When Rob Says…

August 5, 2013

When Rob Says... © 2013 Darick Ritter

When Rob Says… | acrylic on canvas | 15×12″ | © 2013 Darick Ritter


Telephone © 2012 Darick Ritter

Telephone | acrylic on canvas | 26×28″ | © 2012 Darick Ritter


I posted about the making of  Telephone (seen directly above) on April 1st, 2012. I liked the painting and tried to build on its successes.

I wanted to make a second painting, probing the possibility of a telephone series. In the second piece the Western Bell System’s 500 series telephone pattern remained, but the canvas shape expanded to looking more kite-like and I interjected a phrase that I had became attached to prior to the beginning of working on the piece:

Know What I Mean; Not What I Say

This phrase caught my imagination in its seeming ability to sum up the nature of all human communicative transaction. Thoughts, or more expansively, minds conveying thoughts, are elusive things that we consistently scratch and claw for when reaching out to one other. What I’m about to describe is a particularly (though not exclusively) visual experience. When we throw our mouth-noises at each other, we aim to create a consistent picture – a similar idea – in two separate minds. It doesn’t require much of an imagination to understand that this is a deceptively difficult task for even two very similar individuals to do. We have to share symbols – words – that represent our objects of concerns. But these symbols are subjectively constructed and our inner dictionaries rarely coincide, leaving us to chatter away, raising room temperatures more than understanding.

I had hoped the piece would insinuate the need for more effort from the listener’s position as we try to reach out to one another; maybe accept more intrinsically that language is limited and we cannot hope to touch one another’s minds without some amount of agreement about where we’re all headed in the conversation, an intuitive understanding…


Know What I Mean © 2013 Darick Ritter

The original work of  “When Rob Says…”, when it used to just be called “Know What I Mean”


But I didn’t really like what I had in the final work because these lofty ideas didn’t translate very well when transposed on a differently shaped canvas. Not to mention the arbitrariness of the location of the speech bubbles. I didn’t even really like the final color in that shape. It just looked overall confused to me.

I sat on the piece for quite a while thinking a lot about how to move forward with it, how to save it; but honestly, I thought scrapping it was going to be my best option, that taking it as a good learning experience was all I could do and hope it didn’t take up too much space in my closet.

Luckily, a week later, I had a good conversation with a friend of mine specifically over the use of text in my art. It eventually gave me an idea on how to save the piece, though I was a bit hesitant to carry it out.


130718_1833 © 2013 Darick Ritter

130718_1821 © 2013 Darick Ritter


I intentionally cut out the legibility of the phrase I put in the painting because I think the obscuration of the words seemed to more accurately catch the spirit of what they were originally intended to convey: that communication tends to, more often than not, ride a wave of misunderstanding.

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