Posted in Influences, Painting, Recent Paintings, tagged Aborigine, Australia, Bruce Chatwin, Dreamtime, GC Myers, New Painting, Red Roofs, Red Tree, The Songlines on January 19, 2015 |
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I’ve been looking for a while at this new painting, a 24″ by 30″ canvas. It has a calming effect for myself. Maybe it’s the placid blues and violets or the softness of the moon’s light–I don’t know yet. I just find myself letting go and being pulled into the central geometry of this piece, that triangle formed by the moon, the Red Tree and the group of Red Roofed houses atop the rise. There’s a sense of mystery in it from which I can’t look away.
I call this piece In the Time of Dreaming. Maybe it’s the mystery aspect that brings the title to mind, in way we sometimes find our own dreams– puzzling but somehow pointing to something that we just can’t quite put a finger on.
I also thought of the Australian Aborigines’ Dreamtime when the title came to mind. Their Dreamtime is the basis for their entire belief system, the eternal time in which creation occurred and where the individual exists before and after their worldly life. It is the time where their ancestry exists as one resulting in their belief that they accumulate worldly knowledge through the wisdom gained by their ancestors.
This results in a knowledge of the world that is passed down through word and song. They can travel great distances through their lands guided by the Songlines, paths that are traveled while singing specific songs that point out direction and landmarks. It’s a beautiful system that very much ties the Aborigines to their ancestry and the land in which they live. The late Bruce Chatwin wrote an interesting book, The Songlines, in the 80’s that gave a great account of this culture and belief system.
But whatever the reasoning, conscious and unconscious, behind it, I find myself continuing to look at this piece. And dreaming.
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I spent quite a bit of time this morning looking at the image of the painting above, Listening to the Muse. It’s part of my show at the Kada Gallery which is in it’s last weekend there. This painting really captivates me on a personal level and reminds me of a thought that once drove me forward as a younger painter. It’s a thought that I often pass along as a bit of advice to aspiring artists:
Paint the paintings you want to see.
Sounds too simple to be of any help, doesn’t it? But that simplicity is the beauty and strength of it.
For me, I wasn’t seeing the paintings out there that satisfied an inner desire I had to see certain deep colors that were being used in a manner that was both abstract and representative. If I had seen something that fulfilled these desires, I most likely would not have went ahead as a painter. I wouldn’t have felt the need to keep pushing.
It was this simple thought that marked the change in my evolution as a painter. Before it, I was still trying to paint the paintings that I was seeing in the outer world, attempting to emulate those pieces and styles that already existed by other artists. But it was unsatisfying, still the work of others, forever judged in comparison to these others.
But after the realization that I should simply paint what I wanted to see, my work changed and I went from a bondage to what existed to the freedom of what could be. For me, that meant finding certain colors such as the deep reds and oranges tinged with dark edges that mark this piece. It meant trying to simplify the forms of world I was portraying so that the colors and shapes collectively took on the same meditative quality that I was seeing in each of them.
In my case this seems to be the advice I needed. But I think it’s advice that works for nearly anything you might attempt. Paint the paintings you want to see. Write the book you want to read. Play the music you want to hear. Make the film you want to see. Cook the food you want to eat. Sew the clothes you want to wear.
Make the world in which you want to live.
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My show, Into the Common Ground, hangs for one more week, until January 12th, at the Kada Gallery in Erie. One of the paintings that I was asked about quite often at the opening back in early December was this piece, a 20″ by 24″ canvas titled Rigel. What was that blue orb? The sun?
Well, when I was painting this piece there just seemed to be something a bit different in the feel of it before I had even opted for the blue ball in the sky. Maybe it was the ultra warmth of the red and yellows that made me want to counter it somehow or maybe that odd feeling made me want to accentuate it even more. I am not really sure.
But the blue orb appeared and all that came to mind was the star Rigel which appears in the night sky as the foot of the constellation Orion. Rigel is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and is a blue giant star, extremely hot and large but short-lived due due to the intensity with which it burns. It’s a star that I always look for in the winter sky when I make my way home in the walk from my studio.
It’s brightness and location in Orion make it jump from the dark sky. In those moments the light from it seems so cold and distant which seems like a paradox given the great heat with which it burns. And it’s that paradox that I saw in the blue orb in this painting.
A rightness in its wrongness.
It’s a painting that I always linger over for a few moments when I run through this show as it makes me think about so many other things than what seems obvious on the surface.
And I like that in a painting…
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It’s the time of the year when I take a slight pause and try to ascertain what the past year has brought and where the next year might head. I often find myself going back through my files, looking at images of long gone but well remembered paintings from the past. There are a lot of thoughts that come and go during this process. I will see work that bring back strong memories of the emotions that brought it out from within and some that leaves me wondering where it came from, it seems so different than the work around it in the files.
Then there is work that seemed to be a constant in my body of work that suddenly stopped coming out at a certain point. Boat paintings, for example. They were a minor staple in my work through the mid-2000’s but around 2009 they suddenly stopped completely, save for a few ferry paintings. I really have no explanation for the stoppage. It just didn’t seem to need to come out over the last several years.
There is probably some psychological reasoning to be found but it doesn’t matter to me at this point. Just seeing the work and realizing that they were a part of the body of work and may someday emerge again in some way is enough. Seeing these pieces with some time past makes me look at them with a questioning eye. Some are real anomalies that stand out among a crowd of colorful images. For example, the piece shown here on the left, Night Glides In, is a definite one-of-a-kind with its serene blue tones and placid feel set against a lone craft, vaguely Viking in style, that is headed inland. It could be the return of a warrior or fisherman or traveler or it could be something more ominous and threatening.
That possibility always comes to my mind when I see this image even though I personally tend to see it in more congenial and positive terms. More homecoming than home invasion…
Another painting from about the same time that also draws my attention whenever I am skimming through is this piece, Time and Tide. I always have to zoom in to take in the texture. The texture in my pieces seem to shift and change over the years and the texture in this piece is different than that in subsequent years. Maybe it was an alteration in the way I prepped my surface or a change in material but it gives this piece a distinct signature in that texture and in the perspective of the incoming ship within the picture.
Looking at these boat pieces brings back influences and thoughts that have faded a bit in time, making them seem rejuvenated with the passage of years and the gaining of new experiences in that time. I can see a boat or two floating back into my work in the new year.
We shall see…
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During the openings for most of my shows, such as this past week’s opening at the Kada Gallery, I inevitably get a number of questions about the meaning of the Red Chair especially when it’s suspended in a tree such as in the painting shown here from the show, Family Lines. The empty chair itself is a simple and powerful symbol in many cultures of past ancestors or someone who is absent. I have personally attached the concept of one’s own inner memory to it as well, seeing the chair as a distinct memory or myself in the narrative of that memory. It is not always the same thing in each different circumstance.
But how it came to be aloft in the tree is a story that began when I was a kid. I’ve told it innumerable times over the years but here it is:
Growing up, we lived in the country in an isolated old farmhouse with an old barn across the road. I happened to drive by the old place yesterday and snapped this photo of the old barn, now in a much more advanced stage of decay than when I was running around there. It was pretty solid and complete at that earlier time. In front of the barn, to the left of it here and out of the shot, is a large and old stone chimney, all that remains from the home of an early settler to the area, a stage coach driver who was killed there in an Indian raid in the late 18th century. A small cemetery with old slate stones was nestled in the edge of the forest nearby. For a kid, it was a place filled with memory, a great place to play and let your imagination run wild.
One summer when I was 8 or 9 years old, I came across a dead woodchuck laying next to the barn. I don’t know how he died– he was just there. Dead. As the summer progressed and he dried out, a vine passed through his body and by summer’s end was suspended a couple of feet in the air. To the eyes of a child this was something magical. I was struck by the power of the earth to reclaim its creatures. Everything seemed very ephemeral after that…
The idea of a tree growing through an object such as a chair, which is very representative of human existence, is a continuation of that early fascination. It wasn’t until I had painted several pieces with the hanging chair that I began to also see the symbolism of the empty chair, which in some cultures represents the recently deceased. That is what I see now– the family members who have passed on. Again, this is my interpretation of this work. I enjoy hearing what other people see in the work because many times it’s completely different from what I see but just as valid. I often look at some pieces in a whole new light after hearing a new view.
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Posted in Influences, Quote, Technique/History, tagged Andre Derain, Fauve, Fauvism, Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, Quote, Vincent Van Gogh on November 6, 2014 |
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Maurice de Vlaminck- Houses at Chatou 1905
When I get my hands on painting materials I don’t give a damn about other people’s painting… every generation must start again afresh.
– Maurice de Vlaminck
I have to admit I don’t know much about French painter Maurice de Vlaminck (vlah-mink) who lived from 1876 until 1958. His work is best known for a short period in the early years of the 20th century when he was considered one of the leading lights, along with Andre Derain and Henri Matisse, of the Fauve movement. Fauve translates as wild beast and the style of these painters was very much like that to the sensibilities of that time. It was brightly colored with brash brushwork and little attention paid to detail. It was all about expression and emotion.
I recognize some of his early Fauvist work, mainly for the obvious influence of Vincent Van Gogh it exhibits, and none of his later which becomes less colorful and exuberant, perhaps shaped by his experiences in WW I. But his name is one that I have often shuffled over without paying too much time to look deeper.
Maurice de Vlaminck- At the Bar 1900
But I came across this quote and it struck me immediately. It was a feeling that I have often felt when I immerse myself in my work. All thoughts of other painters– of their influence, of comparisons and artistic relationships– fade into nothing. It is only me at that moment faced with the task of pulling something new and alive from the void. I can’t worry myself at that moment about what other painters are doing. Their whats and hows and whys are all moot to me then because I am only trying to express something from within. It might only exist and live for me in that instant, though I hope it transcends the moment, but that is the whole purpose and all of the works of all the painters throughout time can’t change this singular expression of this moment.
This single, simple quote brought me into kinship with de Vlaminck and made me promise myself to explore more deeply into his work and life so that when I come across his name in the future I don’t simply skim past without a thought. But when I am painting, rest assured I will not be thinking of Maurice de Vlaminck. And that is as it should be…
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