detail of whispers of happiness, oil on linen, by contemporary painter barbra edwards
December 2 2014
Painterly Handwriting

Continuing my thoughts on drawing from my September post, these recent diptychs explore the role of writing within a painting. Originally hinged multiple panels called diptychs (or triptychs, polyptychs) were popular during the 15th and 16th centuries. They consisted of several panels and were viewed as “illuminating each other and comprising a distinct work of art from the individual parts”. Today diptychs are more often painted as one overall painting and usually not hinged.

I gave myself the challenge of painting each panel so that it could stand alone, but the finished pieces had to also work together as one painting. Looking at the finished work I decide that whether the panel's connection to each other is obscure or obvious, they relate to each other. In addition to texture, line, colour, they offer their own part of the narrative…sometimes connecting on another level of consciousness.

These paintings are part of my series on perspective; how each of us imposes our own history and experience on how we view things. I'm using written word as a picture, making it’s handwriting connection barely recognizable. I want the drawing lines to integrate into my painting and not disappear into the depths of the oil painting. Using a brush, stick or other tool I make similar marks to my everyday handwriting. In this first triptych, Whispers of Happiness, I’ve reduced “handwriting” to simple line. The woven aspect connects into groupings, as we connect words into sentences or paragraphs. These “word-lines” can remain half hidden or show up as scratchy, bold, ethereal. In this diptych titled SHIFT 1, the "word-lines" visually retain more of what we recognize as words.

Playing with personal perspective even further, the diptych SHIFT 3 reflects two ways to describe a subject. One uses form, the other line only. Similarity in colour palette, composition and format connects the diptych together as a painting.

My young granddaughter told me while quietly observing my paintings in a show, “I like your paintings because they're messy.” She was studying my scribbled drawings within the paintings. I was delighted at her explanation. She understood there was more going on within the movement of those lines.

"Art seems to affect us beneath the surface of our rational or logical mind. It bascially moves the mind to action on a different level, one that is profound and less describable." Milton Glaser

These paintings and others, are currently available through Bugera Matheson Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta.

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