a poem and a painting

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At various stages of my painting’s evolution, different genres have suggested themselves- landscape, figurative, abstract, floral- and approaching resolution the painting, rather than having become one or the other, remains “all of the above.”
The other day on Facebook I came upon an excerpt of a TS Eliot poem and as I read, I felt it to be a description of the themes that are on my mind as I attend to my new work, particularly of this painting.  It is the poem Burnt Norton, one of the suite “The Four Quartets.”
Here are a few excerpts:

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                              But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
………………………………………………..

The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
…………………………………………………

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
………………………………………………….

And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.

The whole poem can be read here.

lo, how a rose

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detail : roses linger beneath layers of ink

How touched I am this Christmas to be reminded of the beautiful German hymn,
Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen.  I am in the midst of  my new work- roses that speak of the presence of love in the midst of darkness. The words of this song speak of how love remains tender and vulnerable even as it provides antidote to what is harsh and violent.
Listen to, and watch the Gesualdo Six perform their beautiful rendition here.

a repetition of roses

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I have taken as reference my own photos of roses and am hand transposing the shapes and contours onto large paper and working with ink. I have a love of repetition- perhaps it was having visited fabric stores with my mother and gazing at myriads of patterns. I look at what is emerging in these pieces and I think of the interior of home, of the heart; stars, voices, faces, love; graffiti on the Reichstag, the Vietnam war memorial in Washington; I think of Germans who died- especially women – who sought to resist the Nazis through humanitarian means.

learning to paint


It is wonderful that social media helps keep us in reach of our audience, but I admit to being somewhat torn about posting often; it seems contrary to the instinct of nesting, nurture and privacy that go along with developing a body of work.
I am at the beginning of a new exploration – one that is absorbing and which needs time to mature and form itself. I am researching and sketching, thinking and feeling my way into a new series.
I am also learning to paint. The last workshop I attended with John Luna at the beginning of August allowed me to at last feel that painting “is my own” even if it is feels unfamiliar and often awkward. It is a tremendous learning curve and one that at once challenges and nurtures my artistic instinct and mind.
Contrary to what is a very wise and useful approach- that of working on a number of pieces at once- these few weeks I have been working with one painting that I began as a part of a set of 3 at the workshop. It has filled my mind, with I and others, often thinking it close to finished but then it has asked more of me.
It occurred to me that this painting is like a mother- one that is teaching me a lot and allowing me to explore the problems of composition, colour, texture, narrative, abstraction and symbolism. I at once think it the most wonderful painting in the world and the most horrible thing I have ever seen!
The painting has been set aside now and the skills I have learned from it will inform the other two paintings I began at that workshop and even paintings I began last summer which have waited for me to gain more knowledge and confidence. Perhaps after a good rest, my eyes will be wiser and the painting will speak to me again as to what it might want, if anything at all.

ink and roses

The symbol of love, the rose is also the symbol of struggle and suffering; of being brave and facing the dark. Look how it is used as a motif in fairy tales- the rose that precipitates the dark tale of the Beauty and the Beast; the prince who wakes the Sleeping Beauty has to find his painful way through a wall of briar roses, the young price who wishes to rescue Rupunzel falls on a rose bush and is blinded; the roses that bloom red and one white at the very end of suffering in the story of the Wild Swans. In my reading about those who faced the fascist regime in Germany it also became a symbol of resistance.

little children

New work in progress, 6 of 8 . 30″ by 22″ conte and charcoal.
I had prepped Stonehenge paper for more ruins work and felt the impulse to do large portraits. I work on each enough to feel it has come alive and then move on to the next. I am determined to do 8 and then review them to decide whether to adapt them further.

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little saints

As I work on these portraits I think of sculptures of saints on old cathedrals, I think of the churches blackened by fire and think about the story of Christmas in which the light of  the world came into the dark as a child- and the dark did not overcome it.

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work in progress, with “light bulb baby” to the left, my studio mascot who watches over me

abstract ideas

At the end of July, I took a weekend workshop on abstract painting at the Vancouver Island School of Art. Our instructor was the kind and fascinating John Luna. We were taught 3 approaches for developing ideas for abstract work.
Being more comfortable with drawing materials, I often felt frustrated, though I found myself intrigued and decided that my summer goal would be 8 more paintings based on what I had learnt in the workshop. Here is a glimpse of what I accomplished. I am pleased I persisted despite being out of my comfort zone (working with colour, on canvas, with paint.)  Some of these pieces feel resolved, some are not, but all of them are inspiration for more paintings.

I spent an afternoon doing a study from one of my own photos. I started off with watercolour and soon found a new respect for watercolour florals! Thankfully white gesso rescued the picture and I am not unhappy  with the result. A bit more needs to be done, but that’s enough of experimenting for today!

Looking for inspiration I found this wonderful picture by Fantin -Latour:
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