The alchemy of art
A few weeks ago I sold a painting that I considered “finished”, not only in that the paint was long dry but because its fiery subject felt done with; it had burned itself out for me. This was a sunset landscape full of light-infused poppies (harking back to the “old” era of bloodshed and sacrifice symbolised by the familiar red poppies of remembrance) now softened into radiant blush-white hues of love and healing and I had processed what I had to say through it in November 2014 at a time of year when red poppies can be seen everywhere in our culture. I had visualised a new reality, a softened landscape, that felt transformational and I had unleashed it in paint.
In fact I so knew I had done what needed to be done, had expressed what was in me to be said, that I really wanted the painting to sell now so that a line could be drawn under it. I had shared what was my own truth; hard won through years of processing through old traumas and learning that I needed to reinvent these as the building blocks of a different landscape in order to heal. For a long time, this canvas had resisted finding a new home (for all it had been popularly received when exhibited in three galleries over the next two years) so when it finally sold on the exact two-year anniversary of when I had finished it, coincidentally to be delivered the day before the very cultural landmark of 11/11 that inspired it, I really sat up and noticed.
When the address that it was to be delivered to turned out to be a short distance from the most southerly point of a north-south leyline I have been having some powerful epiphanies upon this year, I sat up even straighter, knowing its message of healing and transformation was now being plugged into the broader energetic grid for others to experience; taking it out of my personal domain in exchange for this final wink of synchronicity. In other words, it was time for it to move on and it had naturally found its rightful place. I felt the absolute significance of this through the truism of how many of my artworks have continued their own journeys in ways that feel deeply significant to me even after I have finished painting them; not unlike the way we send our offspring out into the world and they are both the continuance of us and their own unique thread, working as one with us upon some of our pervading themes even long after we have watched them fly from the nest.
So I have learned that the endpoints of my creations are not when I have finished “making them” them…not even nearly when I (so often) keep them for a few months to hang on my own wall while I continue to unpack their deeper meanings for myself…and then not even when they go out of my possession to hang in other people’s homes. I could write a book about how meaningfully many of the people and places to which they have flown have proved the continuance of the story of their journey, beaming back their influence to transform me just as surely as they go on to make an impact in other people’s lives in their new place. Many times, I have watched my artworks anchor their particular nugget of light to some very synchronistic geographic node that fits their theme and into the lives of people who have fed back remarkable reactions and transformations on the back of their new artwork; such as sudden urges to move house or make brand new beginnings after my work has hung on their wall for a few weeks. I have heard stories of healing vibes that come out of these canvases and of conversations and catalysing situations arising out of them. In this way, I have seen over and over again how the end-point of the creative act is so often just the beginning, how what can feel like a loss (to me; as there is a little loss in giving up each one of my paintings) is really the birth of something new in the great flowering of circumstance that is our human condition. We are to each other the nudges and prompts of endless rebirth and flowering, like the Russian dolls that keep revealing to each other the deeper and deeper layers of experience that…ultimately, collectively…transform us all whilst we keep seeing enough familiarity in each other to recognise ourselves in all of the many layers.
This post is an abridged section of my longer post on Spinning the Light entitled “In every ending…a new beginning” published just a couple of weeks ago.
Since then, I have watched a film I enjoyed very much and which turned out to be incredibly multi-layered and synchronistic in its themes. The film in question is “The Woman in Gold”(2016) starring Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, the Jewish refugee who takes on the Austrian government to reclaim the collection of Klimt paintings stolen from her family during the holocaust.
The screenplay, based on a true story, plays with how we get to heal the deep wounds of the past in the “now” experiences that we work through and how art sometimes plays a part in this, serving as a kind of portal between “then” and “now”. It toys with big current themes such as what constitutes “ownership” and “nationality”, including what makes people belong and feel respected where they live; is it only to do with where they are born or is it also to do with where they contribute (and are allowed to do so… through respect for their fundamental humanity), regardless of where they happen to “come from” or any differences in culture. What keeps people attached to a place; is it because they were born there or because of shared ideals, a commonality of how they treat one another. And where does an artwork (or indeed anything) belong; with those to whom it is deeply personal, to those who most prize it, to those who are strong or rich enough to claim it or is there more organic flux to its journey. Perhaps its own higher purpose means it will change hands several times as a catalyst to healing, transformation and deeper understanding, always moving on when it is ready until it becomes its own story, infused with a life all of its own. Perhaps by allowing the eye to follow where the artwork leads – like watching an ember rise up from a bonfire – rather than trying to force where it goes, we will realise it has something important to tell us…
In my experience, these are the artworks that leave the biggest impressions as though we can see them with far more than our eyes. They seem to speak to us in layers that incorporate the original impulse and creative act that birthed them, then also the very personal things that they mean to those associated with that creation…plus all the many other stories that they weave into and become part of, whole identities (even national ones) that they become inherent with and the complex stories of all that we are as human beings. One single painting – like Klimt’s “Woman in Gold” – can become synonymous with a whole culture and feel like a lynchpin that is removed when their rightful place there is challenged or even denied. This was a deeply thought-provoking film from both the art perspective and the vastly broader one and brilliantly delivered by Mirren; well recommended viewing.