Commentary by Andy Ilachinski

"As sounds in a musical composition can be used not to express physical objects but ideas, emotions, harmonies, rhythmic orders and most any expression of the human mind and spirit, so light can be used visually to express the mind and spirit."
- Wynn Bullock

By way of background, I am both a physicist and photographer, with a strong predilection for metaphysical musings. Thus, that I should have had a lifelong interest in Wynn Bullock (I write this commentary at the ripe "old" age of 52) should come as no surprise. Indeed, one of my deepest laments is not having had an opportunity to meet and get to know personally the photographers who have most influenced my own creative journey; a short list that includes Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Wynn Bullock. So it is an especially great thrill for me to have been asked to provide a commentary on one of Wynn's color light abstractions (#1024, which I'll abbreviate simply as CLA1024). While this not a meeting in the flesh, it is certainly a meeting of minds and kindred souls. I look upon the time I took reflect on Wynn's CLA1024 as a creative dialectic, something I suspect Wynn would have smiled at.

So what do I see in CLA1024? Without elaborating on how this image (and other images in the CLA series) was created - details appear elsewhere on Wynn's website - I wish to examine what this image represents to me on three levels: (1) artistically, as one small part of Wynn's broader photographic oeuvre, (2) philosophically, in terms of how it illuminates and informs Wynn's own musings, and (3) personally (i.e., literally how I "see" the image and why I find it so moving, intellectually, aesthetically, and spiritually).

First, on the artistic level, it is important to appreciate just how significant a departure the CLA series is from how "color fine-art photography" was usually done around the time these pictures were taken (early 1960s). In Wynn's imagery, the primary elements of photography - color and light - are used not to depict physical things (i.e., forms, contrasts, and tonal structures), but as the sole focus of attention and meaning. For most other color photographers of Wynn's era (including many great masters), color accentuates the world, but is not a world unto itself. For Wynn, color and light are the objects, and are together elevated to a transcendent level of reality; albeit ones that resemble "light fields" more than they do conventional "chunks of matter."

On the philosophical level - which cannot be dismissed because of how profoundly intertwined Wynn's images were with his thoughts about them - the CLA series touches on many of Wynn's core ideas, from space and time, to dialectics (as a way towards reconciling mutually conflicting events or phenomena), to practicing photography as a fundamentally visual symbolic language. In this context, CLA1024 may be seen as a dialectic synthesis of opposites, symbolically poised on a cusp between light and dark, color and void, stasis and movement, objective and subjective, chaos and pure randomness, and real and unreal.

"One day I must be able to improvise freely on the keyboard of colours."  - Paul Klee

For me, CLA1024 (which was among my favorites from this series even before I was offered an opportunity to comment on one) lives in that rarefied creative space reserved for the highest levels of photographic art achieved only by a precious few. Putting away my left-brain ("physics" and "philosophy") hats to give my right-brain a chance to comment, I see CLA1024 as a portal into a mystical realm of fluidic time and space, charged and pulsating with organic and nonorganic energies, all ineffably infused with mysterious luminescent protoforms of emergent life and consciousness; self-organizing, moving, swimming, whirling, interacting, oozing out of the wild cauldron of a phantasmagoric boiling ocean. Everything is in motion. There is no stasis here! Aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, metaphysically, CLA1024 completely grabs hold of my attention; seizes it, immerses me in its relentless dynamics, and cries out for an explanation. Absent one, since CLA1024's "true" meaning is as fleeting as the imaginary gale-force wind I palpably feel on my skin each time I view it - and as I fall back into a more banal "real" reality - I am left with an unforgettable memory of having visited an alien (yet, now, strangely familiar) world. CLA1024 is infinity incarnate, whose ground is everywhere and nowhere.

"An artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." - Wassily Kandinsky

In short, CLA1024 is a timeless masterpiece. Ironically - and paradoxically - it is also (for me) the ultimate symbol of "Wynn's search for the profound symbol of the 'Not Self'"; but expressed as a symbol of Self. The last is true, because - having now thoroughly experienced, and internalized, this extraordinary set of images - I cannot help but forever associate CLA1024 with Wynn's genius. Collectively, his color light abstractions so brilliantly light the path toward universal truths, that they have become symbols of his own soul.

~ Andy Ilachinski

Commentary Text © 2012 Andy Ilachinski. All rights reserved.

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