27 February 2023

Fractal secrets shared in front of the hearth

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,17 December 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,17 December 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,17 December 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Three studies that were all made on the same evening, one right after the other. And now looking at them a few years later on I see three step sisters ready for the grand ball. But then my imagination is both eccentric and historic. Anyway, I came across them recently in a file and I liked them immediately as a trio because as a painter, it's the delicacy of these clouds that excite me. 

There is a certain kind of cloud that appears in a particular sort of pale sky, usually with a bit of humidity in the air that evokes all the lacework done by millions of women all over Europe throughout the centuries; rich and poor women, the sisters and nieces, the hired hands and the dilettantes too, all of them sitting around the hearth and sharing of secrets.  

And these small shredded clouds, like secrets themselves, are fragments that dissolve into thin air during the tumid moments before dusk swallows them up like a giant whale in a fairy tale. On the beach it's a marvellous light, and a gentle one, unassuming too, one where ancient secrets speak to weird painters and drunk poets, small dogs and wild children romp deliriously into twilight.

And these are the types of clouds which take me to Painting. For a long time I have thinking about how pieces (or planes, if you wish) of a whole painting are fastened together one to another. I know I have spoken about this before but not in a while. 

A scientist from Scotland whom I met at in Comps, near Dieulefit one summer evening years ago, urged me to read about the Chaos theory and suggested I read a great book aptly titled 'Chaos' by a NYT science editor which I ordered and quickly devoured. It's all about fractal connections (and disconnections) but measurements too, and it traces the history of this new thinking which sprung from a few eccentric scientists working on the Atomic bomb in Los Alamos in the late 1960's (L.S.D. was also involved). But anyway, I have always been frustrated at how mathematics rounded everything off to the nearest .0. It drove me crazy. Even as a small boy looking at the sky I understood empirically so, that infinity was ever-present all around us and that nothing could be nicely reduced down to an even and perfect equation. Like many children I used to watch clouds endlessly as they swirled across the sky, appearing and disappearing, cartwheeling and somersaulting into one another like in a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. Clouds, like everything also in the plant world, was one of the easiest ways to witness the fractal behaviours in the Universe. And so, for me, when painting certain cloud shapes in the sky, the fractal connections manifest immediately.

The importance of how planes (and shapes) connect to one another is an essential element in Painting. But also in all Art, Architecture, Music, and, as a girlfriend once advised, in love affairs too. Every painter has to deal with this whether he knows it or not. And moreover I should say; whether he or she is conscious of it, or not, for I can see that lots of artists do not seem to place an importance upon it. And yet, they are still constrained by its importance nonetheless, for the successful unity of a painting is always still grounded in how the sum of its parts click into each other like Lego creating an energetic whole.

Of course the subject matter in Painting is extremely varied and uniquely different. And it is made up of so many physical qualities of materials that also deserve different treatment; the skin, bark, stone, wood, glass, flora, hair (human and otherwise), and the air itself, the most popular element that holds so many pictures in its light grip. In a unified painting, all these diverse materials desire to be connected to one another with great subtlety. Painters of every Age in history had to learn the delicate craft of bridging these often disperate elements on a picture plane. 

In the popular genre of landscape painting these various bits of fractal foliage equally work to attach different elements of a picture together one to the other; the fields to the trees, the hills into soft mountains, the chimney smoke into the air overhead. In landscape their tactile logic is terrestrial. 

But these studies are mostly concerned with painting the sky which is ephemeral. In the end, it is basically just coloured air and gaseous clouds that require a deft but patient hand.

Whether one looks at an 18th century marine-scape from Holland or an abstract 20th century work by de Kooning, the unity, or lack there of, is cemented by the manner in which each brushstroke of paint, both literally and figuratively, attach to one another. 

The really, really great painters do this extremely well, whereas all the others seem to limp along awkwardly in uneven circles. 

So I hope that these three studies above, whether limping, or in a 'Gavotte', reveal a tiny fractal system at work in some fashion or other, successful or otherwise. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I hope this goes into the book! The 3 paintings are incredible too! You are am amazing painter and writer!