Posts Tagged ‘Mystery!’


People who look for symbolic meaning fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the images.

Rene Magritte


I absolutely love this painting, The Banquet, from Rene Magritte in 1958. It has the effect where I don’t question anything about it. I just accept it as it is presented. I am not looking for symbolism in it at all, not looking for a reason why the red ball of sun is hovering low in front of the trees. The colors, the contrast, the composition– they create a whole sensation doesn’t need a why or what or how.

As Magritte points out, it contains poetry and mystery.

And that is something to try to understand. I know I often feel the need to try to explain my work, to point out where I find an emotional base in a piece. Sometimes that is easy, almost jumping out at you. But sometimes it is not so obvious and it is simply the mystery of the created feel, a great intangible pulse, that makes a particular painting work.

You see it, feel it, accept its reality yet you don’t fully understand the why and how.

And maybe that is just as it should be. Not all we behold can or should be explained. Sometimes, maybe we simply need to experience poetry and mystery.

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 Climbing Beyond the Blue There was an episode of Mystery! on PBS starring Kenneth Branagh as Swedish detective Wallander.  It was okay, nice production but nothing remarkable in the story but there was a part at the end that struck home with me and related very much to my life as a painter.  Wallander’s father, played by the great character actor David Warner, was, like me, a landscape painter.  Now aged and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, his son comes to him and intimates that he can’t go on as a detective, that he can’t take the stress.  The painter then recalls how  when Wallander  was a boy he would ask his father about his painting, asking, “Why are they always the same, Dad?  Why don’t you do something different”

He said he could never explain.  Each morning when he began to paint, he would tell himself that maybe today he would do a seascape or a still life or maybe an abstract, just splash on the paint and see where it takes him.  But then he would start and each day he would paint the same thing- a landscape.  Whatever he did,  that was what came out.  He then said to his son, ” What you have is your painting- I may not like it, you may not like it but it’s yours.”

That may not translate as well on paper without the atmospheric camera shots and the underscored music but for me  it said a lot in how I think about my body of work.  Like the father, I used to worry that I would have to do other things- still lifes, portraits, etc.- to prove my worth as a painter but at the end of each day I found myself  looking at a landscape, most often with a red tree.  As time has passed, I have shed away those worries.  I don’t paint portraits.  Don’t paint still life.  I paint what comes out and most often it is the landscape.  And that red tree that I once damned when I first realized it had became a part of who I am.

I realized you have to stop damning who you are…

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