05 October 2023

Paying attention at dusk


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 20 September 2023 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 20 September 2023 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 20 September 2023 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

I've just picked up a thoughtful book entitled Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Jocko Beck, one that I've read so many times it looks like my dog's play toy, if I were to have a dog that is. Dog-eared, and so full of ink markings that it's still lucky to be alive but needless to say, it's a fave of mine. I normally read a page or two a day. There is enough wisdom in a paragraph to fuel a Tesla to Brisbane and back again. 

She tells the story of being a piano student at Oberlin College.

She walked into her first class with a distinguished teacher who taught with two pianos. "He didn't even say hello, he just sat down at his piano and played five notes, and then he said, 'you do it'. I was supposed to play it just the way he played it. I played it- and he said 'No'. He played it again, and I played it again. Again, he said 'No'. Well, we had an hour of that, and each time he said 'No'.

Now, in the next three months I played about three measures, perhaps a half a minute of music. Now, I had thought I was pretty good: I'd played soloist with little symphony orchestras and yet we did this for three months, and I cried most of those three months. He had all the marks of a real teacher, that tremendous drive and determination to make the student see. And at the end of threes months, one day, he said, 'Good'. What had happened? Finally, I had learned to listen. And as he said, 'if you can hear it, you can play it'. 

She had been playing piano for years but she had not learned how to pay attention, as she writes it.

It's a wonderful anecdote, and an apt one for the art of Painting. I don't think I ever really paid attention until I got into this series at Brunswick Heads. Like a few single notes played on a grand piano, strokes well-placed on a painting reveal how well, or poorly, one is paying attention. I can feel this sensation with each picture but most of the time in each small picture I'm not always paying complete attention. Whatever attention I do possess is too often distracted by small thoughts, thoughts centred on what I'm trying to do, but thoughts all the same, just tangential thoughts. It can 'seem' like I'm paying complete attention because I'm  thinking about certain difficult places in the work but I'm still thinking. Alas. 

But in all this I do know now that when I'm plugged into something, I'm absent and this is the place. It can happen in everything we do intimately, from sex to tennis and back to painting.

But anyway, here are three small studies from last week where I arrived early when the sky hadn't yet 'turned'. The first one usually begins with a gentle Naples Yellow that lingers around before it goes Pink and then to a variety of warm Roses. It's a terrible cliché but these colours always reminds me of different flowers appearing one after the other as they define the 'bloom'. If you need to know what this is, ask any beachcomber to describe it for you. 

The second and third ones (follow in order) announce the Kaleidoscopic development which makes Twilight so extraordinary on every beach around the world, as every beachcomber knows.

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