This morning offered a pale pink and yellow hint of the day as I lay in bed mentally rummaging through images. Rummaging and reading happens when I want to change subject matter or how I’ll depict it. This past winter I was spending more time than I’d like to admit at the ‘lost’ stage in the studio. I’d show up daily and paint through the dark questions. Then often paint ‘over them’. (there’s history under all those layers!) Now notes, articles and scribbles in journals lay around the studio. Colour-combo swatches that sing to me are pinned on the walls. New music is playing… I’m looking at paintings as they evolved over this past year. I can see traces of my intentions already appearing in each painting.
So, what’s inspiring me right now? First, new jazz, blues music in the studio... (thanks Jim P) Funny how people easily accept the abstract form of jazz music, yet think they somehow need to understand abstraction in painting. Ronny Earl & The Broadcasters, Keb Mo, Kenny Dorham, Peter Green, Eliza Gilkyson humming low in the background. Then there's Bill Callahan and Bonga but that’s for another blog…
And who inspires? Recently, two artists who’ve somehow been under my radar surfaced right when I needed hear them and see their work. It's like picking up a book that earlier didn’t hold your interest yet now you can’t put down. Not so much for what they're painting but often what they are saying. Words by living artists rather than a critic’s perspective about an artist’s work speak to me in creative spirit. In spite of their ‘fame’, to hear what’s going on in someone else’s studio, maybe a hint of what they are thinking helps connect with their experience. The similarities console me on my ‘lost’ days.
Marlene Dumas the Afrikaans artist who now lives in Amsterdam has a retrospective on at the Tate Modern. Varied in subject matter, her work takes a brave look at the world's visual culture. It’s political, sexual, dark, sometimes difficult. She works from photographs; magazines, old newspaper clippings and post cards. From collage to paint, her gutsy choices have made a huge impact on me. The last few sentences by the writer of the Guardian article presents a likely sense of the woman herself.
American Brenda Goodman's work took my breath away. They feel massive, mysterious, filled with vibrant energy. But it’s her personal story telling within the abstracts that interests me. That's something I've tried to achieve in my own work for some time.
Reading Goodman’s interviews felt like a personal conversation with a friend. I’d been re-working a technique I’d used for some time, metaphor through the texture of drip making. This texture was working in recent paintings but I needed a balance that didn’t feel contrived. I was fretting… Goodman’s discussion about her woven textures, tools and techniques gave me her perspective. Worry less and if it feels right, trust your experience and instincts. I know that but it was so good to read it again! Like Dumas, Goodman is brave in sharing her personal experiences and how her art helps her work through them.
Neither painter’s work is similar to mine; my interest is in how they fluidly move back and forth within their practice. Varied materials, different subject matter. Especially poignant is both artist's honesty in discussing their work. These two new paintings Nature Totem One + Nature Totem Two hopefully show glimpses of how my work has evolved this past year. Now I'll take life's inspirations back to my own practice, while some ‘jazz greats’ keep me company in the studio.