O250-1: Toward Taupiri

This is one of my dearest paintings. There is a warm depth in the middle ground that came as a gift. Sadly, the photo does not really do it justice. In soft evening light it tends to glow.

O250
O250: Oil and Cold Wax on Panel (approx 60 x 40 cm)

For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself. He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation. He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see into the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit (p. 13). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The painting below is another effort which is quite special to me. It is the first painting I made in the first confused and sad weekend after my father passed away. It am quite happy with the emotional nuance conveyed by the painting:

O251
O251: Oil and Cold Wax on Panel, (approx 40 x 35 cm)

Rollo May wrote:

Perhaps the most ubiquitous and ever-present form of the failure to confront non-being in our day is in conformism, the tendency of the individual to let himself be absorbed in the sea of collective responses and attitudes, to become swallowed up in das Mann, with the corresponding loss of his own awareness, potentialities, and whatever characterizes him as a unique and original being. The individual temporarily escapes the anxiety of non-being by this means, but at the price of forfeiting his own powers and sense of existence.

May, Rollo. The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology (p. 104). W. W. Norton & Company.

 

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O248: More True Than Grey

This is a painting that came almost as an afterthought at the end of a session when I worked on something larger. It is oil and cold wax painted over an earlier effort, which explains the texture and unevenness of the surface which provides a charm of its own, unless you are more into glossy-smooth precision.

O248
O248: Oil and Cold Wax on Panel (approx 35 x 30 cm)

 

Pessoa makes no sense most of the time. Certainly he is not a leader of the positive thinking movement. But the music in his prose  has an attraction I cannot stay away from from, especially when the rain falls without end:

Behind me, on the other side of where I’m lying down, the silence of the apartment touches infinity. I hear time fall, drop by drop, and not one drop that falls can be heard. My physical heart is physically oppressed by the memory – reduced to nothing – of all that has been or that I’ve been. I feel my head materially supported by the pillow in which it makes a valley. My skin and the skin of the pillowcase are like two people touching in the shadows. Even the ear on which I’m lying mathematically engraves itself on my brain. I blink with fatigue, and my eyelashes make an infinitesimal, inaudible sound against the felt whiteness of the pillow’s slope. I breathe, sighing, and my breathing happens – it isn’t mine. I suffer without feeling or thinking. The household clock, definitely located in the midst of the infinite, strikes the half hour, dry and void. Everything is so vast, so deep, so black and so cold! I pass times, I pass silences; formless worlds pass by me.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)

Among the books and letters of my late father, I found a book of Afrikaans poetry with English Translations. It is a book I knew from childhood – I remember taking it down for the odd browse-through as a teenager. Now it has a different meaning. Here is a poem by Elizabeth Eybers, one of the most celebrated Afrikaans poets:

Dillema
Die wit leuen van die liefde wou
ek naas die naakte waarheid hou,
berekenbaar en overbloem
deur listige herinnering:
daar is so veel om te besing,
so min om op te noem.

En hoe noukeuriger ek staar
hoe minder word ek weer gewaar
as dat geen mens wat gloed beskou
om dit met as te vergelyk
ooit wysheid leer: want altyd blyk
wit werkliker as grou.

and here is the English translation from the book, by the poet herself:

Dillema
I measure the white lie of love
by holding it alongside of
computable bald truth without
adding sly memory's estimate:
there is so much to sing about,
so little to relate.

However zealously I pore
the less can I distinguish more
than that by studying glow to see
how it compares with ash one may
become no wiser: constantly
white gleams more true than grey

 

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O245-7: The Skylark Departs

This is a landscape that came a long way to be here. I must have reworked both sky and background about four times each. This is oil on panel, size approximately 60 cm x 45 cm.

O245

Rollo May wrote:

A psychological problem, I have pointed out elsewhere, is like fever; it indicates that something is wrong within the structure of the person and that a struggle is going on for survival. This, in turn, is a proof to us that some other way of behaving is possible. Our old way of thinking—that problems are to be gotten rid of as soon as possible—overlooks the most important thing of all: that problems are a normal aspect of living and are basic to human creativity. This is true whether one is constructing things or reconstructing oneself. Problems are the outward signs of unused inner possibilities.

May, Rollo. Freedom and Destiny (Norton Paperback)

On days when my time and/or energy is low, I turn to charcoal and pastel for relief:

P25
P25 (Pastel and Charcoal on paper, size approximately A4)

This often leads to an effort in oil:

O246
O246: (oil on panel, approx 8 x 10 inches)
O247
O247:: (oil on panel, approx 8 x 10 inches)

There are days when the demands of life, promises made, leaves me depleted and anxious. My approach is to see this anxiety as part of organic life, not as an enemy, but as a source of potential, as Rollo May points out:

The definition of mental health needs to be changed to living without paralyzing anxiety, but living with normal anxiety as a stimulant to a vital existence, as a source of energy, and as life-enhancing.

Here in New Zealand the spring winds and rain are relentless. I lie awake at night, listening to the wind shake anything that can move. I think of small winged creatures huddling outside. And I think of this poem:

Approaching midnight
on a hillside, in springtime,
in a temple hall,
even in my deepest dreams,
the blossoms continue to fall.

Ki No Tsurayuki, translated by Sam Hamill, in
The Poetry of Zen, by Hamill and Seaton

 

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O242-4: Beyond the Last Thought

For a while now I have tried to move away from painting only invented landscapes to once-again painting from observation (either direct or in photos). I am finding it difficult – somehow it feels like being constrained by the source image. But I found a change in tack is very useful in getting a deeper grip on the flow and direction of the landscape.

O242
O242: Oil on Panel (approx 60 x 50 cm)

This painting is about 60 x 50 cm and is based on the photo shown below – taken during my morning walk. As you can see the photo has a very different mood. But what attracted me was the repetitive shapes and the line running through the landscape.

IMG_2697

Below are two more paintings I did in the same week as the one above. Initially I was somewhat encouraged by how well I handled the masses of green in the painting above, so I repeated it with an invented landscape based on a thumbnail sketch:

O243
O243: Oil on Panel (approx 45 x 28 cm)

But as the week wore on and the stress of work took its toll, my painting world turned more gray:

O244
O244: Oil on Panel (approx 50 x 38 cm)

In his discussion of Existentialism, Rollo May wrote:

…no matter how interesting or theoretically true is the fact that I am composed of such and such chemicals or act by such and such mechanisms or patterns, the crucial question always is that I happen to exist at this given moment in time and space, and my problem is how I am to be aware of that fact and what I shall do about it.

May, Rollo. The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology W. W. Norton & Company. 

May continues to note that the threats to our life and security, though feared and avoided, are the very things that make us more alive:

Without this awareness of nonbeing— that is, awareness of the threats to one’s being in death, anxiety, and the less dramatic but persistent threats of loss of potentialities in conformism— existence is vapid, unreal, and characterized by lack of concrete self-awareness. But with the confronting of nonbeing, existence takes on vitality and immediacy, and the individual experiences a heightened consciousness of himself, his world, and others around him.

Away from my home in New Zealand for more than a week now, I long for my loved ones and the longing makes them dearer. Meditation provides a valuable anchor at night when the jet-lag shuffles my sleep.

In deep meditation at times one feels as if an abyss is being approached – the “palm at the end of mind” of which Wallace Stevens wrote:

Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Wallace Stevens
(this copy from Poetry Foundation)

 

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