the thought-stream of an artist and writer

Tracey Physioc Brockett

the thought-stream of an artist and writer

Monday, November 5, 2012

Correcting For Drift, part two

I have finally uncrated the last of the large paintings stored in the unheated garage for 9 years,  the unheated attic of the home before that, and various basements. I didn't expect to find much... they are nearly 30 years old.... thickly painted and badly knocked around. I didn't remember several of them but I was glad I didn't destroy them earlier just because they were damaged, as I did so much else. It is good for an artist to come face to face again with old work that has been forgotten.
In The Garden of My Obsession, 46 x 48, oil on canvas,  1988.

In those days I was painting in a little room about 5 x 9 feet that had only a transom window . Most of the time I painted at night, after work, with jury-rigged lighting. I have never been able to paint well when the light shines on wet paint. I had recently come from nearly a year of a magnificent, well-lit studio and oodles of daylight painting time at an artist colony, and I was struggling. So I started painting wide swaths of  smooth glossy colour with a palette knife. I am sure I was influenced by Nicolas de Stael, among other artists who I was looking at at the time, but it seemed a terrific solution to the problem of wet brush strokes, and had the added bonus of helping me play with shape like building blocks. I was still casting about for a sense of self in my work, something that seems absurd to worry about now.  I did not yet have the luxury of years of experience in making bad and indifferent art in order to mine the gems, so I was impatient and fearful of failure in a way I am not now.
Hedge, oil on canvas, 36 x 38, 1986?

Thayer's Orchard, oil on canvas, 44 x 46,1985.

 I eventually had a solo show of this work at the local community college. I called the series In The Garden of My Obsession, and for some reason I do remember that I hung 40 pieces. There is no photographic record of it however, and many individual paintings, now long gone, were never photographed either, as I was terrible at documenting in those days. With the paintings, I hung poems and scraps from my sketchbooks because I was already aware that there were themes here I would obsessively work out and expand upon for the rest of my working days.
Huddle, oil on canvas, 28 x 28, circa 1988.

This spring when I started a new series, the Obsession paintings were very far from my mind; they were all hidden away. It was half a year in that one painting reminded me I was not far from my beginnings, that things I thought I had abandoned were not finished with me.
Correcting For Drift, 38 x 40, acrylic and oil stick on paper, 2012
What I  could not have understood all those years ago, is how slender the territory an artist can mine for gold. I thought it had to be huge, the ideas, the execution, wide ranging inspirations for which one travelled the globe, the universe. But it is also a fairy's breath, a will"o the wisp that can come from the most humble sources and cling for a lifetime to that space behind the eyeballs at the moment just at waking from sleep. I thought I was trying to make things solid and controllable; I thought Art was the magic that could make things so, could put life in order like a piece of music by Bach. Before Chaos Theory I could not have embraced the work I do now. I remember rejecting work in which the structure fell apart. I was not ready to see it's beauty.