11 February 2024

Let them eat clouds!

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 February 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 February 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

So another great few days this week at the dunes. These three studies came out orderly, one after the other like triplets. Magnificent Blooms that I never seem to capture and which make me feel like a certain cartoon character chasing after its arch enemy

But I wonder if I ever did catch this elusive ‘thing’ I'm seeking, would I no longer need to keep painting it? Or is that just a cliché?

I ran into an old acquaintance in town yesterday who used to be in the art game back in London and who was curious to see how I had been spending my time (me too, I'm always curious about this). So I pulled out my phone and showed him the first two images (above) from Instagram. He remarked immediately, 

"Oh, that's Rothko"

I replied that another of my Brit-Arty-Smarty-Pants kind of wise guy/gal had also told me this about some of my paintings. But I said it more politely. I guess I can understand that some make this association, (doesn't it give us something to talk about? Or is it simply a way to show off our culture?).

Regardless, I take it all onboard. It's easy for me to speak about what I'm up to in Painting, as any regular reader here will recognise, but just the same, I'm sort stumped when I have to speak about myself and a painter like Rothko whom I've only come to appreciate over the past decade. We do both seem to share an affection for thick wide stripes which sort of makes us like cousins.

But, my ideas come to me naturally from the motif, I don't know where Rothko's ideas came from,... were they visions of the desert that jolted him and charged his imagination in his earlier years? Were they ever from a landscape? Like my own, were they memories of the sea and how and where it meets the sky? If painters work from obsessional ideas, where did his come from? 

Over the years as I've already revealed, the origins of my own obsessional 'Stripy Thing' seem to come from varied sources. I've always had a thing for thick horizontal lines too, whether from early childhood drawings or roaming the vast landscape of ties on the first floor of Brooks Brothers where all kinds of brightly coloured stripes are gently arranged in their own little coffin-like mahogany boxes and spread out across the main ground floor upon elegant display cases. But this is probably just one place of origin because in the human mind, as all shrinks know, the memory, visual and otherwise, is a mystery.

Personally, I think it behooves any visual artist to investigate one’s own pictorial memories (and obsessions) because every painter will eventually exhibit uncontrollable patterns early on in their creative youth. Do all painters investigate these visual roots? Some do, while others don't. But the trend in Contemporary Art is a definite YES! This is a new young Art World where personal identity is no longer sheltered away, where no dark shameful secrets and obsessions are withheld anymore. Everything in today's world of digital transparency is an open secret and I say sure; why not? Bring it on, but please make it a cohesive, not just indulgent. (SVP!)

Yet it's also inevitable that a painter's original (and graphic) DNA will manifest at some point during their own creative journey. Intuition for any painter lies out there on the horizon line, and the faster we row out to retrieve it the better. Why waste time chasing other's dream?

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 February 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Regarding this last study (above), as the twilight began to arrive, the horizon line was stripped of excess atmospheric clutter present in the previous two. 
Due to this, it lends itself to an almost crisp but subtle design. And it is to this aesthetic where my intuition has lately been pushing me to visit. 

Clouds, like four year olds at a birthday party, can be mischievously disruptive to an otherwise clear, calm, blue backdrop. A sky full of clouds of no matter what sort, will generate different varieties of paintings. Indeed, there is a whole genre of 'seascapes'; everything from wispy views of the calm sea to stormy, dark, and menacing pictures that are all considered 'picturesque' for the amateurs of art. 

My small study is not that but on some days it certainly could be. There are skies that lend themselves to these genres and I might easily make a more picturesque-looking painting for no particular reason other than it looked just like that. Almost everything depends upon the sky and what it's doing at a particular moment. All, except that there is also my own mood too. 

I think for me, clouds are but colourful outfits worn by the sky, which left to its own devices, would otherwise be just a space; empty and naked, waiting to be dressed as if it were Marie Antoinette. And just like us, on some days it will step out in a fancy frock while at others, a lumpy pair of sweat pants and a hoodie. Like a mannequin in a store window, the sky can wear anything and everything. I've seen its whole wardrobe, trust me.

As one often hears (though I never, ever believed this myself) that clothes make the person, clouds, by contrast, will always define the sky, and this I do believe, empirically so. 

And just as clothes can alter our appearances, clouds too, can be sexy and pretty, elegant and spry, dark and brooding, but at the end of day it's all just a cover-up! Naked, like us, an empty sky will gently reveal its natural state come nightfall. And this is what I attempted to capture in this last small painting the other night.

And finally, I do admit it; all this sounds so terribly pedantic, probably too wordy and too nerdy, but I assure you that in many ways it's about the essence of how any picture functions because in the end, it's really just about a confined space and about how painters fill it up with colours.


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