Well, it depends. There are two ways of looking at it. Contemplation and action. Contemplation belongs to the inner man. Action is an extension of this inwardness. One needs to wait until one is possessed. It is like religion.A painting is not a painting until one is possessed. A religion which lacks possession is not a religion.
A religion is like painting. It is something to be experienced. This is why it is so uncomfortable to exhibit them. One is turning a private space into a public arena.
What I paint shows both my pain and my pleasure. Was I, and were the pictures, crying out to be looked at and appreciated by others, or was the act of creation enough in itself?
I listened to John Cage's 4. 33” at a concert last week. 4.3 minutes of silence. The pianist sat motionless at the piano.Her fingers outstretched and tense ready to play.The cellist raised his right eyebrow indicating to her that she should start. She sat there and did nothing. The cellist, reflecting her silence, sat motionless again with his arms poised as if to strike the first note.
He is allowing us to experience the silence as a composer, not just a listener.The room was filled with people some of whom were drawn into the silence. It felt like a cathedral. We were held in that state of being that perfect attention creates.
He is allowing the audience to experience the power of silence. The possession, and the action that follows from the possession of silence, and from which compositions are made and played.
What Cage did was to take that private space into a public space. What the audience then did with it was up to them.The silence is there for us all.It comes and goes with one's awareness. One has to listen for it. It can come spontaneously when one is alone, or holding someone one loves, or just by walking in the woods. The point is to be able to recognise it.
There are times in one’s life when one's inner state matches that of the world and there appears to be no way out.There is no starting all over again with a new beginning. One just has to start where one finds oneself, within that silence, and pick up the pieces and start all over again. With art there is always an empty canvas.
At certain times of my life I used the symbols of Christianity. Living with the image and not looking for meaning. Paintings need to be stared at like icons. They need to be used, not necessarily to expand one's intellectual knowledge, but to enlarge one's soul. Apart from the mother and child I had no feeling for anything else.
The liturgy that could have been realised within myself and become part of me, was not something with which I could fully engage. The imagery did not engage me.
I can hear you ask, “Was this because she was one of those people who always complain about seeking and not finding, or was she one of those people who did not know how to seek, or was simply looking for sentimentalities,exaggerated self indulgent sadness or nostalgia ?.”
No. Collective symbols could not provide a path for me to tread, and as a painter I generate my own symbols. Human beings need diversity. We thirst for it, our dreams and imaginations create them. One only needs to count the number of people pouring into the galleries and museums of the world. And then reflect how some religions regard image making,
Images churned out of my dreams, reflections on my environment, and of course on my relationships, once my concentration was placed onto the paper.
Rather like Tarot cards, where archetype and instinct meet in historical form, but instead of the random choosing and placing of the cards and following the meaning one could derive from them, my art was the history of my own personal and intellectual development. An intense search to discover what possible paths were open to me at that particular moment in time.
I remained gripped by the stories that I have hung on my walls, and as I enacted them either in my imagination, or with real people in real life, I learned, as time went by, that it took an act of human will to objectify the images and free oneself from their influence.
On other occasions I accepted the images as agents of transformation. A surfer who, when finding the right crest of a wave, would allow and use its natural form to carry one forward until one arrived on the beach exhausted, sometimes bruised, but I would triumphantly shake myself off and start all over again. The same journey, but this time perhaps I navigated a little more successfully as I had learned to recognise, more successfully, the quality of the wave before I embarked on another journey.
I knew that there was a difference between seeing and looking. The same difference that exists between hearing and listening. In both, the numinous would arise from within oneself. The image initialised by feeling and then pondered on and externalised and harmonised by the colours and the brushstrokes to form a mirror image of my state of being.
Pictures that were not constructed to provide an illusion of perspective and space, but were based on feelings, intuition and imagination. This gave them form from which I could then admire their separateness and quirkiness, at times I seemed to be able to cross over the bridge where my own personal experience was recognisable as having some sort of universal resonance. What made people recognise themselves in the paintings I do not know,but I refer to these pictures as “ having legs”. It was a pleasure to know someone wanted to hang the painting on their wall.
Unless of course the painter is following what has been taught as being correct. The right way to put on paint. Like the right clothes. Painting is rather like handwriting. It can be unique or follow the standard style of what is most fashionable at the time.The brushwork is individual and provides
a clue to the character of the painter. This discovery is an individual journey. It is not a false persona.
As I look back at my many years of painting I realise that each work is a snapshot in
time of my inner being. My preoccupations and moods.What has been happening to me
in my life. The archetypal structure of my psyche as I moved through life, from birth
towards death An enactment that others have done before, and the generations that
follow have still to do..
I suppose that every artist, in their search for themselves tries to discover, and reveal,
or perhaps conceal, their own particular mystery. It can take years of reflection fully to
understand what one has been asking to have revealed, and also to be able to reveal it
in a way that others will be able to understand. Perhaps even reaching a compromise
between my own pictorial imagination and objective reality so it can also be recognised
The question that I ask is, “Will I at the end of my life have produced one final
spectacular masterpiece? Is this what I am reaching towards? Or has each painting
been a masterpiece in its own right?So that when looked at over a period of time, it is
like turning the pages of a book, watching a play, or listening to a piece of music.”
When I look at a painting is it the “What” that I see, or the “What” the observer sees that
matters?, or is it the “How” it was arrived at that others want to know about?, or is it the
“Where” it has taken me to, and if looked at for long enough and in the right way, it may
be able to take the observer to another place. Like an icon, or other meditative object
the paintings need to be revered in the same way not walked past with a cursory
glance.It is well to consider the difference between a sign, and a symbol.
Painting is rather like a journey. One never knows if the journey will be short or long.
Pleasurable or painful. One has to be able to manage the distress and discomfort
making the journey, rather like a pilgrimage, one hopes to be remade in some way. A
new way of being and seeing and reaching the promised land. And of course the
ultimate prize is when one realises that one has created something that has never
existed before.It has not been copied. It is not an imitation of what has gone before. The
brushstrokes that are there only exist because they have been seen by the artist in a
particular way. It is their mark. Only their eyes have seen it. It is a private revelation and
comes as a complete surprise. An epiphany.