Tuesday, 29 June 2010

accidental bodies

I love Jim's story about Kandinsky discovering the beauty of his own painting by not recognising it. For a long time, I felt that I didn't really understand what (contemporary) abstract painters were doing. When I was at St Martins in the mid 70s, I was eased out of the life room by a subtle culture that told me that 'working from life' was meaningless, old hat. I tried to 'do abstract', and made a lot of flat rubbish that had no life in it.

I carried the sense that 'life' should not be a source of any art I might produce for decades, and yet I kept returning to life - to the sharp green edges of a pink flower, to the strange depths of lichen on a branch close up, to the shape of a thousand pebbles under a turquoise sea. How could this not be something to do with art?

But, most of the drawings and paintings I made of 'life' were also flat, appeared pointless. Why try to make an image of that gloriousness, I thought in the end, when it's simply there before me, in a much more interesting way?

Having done nothing for 25 years, two years ago, doing something that was nothing to do with art, I suddenly looked at the way green pigment was flowing into yellow. And suddenly it all made sense. It suddenly seemed so simple. Of COURSE you aren't trying to make the wonder of the pattern on the shell, as it is, when it's a pattern on a shell. You're a prism. The light that comes out after it has passed through you can't possibly be the light that came in.

You're not looking for something nice out there to paint - you're looking for shapes and patterns that move you, that excite you. So that you can make something new.

So now I'm working on getting out of the way... as things come in... as they enter the pool of my awareness. And as my awareness starts, for the first time in decades, to link up to my body.


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