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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.

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