Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Surfacing": The Swimming Paintings

"I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after,
 and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me,
 like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind."~Emily Bronte

For a long time now I have been painting draped figures, the drapes pooling around the figure in white and adjacent shadows showing the form that lies underneath. I have found a new love, or rather, another love: painting water.

Whether still or active, transparent or opaque, water is what we are (mostly) made of, and it cleanses, heals, renews and invigorates us. I feel more at home in water than on land frankly. It is where I can fly briefly, before needing to breathe. It whispers around us and keeps us buoyant but it can also take us too. Simply speaking, it is where we can lose ourselves. Such a powerful symbol and such a fascinating thing is the perfect subject to paint, especially with the figure incorporated into it.

Included in this post are my three swimming paintings: "Hannah, Surfacing", "Hannah, Flying" and "Hannah, Through". All oil. All on wood panel.
"Hannah, Through", oil on panel, 5"x7", available at Abbozzo Gallery

Hannah is one of my muses and a cherished friend. It is easy to paint people you care for, especially those who are old souls. Hannah is such a person. I look forward to completing many more paintings with her as the subject.

When I was visiting Hannah in Buffalo in the summer, we had the chance to spend time at her childhood home. I saw the pool in the backyard, had my camera with me, and asked if Hannah would mind swimming while I shot some reference for paintings. Well in 10 minutes I had enough reference for at least three paintings! Just like that. Happiness. Knowing you have viable reference is a huge boost in one's confidence toward the  completion of a painting.

"Hannah, Surfacing", oil on panel, 48"x72", private collection, Delaware, USA

These paintings were a part of my exhibition "Surfacing" which just ended four days ago. The show was a huge success! I am very thankful to collectors, friends and my gallery, Abbozzo Gallery, who have supported me through the past few years. These paintings took over 150 hours to paint between the three of them. Time well spent I believe.

I think I have found something special with these paintings. A lot of artists paint water, but everyone's journey is what matters, and I think I have found a whole new story to tell here. The blues, the translucence, the transparency, the distortion, the illusion. There is so much about this subject that intrigues me. When you see these paintings from a distance back they do coalesce but up close, as usual, they fragment into delineated planes of pigment. It is like standing in a field. You see the rows of corn separately but above, in a plane, they are waves themselves that meld together, they blend into the field beyond. Art is about illusion, but not malicious or deceptive of course. It is about transporting you away from your present state and into another place and time.

"Hannah, Flying", oil on panel, 18"x24", private collection, Mississauga, Ontario

Water is special because almost all of us have swam in it, dove into it, floated in it, bathed in it, lamented it, welcomed it, imbibed it, and we all remember its effects on us. I love painting what appears to be there and not there. I do love that the figure is folded in another type of fabric, organic and flowing, which shows form and hides form too.

These paintings are another beginning. The first chapter in a long book. Thanks for reading and here is a beautiful poem by my favourite poet, Mary Oliver. Keep creating and keep believing in yourself.


In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.