I came across a large plastic storage bin in the basement of my studio the other day that I had not looked into for years. It was filled to the top with sheets of paper filled with clumsy experiments, failed paintings and first steps from the earliest days of my journey into paintings. Much of it was cringe-worthy, dull and without much life behind it. As I said, first steps. Rehearsal pieces where I was working out the process that evolved into that which I practice today.
But occasionally there was a piece that seemed to jump forward. These pieces were fuller in their conception, livelier and united throughout the composition. They were the beginnings of the continuum of my work. They were in the days before the Red Tree had found its way into my visual vocabulary. They were often blank wide spaces filled with only mood and atmosphere.
At my talk at the Principle Gallery this past weekend, I talked about how early in adulthood I had aspired to be a writer but found myself writing about these wide and open spaces, writing only about mood and atmosphere. Hardly fascinating reading for very long. I set aside my writing and this image of open spaces until I found painting. My earliest work in paint echoed this atmospheric vision that had seemed so incompatible with my writing. The message had found its medium.
This piece, measuring about 5″ by 11″ on paper, from the first days of 1995, just before I started showing my work in public, had a title scrawled across its bottom edge, View From the Lonely Steps. When I came across this yesterday I immediately was back in that moment when that piece was formed. I felt that the painting was existing in the present, the now— an important part of the criteria that I use to weigh the worthiness of my work. It had life and it sparked a feeling of pleasure within me, like finding something you thought was long lost. It was a picture of who I was and who I am . It was different but still the same. It didn’t belong in a bin of discards.
There were others, as well, which pleased me greatly. I looked for a bit then I put them all back in the bin and closed it up. It was good to revisit that part of my past, to see where my road has once ran. A mirror to the past. It reinvigorated that inner sense of inspiration that sometimes feels as though it is waning in the busy times. It was simply good to see it again.