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By: Anthony Boswell
Life and work as an artist
# 34 [13 May 2013]
'Driven by the compulsion to make the invisible, mysterious forces of nature and space tangible, man saw one particular substance stand out in the gloom of primeval nature - solid, immovable rock'. (Kenzo Tange, architect).
I was walking. Between intermittent breaks of cloud and sunlight, the wind and showers where icy and my head became cold. At that moment, the local vacinity became a vast place as I tried to quickly make my way home for warmth and comfort. Inside, the feelings of outside remain. In Japanese aesthetics, there is a term; 'Ma'. It means, generally speaking, space as experienced by the viewer, imagined, separated by intervals. Recently, I have been questioning the painting aspect of my practice, realising that they are not paintings at all, but drawings. I think I went to places in them and now are aware of the things I may find there. I have taken my mind off what is needed and tried to be too complicated, the tipping point of looking too hard. What I want is found in the simplicity of means.
The things I cannot see, the things I experience often other than by visual means, are the 'true and apparent dimensions of empty space'. The sense of melancholy and longing create incompleteness and so potential and a certain kind of reality, one of hope. Another Japanese term is useful here too; 'Shibui', balancing simplicity with complexity, allowing for constant new meaning and discoveries.
So I am making more of the constructions, partly because I saw so much more in them after seeing the interplay of space against my piece 'Time Box' in Jane Boyer's show at APT Gallery, where the emptiness of the gallery intensified the works intimacy. I've been very hard on myself the last few weeks, feeling I have bled off into too many areas and stated too many conflicting themes, but I feel reassured again of the importance of working through these ideas. Time as an artist does not mean time spent wandering occasionally. What is important to me is I have never lost sight of the underlying cause of my reason to make artwork and put the time required into it. After all the years, I have had a few moments where I have touched, ever so slightly, on what I look for. I have realised I have been working with the dynamics of the unseen space, the experienced space and not the things that fill it and this is the same at home or away, in reality or in the mind, in the familiar as well as the unfamiliar.
# 33 [18 April 2013]
In the paintings exist the shadows and fleeting shapes and sounds of intangible interiors and soulful architectural firmness of forms, in the drawings are the fearful unknowns and peaceful eternity of infinite hopes of the landscape. Everyday something wholly ancient is in the wind through the streets and telegraph wires and by the same token, the same thing is understood in the stillness and light that grows with the dusk. I'm not certain I have anything to search for anymore, but only the desire to uncover the truths and dreams that already exist for me. My work is less understood the more I look, more mysterious the more I recognise it. I aim now to be deeply in touch with what is most important; the essence of things. This essence exists in the dust on the mantle, the objects full of memory, the light coming in from outside, the gap in half closed doors, the sounds in the stillness, in the moments of eroticism, in the sounds we don't recognise in the familiar house at night, in the sound of the oceans and the harshness of empty landscapes, in the closeness of knowing and the melancholy of longing, in the interaction with our work and everything else that is known by intimacy and awe.
There is a tiny seven inch tree I have nurtured and cared for, one of several penjing (or Bonsai) I have trained. In it is the essence of things; a fragment of what I think of as a much larger world, in its trunk the many years, its fresh flush of leaves I hope for every spring. For me it stands lonely and isolated on a moorland, itself feeling the very essence of the seasons. It has just tiny leaves right now, it is my duty to care for them. I thought very much of my work as I stood and looked at the tree.
'I savor the essence of nature while being confined to bed to clear my mind" (Zong Bing, 375 - 443, Northern and Southern Dynasties).
In the mystery of the work is simply the knowledge of myself using materials, to nurture the possible image. There is only the now and all of its fact in which to bring forward from the mind an image to satisfy the need to understand. The rest is up to our minds to make sense. I want my work to be experienced as the moment was experienced, not to sit idly to be looked at. Only by experience is a dialogue resumed. Maybe I don't want to be a part of that dialogue once the work is complete and out into the world. I believe those of us who work from our experience would understand, if contemplated, that the source of that experience as been with us for a very long time. I recognised many similarities between creating that tree and my work, the whole concept behind it. It exists by every moment, reflects something much larger than what it is, hides what is seen by imagination and knowing. I think everything we see and work with has exactly these same qualities.
# 32 [1 April 2013]
Knees touching the floor, head against the sky, sitting with my back to the freezing snow and wind hitting against the window, house struggling to warm in the early morning and the feeling I tried to put aside; my dislike for the dragging winter, yet knowing it is a time when I can think deeply. Maybe I should embrace it? The feeling of fragility of existing in a space/moment as a constant external pressure on my mind and body makes me remember my fear of death even when trying to believe and now I try to accept it, forget it and try to focus on longevity as a process for sustained exploration in my work. My thoughts pass the same statement over; that my work is a manifestation of the strengths in me and the weaknesses I have. As I went and sat in the chair, I watched the dawn rise as glittering light on the icicles that had formed the previous night, I understood them to have been made by the melting water dripping slower and slower as the cold of the dusk settled in; their form is made by slowness. An expression of stillness within movement.
The drawing I made came after an hours work on five. On trying to make a work, I don't want to think anymore, but to take a walk and let the landscape in as a whole; the outer and inner landscapes, the result being everything and nothing in particular. They are not a place but an expanded context, a context no longer trapped by the constraints of the interior walls, or of the mind. It all seems easier now because, even though the work continued to change for a long time, the enquiry was the same and hopefully I am now seeing the benefits of a sustained and narrow view; that constant passage through the narrow streets of the house, where the shadows and filtered sunlight have always continued to serve as the life and vehicle for the revelation of the unseen and unknown as it came in through the windows and shaped against the walls, floors and doors, or danced upon them as it was filtered by the leaves of the trees outside.
In the drawing shown here, through the tear in the ink that appears like torn curtains, or kelp forests hanging silhouetted in the ocean at dusk, a form is caught in a glint of light, a distant brightness with a knife edged top, overshadowed by the appearance of storm clouds. As all this sounds dramatic and over fantasised as I read it back, I am aware that despite all of this it is all still ink on paper, evolving in and out of meaning and changing by the very nature of its being there. An expression of stillness within movement; honest truth amidst illusion and the unrecognisable.
# 31 [18 March 2013]
Old and timeless, the words that remained in my mind as I moved with the train, forwards at speed, but stationary within that carriage, together with the seats and the table, the fixtures and fittings, other people not really in my conscience, all seemingly frozen yet carried along through the world. Yes, it is I that moved with it, not the land that seemed to have been rushing by. I took the train to London not only for quickness, but for the speed, the sound of the electricity powering it, the motion of fast movement, for the inducement of thought and drifting mind, for the layers of visible movement. Looking from the window I put my thoughts to the acceleration of the land and track close to me, the pace of passing objects and the slowing to an almost stop as everything became further away. It was to me the now and the eternal, a visible, tangible example of my life right now and my life in the infinite, an awareness of my intimate self against the movement together as a whole. Altogether a knowledge of primitive experience and thought within an environment of uncontrollable reality. The fragility of my life and the layers of movement, all a reflection of my passage and perception of that life.
As I relinquished myself to the train, I do so with my artwork; the quality and content of surface and the perception of experience revealed by it. I don't feel like I have travelled anywhere at all, the distance the rails took me were nothing to the vastness of the cosmos and the further away it goes, the distance becomes nothing but a stillness, a stopping of my whole being to witness the fearful and breathless impact of the reality and truthful awareness of the content and meaning of my life in the moment. In stillness meaning and movement are arrested, I am faced with myself and maybe the artwork is that stillness. My works are a painful beauty of my own creation, places that are myself and all that is unknowing and uncontrollable, an engagement with life, a reminder, an attempt at fulfillment and understanding.
In the large white space I was reminded of the possibilities of expanding the scale of my work, the power of a truly physical confrontation. Yet I was reminded also of the compressed and fragile nature of the small. Maybe that is all that is needed sometimes, the strength of the right kind of reminder?
# 30 [26 February 2013]
It has been a week of deeply slow, silent and colourless days, cold days with a stillness surrounded by the knowledge of life ageing around me, creating the awareness of loss in so many other ways, and this being my position, I am left with the knowing of what is left; the fundamental and intrinsically important fragments that, when put together, create that binding agent of the here and now and of change. And change when I feel it right now, in every place, street and space, both inwardly and outwardly, becomes different, all filled with a feeling I cannot describe by words, but manifests itself through my life and work. Life on one side, self on the other and my work inbetween. I have got to this state by letting go. I have found the work easier now, but somehow harder to talk about, easier to talk about it by way of the experiences that bring it about, for in the work lie newly found forms that appear as figures; poised, waiting, caught, aware.
And then the unknown spaces.
I don't really look for them anymore, but move ahead patiently knowing that somewhere and someone will be there, moving amongst the light and the dark, through the impossible space of colonnades, life and death. I myself feel as if I now exist in an ambiguous eternity. I hope and pray the someone will be those close to me. Inside I know they will be. Looking at my work just completed, here by my side, I see the almost perfect white marble statue that seems to know through her carved eyes, through the moment of silence between us in the stillness of the room. I see the watery blood of flesh permeate throughout and the deep grey/blue/blacks that are the feline and the place we're heading toward. The white of the paper keeps me grounded, brings me back, each time I feel myself disappearing back, into. The whole thing, the whole experience of my life and work as the feeling of something very old about it, the old overlapping each moment. Old and timeless.
# 29 [9 February 2013]
I watched the light snow fall early this morning; still dark, still lamplight. As I watched, it fell silently and consistently. I contemplated on these qualities for a while and after some time, the snow still fell at the same rate, the same steadiness; a slow, peaceful wheel of snow turning.
It has been noted, by some, that it seems as if my words and work have become less self-conscious, less of me in them. Why is this so? I thought about this as I watched the snow fall. All my life I have tried very hard, as an artist, too hard I think as I look back. I have tried very hard to look for what I suspect is already present and that it is already real because I have been connecting with it, but have not so readily understood that. I have tried to exercise too much control maybe by squeezing forms into what I think should be there on the paper. What I have tried to find is that essence underneath places and by complicating my means to achieve it, have often missed it. I think what is happening, slowly, is I have started to just be with the work, to let go, to stop looking too hard. By this, more has begun to be revealed. By thinking too hard I have mislead my mind and the work.
I'm not sure now where that leaves the context that myself and the work exists within, for it has been said before, by Jane Boyer in her interview with me, that for me place and context exist simultaneously. To freeze time, control it, has made me work within a loop where no past or future exists, just the stationary now. I find that this is working well for me now, as I sit and let the work come freely and create places that contain a more universally excepted image, for 'place' is still important to me. To have this simultaneous place/context, forming a constant now, does anything outside of this cease to be important? Does it mean that there is no context and therefore no time, in that ever present 'now'?
I suppose I will still be facing the same melancholy, fears and doubts as I unlock the essence of my world, but the thought of being freed from a direct context where these feelings are to be found, makes it a little easier, makes me feel a little closer to the infinite spaces I look for and create. I want the work to be freed also from the context of life, by itself being able to just 'be' as it is, in no time. Maybe what is important is that I don't want to remember so much of my past and to not want to think of the future, not to avoid responsibilities, but to empty myself of the confusion and tiredness that often overwhelms me. So the ever repeating, never ending moment is a good place, a steady place when I can find it, when I can let go of the unnecessary and let the important, rich knowing come through.
# 28 [25 January 2013]
The air is now becoming heavy with something intangible, the air I breath and move within. Mine has been a life of light streaming through windows and doorways and gaps made by spaces. It has been a life of sitting on windowsills, listening to voices in the street and shunting wagons in the rail yard, of sinking down and re-emerging. As the coffee has sat over the years, cooling to my side upon my table, I have drifted and hoped there must be a way back. The time is most definitely now, humming inside me with the constant resonance of electrical storms that never cease to excite and inspire my flesh and my mind. I continually step in and out of these spaces I draw that are filled with distant light, that never reveal the other side, that remain thick with that intangibility from forms and shadows that I sometimes feel comfort me by their very elusiveness and ancient origins. I wonder if I were to stay in one of those drawings, those places even for a few moments, would everything here in this moment have changed, like travelling at the speed of light into deep space and having the consequence of altered time?
That black, pervasive ink is so by the quality of its velvety comfort upon the paper, its shiny depth occasionally giving the impression of being constantly wet. The islands of light exist by the presence of the ink. It allows me to see how much of that subtlety can be so powerful and full of meaning. I don't know if my self is protected inside the spaces or exposed by them making me stay on their borders and be exposed in the clearings and open country? Sometimes I drift off to sleep in my chair for a while and I see these very ink drawings in the delicate lights and shadows that are on the back of my eyelids, that not quite darkness that is the inside of my body, and here they are animated by slow and mysterious movement. There is often a comfort in this half sleep, this daydream state, that gives one a small moment of courage to wake and allow our self to be seen in the work we produce.
The drawings have become quite important to me again, and even though they are basically the same process repeated fairly quickly, I am coming to enjoy the revelations in their individual subtleties. I aim to continue with them for I believe they are showing me something, somewhere, telling me something. Our work should always tell us something, it is part of what makes up their beauty, and there is no better a beauty than that which comes from our living, even if that living is done through questioning.
Maybe I don't what I mean, that the intangible and yet revealing drawings highlight an hypocrisy within me, a forgetful and drifting mind that is as lost as it is found?
# 27 [19 January 2013]
Each time I make a drawing or painting, I create a place, each time it is new, but still home to many of the familiar things that make up my self and their/my context. I am uncertain of the places, but wherever they are, the context in which I and the work situate themselves is a place I certainly take a walk through as well as stay still in. I know that I have to do this moment by moment so the self can let go and create freely for the confrontation to come back without planning or direction. My work has reached a point where I don't know what is in it. Does this mean it is self-creating, by my letting go? By this letting go a real dialogue opens up between artist, work and life. A trinity exists. I still return to the value of experience and with this are intuition, inspiration and instinct.By all these comes the moment as it is, to free the work, to accept fear and doubt.
It has been interesting to see Kate Murdoch and Elena Thomas coming to terms with these issues, through the opening of boxes and making of garments. Although different to my work, they remind me that it is about revealing and facing all that I am. It is so important to me now to know my work as a place to contemplate, to be in. I think I have gone to long trying to hard to control time and by doing so have shortened it in a negative sense, but by letting go I have maybe compressed time through my approach in a way I can experience it for longer. I feel that from now on, the work will reveal itself to me more than the other way around, in its own time, in its own way and in a strange sense it will inform me of something, even if that something is hard to take sometimes.
The places that form upon my page have shadows that are without form, if shadows at all, but figures or emotions made visible. They are a room, yet light upon open country, or the intense beam of sunlight one finds through trees in a forest. They are tightly knitted woods, yet open clearings where across my mortality awaits. They are questions as well as answers, the context for my self and eternal truth that is fleeting and unknowable. They are contained yet infinite, where my prayers are softly and agonisingly spoken and evaporate into the inky surface of that which I know not as either day nor night. They are places of silence but filled with the echo from the sonar as it returns off the solidity of my body.
It is true that for me, making this work is about trying to find my self and my place in the world as Kate said to me, but I also see it as uncovering things that are always showing and beckoning to a place far from here, where, even though showing glimpses of it now, will only be known fully in a different time.
# 26 [7 January 2013]
I've lay there semi-consciously as the weeks have past, thoughts about my life and my work coming and going from my mind. Now, after being away without really knowing where, or why, I'm home again, sitting in my chair and thinking about the idea of 'leaving'; to remain behind, to be left in a specified state. When I leave my work after completing it, or leave the momentary frame of mind I find myself in, I am left in a specified state of mind, that of uncertainty. The journey is a back and forth between uncertainty and clarity, two opposites existing together, but very much where the latter requires the first. I'm not sure when the clarity comes, if by the hours I am awake, or in my dreams, or when in the mid state of half sleep when everything blends and revolves in a timeless loop of mystery and surreality. The trouble with me is I never find it easy to let go, but grasp my knuckles into the rail with fear and doubt, never knowing the right moment to let go, when the time is right to be accurate enough to land where I need to be, or want to be, because maybe I don't know where that is.
There is a lot I don't know, such as why the search for beauty is so painful sometimes, why you have to work at it so tirelessly to attain it. But it does tell me to constantly remind myself that my mind and my work needs to be substantial enough to be able to sustain the constant effort required to attain it. Now, as yet another spell of lethargy continues on, I know the heart of that sustained effort to work lies as much in these wandering moments as much as when working.
Amidst all of this, I feel I am continually leaving, leaving every second, every thought behind me and the memory of them is the state I'm left in. I am a living memory caught up in the same fragment of time as my now. Where does that leave me but squeezed in-between two infinite passages of time, crushed into the melancholic corridor that is no wider than my own body?
I have felt recently like someone who is leaving a city. When one leaves a city one winds a way through the shadowed streets, where the buildings look down as much to say they are not concerned with your leaving, that the city is theirs and it does not matter, because if you don't want to stay, then they don't care for you. You make your way by the crowded veins of tarmac until into the suburbs you arrive and you can look back at the memory of that city. As the road runs on and the towns disperse, eventually you find yourself on a lonely cliff, with nothing but the sound of the blood in your veins, the voices in your mind and the sense that something way above the capabilities of your senses envelopes you as you stand and look out into the eternal ocean. I feel like this when I think about my work, when I think about being on my own journey to that eternal ocean. I hope to capture it, in form, in art, as I go and hope too that I will recognise the places in my work when I eventually reside there.
Maybe all I want is to capture the moment you stand and look out of the window of the isolated house that overlooks the ocean and all of the knowing inside oneself it brings; that sense in your soul of timelessness, of your art, of beauty, of moments of the erotic, of wind and rain, of waves on rock, of your own place amidst it all.
# 25 [24 December 2012]
Where is love, beauty and truth except in that far reaching Vale of Arcadia, that place I have only ever visited in my mind and experienced only as a dream unaccomplished? Where lies sincerity except in the mists that cover the sweet ground of that pastoral heaven? Searching for that very same low door in the wall, I have been constantly pulled by that twitch upon the thread that returns me time and again to the very place of that melancholic dream.
Art is a way to always open the door to the nostalgic and the universal, the lingering hope of beauty held onto by keeping one step ahead of that veil that remains ever present to curtain the windows of the rooms of my mind. By forever searching for something fleeting in my art, I am by that very process forever ending a certain way of life, that instead of the hole made for memories being made slowly over time, it has been dug out sharply by the thrust of the spade. By walking through the spaces I inhabit, always catching what I am looking for in the corner of my eyes, I can only momentarily experience the wanted and constantly and consistently make way for the same method of making progress.
This is the time of year people often say makes them pause to look back and think ahead, that drowsiness of thought that is never quite real but is fluid between one year and the next, blurring the boundaries of our actions and hopes by the passage of time constructed by our very selves. But deep down that passage of time is very much felt in the realisation of our mortality and I ask even of myself how much my art is a substitute for the need of the eternal being the truth, of beauty to be tangible and obtainable.
I put paint to paper and make the image with no more certainty than knowing where I'm going, with as much helplessness as making choices, not knowing if anything will be any clearer afterward. I'm questioning all the time whether or not I'm painting to find out, for what is lost, or for what is possible. I'm either trying to drive forward with the brakes applied, or heading non-stop along a lonely highway, cushioned high up in my driving seat, wrapped in my overcoat, collar up and heading North maybe, where the mountains rise and beckon me to feel my isolation, or South to the rugged cliffs and the powerful Atlantic, where I stand in a sublime air. Whichever it is, I witness the looming silence of my art heavy upon me, laden and weighted down by the life that is my own.
In the reality that is my life as this artist, there is comfort in the knowledge that each moment is towards that goal of clarity, that in the process of making the work a counselling takes place and once that work is complete and living its own purpose, a little more of truth can be witnessed by the presence of whatever the work contains and the place it takes me.