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Posts Tagged ‘Red Tree’

 

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A tree against the sky possesses the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human.

Georges Rouault

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Georges Rouault (1871- 1958) has been a favorite of mine for a long time and the quote above certainly falls in line with my own feelings about the image of a tree. I have used the tree, the Red Tree to be more exact, for the past twenty years as a surrogate for the human figure in my paintings. You could pretty much insert a human figure in place of the Red Tree in many paintings and not lose much of the emotional content of the painting.

It would be a different painting, that’s for sure. The presence of the figure would focus everything on the specific human aspects portrayed in it. Is it a man or a woman? A child? Tall or short? Thin or wide? The interpretation of the painting becomes much more narrowly defined.

Using the Red Tree, on the other hand, allows for a broader reading, allows the viewer to see it in whatever terms they desire. It can be their own surrogate in the landscape. Or it can take on the characteristics of someone with meaning for them or someone expressing feelings that they share.

Or it can simply be a tree.

So, while I like being able to give the viewer those choices,I see the trees in my work, as Rouault says, as having the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human.

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.

Oscar Wilde

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This is another new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, slated to be part of my show, Redtree 20: New Growth, at the Principle Gallery, opening June 7.

I call this painting Meet Me in the Garden (At the End of the World). I know that sounds like an ominous title but I loved the way it came off the tongue with a rhythm that feels like it comes from a song. It works for me and I believe it aligns well with the painting and with the words above from Oscar Wilde.

Even though there might be nothing left to us but desolation and wilderness, even though our time here might seem at an end, beauty remains a constant.

It is a reminder of all that is meaningful in this world after everything else is stripped away.

It is our bond with both our humanity and whatever spiritual presence that might exist in the universe. To feel it, to be moved by beauty, is to be in communion with both.

Those who do not recognize or feel beauty, or deny beauty, live only partial lives, like half-filled glasses. I pity those people. They are missing the best part of this life.

Pontificating about something as subjective as beauty might be a lot to put out there before 7 AM and later in the day I may want to change these words in some way. But I believe, for the most part, that the greatest gift we receive as humans is to be emotionally moved by the beauty we witness in the world around us as well in the arts and literature we produce.

This painting reminds me that my time here is limited and being so, what better way should it end than when I am surrounded by the beautiful colors in a garden of flowers?

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Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.

Benjamin Disraeli

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I gave a talk last week with a local arts group, the Elmira Regional Art Society. There was also a  painting demonstration where I first laid out a composition in red oxide then laid in a few preliminary layers of color on an 18″ by 36″ canvas. The thought was just to give an idea of how the process progresses in a condensed timeframe. As a result, I painted very fast, much quicker than I normally do.

But the demo turned went well and I was fairly pleased with the end result, shown here. Quite honestly, going in I had planned on painting over the demo image and reusing the canvas. But this had good rhythm and the first layers of colors pointed me in a good direction, one that made feel I should keep working on this piece.

So, over the weekend I went at it.

I spent some time looking at the piece and didn’t feel too good about the way the central mound rose out of the field rows. It had the effect of stopping my eye so I went back in and extended it to the bottom of the canvas. This also had the effect of giving the field with the rows more dimension and depth into the picture plane, which is something I am often looking for in these pieces. There is a side by side at the bottom which shows the change in the composition as well as how the colors evolved.

Along with brightening parts of sky, finding a harmony in the colors was the biggest part of the remaining work on this painting. Some forms took on  new color and some were deepened and highlighted.

The final move came in placing the Red Tree which focused the whole piece. It has the feel of a flame for me, with the sky behind it reflecting its light. I call this painting Fire on the Mountain.

I am pleased how this piece emerged, given how it began and the fact that there were no expectations for it. Sometimes that happens.  Thanks for everybody from ERAS who attended the talk. With your questions, comments and good humor, you all had a part in making this piece work.

 

 

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“Nirvana is right here, in the midst of the turmoil of life. It is the state you find when you are no longer driven to live by compelling desires, fears, and social commitments, when you have found your center of freedom and can act by choice out of that. Voluntary action out of this center is the action of the bodhisattvas — joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. You are not grabbed, because you have released yourself from the grabbers of fear, lust, and duties.” 

Joseph CampbellThe Power of Myth

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I was going to share another of the Multitudes pieces that will be included in this year’s June exhibit at the Principle Gallery. But I saw that I have been a little heavy on my sharing of that work as of late and was a little concerned that people might think that was the sole focus of this show.

The title of this show, Redtree 20: New Growth, refers to the fact that this is my 20th solo show at the gallery. My first exhibit in 2000, Redtree, basically marked the beginning of the Red Tree that has become the trademark element of much of my work through the years. Though many elements have entered my visual vocabulary, the Red Tree is a constant and feels new to me each time I paint it.

Now the painting I am showing today, Night Nirvana, a 30″ by 40″ canvas, is what I would call a Red Roof painting, not a Red Tree piece. But it very much reflects the evolution and change taking place in the work over the years.

The process is always changing in some way. Some colors move forward and others recede. New elements are added and some fade away. Even something as basic as the way the surfaces are prepared has gone through changes.

I think that the fact that there is this constant evolution is the reason that my friends at the Principle Gallery are still inviting me to do this show after all these years.

But one thing that hasn’t changed in those 20+ years is the underlying purpose that I hope to find in the work– a place of inner peace and freedom from a world that seems chaotic and in turmoil all too often.

A Nirvana, if you will.

I think the words of Joseph Campbell above, from The Power of Myth, sum up very well what I hope to find in my work. And that aligns very well with what I feel in this new piece which is a sense of a found tranquility that finds a peaceful order amidst the chaos.

It is the realization of self, freed from the expectations and limitations of others.

Well, it is hopeful. And that keeps me want to keep moving forward.

And that is enough.

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Redtree 20: New Growth opens June 7, 2019 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.

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There are in every man, always, two simultaneous allegiances, one to God, the other to Satan. Invocation of God, or Spirituality, is a desire to climb higher; that of Satan, or animality, is delight in descent.

–Charles Baudelaire

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The words above from the poet Baudelaire sum up the paradox of our existence, at least in the way it seems to me. We are creatures forever torn between opposing forces.

Good and evil. Love and hate. Desire and indifference. The physical and the spiritual.

It’s something that I try to represent in much of my work in terms of contrasts of dark and light. The warmth and coolness of colors. High and low tones.

Showing the contrast of the light of hope alongside the darkness of despair.

This newer piece, an 18″ by 24″ canvas, seems to follow Baudelaire’s words quite literally. Titled The Calling Out, the Red Tree here seems to have climbed to the loftiest point to appeal to a higher source as represented by the light emanating from the sun. There is a great, enveloping warmth in this painting but  for me, it is the underlying darkness that makes this piece effectively come alive.

Even the sun has a darker tone than the light it emits. This unnatural sun gives the piece an almost ominous feel but it is that same contrasting light coming from it that brings a redeeming sense of hope to the painting. It lives firmly between the darkness and light much like man according to Baudleaire’s words.

And that is where I want my work to live: Seeking the light but ever aware of its own darkness.

That, of course, is just how I see it. You might well see it in different terms and that is, as always, as it should be.

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The masses do not see the Sirens. They do not hear songs in the air. Blind, deaf, stooping, they pull at their oars in the hold of the earth. But the more select, the captains, harken to a Siren within them… and royally squander their lives with her.

–Nikos Kazantzakis

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I am still working on the Multitudes paintings with their masses of eyeless faces. It’s work that is consuming, acting as a siren of sorts, drawing me to it and keeping me from moving on to other things. It is much like author Nikos Kazantzakis describes above.

It reminds me also of a newer painting shown at the top that was finished just before jumping into the Multitudes pieces. It is a 24″ by 18″ canvas that I am titling Call of the Siren. It incorporates the Red Tree and the Red Roofs along with a band of color at the bottom that represents the sea.

This bottom section has a pattern that seen with the vertical piers of the dock creates a pattern that feels Greek to me. It wasn’t intended and I can’t say if this pattern, as I see it, is really Greek in origin. But it feels that way to me and perhaps brings the thought of the Sirens of Greek mythology to mind when I look at this piece.

Another thing I note in this painting is the the massed buildings of the town seem to form a fence It is another barrier, beyond the sea journey that brought them here, that must be overcome for those who are called by the Sirens. And once one has made it over wide waters and through treacherous cities, there is still a hill to be climbed.

The Sirens never makes things easy.

I know this to be true– I’ve royally squandered much of my life chasing their song.

 

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“The sun –the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.”

― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

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I guess it’s wishful thinking to be discussing a painting based on light and warmth on a day when we are just beginning to feel the brunt of the bitter cold that has swept down from the polar regions. It’s below 0° right now and it won’t get much above that for the next few days around here. Brrr! So the hope contained in a rising sun and the light and heat from it becomes something to really think about.

The painting above is a new one, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Reaching For The Light. The jumble of upward rising buildings has a new addition to go with the regular roofs and spires–chimneys. This new element gives the effect of an appendage reaching upward from each building to get to the sunlight.

I like that feeling that it gives.

I thought the descriptive snip above from Dickens’ Oliver Twist fit this painting. I often have images based on Dickens’ vivid descriptions of cityscapes from Victorian England in mind when I am working on these type of paintings that are cramped and crowded with buildings. His words created an imagery that stuck firmly in my mind from when I first read them so many years ago.

It was a place of darkness, soot, and shadows. The idea of the sun cutting through the grayness with its cleansing light and warmth is one of hope, one of moving to a better situation beyond the squalor and despair of the moment.

That’s how I am seeing this painting with the Red Tree serving as the symbolic central figure acting out this idea of grasping for the light.

So, on this coldly bitter day, I have to find hope in the same sun that we have come to fear as the ever increasing effects of global climate change become apparent.

Stay warm, folks.

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