Banning began painting in Venice Beach, California, in the 1970s. Through the years his styles evolved while studying painting at Mission: Renaissance, and later inspired by his work in the social sciences producing documentaries. The work involved traveling the country and meeting with some of America's top psychologists, educators, physicians, lawyers and entrepreneurs. Catharcism emerged in the mid-1980s in Austin, Texas, as an outlet for mental and emotional tension. He found the intellectual and physical demands of sitting for long periods of time while researching, writing or editing video produced an imbalance that curtailed his abilities to function at optimal levels. While meditation and physical exercise helped to alleviate this psychic distress, there remained a residual annoyance requiring expurgation before homeostasis would be restored.
Banning adopted the methods of the Action Painters of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Instead of planning a painting in advance, the blank canvas would be approached with no preconceived notions. Thinking would be abandoned except as required for obtaining materials. The thrust of applying paint to canvas would come spontaneously from the emotions, the intuition and would connect with psychic energy sources deep within.
Banning called this method Catharcism, a verbal construction stemming from the Greek kathairein ‘cleanse,’ from katharos ‘pure.’ The notion of “release” through art derives from Aristotle's Poetics. Adding the suffix "ism" creates an state of action, thus Catharcism means "a cleansing or release derived through creativity."
INSIGHTS INTO THE CREATIVE PROCESS
To improve a painting you enter at its weakest point. Your eyes comb over the painting. You feel the colors and shapes and composition in a very visceral place, a place of innate aesthetics. As your eyes comb over the painting something will top you. It will be an area that is not as developed as the rest, or an ugly area you desire to make beautiful. Your awareness lingers there as you intuitively decide what to do.
You run through the spectrum in your mind: red, orange, yellow, green, blue violet. you decide on a primary color, then continue to run the spectrum until you find secondary and tertiary colors you will mix. You mix the colors leaving your mind behind and transfer your awareness to to instincts. Then you must decide how to apply the paint: a bush, what size? A knife, what size? Your hand? But these decisions are not made consciously. They appear intuitively, transcending the realm of thought, though the mind does recognize them in its own language. The action happens spontaneously - gathering the paint from the palette and applying it, often in a single stroke.
Once the first coats are on and you have begun to establish a motif and a texture, excess blending only diminishes a painting's effect. You want to use pure strokes and apply the paint once or twice. Often you must hold a conscious rein over your instinct to stop unnecessary strokes which diminish aesthetics.
There often is a great temptation to overuse a color. You apply a color and it works. You like it. It was just the right color in the right place to unify or amplify the composition or motif. You think, "Ah hah. That looks good, lets put some more over here." You must deny this impulse as it most often leads to disaster.
You project yourself into the painting and feel it as a whole thing, each element and color in balance. Your goal is to create homeostasis - within the painting and within your psyche.
Catharcism has no ambitions toward the representational. It conveys emotional and psychic energy via colors and composition, forming a never repeated experiential snapshot in time and space. Judgement is suspended; intellectual superstructure transcended. Higher states of consciousness are afforded non-conceptual expression. Free of known images, the painting invites the viewer into the conversation, the collaboration producing aesthetic awareness in the perceiver.
At an undetermined point, the painting coalesces, its meaning captured in a title word or phrase that springs from the subconscious, completing the catharsis.