artwork in this project. The painting is made of a straightforward IKEA printed canvas, that Case has spanned on a wooden frame. All this, to demonstrate the idea of un-originality and un-creativity. Simple. Effective. Antiart? No. Art with a message. Conceptual art, maybe. Later the spanned canvas will be painted white by Case. Followed by an impression from Case’s Instagram and Twitter posts about the making of On the shoulders of Davinci No.1.

Here’s an artistic impression (no sound) from Case’s Instagram and Twitter posts about the making of On the shoulders of Davinci No.1.

Blank Slate artworks

Studies

Works

Sorry. There are no completed works yet in this project.