Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Floating" (exploring a bilateral painting approach)

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience."
~Emily Dickinson

The idea for "Floating", Oil On Canvas, 20"x16" came about one day when I was walking around my old apartment in Burlington. It had that interlocking wood pattern so common in many apartment buildings. It was always cool to the touch. This might sound odd but I felt it almost push against my feet when I walked on it, reiterating how quite solid and intractable it was. I felt the need to push against it somehow. I decided to grab my camera and take some shots to see what I came up with. I have been painting subjects upside down periodically over the years. It serves many purposes, and I love that the viewer needs to take a moment to process the piece and perhaps wonder why it is upside down. 

The whole point though it that really it isn't upside down, it is just looking at the world in a different way, looking at ourselves in a different way. I usually paint myself as the subject but Laura, a friend and model, has also appeared in some of these pieces. They serve to disorient, and yet they also help us to look at things from a different point of view, literally. 

Sometimes we are weighed down by life, and sometimes we float up and away from it ecstatically, as if in a dream. It is circumstantial and ultimately unique to each of us, and we can identify with these feelings at different times in our lives. In this painting I was feeling claustrophobic yet surrounded by space, free and yet confined, a bit of a paradox perhaps.  It is pensive and serene at the same time. Honestly I feel that my most personal paintings are my self-portraits (no surprise there). It is within these pieces where I am most vulnerable. Of course as an artist you are choosing to share these moments of doubt with the viewer, which only accentuates the vulnerability you feel. But the point is I think that we can all relate to this sometimes. 

I have a habit of moving the canvas in all directions while I work on it. Even though this piece was to end up "upside down" for all intents and purposes, I painted it on its side too...I think this method helps you to paint better, when you change the orientation of the canvas. When the normal boundaries are removed that tell you where to paint, you can focus more on value and the correct colour. Oftentimes when you shift the canvas to another orientation it comes together in a way that surprises you. Thus when you remove a bias towards a way of painting, the resulting artwork has a life and freshness infused in it. Perhaps we could call this bilateral painting, a way of painting outside of your normal, creative modus operandi

It is difficult to allow oneself to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to the elements, to leave the window open for the icy draft of conflict or uncertainty to blow in. How do we deal with these trials of the mind and the body? Perhaps we should open the window wider, experience the frigid air at its most acute. Surely if we do we will be much stronger and more joyful for it.  

Have peaceful and wonderful weekend,


I will close this blog entry with a poem by my favorite poet, Mary Oliver. It is called "Moccasin Flowers". Oliver's poems, more than any other poet's, echo how I feel and why I paint. 

All my life,
      so far,
           I have loved more than one thing,

including the mossy hooves
      of dreams, including
          the spongy litter
                 under the tall trees.

In spring
    the moccasin flowers
         reach for the crackling
            lick of the sun

and burn down. Sometimes,
     in the shadows,
          I see the hazy eyes,
                the lamb-lips

of oblivion,
     its deep drowse,
          and I can imagine a new nothing
                in the universe.

the matted leaves splitting
      open, revealing 
           the black planks 
                of the stairs.

But all my life---so far---
       I have loved best
            how the flowers rise
                and open, how

the pink lungs of their bodies
    enter the fire of the world
         and stand there shining
              and willing----the one

thing they can do before
      they shuffle forward
          into the floor of the darkness, they
              become the trees.


Here are more snippets of upcoming paintings to be seen at my solo exhibition:

Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Opening Reception November 6, 2009 7-10pm
I hope to see you there!

Come and see some paintings from this amazing province, filled with beautiful people who live and extend their love and friendship to readily. I hope this show captures a small bit of this fantastic experience on canvas.

Also, I am offering high quality colour reproductions of any of my paintings that you see and wish to have for yourself. I sign each image and will ship anywhere. I offer 8"x10" and 11"x14" size options on high quality, matte, archival paper. Send me an email and I will be happy to answer any of your questions! 

1 comment:

Peggi Habets said...

Wonderfu piece. It also works very well on its side as if she is pushing up against a wall. Love this.