Archive for January 24th, 2012

This painting took a long time to emerge.  I started with just a large block of color,  originally feeling that there was a distant, stark landscape in it.  But it never felt completely right and I let it sit for many months, occasionally picking it up and trying to decipher what it might hold.  But recently I decided that it was long enough and that I would either pull something from it or destroy it. 

Either way would be a bit of mercy for me.  There’s something in having a piece sitting unfulfilled for long periods that gnaws at me, as though they are poking at me in the studio, begging to be released from the state of limbo in which they are trapped.  I have a group of such paintings floating around and I have to hide them at times because of this constant, silent pleading from them.  So it is a degree of mercy in the relief that comes from finishing one– in one way or another.

What emerged in this painting, an image that measures about 6″ by 22″ on paper, is quite different from what I first envisioned.  It ended up as more of a silhouette piece, the dark boniness of the trees standing in stark contrast to the pale, almost sullen feel of the sky.  Even the sun struggles to bring light to this surface,  appearing darker than the sky itself.  The whole effect is quite somber with an air of drama.

Originally, the chair was the only other element in this piece but the more I looked at it, the more I wanted something to counter the chair.  Something to create a context for  the drama of the revealed moment.  The small figure in the background provided just that.  I saw him as a ghost of sorts– perhaps dead.  Perhaps not.  But caught somewhere between existences.  The Red Chair here fills in as his memory and he looks upon it, seeing all his misdeeds and regrets.  He has lived his life as a rake and the empty chair sums up his time.

That’s one way of looking at it. 

I chose the title from the old English folk song of the same name that evolved from it’s 18th century origins into the early blues song, St. James Infirmary Blues, a song covered over the years by many, many musicians.  It has a deep and wonderfully  mournful feel and  it meshes well with this image in my mind.  Here’s a great version from the Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison, who gives the song the weight it requires. See if you feel the same.

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