16 September 2023

The darkroom

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 5 September, 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Last night I was ruminating about a recent remark regarding my 'obsessive' (her word, not mine) need to paint the twilight sky. Without much thought I quickly replied that if I didn't do it, nobody else would. The simplicity of my answer even surprised me. It was a distinctly Occam's Razor kind of retort, but its true, isn't it?

I was thinking about this last night because it had been floating around my unconscious ever since. Indeed my mind sometimes feels like the space a bit above earth, the layer littered with all sorts of metallic and rubbery old things, new things too, the spacey garbage, and all sorts of broken communication systems that still hurl through the blackness at 7 meters a second.

This is from the other night when I returned to the scene of the crime after an almost seven week hiatus due to COVID which I have already recounted in these lost pages. I made two, but I really thought the first one was so boring that I don't know if I will have the courage to put up the second one until I get to the end of this post. (?) But in this one, I thought maybe it's so so, no so great, but OK. But the really great thing is that I didn't expect anything from the other night. I went out without expectations, and this is progress. I exercised my favourite slogan from the Zen wise guys in the East who always said: 

"I'm already dead, so what's the problem?"

I often say this to my French tennis partner who is always better than me and always takes the sets no matter what my lead. 

I say it's progress because I had no expectations of myself. It was just like Let It Be, as they sang.

Besides I think expectations are for youth, the older one gets the less expectations one has, mostly.

What I really wanted to say is a bit complicated but I'll give it a go. 

In every every stage of progress in my Painting, (or anything in fact), I've always seen a solution (i.e. a painting) from the present moment. And this is normal, it's how most people operate. But I can also see that this perception of where I am at in this particular moment of time, to be set in concrete, unyielding and forever. In other words, I cannot seem to imagine that in a few month's time my perception will be newer, different, a more evolved version of what I perceive today. I cannot envision my future work with a different, more evolved understanding. It's difficult to articulate. 

For example, a friend with a back ailment called me the other night and I asked her how it felt today over the last few weeks. She had been sharing about it to me for six months and I had been trying to coach her into a mindset that her pain would ease and improve in time. She admitted it was a little better, so I said (from my own experience with a back issues) that unless it’s s a chronic issue, our bodies usually improve even despite all our thinking to the contrary. The body can also evolve on its own path through aging

So too, in painting, in the same light it’s easy for me to see problems or inabilities, way down the line in the studio from today's perspective, and in fact, like the human body, it too will be different, better even. In other words, since childhood, I have been wired into a  perspective about my future set in concrete from today's perspective.  


And being a painter forces me to see the same motif in a different way each time I go out to work as long as I don't I fall into working from a concept. This is always dangerous place for an artist of any kind. 

In my own life I have seen how concepts (ingrained choices, voluntary or involuntary)  have left me stuck in holding patterns like the proverbial tire being stuck in mud, spinning, but going nowhere, only just deeper.

What if I lived my life without concepts? What would it truly be like? 

Like many, I've read about those wise guys from in the East who tended their gardens moment after moment, trimming one plant at a time, all the while Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, famously nibbled on a precious cookie that his mother (in his precious childhood memory), gave him to him after a trip to the market each week. He prolonged his bliss of small bites between the clouds passing overhead and the wind nudged the palm fronds around him.

He shows the way to be in the moment, whatever it is, eating a cookie or painting a picture.

At my age now, all the concepts (like expectations) that have hung in my sky like cloud castles seem to be collapsing. I am living my life today with full acceptance of all the horse shit on the road that was I've navigated in order to to get me here to this present moment.

I used to try 'to force my life' to resemble the template, this photo I had created long ago in the darkroom of my childhood. It was really impossible and bent me out of shape. No wonder I used to have back problems.

But bit by bit, with age, it diminishes, and the present takes over just like watching a negative transform into a photograph after bathing it a short while in the solution of the darkroom. 

What is the solution? What is that thing that transforms the negative into a positive?

So now, after all this talk, I've finally decided to share this painting from the other night.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 5 September, 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

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