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About My Art

What's my Art About?

I can't tell you "what it is" exactly, but I do have to focus-in on things a bit for myself, otherwise infinite creative possibilities become overwhelming and are counter-productive. So, here are some things I have narrowed-down. This is very general and loose because each individual piece of work has its own form, its own moment, and can be different things to different people. Sometimes a single piece of art can change in meaning depending on the viewer. Once complete, pictures stay the same, but people change from moment to moment... and therefore so can a picture's meaning.

Why Painting?

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I have found painting to be the best way to explore and to capture moments, gestures, expressions, colours, layers, textures, rhythms & forms. It has a fluid, plastic nature, which responds perfectly to momentary expression. I also love to work in clay for this reason too, but space often limits my choice at the moment. So, painting is my choice, and I particularly like acrylic because it is so immediate and spontaneous to use and it supports layering so well. I also like using indirect ways to apply paint, so I sometimes use monotype printing techniques - the results can be very unexpected, so it's always an exciting way to work.

The Significance of Layers

Our lives are made up of layers upon layers of experiences and moments. Our memories can sometimes recall things as clear as the day they happened, while at other times they are obscured, blurry or fragmented. Sometimes we have to work hard and peel back to see what's beneath, just catching glimpses through our latest layers of experience. Other times we can suddenly recall memories without warning - they just pop into our heads while we are creating or while we are distracted elsewhere. Sometimes these recollections can help us understand something, accept something or solve problems. Just because we cant see these old layers doesn't mean they aren't there. The landscape is a good metaphor for these layers.

Landscape

When we look at a landscape from a vantage point, we see the layers in our view: a foreground, the layers of the scene stretching back into the distance, often the horizon separating the earth from the sky. Trees, hills, mountains, buildings, clouds, stars, the sun and the moon can all be within our field of vision and we can see and feel the depth of view. Sometimes our view is flat and obscured, and the landscape is abstract and imposing, while at other times we have a sense of space, solitude or even freedom and openness.

Similarly, the land beneath our feet is layered, with strata, recording events going way back in geological time, layers on top of layers, pressing down, forming new materials under pressure. Usually they are unseen unless exposed through sudden violent geological processes, or the motion of water, human activity, or weathering over long periods of time. It is layers which help us see new things, time after time, even in views we are familiar with.

We go back again and again to our favourite places because of the memories, sensations and feelings that they give us. Like listening to our favourite music.

Music & Sound

Have you ever listened to a piece of music over and over again? What is that feeling that we want to experience one more time, one more time, one more time? It is very real but difficult to hold on to.

I have always been fascinated by the connection between sound and the visual arts. For me, painting can be like creating visual music. When composing a song, we often don't pick up an instrument with a finished tune already in our mind... we usually play our instrument and a song emerges as we discover combinations of things that we find satisfying, fit our mood and feel right. This is equally valid when creating visual art. A painting gives us a recording of that visual process.

In my work, pictorial abstraction operates in the same non-representational manner as music. Compositions of color and form can stir thoughts and feelings without direct representation, just like notes, harmony, chords and rhythm in music. The language is often interchangeable: tone, form, mood, rhythm, repetition, motifs, brightness, contrast, dissonance, harmony, improvisation, etc.

So, painting provides a way of working spontaneously by improvising, going with whatever feels right, perhaps creating something special that might stir something in myself or others... it doesn't have to be particularly profound or explainable... it could be just like listening to a piece of music and loving it. This creative process is instinctive and playful. It is something I experience and participate in by letting go of judgement and analysis... I am free from intellectual constraints... there are elements of co-incidence and also a great deal of chance, which is closely connected to eastern philosophies.

Eastern Philosophy

I am not a religious person, but I have always been influenced by the philosophies taught in Zen, Taoism and Japanese Aesthetics because these ideas are closely interlinked to the creative process and its resulting art objects. There are one or two key things to mention:

First is the idea that it is ok to not always know where you are - that there is a sense of trust placed in the creative process and that the mere act of creating art is enough to ensure that the resulting artwork will be authentic to yourself, and this is good enough. There will be good and bad art as a result, and this is fine. I might share a painting I hate because it is possible someone else might like it, and I wouldn't know otherwise. There is some vulnerability involved.

Secondly, chance plays an important role in my art. Taoist philosophy teaches that there is a continuous push and pull between two extremes, and an interconnection between things, which means that everything is in a constant state of change. The fluid nature of this means that as we navigate our way through anything, we can make choices which determine our direction, but there will always be unpredictable things happening by chance, that we can simply accept as they are, rather than trying to manipulate and orchestrate them. These chance happenings are often what makes my art unique and interesting to me. It is often things that happen by chance that give me the best results.

The therapist in me loves the idea of "Kintsugi", which is the process of repairing a ceramic which is broken, usually using gold lacquer. It is significant that something (or someone) is loved enough to want to mend it. It is also significant that something once broken and now repaired is seen to be more valued and treasured than it was before. It is often imperfections that make people and things different and special - in objects, it is what gives them the uniqueness and authenticity of the hand-made item, rather than machine-made. It is these items which have presence, spirit and soul. They are the things we most treasure. In Japanese aesthetics, this is called 'Wabi Sabi" and it is something I strive for in my art: simplicity, irregularity, unpretentiousness, authenticity, weathering, patina, wear and tear, imperfection, subtlety, freedom from constraints and having a sense of tranquility through self-acceptance.

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