the thought-stream of an artist and writer

I am in a perpetual state of bemusement.
I am always searching but don't always know what I have found.
Putting things together physically, visually or mentally in the language of symbols, or letters, or of clues of some sort is a life long obsession.
This blog is a narrative, a daybook of sorts.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sorting things out.

"Scheduling Conflict", oil, acrylic and aluminum leaf on MDF, 8x8
It has been a time of tremendous upheaval in my life, this spring, and I have been working sporadically on several projects without the feeling I am doing much of anything. There have been other places in my life where it has felt as if I am crossing a great divide, and there is before and then after, with much altered between them. My work has always gone through chaos to get to form, and it wasn't until I understood and embraced the correlation between my emotional/physical state and the state of my abstract work that I really felt  comfortable, even happy with a canvas. It gave me a clearer way of knowing when to stop work on a particular piece... to accept a state as an intermediate place but legitimate in it's own right. It may not sound like much but it was huge.

"Night Noises", oil and aluminum leaf on canvas, 8x8
When I started painting I had no idea what I was about, and painting classes didn't help much. Nothing I did looked the way I wanted, or even in any way I could make sense of. But it took years to figure out I was painting about how things felt. How they seemed to all the senses. I was painting about things that had no words or pictures. They leave me feeling raw and vulnerable, even at the best of times. I am learning to let go of that as unimportant. My messy life is just fodder for them.

"On The Slow Boat", oil and gold leaf on MDF, 8x8
Bit by bit, I feel as if I am getting closer to the work's own intentions. That sounds bizarre, even to me. So much of my life I have felt as if I am on a huge wave, a tsunami that has taken me where it wills, and it has been my job to hold on, to be brave and tenacious. And also to be quiet and pay attention.

previous posts about this body of work;

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Small Hours

Small Vision, acrylic, oil, thread and gold leaf on panel, 8x8

Every winter I do a kind of walkabout in my studio. Because it is cold and I have little light and I am usually working many hours at a job I try not to frustrate myself with producing anything important. Instead, I change everything about my working process. I "go see". Last summer and fall I was working on large sheets of paper with acrylic and oil pastel. In January I switched to little 8x8 panels and canvases and went back to using oils. But I added things... gold and silver leaf, thread and cloth and fur, beads and buttons, glitter. I had been thinking about this for a long time and now was the time to play with it. Usually, for most of January I make terrible art. I don't know what I am doing in a more fundamental way than usual, so I don't know when or how to shape when something good appears. Eventually themes appear and I settle in to expand upon them. I love to experiment. Essentially all my work is about that. I paint to discover.

Record, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 8x8

When I start to get a glimmer of what this work is about, then I can start to figure out how to say what I think it is saying. I never really know about my work. There are layers I understand, and deeper ones I do not touch. After all these years I have come to realize that there is a dangerous place in one's work  where it does not pay to meddle. There is a dark magic there that cannot be revealed through words, through analysis, only honoured. Respected. I know when it is there. Sometimes a painting has it right from the start, and it is my job to enrich it. Sometimes it is very hard won indeed. The fact that my work, for all it's abstraction, is intimately tied to my moods and experiences is a conundrum deeply confounding and confusing to me. I'd like to know myself but this is a river I cannot swim. I paint to figure it out as far as that is possible, but it is Pandora's box. I hang on to the threads that make sense and let go of the ones that will pull me into somewhere I don't need to find myself. The whole process is a kind of faith thing. A trust that it will all,  if not make sense exactly, at least hang together in a functional way. It is a provisional life.

Small Snag, oil, silver leaf and thread on panel, 8x8

Waitling, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 8x8
For more blogs on this subject; Where to Put Your Feet When Your Head is Occupied Elsewhere

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Turnings and Findings

I dreamt that I took apart my grandfather's bed, the great 200+ year old four-poster in which I sleep, and put it out by the street in front of my childhood home. 

Our house was the lodge or gatehouse for a great estate built in the roaring 20's in Toronto, buttermilk coloured limestone and half-timbered on the upper story. It was surrounded by a limestone wall with wrought iron gratings and great heavy wrought iron gates, in front of which I set the bed parts, right by the road. Though I left them lying there, they were intended somehow to be a display, an installation,  but someone took it all away. I went to tell my father; it had been his father's bed, and we went out to look. I found 2 of the posts returned inside the wall next to where we always had a little vegetable garden. I did not feel very disturbed by any of this. When we went back out to the street, we found that someone had also returned the headboard, which was lying upside down on the ground in the rain, and the remaining 2 posts. But they had crudely cut up the posts as if they had wanted to use them for something else but it hadn't worked out. I thought to myself, no problem, I know I can put this back together again.

Pieces of the Game, wood, hair, fur, circa 1999. various dimensions.

Last night on a walk I discovered a number of old poster beds by the side of the road, offered free to any who wanted them.... offered by different people, in front of several houses. It seemed the universe wanted me to notice them, wanted me to have bedposts. So I got my car and I took them, though I have no place for them in the house or garage. Or my studio. Many years ago I was given a chair and sofa with turned mahogany legs, and they spoke to me in the same way. Gradually they stopped being furniture and became something else. All my life there have been threads of things that appear and disappear, compelling me to act without a plan...or discovering the plan as I am acting on some mysterious whim.

more blog on dream constructions:  Properties of Association

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Naming of Parts

I have hit on the nomenclature, pinned myself on map, diagram and blueprint because I need somewhere to land and stake a claim to the great unknown to which I have  embarked. Upon. Or  to. Destination is shaky if at all existent. Where I am wither? And how, and with what means?
Paint and canvas is the vessel of my journey. My voyage. My passage to the unknown. There be dragons here, at the end of the known world. So I would begin the naming of parts to save myself.
Diagram E; Star Chart, oil stick on paper, 31x30

My ticket is paid by attention, precision, accuracy in cartography; round surface bound to the flat plane; time spinning like a top on a moving surface; shifting weights tensing and flexing some invisible net and inching lines over fraction by fraction, whirling, repelling and fusing in strange alchemy.


Some times as I work and rework a painting  matter becomes more and more immaterial and I think  it will vanish in a puff of air and me with it, if I push out too far. Am I on land or sea, or floating, some thin gas, dissipating?  The problem is quite simple, really;  if I don't know where I am going, how will I know when I am there?
 I have named it travel. 

There are other metaphors; archaeological, mythic and earth based. I could have settled on the words of human stories, of thwarting and waiting and bursting through barriers for a prize. Lost and found, the games Time has played with civilizations 'til we give up count and know only whispers, snippets , from the stories of our ancestors, waiting to be uncovered again, or reordered and reused. I thought that this would be where my art resided,here among the humanity, as my love for history was kindled in college and I have kept reading and studying. Perhaps it is, only I do not know it yet.
more blog on travel, destinations and journeys

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tracking Sign

I am exploring a new neighbourhood.
Any time I am out of my comfort zone I have a blankness in my brain. All the chatter turns to white noise. I don't know why my brain does this, a kind of emptying out, preparing to receive.

I know people who see conspiracy in everything. Or God in every system, the devil in the details. In the city it is easy to see what one is looking for. Most of life it is sheer accident  what one sees, what one notices; the deer running down a driveway, a friend on a busy street corner..
An avatar, a savior.
A warning.
Like the Khabbalah the math is everywhere, ones and zeros combining and separating.

When I work on my boxes, this is what I am doing; looking for signs. They are each a story I haven't told yet, but one that exists somewhere. They all have a truth that is immutable, even if words can be arranged and rearranged, exchanged and refined to tell it.

sometimes I think of painting as if I am tracking a wild animal...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where to Put your Feet When your Head is Occupied Elsewhere

I am working on something I know nothing about. It's thrilling like a spy novel.
I wanted to write about words, about language. About defining things. There are patterns, hidden affinities, meanings I sense and am longing to explore. But there is a barrier between seeing and naming that I cannot cross. I keep trying.

I need to let my body take over. My head is so tired it hurts. It's been holding too much in, juggling and sorting, holding the reins too tight. And my heart... well it usually leads, galloping ahead and falling all over itself like an overexcited puppy, bound for hurt and disappointment. Somewhere in between my body holds it's muscle memories quietly and deeply.

 My hand is like a dancer who has rehearsed so much the music has taken over. I need to be abandonment.

I must suspend belief, judgement, taste.

What ever I think I am doing is bound to have other meanings, like a double agent. Nothing is what it seems. 

The intention that I nurture isn't always what I end up loving in the end.

There is code imprinted under my eyelids, if I can just get in there and learn to read it.

Previous blog about sketching:

Plans and Diagrams; Intention Manifest

Monday, January 23, 2012

More Lessons From The Dancing Master

Diagram B
For better or worse I am done with working on this piece. Imagining the layers that are there has been like playing chess in my head. The painting pleases me at first glance. I can't tell if I worked it to death, if the mystery has been scraped out of it yet. I'm such a worry wart. The joy is there, underneath.

Diagram B unfinished 1/29/12

This is one of those paintings that may never justify to time and materials spent, and yet..... I have dragged this piece kicking and screaming from wall to wall and I am only beginning to hear what it's been trying to tell me.... that there is something I want/ need to follow, some will o the wisp breath/touch of the ephemeral truth....

Diagram B unfinished 2/6/12

I keep hoping it will reveal more. I am addicted to adding and scraping. I had always hoped to film the process by which I uncover a painting, but the lengthy time I have needed for each canvas has mothballed that idea over and over. I am getting better at throwing out the jabs of colour and line, seeing what they have caught. When I start to go wrong I can usually save us from total chaos. I thought that perhaps being able to witness it again over my own shoulder might give me some idea of what it is I am doing. Understanding what it is that gives a painting that one little puff of a breath that sends it off breathing on it's own. Beginning is easy. Finishing wrenches me hand, heart and soul.