Thursday’s or “not-quite-friday” is probably not the day to sit at the keyboard thinking thoughts and wondering but never the less here I am …
This post has come about mainly due to a conversation I had on facebook the other day. I had popped a couple of my new paintings on facebook. I have taken to putting work in progress sequences up , not totally to show off cos they aren’t that good. But as a bit of a public aide memoir of how a painting moves from blank canvas to finished piece. Like many painters many many works end up in the bin because they don’t come together into something that kicks the viewer into attention. It is a bit like a songwriter who can’t get the words to match the tune there has to be a synergy there for the song to work and as it is with the auditory so it is with the visual. Putting the good with the bad on public display is sort of a “new” thing for me and it is kinda making me think more about what I am painting and why – this came into sharp focus with the last paintings i exposed to public gaze.
I posted two pictures one I was happy with and the other less so, it was an experiment in both colour and a much more chaotic form. Within 30 minutes the experimental one was getting positive comments and within the hour it had (or will have when I post it) a new owner. I couldn’t explain why it reached out to some people … but it did.
Oddly as it turns out this quandary was to deepen when another chum asked me if I did portraiture, i have in the past but generally it is of the polaroid variety, quick sketches done in pubs or parks of people in situations that made sense at the time. I replied that I did but I wasn’t very good at commissions. Mainly this comes from what I see is not what the other person sees and I don’t want to offend by taking something that someone likes/loves and wants to remember and doing it badly.
I looked in my archive of drawing and pictures and found one I had done 5 or 6 years ago and popped it up. Now this particular picture was of an “unknown” lady’s face. It was a quick pen and ink and in my view not very good and really quite sad.
It was one of a series of 5 or 6 paintings and drawings I did when I was exploring some pretty raw emotions. I am sure you have gathered that Val suffered from and is now living and coping with depression. These paintings were done around the time she was diagnosed. I have been lucky in that I have not been afflicted with the sort of grindingly awful miasma that was turning the love of my life into a different woman, one I had difficulty recognizing. For me this was something new, I had seen depression before but never so close that I could feel it as a physical force. Part of my way of dealing with it was to explore from the outside looking in at what Val was telling me her life was like. The only way I knew how to do this was by painting it.
My first reaction to was see sadness, despair and fear as hard brittle emotions with sharp edges and dark colours and the first 2 or 3 paintings were like that.. Along side the painting I was listening to things like Faure’s requiem and the St Mathew’s Passion and it came to me that sadness is not necessarily the way I was portraying it, there is a beauty in there. Hard to define but beauty none the less.
Suddenly I understood why Milais’s Ophelia was beautiful even though it was portraying a lady singing before she drowns, similarly Van Gogh’s “Old Man of Sorrow” and dozens of other paintings took on a new life and perhaps indicated why my “sad” paintings all now live in other houses. I think that perhaps we all understand life’s negative side, it tweaks our empathy and most of all it reminds us we are human and that is something we should all be proud of.
Time for bed.