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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Stairs: A Case Study

Rise K Howell Acrylic on Board 92 cm x 122 cm
     I've been cleaning this painting up, preparing it for a new home, and stairs have been on my mind. 
     Stairways are the spinal column of our living space. They embody the ups and downs of our everyday existence, a constant reminder that every endeavour is made up of incremental efforts. The stairs seem to provoke a strop in the resident four-year-old, and I can only conclude that between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m., they seem insurmountable. Some days, I quite concur.
     Rise was informed by a visit to a garden-in-progress, and seeing the raw, stacked material for the stairs in place, it seemed an expression of longing and determination, a plan for the creation of a small paradise.
     Stairs are all about aspiration and challenge.
  It's a flight for a reason.
     Building the staircase was what Mircea Eliade would call an Ascension rite, a consecrating and determining activity that sublimates a profane space into a sacred one. (I'm hoping you feel a garden is a sacred space, and you stay with me on this one.) 
     Stairs, Jung says, symbolize the process of psychic transformation in which the contents of the unconscious are brought into conscious awareness. The stairs are an expression of the paradoxical wish to achieve an ideal form within the framework of human existence. Of course, the stairs also mean people can reach the top of the garden. 
     Shamanic traditions hold the tree as the ladder to the heavens. So there it is. Even when I try to digress, it always comes back to trees.


  1. I like your 'rise'-especially the step gone askew from the order of the others-beautiful divisions and negative space

    again you articulate so beautifully what i can only respond to visually-i often feel that looking up into a row of vines or trees reminds me of a stairway-'a ladder to those heavens-'

  2. Hi Jan,
    I'm glad the aesthetics of the naughty step work for you, and thanks for your kind comments.
    Words and I are having a difficult relationship right now, but thank you for yours.
    Oh, and I saw you read Kathleen Raine. I must send you a link to a poem...hang on, I'll leave it as a comment on yours.