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By: Anthony Boswell
This blog will document my return to painting, my thoughts and process within it.
# 39 [28 June 2012]
There has been some positive moves this month, the highlight being a visit from Jane Boyer to chat about work and do an interview for 'This Me of Mine'. Apart from that, I have had more comments on and now an opportunity for my writing, which consists basically my blog here at a-n. It still surprises me how it is easy to miss who may be looking and reading about my work beyond the scenes. Yet this highlighting of my blog as led me to consider and question what more I should do with it, what my strengths and weaknesses are in that area, how to develop it. I think it means for me just making more effort to share my thoughts on this blog. I started to keep a handwritten, personal journal, yet it has been very difficult to keep it, to know what to write in there. One of the reasons for this is that I felt at conflict against the a-n blog; what I shared in my journal was most likely to be a repeat of the blog or material not suitable or concerning my practice. In reality, my blog is my journal and so I have now began to keep a hard copy of each entry, well, of this blog and Et In Arcadia Ego. So I have also realised that both blogs can overlap too, it is not always possible for me to distinguish which one is suitable for a particular entry. I will be blending the two together in future as a new blog one I intend to be a much more involved part of my practice. It will be 'Et In Arcadia Ego: Beyond Painting'.
This said of the month, I have witnessed a steady rise and fall in my emotions and moods, in my thoughts about my painting. A lot came from my day with Jane and Becky Huff Hunter too as made me aware of more possibilities. I have felt very much like I have witnessed something akin to the rise in air pressure today, building up and reaching intensity till the storm brews and releases its energy until it clears and leaves behind that humid heat, the contents of my mind covering my body in that sticky melancholy of the atmosphere. It is a weight and slows one down, breaking the inertia of the denseness of it is hard sometimes. But I had come to mind an idea that will probably take up my time for a while, that of making works on paper.
I have made a small number of these paper works the last two weeks, I feel I am, at the moment, digesting where they may lead, what they may reveal. I think though, that in making them, it was another significant event for the paintings. I will be able to talk more of them soon, once I understand them a little.
# 38 [6 June 2012]
So, since completing the last work, 'Slowness Broken', I have been thinking a lot more about the effect of tonality, and more about how much of an importance light is playing. While my interest is in the personal details of life played out in the home, it is the light that makes up a large quantity of what reveals the hidden aspects of that life and of the fragments left in the atmosphere and fabric of the house. It is going back to what I was thinking about last post, about presence.
What moment am I working with? At the time I see the potential of a moment, brought into play by the light, sounds, feelings and activities at that specific time, as soon as I have finished that first sketch, time has passed before I get to the painting. So, the painting is then a work about a memory of moment. My starting point was reality, my end point is based on that reality, the presence is that of a presence left behind at a previous moment. How then does this effect my ability to control that time? In a way, I have already lost it. My work may be about recall then? I feel as if this working on a moment already gone is leaving me lagging behind constantly, time is always one step ahead and that brings the fear of loss strongly back to mind. I'm not sure where that leaves the work once it is complete, what it is absorbing and omitting, is it containing anything of the moment, or does this evaporate over time? If it does, then my ability to control the loss is once again made even more difficult.
It comes back to the point of this; that I am working in some sort of repeating loop, but one where uncertainty is playing a huge part.
# 37 [3 June 2012]
The older house always has dust, collecting moments as it settles. Corners of the rooms are like the far reaches of the space where those moments are quiet in the shadows. Sometimes these corners seem miles and miles away in distance and in time. Looking at images in the mirrors, those corners then begin to seem eons away, as if the floating specks of that dust are stars caught in the light of their Sun. It makes me think too that in that space and time, the dust contains my skin, Linda's skin, and that knowledge feels very intimate to me. Knowing all of that content is there does not mean it needs to be evident visually in the paintings, it is this problem of finding the balance of what to include and disregard that is there with each new work. How much is really going to be, or needs to be understood by anyone else? It is this arena that sets up the idea of presence.
Presence is what Jane Boyer explores. She spent seven hours with us on Tuesday and this was enough to see first hand the truth behind my paintings. It interested me that she said it did not really matter if she saw the place and time of the moments that inspired each work. So when the painting is done, it then becomes separated from its beginnings, leaving only evidence behind. Maybe this process happens as soon as my first sketch is done.
I came to this new painting with tonal quality in mind, now this is adding something not particularly there in reality. It also became very much involved with light, and Jane had pointed out two sources of light; direct light and diffused light. As I decided to end my time with it, after revisiting it, I noticed the importance of shadow too. I am interested in how much of presence alone is left in the painting. This may be setting up nicely a further move into abstraction, by allowing the small movements and developments to occur naturally, the current content of the paintings will be kept and strengthened.
Presence is to me directly linked to experience, and experience is what has to be known for the paintings to exercise their strengths. The paintings ability to live on is in proportion to the intensity of the artists experience.
# 36 [18 May 2012]
Hard and soft light is what faced me, the two saying different or the same things? The hard light existed amidst the diffused light that gave the overall feel to the room, the streaks of hard edged light were like voices in the space that they existed in at that specific moment in time, because not long after they came, they were gone, gently and almost unnoticeably, like a slowly fading conversation we may have as we fall in and out of sleep as we wake. What is imagined, what is real, this is what I asked myself has the light filtered around my body, as the light I saw in front of me gently warmed my back, as you dressed upstairs.
# 35 [6 May 2012]
Living in the constant now, I sometimes don't know how to relate to the past or future. My work, the paintings, have become the same, about the now. Maybe the moment contains both past and future? Growing up and years ago in my work, I must have been in touch with this deep realisation of reality as expressed in the sharpness of the moment and containing infinite and eternal questions that loom large within this position, yet somehow loosing sight of it by life's events and looking in the wrong direction visually. Then maybe now I must forget the pain of all the years spent trying to find it again, because now I am amongst the visual correlatives that once again bare witness to life and its mysteries. My paintings have become something else, mostly in their own right; for me a hard-edged look at the shadows, a doorway, both a valley and hilltop, land and air, waters surface and depth. But I paint not to refract, but to remove the change in direction as I take life from one form into another, to keep the physics equal in reality and on the canvas, for the velocity to remain at the same rate as one bounces back and forth, one to the other.
I understand too the need for no outside influence, I cannot make the paintings unless I remain void now of what is going on elsewhere, no forces of influence can take effect unless in line with my own. Once at the place where you can see what you've been after, it is vital to stay there to be able to get deep down into that place, to remain still and begin to search out every detail of existence there. It is both a position of freedom and fear; to explore intimacies and truths, to do it by attempting to perfect ones craft, by way of paint on the canvas surface.
# 34 [30 April 2012]
Thinking back to my last post where I talked about reaching the point of conclusion with my work, allowing for the search to now continue at a natural progression for the search itself, of and for the work, I have been wandering how this is so. As Sam Bell stated, the paintings are not a mirror, but life's equivalent. But how are they? What makes the difference to me is I am trying not to represent life, but coming at it from semi-abstraction to create the ambiguity I face when coming at life, the painting is a part of my life as I make it and as it is finished and part of its own life. With it existing separate to me as well as part of my process, it is concrete, exuding a force upon the viewer and room. It is going back to this idea of bridging the gap between art and life, a bridge spans the gulf but touches and joins both sides of the bank, as the painting does when existing, but touching the sides of life that are myself and the canvas, the now in time and infinity, the space this side of the canvas, its surface and beyond. And what lies beyond the surface comes back through to face you.
It is a difficult task I am trying to work with, on one side I want infinite depth in the painting, on the other a flat surface. In an attempt at creating both of these, the hope is that the viewer is drawn in and beyond, but also suddenly stopped short at the canvas surface, creating the force of the paintings reality and the consciousness of the viewer being in the knowledge of alive and existing at that moment in time. This is why the canvas cannot be a mirror, but must be an object having force.
In working in this way, I have found that the drawings must at some point contain the detail, fully observe the experience before cutting back to essentials. One throws a sound and receives that sound back as an echo. The voice going out, being absorbed yet hitting back at your body, one thing in different forms, experienced as experience, real and ambiguous.
# 33 [26 April 2012]
I Have taken a long look back at my life as an artist this week, the things I feel I have accomplished, the things I have failed at. It has, up till now, been a life of working and exploring a variety of subjects, of hopes, of searching for what has been lying underneath it all, in trying to find the visual correlative for it. This I have done now, some of it helped by revisiting work and ideas from a long time back, other times helped by the conversations with others, but mostly found through paintings of our house. I no longer need to confirm my position, neither historically or in my methods, I can settle down into the natural progression of things, no need to look elsewhere and by understanding my influences. I can, as Andrew Bryant put it, be involved in the search itself after coming to know myself.
# 32 [24 April 2012]
The clouds cast moving shadows over surfaces with the play of light and shadow, like over fields and cliff faces, the sound of weather heard through the windows, as if it were possible to be standing outside making inside vulnerable. Light, the eternal giver of essences, unites everything. As others have walked through streets and out onto open ground, exposed and made to witness themselves, I walk and stand upon the vast eternity of possibilities made by the spaces of the house, the land upon and within that which I begin to know myself, the exposure of the elements making everything blindingly real. It is clear to me now how it is; that to come to be within the place is to come to know the man, to know the women. Yet the place withholds whatever it sees fit, so has to allow the questioning to continue. The house and the landscape are one, truly shaped by those who live there and shaping them in return.
To attempt to take all of this experience and place it upon the flatness of the canvas surface is how the ambiguity that lies within this process creates the strength of the work. It is an attempt to make flatness the place where experiential depth is a reality, where experience is given over to pure practical effort of making a painting. If the landscape comes in with me, how can I take the home out into the landscape? How can I translate this in painting? Maybe I don't need, at the moment, to paint the landscape. When I stand at the bottom of the stairs, the sunlight strong outside in the morning light, I can easily be looking up the rising, sheer cliff face, where the sunlight beams out from across the land above, as it come in through the window. As I sit and look at the photograph of the wild ocean on my wall, I can feel how I am standing close to the edge where it may suddenly spill in. As I walk through from room to room, or look through half open doors, I could be walking through street to street. I have got to know myself, I will be re-shaped and shape in return every future place lived in.
My life and everything in it exists on a canvas surface and I am not certain which one bears the most resemblance to my actual reality.
# 31 [7 April 2012]
I was thinking about the words of Andrew Bryant writing about my blog. I caught myself in the bathroom mirror and thought yes, I am myself, the stubborn old dog not always wanting to heel upon the lead, yet so often falling helplessly back to the same reflections by that simple and compelling twitch upon the thread.
Is it strength or weakness?
This morning I left the house at just after six thirty and drove to my mothers bungalow where I have just moved her from this week into sheltered housing close by. She's ninety. I went there because she had planted two Rose cuttings she had successfully got going. They had been on my mind all week and I could not feel right leaving them there. As I stood in the dull light with the dampness of the drizzle coating my overcoat, I could see in the windows of the empty house. I no longer had keys to get in. I had closed all the doors and each room was shut off from the other and lay dark and still, leaving my mothers old life there. But she was glad to leave and so were we glad. I returned home for my first cup of tea, I don't feel settled without my first drink of tea, and sat with Sylvia Plath has I have been doing again each morning. She started today talking about a stopped clock. It is an intimate moment each morning, reading her journals, listening to her tell her life of growing up, of becoming a women, becoming a poet. I thought about the stopped clock and how I often want to stop it too, fix the moment.
Is it a good thing to stay firm on the one idea? It has been right for me, although it has taken many forms to get here. I would not be here if it were not for this belief, I would not have found myself, or found my visual representation of my world. I thought of Morandi sitting against the melancholy of his colour, of his still lives, of the stillness and drama of the quiet. Drama is for me inherent within silence, there exists a tectonic shift in the relationship of moment and experience of it, recorded millimeter by millimeter, pound by pound per square inch of the canvas space, the gravity of ennui and melancholy pushing down at the surface. I came back and planted the Rose cuttings, fed the Robins who wait for us on the doorstep each morning, made Linda tea, thought of the empty rooms and how I could paint them as if the doors were all open and one could see through from one to the other. It was still early, painting on my mind, if I were getting it right.
There is always the struggle for me to not allow my work to become saturated by the wrong kind of familiarity, the familiarity of becoming the same. The subject is always the same but must reflect the strength of lived experience, which is never boring. Can it fall sometimes into being nice? Nice can so often be full of sharpness and hidden clarity, containing the underlying experience being craved for. I have in the past made images that have been nice, till I scraped off the outer layer coating the surface. Nice is just one place walked through, maybe impatiently. The thread can cut when taught, it has a high tension, but is possibly attached at the other end to what is beautiful.
# 30 [1 April 2012]
As Peter Lanyon with Cornwall and Paul Nash with Dorset, the landscape is a face, the painting presents the face of the man. I have been thinking very much on this idea, replacing the landscape with the house, thinking of the house as landscape. How would it translate? I remember that phrase as a child, to go up the wooden hills to bed, meaning the stairs, to lie there now, or sit quietly in the upstairs rooms, I can imagine myself being high, able to look down over the stair, as if it were a cliff face. This is how it can be so easy sometimes to let the outside in, because upstairs I am level with the horizon, half way up the large trees at the bottom of the garden. The house as part of the land, equally warmed by it and threatened by it. How much stronger these things must have felt for the artist living upon the open, rugged coast. I am trying, as much as is possible, to paint as a result of physical experience.
I had been struggling with tiredness and lethargy, made worse by a week of misty grey days that hid the light and dulled the rooms. All the other voices silent. I waited for the light and the whispering silence that would allow me to see something I could translate to the canvas. By the end of it I felt the nervousness, the agitation, then the relief. The mist cleared, I had a little rest, the light came back, moved ever so slowly again across the walls, made shadows. I was out of ennui.
It took a few days to observe the house, to listen and wait in Arcadia. I eventually saw my painting as I walked out of the front bedroom and caught the double viewpoints. I was able to make some sketches that I put in my last post. I have had my time with the canvas and now it is saying its own things. When I look at it, I can see the reflection of the corner of the room that is almost behind me from the position I sat at; the bed is there made up, it was no longer ruffled and I had the sudden, clear and sharp memory of making love there, or lying awake in the small hours there. If it where the land, I could walk out and fall off the cliff, but I would not, but stand and look down at the carpet in the hall that would be the ocean.