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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Between Worlds

We are stepping into the darker half of the year.

Over the past week I've had the privilege of  revisiting (virtually) work I love, particularly that of Bill Reid. Claude Levi-Strauss, visiting the northwest coast of Canada, said of the Haida tradition that "no other art has broken through the barrier between the natural and the supernatural worlds with such momentum." Here's a link to Bill Reid's incredible carving of Raven. What I most admire about the Haida tales is the unflinching portrayal of Raven in his magnificence and his depravity. And they are funny. Perhaps this explains some of the strength behind the momentum. Throughout Haida mythology and the artwork it informs are encounters with beings that are neither human nor animal, but contain mixed aspects. This identification with other creatures, this sharing of characteristics breaks boundaries. Often, these ideas were expressed through trees - carved in wood. Statuesque realisations of relationship (I hope I'll be forgiven some simplification here; I aim to be brief). 

I can see I'm working backwards. In the landscape, I see suggestions of what it is to be human in tree forms. Sometimes mythic implications are evident (an Actaeon, or an Odin), sometimes there's an emotional state or a suggestion of physical/biological similarity. I paint them out. Horns to toes, and in between. Damage and beauty. It's all there. I try to paint with the door open.

As Lawren Harris says, "art is the realm between our mundane world and the world of the spirit". There are so many ways to get there, especially on a day when the veil is traditionally thin.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Getting There Or Wandering?

Every venture is a journey. When naming this blog, I was thinking of my aversion to paths. I don't always know where I'm going when I set out. And I had Robert Frost on the brain. The way, in "The Road Not Taken", the traveler looks down one road as far as he can, where it disappears into the undergrowth. With a path, you can be quite sure that you will get Somewhere. Granted, you can't see the destination, and you might miss marvelous things by choosing one path over another. But unless the path is liberally scattered with corpses in varying stages of decay, it's safe to assume that travelers before you have gotten There; maybe back again. So it's off the path that intriguing discoveries are waiting to be made. Perhaps this is justification for wandering. I'd like to take Robert Frost's traveler and shake him a little. What? Two roads? Look around you! Embrace the Undergrowth!

So, getting there. A physical walk, a piece of work, life in general.
I'm doing a lot of path-gazing. From the undergrowth of course. Where I've wandered.

I plan to post about drawing and painting outside, and hopefully link to other artists whose practice is based in the landscape. In preparation for an upcoming project, I'll be gathering my thoughts on my creative process; how experience, perception, memory and energy find a physical vehicle. How by analysing and developing what is realised, I learn from the relentless repetition of the cycle.  It would be great to have some dialogue on interpretations of our relationship with the landscape. Hopefully, we'll get Somewhere.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

What About Yellow?

Nature's first green is gold. We have this on Robert Frost's authority. Nothing gold can stay, he tells us. Gold flashes through our lives, but yellow has this way of lingering. Like a bad smell. Sulphur?
Yellow ochre is hydrated ferrous oxide, straight out of the earth. It couldn't be more stable. It seems more trustworthy and less dramatic than the electric cadmium pigment. Both are Required. I want to like them. 
But I have ambivalent feelings about yellow. Perhaps this stems from growing up through many snow-laden and long winters where yellow snow, when you are being creative and experimental, is a Bad Thing.
Colour is not absolute, that's its beauty. But what does yellow DO for us?
Is it a celebratory colour, or does it tell us to pay attention, and slow down? Sunshine or traffic light? 
In the right place, it's marvelous. But what about the immoderate use of yellow? Rothko can carry it off, but reproductions don't translate. Obviously Van Gogh and Gaugin bonded over yellow. And a Basquait makes yellow Necessary.

I'm getting over yellow, because sometimes it's as close as we can get to that elusive, ephemeral gold.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Making Marks


Seeing Things and Making Marks. That's what I do. I've decided to use this blog as a way of keeping a record of my work and articulating related thoughts. Because I'm in the uglier throes of a writing project as well, I have to be disciplined. I've noticed my painting lacks subtlety and my writing lacks drama, so perhaps I'm trying to coerce my words and images into the functional relationship the two have been avoiding.

Sometimes my paintings are about a moment in the landscape. I try to summon a sense of Experience and Encounter. Take this Post - it is hidden in a copse. You'd never know it was there. But it sees you coming, and tracks your movements. It has a relatively benign nature, but it was placed for a purpose, and it seems quite intense about Gate Keeping. It is very ghostlike; all traces of the rest of the boundary and gate are long gone. I can't pass it without spending time watching it back. I have a ridiculous attachment to this Post.

So that is my First Post, and an indication of where I'm coming from.