Friday, 14 September 2012

A little bit of background

It has been an unusual week of painting. Right at the start of it, there was a revelation of sorts that led me to feeling somewhat more relaxed, perhaps even more philosophical, about my life as an artist. Acting on this feeling, I began three new paintings this week, which marks a definite increase in my recent productivity. I even took the time after the initial painting session for each piece, to sit down and write something about where the piece came from, my intentions for it and my initial feelings about it.

On the first day, I once again addressed the darkness that has been my shadow for the past month. Rather unexpectedly, colour made an appearance. After the initial session, I wrote this:

(work in progress)
Mixed media on panel, 12x12"
"The darkness has often times served as a pretty direct visual representation of the dark emotions within: doubt, fear, depression and so on. Today the darkness seems perhaps transmuted. Still, of course, it is the darkness within, yet somehow now it is also a gestalt, the body in which everything else rests. What does this say about my self image? It suggests that I view myself as an essentially dark person, with a warm, friendly (orange represented) public countenance, that is nonetheless covering dark things. Am I truly thus? In today's representation deep red mixes with, and breaks through, the darkness. It does not feel a red of anger, rather one of love and passion. It is hidden, well below the surface, yet it is clearly there, widespread and of undoubted importance."

Later, while reworking this painting, the red became somewhat submerged, too lessen its impact. I had realised that it was too jarring and while my intent for each painting it to describe a particular instant in my life, at the same time I have not become so obsessed with the idea that I am prepared to sacrifice aesthetics. There are elements of this painting that I am very happy with, as well as some that may require more work. It is resting currently. I will look again at it in a few days.

On the second day, an entirely different set of circumstances presented themselves for posterity. The painting that resulted was a surprise, being something of a departure from what could loosely be called my style. It is more organic in shape, less geometric, and overall feels looser. I wrote this:

(work in progress)
Mixed media on panel, 12x12"
"Overwhelmed. It is a common feeling these days. Too much information, too fast, too many choices. Today, however, it is the overwhelming size and complexity of visa/immigration issues. In particular, I feel small and insignificant, unable to cope with the vast cliff that needs to be negotiated. Today I gave that immense weight to a crushing wave, an avalanche grinding and drowning. Over run by it, I am forced to the ground, torn and battered. The mass of the problem is complex, aswirl, impenetrable. The remorseless, cold press of the world. It is an enormous stew that fills almost everything, there is no way to escape it, nowhere to turn, it is everywhere. It is the immensity of any overwhelming problem, where an objective viewpoint is hard to come by. Seen from below, there is no way out."

Unlike the previous day's painting, which I felt sure of and able to rework into something more suitable to my sensibilities, this piece has remained relatively static. Perhaps this is a reflection of the subject matter. Who, after all, is very good at coping with something overwhelming? I've made numerous tiny tweaks to this, yet there is something unsettling in it. Only time will tell whether or not I can live with this.

On the third day, things did not work out quite as well. 'Isolation' was the idea that was on my mind that day, both it its physical and mental manifestations. I had an idea that seemed an ideal way to represent the theme, however it was too concrete,  conceivably as a reaction to the overly-organic painting of the day before. It drew too heavily upon my graphic designer's eye and as a painting, it simply would not work. I spent a couple of days working at it, trying to resolve its blocky solidity, however as yet I have been unable to find resolution. Presently, there is almost nothing left of the painting and it has been demoted to non-painting status for the time being.

Each of these three paintings were conceived as ways of interpreting three seemingly quite separate feelings and moments, yet they are also quite clearly linked. The forms and colours (at least of these two) are only the most obvious link. Deeper inside both them, and inside myself, I can construct a conversation between the pieces, a web of common thoughts and ideas.

These three new paintings, more than ever seem almost journalistic. I do not know if I can always work like this – the self awareness and concentration needed is great – and even if I find the energy and the ability, spending so much time looking inwards may not be a very healthy way to spend my time.

It has been an unusual week, I wonder what the next one will hold.

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