Twelve

Twelve (2013)

This work was commissioned by Cornerstone City Church for display at the Jasper Centre in Rochester, Kent. It is based upon the foundation stones of the ‘New Jerusalem’ as described in Revelation and uses geometry to symbolise the hope of the church:

 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4

The colours of the gem stones are painted in order of appearance as listed within the Biblical text, Revelation 21:19-20:

“The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.”

The variance in biblical translations, the ambiguity over some gem colours and the variety of colour, tone and temperature within each gem type allows for a fluid interpretation within the painting; more than one colour per gem is portrayed and therefore more than twelve colours exist in this painting.  This is meant to signify the diversity within the Church (as the Bride of Christ) in that the ‘bride’ i.e. the ‘Lamb’s wife’ also appears to be the ‘New Jerusalem’ in Revelation 21:9-10

“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Here the identity of this place seems to be entwined with the identity of its people through the joining of heaven and earth; this is the hope of ‘a city that is to come’ Hebrews 13:15

This is the other version of the painting:

painting entitled "Twelve I"

Twelve I (2014)

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Passio

Painting entitled "Passio"

Passio (2011)

This collage came about through the idea of creating a work of art about the meaning of death following on from a previous piece about ‘the meaning of life.’ As in the preceding work, I used interior decorators’ colour swatches and noticed a colour called ‘Passion Flower’. I didn’t know the significance of the name ‘Passion Flower’ in relation to my theme, but I was inspired to research this flower and discovered the information below. This provided the concept of making an abstract design based on the Passion Flower symbolism. I have used a broken shed as a background support by re-assembling the panels and cutting them into a triangle shape. The piece is therefore not a single item, but many parts made into one.

“Literally, the word ‘passion’ is derived from its Latin source passio which means ‘to suffer’. In fact, passion indicates the sufferings on the cross and the death of Christ. It is called ‘passion-flower’ due to parts of the flower resembling the crown of thorns, nails and other symbols of Christ’s suffering. It is a prominent Christian flower symbol as its pointed leaf resembles a spear, the tendrils the whips, the column of the ovary signifies the cross and the dark circle of threads in the centre the crown of thorns. The flower portrays the passion of Christ. If the flower were white, as in the ‘Constance Elliot’ variety, it denotes piety; blue means heaven. The three days’ life span of the flower is supposed to mean- “so shall the son of man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth” www.arenaflowers.com

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Pathways

This year I decided to get get involved with art workshops with different groups of people. I participated with the artist Wendy Daws in a workshop funded by Pathways to Inclusion for autistic people and those with learning disabilities.

Pathways workshop

I was working with Michael who is visually impaired.  Despite his visual impairment he is a talented artist with a flair for handling materials in a sensitive and uninhibited way.  He produces ‘naïve’ style, ‘outsider’ looking work, seemingly produced through an indifference to outcomes (or a fearless give-it-a-go approach) allowing his joy in both materials and process to have full sway. His sketch book is bursting with drawings including self portraits, animals, pints of beer and plates of grilled food. Those are the pictures I remember the most.

Working together over several weeks, we used his sketch book material to generate some 2D and 3D pieces.

Mask

I mixed some colours and he painted.  I occasionally guided his hand, where he couldn’t see the edges/borders of the paper for example.  In the painting below we cut up a tracing of one of his portrait sketches into jigsaw like pieces, jumbled up the shapes and re-arranged them on a fresh piece of paper to produce an abstracted image;  like a broken mirror version of the portrait. Then Michael drew round the shapes in black marker pen and built up the colour on the face and background:

Self Portrait

He later entered his portrait into a competition with MCCH and won first prize: http://www.mcch.org.uk/News/general-news/stop-press-mcch-has-got-talent.aspx

The end of the project  was marked by an exhibition held at the Tourist Information Centre, Rochester.

Pathways Project Exhibition

After the project was over Wendy invited me to participate in another workshop with Kent Association for the Blind. As part of this project an exhibition of group members’ and volunteers’ work was held at Rochester Cathedral.

Eyes Wide Open Preview

Michael also got involved with the ‘Eyes Wide Open’ project. Working with another helper this time, he drew this portrait in pastels for the exhibition:

Pastel portrait by Michael Cowe

In hindsight it seems that the experience of working with Michael inspired the piece that I made for this exhibition – it continues in the vein of cut out assembled shapes and the use of black lines for emphasis:

Painting entitled "Meaning of Life"

Meaning of Life (2010)

I asked Rochester Cathedral visitors over the course of an afternoon to consider ‘the meaning of life’ and summarise using one word on a small triangle. I filled a larger triangle with their responses.

Colour charts from various wall paint companies were used to create the small triangles. The names of the colours are still present revealing their source as colour charts. When considering the meaning of life I wanted a reference to domesticity, everyday life and ordinary surroundings to remain present; the grand idea juxtaposed with the familiar.

When considering the Meaning of Life, the triangle was selected as a spiritually significant and potent symbol that represents the Trinity for example. The concept of filling a large triangle with smaller ones is about the parts to the whole; the microcosm to the macrocosm.

Some of the smaller triangles are empty, others contain a word; the thought of an individual presented with the question ‘what is the meaning of life.’ Collectively, their ideas cluster to form a pattern within the whole.

I designed the final piece to cascade like shards of coloured glass in a stained glass window, but the icon is removed and replaced with a collective abstraction or communal narrative.

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Pistols and Pollinators

Pistols and Pollinators is an exhibition sharing the manifestations of an experimental project that required participants to deconstruct the methods intrinsic to their creative practices and push the limits of genre and classical boundaries.

Accident & Emergence, together with poet Jacqueline Saphra matched 28 artists & poets to work in collaborative partnerships. For 6 months the pairs have been sharing their techniques, experience and creative process in order to generate dynamic new works that combine linguistic and visual modes of address.

The pairs have embraced both the possibilities and problems of collaboration, shifting the balance of their individual practices towards an economy of shared ideas. Establishing and exploring common concerns across their respective disciplines, the pairs have taken varied approaches to the idea of working together, cultivating performances, furniture, archives of letters, journeys, rituals and alter egos.

Recently I have been involved in Pistols and Pollinators; a collaborative project between artists and poets over a period of several months which culminated in a show at Stoke Newington Library Gallery.

Stoke Newington Library Gallery

Different types of collaboration emerged amongst the artists and poets; one pair wrote to each other using the postal system and sent each other objects for investigation. Another pair played on the immediacy of first impressions by painting and writing back and forth in response to each others work in a painterly/poetic conversation. Another pair explored Diasporas and secret keeping in families. Another pair examined their experiences of different dwelling places through poetry and installation. One pair made poetic notes, doodles and drawings in the same sketch book, knitting streams of thought across the paper. Some pairs crossed into their partner’s territory; artists doing poetry and poets doing art. They said this approach opened up a whole new dimension to their practice.

Other Wall

I partnered with Sh’maya to produce a triptych in response to his Three Arias.

Study for Three Arias

My collaboration with Sh’maya has been going on longer than this project itself. The Three Arias was an (as yet) unwritten concept he had in mind for a couple of years. It was after some time we spent together (see last post) that he began the writing process to birth the idea into written form and I subsequently responded to them visually.

Exhibition textMy starting point was to take the idea of ‘Threeness’ expressed in the Arias by using three equilateral triangles for emphasis – three x three. At first I found it challenging to be moved by the poems. My first idea to overcome this block was to play the audio recordings and paint whilst I listened. That got me started, but I soon felt it was important to engage with them more rationally or consciously. After many readings I began to sense their rhythmical pace and the suggestiveness of the words offered visual ideas; I allowed the tempo and imagery of each poem to inform my handling of paint and bodily movement.

Painting entitled "First Aria"

First Aria (2010)

HEART

The time

I was drinking tea

In the garden

Watching the ivy bush

At the end of the lawn

 

It was there

Lay the final embers of the sun

Languished breath hovering

Lowing orange and echoless

Cross the flow of the ivy

 

The leaves hung swollen

Suffused in light

Fertile in foetal white

Igniting the chlorophyll phosphorescent

Incandesced

Through slats of the garden lattice

 

Their shapes were smattered and splashed

By shadows of bush twigs

Slashed swooning over lunar chimeras

Fingers of cirrus reaching silhouettes

Past breadths of shimmering moons

 

The wind brushed through them in such a way

As to tremble their frames

In the radiance thus contained

Sonar flames

Straining through depths

Of waning coronas

Shuddered hushed and reverent

As emerald flares luminescent

In the roaring blush of a dying day

 

Between the ivy bush and I

Writhed a swarm of horseflies

Spinning frenetic ecstatic

In the pool-parched air

 

Each one drenched full in sunset

Starched wet in naked rays

Of aching dusk strayed across

Their flailing movements

A chaos of sun drops and TV static

Feral seething manic

Sporadic flight paths

Weaving poly rhythms

Twining patterns

Wings chiming over through and round

Globes of schismed sound

Splashing mirage shimmers and breezes

As raindrops sneezing on djembe-skins

 

The dance of the swarm

Poured wistful warm

Adorned the awning of the ivy

In crystalline storms

Fistfuls of lightshaft

Clasped enblissed

‘pon carnivals of fire

Marvels of flight-shine

Enlivened in light

That parts the edge of day

And the timeless charting

Of fledgling stars

Painting entitled "Second Aria"

Second Aria (2010)

GOHST

The time I was praying cross-legged

In my room

An incense stick burning

On the wicker stool

By the mattress

As I was praying

I opened my eyes

To a single wisp of smoke

Floating fathomless before me

Its slender figure sliding and writhing tender

‘neath the butter flesh breaths

Of my lips

I realised my prayers

Were flickering

Through the incense

Dappling its timbre

Sloping its stems

Curves fleshed from my essence

As petals unfurling through

Camomile limbs

It struck me

The groans of my spirit

Taking physical states

As the smoulder billowed

On the moans of its marrow

Barren blushes

Furrowing the rush

Bones drawn in hush

Gowned warm in the taste

Swathed in sounds of my want

Wrapped round as swaddling cloth

Lacing nascent clouds

I became aware of every movement

Every patter of desire

Pleating the syllables of smoke

Floating as scrawled notes

Wrapped indelible

Through the rote of my spirit

Pirouetting flight

Of wisps light-borne

Reached willow and saffron

Past the sills of my eyes

Tides torn through winds

The metre of wings

Beating drafts through the ether

Drapes of the dawn

Bursting gasps

On the shores of my skin

The room doused heavy with fragrance

Flora auras sating the chorus

The need the heart-cry

Mire of earth soil of my womb

Crooning for seeds of Heaven’s fire

Where toil bleeds bloom of myrrh

Purrs the anguish to pearls

Felled fertile ‘pon fallow worlds

Depths hallowed through shallows bereft

Kisses left nesting in clefts of shadows

I sat draped in the grain

A motionless rain shower

Strained through the shape

Of source and matter

So my entire room was scattered

In patterns enticed

When light smatters passage

Between earth and paradise

Painting entitled "Third Aria"

Third Aria (2010)

S(WET)

The time I was walking

Through the forest

Surrounding the monastery

I was staying in

 

I came to a fork in my path

One way bringing stillness

The other a boundless roar

Pounding the very hush of my heart

 

I followed the sound to a wooden bridge

That overlooked a stretching lake

Between them

Poured a waterfall

Panting breathless

 

I stood there stalled

Pulled by the water

Enthralling my senses

To rest mesmerised

In its screaming gait

 

Watching

I made my eyes drop

At the same rate of the fall

Drinking for split seconds

The forms beckoned out from the foam

Mystical bodies

Inexpressible things

As though water

Travelling such speed

Ceases to reflect that of earth

But sculpts the faces and moulds

Of transcendental realms

 

Thus it swelled

Cascading and crashing

White clashing foam crushing close

Gushing cool-cold kisses

Kissed capricious crisp

Encroached through bliss and glint and gold

Crests of feathers

Cloud-clasped delicious

The rush of crowds

Clustered in hisses

Chrysanthemum petals

Creased in flusters

Where platinum wrestles

Fleeces of milk

Wings of snow angels coalesced

Flesh collapsed in glacial jewels

Crashed colossal

Chrome caressed

Splashed palatial

Constella wombs

Wombing stems of

Breath and essence

Increasing Elysium

In effervescence

Coliseum blending to spires capsized

As stalactites chimed

Through glockenspiel sighs

Swan flocks scything

Kaleidoscop-crops

Diving kamikaze

As spinning-tops

Skimming skin of

dropletrainbotic

Pocketing spray

The rain rejoices

Plunged and risen as glistened noises

Voices christened

In stories hoisted from hosts most moistened

By wet most whet

Set in chorus of castanets

Clapped cataclysmic

Splash-swept dash of cosmic districts

Flashed and flecked ecstatic fresh

Blessed and blithe

In high choir cries

Caressing trestles of classical heights

Brushing scalps of decibel mountains

Mounting fount crescendos flushed

Cumuli rush and crystal-cleansed

Creatia gasps caress the gusts

Blush the glass of Heaven’s lens

Mending the crevice

tween hearth and soul

Wetting the coals

Shoaling the lonely

Sweating the path

Clothing the lowly

Holy upon holy upon holy upon holy

 

As I looked up from the waterfall

A single white gull

Circled skywards

Climbing silent

The pining void

Of the lake

Copyright @ 2010 Sh’maya

In the final brush marks I surprised myself to find that the image of the white gull flying away at the end of the Third Aria, S(WET) had emerged accidentally in my painting at the top of the waterfall.  Since the pieces were all about the thin line between the spiritual and natural dimensions, this seemed a fitting end to the painting process.

I was looking at Renaissance paintings for inspiration in this triptych and the kinds of colours used in religious painting informed my palette.

The preview combined an art exhibition with poetry performances.

 

Abi Rach Hannah

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Painted Verse

This series of paintings comes from a collaboration with poet and soundscape artist, Sh’maya. Fragments, on-the-move, are taken from Sh’maya’s past; haikus drawn from travel notebooks, poems scrawled on work-break napkins, thoughts lifted from diaries, paper scraps, back-pocket sketches. These are not add-ons over pre-painted surfaces, but the formal/conceptual mechanism driving the process throughout. The stencil set became a structural devise to introduce routine and technique to the painting process. Words form the concrete basis; stenciled to the surface, painted over, edited, lost and found til they speak synonymously with the form of the paint. Poetic imagery breeds pictorial language. An unashamedly Romantic approach binds this relationship; a language of longing, mystery, hope, space and sea. It emerges an exploration of ut pictura poesis, ‘as in painting so in poetry.’

 

Last May I discovered a metal stencil set hidden away in a cupboard. I was fascinated by these old and redundant sets in two sizes, and wanted to incorporate their use into my painting.  Text has often crept into my work and there seemed a lot of scope here.  I dug further and also found a plastic school stencil set.  About half an hour later I received an email:

‘I have an idea which could be a proposal…….I sometimes come up with little poems which plant themselves in my head. They don’t feel right to be performance pieces and I get a little bored with standard read poetry -I was thinking that a really interesting way of releasing them would be joined with art – they are short enough to fit on canvas and I guess are quite invoking of visual response….’

This timely email formed the basis of a collaboration with Sh’maya.

 

 

Last October, Sh’maya came over for a few days and wrote some poetry in my working space as I continued to paint. He was particularly inspired by the old books piled up on the wall and made a list of the titles that grabbed his attention.  I tried to memorise the titles and remove the ones I could remember from the pile, whilst listening to something he was creating on his loop station.

We created an installation by categorising the books by title and then incorporating them with other objects that seemed resonate with the categories.

This collaboration is continuing in the context of an Accident and Emergence project called ‘Pistols and Pollinators’

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Art in the Orchard

Fowle Hall Features is an arts event set in a small Kent orchard near Paddock Wood. It has run for 3 years now and is organised by a group of London based artists bringing their creativity in its various forms to a rural audience.

FHF III stage

This year they brought a number of Kent based artists into the mix to give it more of a local flavour. The aim of the event is to create a culture that values the space and time where artists can share openly and make new connections.

Friends

Within the show there were a variety of themes and common threads between the visual artists; broadly speaking an interest in different aspects of spirituality (or identity) which seemed to act as a gelling agent between everyone involved –  including the musicians, poets and visitors during the preview evening.

Preview

As we discussed our work during the organised critiques, I noticed recurring themes emerged as driving concerns behind our work, such as personal narrative, memory (collective and personal) memorial and honour, loss and renewal. I found this to be enriching; especially to learn from artists working in different mediums from myself, where there was a confluence of ideas as well as a diversity of approaches. I think the success was in the combination of sensitive selection by the organisers and the already existing friendships which were being nurtured.

Some work on display

What impacted me the most in terms of the progression of my own work was the idea of honour which was apparent in a couple of the artists work, for example:

Niki's work

Kent based artist Niki Campbell built an installation consisting of plaster cast mangos adorned with photographs of her mother who lived in India before coming to settle in the UK in the 60s. The mangos were placed under an apple tree which took on dual functionality; a surrogate for the mango tree in her Mother’s Indian garden and a memorial to her Mother’s dream of the rural-Idyll lifestyle envisaged for the future before her arrival in England. London life turned out differently.

Artists’ websites:

http://www.niki-campbell.co.uk
http://www.lc-art.co.uk/
http://www.re-title.com/artists/reem-shaheen.asp

Preview acts

Copyright © 2009 Jonathan Bentall

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Future Creative

1. Describe your creative process in relation to the following four headings:

Question Connect Imagine Reflect

I view my creative approach as an enquiry of the five senses. There is the Question of looking which when translated to the issue of re-presentation brings up questions such as: What can be included or excluded? What is essential or peripheral? The answers to these questions will involve questions pertaining to the other senses. For example, touch; how does the paint feel in my hands or between my toes? Another question might be: What would happen if I limited one of the senses? Lately I have been painting through limited visual stimuli. This has resulted in bringing other senses to the fore, like hearing, in the creation of a work. Instead of looking at nature, I can hear it through the window and this feeds into the creative process.

Inside Outside

Generally my practice builds on smaller questions which are thrown up along the path as I begin a particular work or project.

The need to Connect and re-connect is an ongoing issue. My current work is about issues of spirituality in art and I experience this as a form of connectedness; a passionate engagement with the creative process which I relate to the concept of ‘flow’.

water baptism

The flow is temporal, so I am concerned about finding ways to re-establish the lost connection. I am also concerned about connecting to the viewer of my art since the receiving of the work is pivotal in consolidating its meaning and value. My creative process is therefore a shared experience. I look for ways to connect with other artists, or creatives in other disciplines, share ideas and allow this connectedness to inform my processes. Out of this comes a rootedness to life in relationship; this locates my work in a collective sense.

I recognise that to Imagine is to draw upon memory and therefore remembrance. This relates to my personal narrative which evolves through the guidance of my imagination.

Concert

I am specific and intentional about the role of my imagination as a vehicle to positive outcomes; the freedom to imagine creatively locates the past with the future and reconciles the two with hope. This is the sustainable basis of my practice. I see an enlivened imagination as the evidence of a heart at rest with itself, when permission has been given to be oneself. I always hold before me the thought that the fruit of my imagination is born from my attitude. In this way my best ideas stem from my attitude which then steers my imagination to a productive place of idea formation. These ideas are the result of working through questions like: How could my learning environment have been adapted to my learning needs as a child?

My first sculpture

I Reflect after a creative session as a means to evaluate outcomes and the process that lead to them. The reflective process is a significant part of the creative cycle and I spend a lot of time there.

Reflection

I will try to piece together the particular nature of what was done in order to see the context more clearly and place the work produced within a mental framework. This may not always lead to definitive awareness, but usually the act of reflection positions the experience and artwork within the framework of a discernable statement and results in the right title for the work. When that happens I will always believe in the authenticity of the title as a reflection of the creative process. The reflective stage usually helps me to clarify further goals to move forward.

2. What currently inspires you to create?

I work with mixed media (acrylic, oil, pastel, charcoal, ink and pencil) on hardboard, canvas and paper to encourage a varied and dynamic material process.

materials and work area

I am currently inspired by the idea of the invisible, inner core of a painting sought in the tradition of the mystics leaning toward the lyrical or poetic.  Signposts along the way are usually marked by a combination of formal integrity and suggested narrative. The latter might be a spiritual idea, a personal history, a remembered poem, story, rhyme or an imagined place which then consolidates the work as meaningful:

Execution =Work = Concept

Instead of:

Concept = Execution = Work.

Copyright © 2009 Jonathan Bentall

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Painting the Numinous

Numinous
adjective
of or characteristic of a numen; supernatural; divine
having a deeply spiritual or mystical effect
Webster’s New World College Dictionary

I made the distinction between what initially inspires me to paint and any subsequent claims about what the work does or achieves. With this in mind, the idea for the title of my series ‘Painting the Numinous’ came from a book called ‘The idea of the Holy’ by Rudolf Otto:

‘The book defines the concept of the holy as that which is numinous. Otto explained the numinous as a “non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self”. He coined this new term based on the Latin numen (deity.)’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Otto

Beginning with my automatic poem ‘Known in the Unknown’ I launched this series of works which explore the dynamic between freedom (automatism) and control (decision making.)

Drawing entitled "Known in the Unknown"

Known in the Unknown (2006)

I worked ‘toward an unknown end’ navigating a path between failure/destruction and resurrection/renewal. During the painting process I looked for an inner weight to begin to establish its presence. Although very subjective, I felt this begin to occur when the balance/tension between abstraction and figuration seemed to evoke in me the relationship between the physical and spiritual. In my mind this was mediated in the exploration of the relationship between control and accident in my handling of paint. When I sensed the weight and solidity of this relationship with visual clarity the painting was complete. Ultimately I allowed compositional control/accident to either make or break the work, and enable me to engage with the mystery and precariousness of painting.

I fuelled my imagination through reading and solitude (rather than visual stimuli) wanting to paint the essence of an idea; an internal rather than external vision. John O’Donohue’s book Divine Beauty talks about visiting beauty, and I held on to this concept as I reached out to the unknown, believing that the truth came unexpectedly. Technically this project involved attempting to work on a larger scale using mainly canvas or board and achieve the same intensity of vision I felt was possible when working on a very small scale using paper (as I had done previously.)

From the outset I have been inspired by a painting by Arnulf Rainer called ‘Wine Crucifix’ 1957/78 the installation of which, according to the Tate website, involved light shining through the cloth to reveal the shape of the cross: tate.org.uk It explores the relationship of the physical and spiritual dimensions from a Catholic perspective; the sacramental wine transformed into the blood of Christ (transubstantiation.)

I’m fascinated by the notion of materials as mediators of spiritual truth when processed through human hands as if the separation between the physical and metaphysical is grey and interconnected. It’s interesting that the artist felt compelled to rework the image years later, as if through repetition he sought to re-enter more deeply into the experience. I sense the rhythm of this idea expressed beautifully in a song by Van Morrison called ‘Behind the Ritual’

Spin and turning in the alley, spin and turning in the alley
Like a Whirling Dervish in the alley, drinking that wine
Drinking wine, making time in the days gone by

songmeanings.com

Painting entitled "Impermanence"

Impermanence (2007)

I like the inclusion of the whirling dervish which perhaps alludes to the mystic tradition behind the surface of the song. With the repetition of the words and images the real is concealed behind the banal, so that the implicit message of the song is expressed by explicit ordinariness. We find that the spiritual is discovered behind the ritual of everyday encounter.

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The happening

Lee Mitchell band

Recently I was asked to take part in an arts evening with The Furnace at The George in Balham, London organised by a group of people exploring collaborative enterprise between different art forms. I was asked to do a live painting performance as a spontaneous response to the music of the Lee Mitchell band. They were the main act for the evening. The invitation came on a Saturday morning for the event that Wednesday night.

109.jpg

Over the last year I’ve built up a body of work in silence and meditative solitude, overworking and re-working, abandoning and embracing over an extended time scale. Although daunting to change the pace and environment so drastically, I realised this was a great opportunity to unleash some of that creative build up at a specific moment in time surrounded by a specific community of people. It had to be about that moment in time, irreducible and unrepeatable; a conversation between a painter, an audience, some musicians and a canvas (2 metres high x 6.5 metres long.)

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Not having ever painted anything that big before I was concerned just to cover the thing, hoping that the acrylic paint would flow freely across it. The staff at Bird and Davis were extremely helpful in advising what materials I’d need and how much. Once all the technical issues were sorted out my nerves evaporated into peaceful calm, and on the actual day I was able to really enjoy all the other acts before me. The only thing that kept bugging me was what I would paint. Every time I came up with an idea I had to let it go, sensing that it would impose itself on the unplanned moment and wreck the phenomenology of it all. Someone said ‘just make sure you paint from your head to your feet.’ I thought ‘once the music starts I’ll let my body do the talking’ and that’s how it happened. The musicians started out in mellow tones and I started with broad sweeps of blue and then green. Gradually the pace of the music picked up and I began to introduce warm oranges, pinks and yellows.

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Later it culminated in red, black and white.

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I became quite ecstatic at points during those 25 minutes, especially when I started splashing pink onto the green hills and swiping black figures into the surface in the final few minutes. I was really intrigued by peoples’ comments afterwards, especially those where their experience paralleled mine at those points of heightened intensity; a truly shared dynamic. I’m interested in the dance expressed in paint. I painted a small picture called Dance which depicts a joyful ecstasy of bodily movement. Other paintings also approach human interaction through ritual/ceremony/dance. I want to re-visit that subject, but have wondered how it might be achieved figuratively.

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During the event as I drew from the music and the audience and allowed my body to respond to the immediacy of the moment, I sensed that I was actually becoming in reality, the subject I had wanted to depict in paint; quite a liberating feeling. The next day I ached.

What emerged was a kind of landscape with figures dotted across it and in the middle a huge all Seeing Eye.

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Art and Fear

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Above is a drawing I did (or my sister did) when we were small – these tickets enable the bearer to go anywhere and do anything. Fortunately they have come to light again.

Here I’ll be recording the artistic activities and projects that I’ll be involved in, as well as any insights and thoughts I might have along the way. By jotting it all down I aim to keep myself ‘falling forwards’.

I studied at Newcastle University, UK graduating in 1997 with a Fine Art degree. My work at that time was created by observing theatrical performers. I sketched all the students rehearsing at the other University (which had/has a strong drama department.) Later I would develop these impressions into compositions which explored elements of the human condition represented by ‘types’ caught in the interplay between spiritual and material realities. The ‘Cloud and the Pillar’ series title was taken from the biblical exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. They were guided by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Within the scope of this story I saw the journey of life played out; states of awareness and being, vision and doubt, knowledge and unbelief, going forward and turning back. I worked on a small scale, very intensively wanting some of the energy of a mysterious drama to unfold.

I’ve been working in different fields outside of artistic practice since then, so it’s an exciting leap to return on a second wind. I have just read an inspiring book called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, 1993 which talks about creativity in the face of different kinds of obstacles, reconciling oneself to them and continuing to create.

With my series ‘Painting the Numinous’ I have been using solitude as a needed counterpart to community; a way to re-familiarise myself with the personal and material process of making art. By solitude I mean its role as a discipline and its rejuvenating effects in slowing down time.

My experience of solitude as a spiritual discipline involves moments of still contemplation prior to and during painting. This is centring myself. There is a play between meditative deliberation and decision making. During the painting process itself I have used no pre-gathered visual source material. Instead I have been interested in the role of the imagination in its relation to visual memory and spontaneity; similar to my own experience of musical creativity. It’s a process that embraces personal permission giving toward play and abstract experimentation.

 

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