Freedom to speak: what art has to say

There is no doubt, some of my paintings leave more of an impression than others…even upon me, as their creator; and I had had this one almost consistently on my wall (excepting times that it went off to exhibition) since it was completed three years ago. When it finally sold and went off to its new home last weekend, there was just a tinge of sadness in me, like watching your child go off to college, a realisation of what you had always known would happen one day; so, a fleeting sensation of resistance passing through the heart, one that you quickly override for the highest outcome of all, accepting that every most-nurtured thing must one day fly the nest. There is such a strong sense of the task of painting not being quite “done” until it has found its rightful custodian; which will take exactly as long as it does (there can be no pushing it along) and there is often as much communication to be delivered to me by the layers of information that include “when” and “to whom” as by the actual process of painting it in the first place; the artwork simply needs to be offered the unfettered space in which to “talk” to me in this way and will continue delivering what it has to offer until, well, it has  thoroughly said it all and can comfortably move on.

thumb-IncandescenceLike any parent, I am mindful of being the custodian of the artworks I create; and that they are simply passing through, some staying at home just a little longer than others, happy to live the quiet life under my wing for just a little longer than those other, more brazen, in your face pieces that eagerly launch themselves the moment their paint is dry. Its with those quieter pieces that I seem to enjoy the glowing embers of a lasting warmth; the kind of delivery that is slow and steady, unfolding their insight through the regular, daily glances of my ordinary domestic existence like the gradual opening of lotus petals until, finally, the full circle is complete and, at that very moment, the buyer tends to appear from nowhere; delivering to the artwork a brand new wall on which it can continue to unfold its magic. The last time this memorably happened was when The Yellow Window suddenly left my wall when it was (I thought I had decided…) no longer for sale; purchased by a woman who had spent eighteen months tracking it down after it left an imprint on her at an exhibition…during which interlude it had had a massively alchemical effect upon my life, a literal window thrown open to the light…and now, its work with me apparently done, it moved on to continue “doing its thing” elsewhere. When this kind of painting departs I find that, like the empty room left behind by a loved one, I have to quickly find a new use for the void; usually filling it with something quite new and very different… a fresh project…in such a way as to suggest that this has been an evolution for all concerned.

Not every piece of my work gets hung on my wall (I only have so much space…) so what was it about “Incandescence” that made it one of the favourite, most powerful slower-burners of all my work to date; such a bijou piece and yet such a tangible feeling wrapped up in its 12 inches of canvas. Across several exhibitions, I had felt such a reluctance to part with it and it had been priced such that anyone who claimed to want would have to be prepared to demonstrate this adequately. I had even hesitated to include it in last week’s exhibition, right up to the very last moment, feeling as I did that it was probably destined to stay with me forever now…though something made me include it at the eleventh hour knowing, somehow, that it wouldn’t be coming back. When it went off to its new home (and how interesting that I should happen to be there at the exact moment that it sold), I was so glad it went to someone who recognised its potency; who had seen it before and come back to claim it, knowing it was special, and who admitted to having shaking hands and pounding heart as she made her purchase(I also admit to feeling relieved at having just received a message to say she really loves it so much). So, what is it that particularly “works” to draw in those who are open to this particular composition, which is so much more than “just” a garden at sunset?

Though there can be no “reason” as such, given that reactions to art are subjective and largely inexplicable, it occurred to me yesterday (perhaps because I had been discussing energy centres with a woman who practices Reiki…) that this piece is fully inclusive of all the chakra colours from crown down to root and that it wouldn’t work nearly so well if it didn’t have that flash of red, those oranges, grounding it in foreground. In fact, I remember those reds feeling almost like a point of resistance for me at the time (though they immediately made the composition “work” in a way that had been eluding me before…) as I seldom incorporated red in gentlest summer subjects back in those days, tending to compartmentalise its use; not so now since doing so much work with my root. Did this painting mark the very beginning of me doing some very necessary work to ground myself, to allow that inclusion of the root was as essential to the full picture of me as to this painting?

Without premeditation, I see now that I drew on all the chakra colours quite instinctively while thinking I was focusing on that “subject” of purest, most dazzling white light coming down in a glow of late evening transcendence…finding that my subject was quite impossible to convey in paint until I incorporated all of it. That pure white light coming down felt like a melting pot of all the many-textured, multi-coloured physical forms in the garden; a softening of all the edges until the molecules of every flower became a soup of both all and nothing, like a homecoming for the soul and yet quite impossible to convey without anchoring it to something that we recognise as our human interpretation of energy in form. I remember that I particularly struggled with the flowerbed (this was not a quick painting…) until I anchored it with those reds, oranges and yellows and then knitted it all together with the heart-green of so much foliage; but even this didn’t work until it was spoken-up for by those throat-chakra blues and then offered so much additional clarity by violets that seemed to transport the scene to a whole other dimension…which is very close to what I recall experiencing in that garden during the violet-tinged experience-portal of midsummer sunset. Finally, softly feminine rose-pink imparted a blush of tenderness to it all…a reminder that love is at the very core of all else…without which the dazzling white radiance of super-intense light pouring down into a garden felt cold and somewhat empty…and only then was it quite complete.

None of this journey through paint was deliberated about as I attempted to recapture my recollection of a midsummer garden that had utterly transfixed me; all of these colour-choices came from a place of pure instinct and what “happened to worked best” to achieve the outcome that I had tuned my dial to, feeling my way back to it. I smiled as I recognised what it was that its new custodian (someone who works with Reiki and acupuncture…) now recognises and reminds herself of each time that she looks into this painting on the wall of its new home; as though, the more we tune into the orderly perfection that underlies everything, the more we recognise its cues in every most ordinary thing, finding it to be the most satisfying ingredient of all when expressed through whatever creative pursuits we happen to engage in, from art to music to arranging a room. At the time, I had thought I was “just” painting a garden; perhaps the very essence of a garden, spotlit by one of those time-stood-still moments of radiance that act as a portal to a layer of deeper perception of all the most everyday experiences of our world. Well, yes…with perfect timing (just as I said goodbye to one of the most cherished pieces I had ever painted) I was now able to perceive this layer fully for myself.


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