Suppose we do

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Yesterday, when painting, I had a major insight about how to work with the color field. I have been working on some blue paintings, not my easiest color choice. But I like the challenge and when they work, at least in the past, they are very strong. These were giving me a hard time. I was about to throw in the towel.

I had been thinking I needed to limit the marks I make in order to get closer to the impact I created with the more limited palette (for the exhibit at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery). But then I realized I needed just the opposite, to make a more complex field. Instead of less scribbly marks, use more. Subtly of course. And it seems to be working. At least for a while.

It’s funny how these things just happen.

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Starting again (and again)

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I’ve often heard it is hard to work when you have an exhibit on. I’ve not experienced that before now. Usually when I have work up in a gallery, I am very critical of what I have done, see what needs to be done next, where to go, and am directed by that.  This time, with the exhibit at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery (up for one more week), I have had a very different experience. Possibly because I created most of the work specifically for this exhibit and was so focused on that for the past year, I now feel unexpected hesitation and questions.

Thinking about it now, I can see how keeping the main color range limited in this work actually increased the variety of marks and colors used in what I call the “image” of the painting. It’s a very different feeling from what I had been doing for quite a while. I think, but of course won’t really know until I have done it, I will continue mainly from here, not try and invent the wheel again. Just keep rolling along.

Note: Installation photos credit Steve Farmer

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How things work

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There is a small room off the large gallery at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery. We decided to put small paintings in the small room and large paintings in the large room. It worked. The small room was intimate; the large room, expansive. Like moving from a spacious, limitless world opened up by the large paintings, to its inner workings, the heartbeat created by the row of small works.

I enjoyed watching people move from one room to the other. A change of expression in body and in face.

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Amazing

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On April 30, Jacinte Armstrong, dancer, Sageev Oore, composer and pianist and Nick Halley, percussion, danced and made music in dialogue with my paintings. It was amazing! Hardly a dry eye in the audience. It felt like they were inside the paintings, inside me, expressing everything the paintings want people to know.

After the performance, it was days before I stopped hearing the music and feeling the dance. Looking at the photographs now brings it all back. Amazing.

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More thoughts on not thinking

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Novels are usually about people’s lives. They take me into what other people experiences, feel, how they think and solve problems. When I paint, I want to stay away from stories that can be interpreted literally, but similar to the stories in novels that I enjoy the most, I want to go into a personal space, solve problems, create a painting that will resonate with someone else’s life. Make it, ultimately, not about me, have it stand on its own feet, be itself.

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It’s Not at all about What You Think

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Last Sunday I gave my “Artist’s Talk” at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery. It went well, lots of good questions. Actually, I opened it up to questions almost immediately as it was more interesting for me and seemed so to the audience as well.

One of the questions that is still lingering in my mind was about my literary interests. The question was, more or less, do those interests influence my painting. I was a lit major as an undergrad, before going to art school, was very serious about it until I realized I needed to paint. I still love to read, mostly novels, and feel naked without a book on the go. But when I am in my studio working, I am not involved with words. It’s an intuitive, emotional response to what I am working on. As well, I try to keep the titles as non-literal as possible, so they won’t be a description of the work, leave the imagination free to experience, not read, the paintings.

I thought there would be comments/questions on the title of my exhibit. But not at all. So far I’ve had a lot of smiles. After all, it’s abstract painting, not a firm, dependable product, not a result of linear thought, so, it’s not about what you think. But what it is about is a big question, a question of what is your personal experience.

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The necessity of art

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Yesterday morning, Steve Reich was talking about his music on CBC radio program q.  One powerful comment he made, loosely quoted, was that you, as the maker, need to be sure you have that emotional investment in what you do or it doesn’t mean a thing. That just about sums it up.

Note: The photos above are from my exhibit at the Orange Gallery in Ottawa.

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