My most recent paintings are once again based on scenes from my morning walk up Driver Road.
Below are two photos that served as source material for the paintings above:
Peace at last. All that was dross and residue vanishes from my soul as if it had never been. I’m alone and calm. It’s like the moment when I could theoretically convert to a religion. But although I’m no longer attracted to anything down here, I’m also not attracted to anything up above. I feel free, as if I’d ceased to exist and were conscious of that fact.
In my back studio I often meditate as the New Zealand winter afternoon turns stormily into dusk then dark. Dark inside – pitch black if not for the small candle and gas heater spreading warm yellow amidst the shadows. Outside rough jerking wind-sound and trucks on River Road.
But inside on the out breath all clarifies into a deep peace the colour of a winter sky in a painting out of Africa. Thoughts still move like northern lights across the mind screen. Breathing deep into the hip sockets, the pelvic bowl expands – becomes a Milky Way. Another out-breath….and then the bell.
Peace, yes, peace. A great calm, gentle like something superfluous, descends on me to the depths of my being. The pages I read, the tasks I complete, the motions and vicissitudes of life – all has become for me a faint penumbra, a scarcely visible halo circling something tranquil that I can’t identify. The exertion in which I’ve sometimes forgotten my soul, and the contemplation in which I’ve sometimes forgotten all action – both come back to me as a kind of tenderness without emotion, a paltry, empty compassion.
I have been thinking lately about what Rilke meant when he said: “Life is right, in any case”. He was advising the young poet “Mr Kappus” in one of his letters. We do not see the preceding letter from Kappus to Rilke, but we surmise that Kappus must have related some life difficulties to Rilke.
Rilke prepares Kappus for his response by first pointing out that details are not relevant, details come and go:
There is perhaps no use my going into your particular points now; for what I could say about your tendency to doubt or about your inability to bring outer and inner life into unison, or about all the other things that worry you—: it is always what I have already said: …
Then he delivers his advice. And it is fascinating to me that Rilke – a seemingly fragile person with an exquisitely sensitive disposition – points to what seems to me a very stoic attitude:
…it is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet (pp. 41-42). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
That phrase “the patience to endure”, and the urging toward “more and more confidence in that which is difficult” has helped me so much in life. It tends to immediately flip around whatever problem or difficulty I am facing. Then the other side can be seen. And it inevitably contains gold. Hence: fruitful darkness.
Rilke clearly had a stoic disposition despite his sensitivity to things. I think it was Robert Bly who wrote in one of his books: “without cunning and discipline, Rilke would have been wiped out”.
I believe a melancholy, sensitive disposition either wipes you out or it commands you to build a disposition able to work with demons, inner and outer. I recall now reading in Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” (required reading for any adult) how sensitive inmates seemed to better survive concentration camps than more robust types.
Frankl wrote about his Auschwitz experience:
Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature”
Viktor E. Frankl; Man’s Search for Meaning (4th Ed). Beacon Press. Boston.
Wang Wei was another sensitive person who could not be brought down easily – even by the idea that life has no meaning:
The Stone Ledge
On the stone ledge above the water,
Where willow leaf-tips drink the wine.
If you say the spring breeze has no meaning,
Why does it bring me all these falling flowers?
Wang Wei, translated by Kline, A. S., in
Like Water or Clouds: The T'ang Dynasty and the Tao
So…these things have been on my mind, in my morning walks and as I paint away in my studio. I am still working on that phrase: “Life is right, in any case“…
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are happy and content.
Winter has come to New Zealand, and with it grey skies, moody days and biting cold on my morning walks. I have fallen into a steady meditation schedule, early morning in my studio, my light the glow of the gas heater. Sacred minutes. My cup runneth over.
The urge to paint is back – after almost half a year. My paintings make me happy. In the half light of the days I peer into the emptiness at which they point.
I have been vacillating about my blog forever. Not routine procrastination, just doubt about the need for this world to have one more blog post released onto it. Most of all I am stalled by the lack of a strong opinion about one side or another, having seen all sides have a backside, and the artificiality of the personality and its opinions.
Gearing up to write a blog post became for me almost an act of in-authenticity. In the words of T.S. Eliot, the action of one who prepares “a face to meet the faces that you meet”.
Not to imply anything, but my doubt about speaking or staying silent reminds me of the near silence of T.S. Eliot at the outset of his career as a poet and critic. Perhaps he too was stalled by the notion that any venturing out in the gesture of opinion was a move away from authenticity.
In the brilliant book, The Invisible Poet, T.S Eliot, author Hugh Kenner wrote that the study of the philosophy of F.H Bradley helped Eliot by freeing him:
“…from the posture of the ironist with his back to a wall, by affirming the artificiality of all personality including the one we intimately suppose to be our true one; not only the faces we prepare but the “we” that prepares; …A view of the past, a view of himself and other persons, a view of the nature of what we call statement and communication; these delivered Eliot from what might have been, after a brilliant beginning, a cul-de-sac and silence.”
On my walks I think about authenticity and its ghostly fragility. I am not surprised that the concept provided enough material for Lionel Trilling to write a fascinating book about Sincerity and Authenticity. In my reading, Trilling regards authenticity as a more mature cousin to Sincerity, which is dismissed as a social construct:
In short, we play the role of being ourselves, we sincerely act the part of the sincere person, with the result that a judgement may be passed upon our sincerity that it is not authentic. (Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity)
Authenticity takes us in a different direction:
A very considerable originative power had once been claimed for sincerity, but nothing to match the marvellous generative force that our modern judgement assigns to authenticity, which implies the downward movement through all the cultural superstructures to some place where all movement ends, and begins.
This is part of the same discussion in which Trilling quotes (again) Eliot:
‘The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality’.
Should we speak or remain in the authenticity of silence? As always, Rilke has the last word on this. In his poem, “We must die because we have known them”, he ends with:
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and supporters who have recently encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.
Phew – life moved really fast these first two months of the year! In my last post, I showed a few works done using Acrylic on paper. To be honest, I have always been a bit of a snob in my attitude towards the use of Acrylic paint as compared to Oil paint.
It guess it is a combination of the “plastic” nature of acrylic, combined with the quick-drying nature of it. And then there is that luminous, mystical transparency of oil paints. However, I have had some success with Acrylic done on paper (normally heavy Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor paper), and here I would like to share some of these with you.
These next two paintings were inspired by a view of farmland just west of Hamilton, New Zealand. I was driving on the freeway and as I glanced to the side I saw this open farmland, divided into blocks, with the sun and shadow playing on it.
The painting below is an invented landscape. It started off as an abstract but – as so often happens – it slowly evolved into yet another landscape!
The weeks since the start of the year have been quite a ride. Last December, a close family member passed away after a long, brave battle with cancer. The few and short interactions I had with her and her two young, brave children in the last few days of her life had a profound impact on me.
I decided to deeply review and look into my own life, including my health, fitness and my personal direction in life. As I hinted in my last post, this drive has had an interesting cooling effect on my enthusiasm for painting, which has since evened out again.
I am now about two months into a surprising change in my life path. What started initially as an attempt to get rid of near-chronic fatigue has morphed into a passionate drive to improve my health, fitness and baseline level of happiness – in short, my total way of being.
I started with a zeal for weight-loss and fitness, but one of the first five lessons I learned centred around the brevity of inspiration. It runs out way before you reach the goal. So I soon realized any long term transformation – if it is to be lasting and significant – will be have to be based on humility and patience. In fact – character transformation, rather than body transformation.
The humble person understands that experience is a better teacher than pure reason. He understands that wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom emerges out of a collection of intellectual virtues. It is knowing how to behave when perfect knowledge is lacking.
I have managed to sustain this transformation drive now for almost two months, and I have learned many lessons on this first part of my journey – some expected and some surprising.
Although my blog started as a painting-related thing, I would love to share some of the insights and lessons learned on this journey with the followers of my blog in the hope that it may inspire you and allow you to learn from my experience. So watch this space!
In one sentence I will give you the key to absolute spiritual freedom: to be a self-actualized being, all you have to do is know, feel, think, and act like one.
If you are primarily coming to my blog for the sake of the paintings – I will continue to post some of my recent works, but be prepared for some motivational reading also!
Before I go – an excerpt from a poem by Wang Wei:
Oftentimes - with joy in my heart -
Alone, I roam here and there.
It is a wonderful thing
That I am aware of myself.
When the streamlet ends my trip
I settle down and catch
The moment of rising mists.
Now and then I meet
A furrowed dweller of the woods.
We chat and laugh;
Never do we want to go home.
Wang Wei, quoted in
Creativity and Taoism, by Chung-yuan Chang
It is a wonderful thing that I am aware of myself!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.
In my last post I showed some of my recent paintings done on paper. These were in watercolor and pastel. At the moment, I really enjoy working on paper – just something about that natural texture and light weight of paper. However, I have become a bit impatient to let the watercolor dry before I go over it in pastel.
So…I dusted off my old bottles of Acrylic paints and started playing around with it. Not expecting anything to come out of these play sessions, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the combination of Acrylic and paper.
The images in this post are some abstract works (size about 50 x 33 cm) that have come out of these play sessions – some of these have been getting quite a lot of pins when I posted them on Pinterest, so I guess I am not the only one liking them!
I have also posted some of these on my formal website, and in doing this I found that putting a border around the image gives a much better indication of what the work would look like when it is framed with a mat behind glass. In the case of abstract work, I have always found that the border makes up an intrinsic part of the composition, so it is quite important to see it with a proper border.
A good break over the new year, together with increasing exposure to sunlight, nourishing but sparse food and lots of exercise has enabled me to put some distance between my demons and my angels. At the moment I am living with my angels mostly, but in the end I realize – they are all mine. All part of this particular life as a sentient being on a ball twirling in a corner of the vast eternal universe.
When consciousness can relax into the simplicity of bare presence, something opens up. We are in harmony with a greater intelligence, or more accurately, the illusion that we are separate from this falls away.
With a more energized viewpoint, I noted that my need to go into the studio has ever so slightly diminished – like everything else this will change – but for now I am keeping a curious eye on it. I have learned not to overthink these changes in my internal seasons too much. Besides, thinking is quite overrated. To quote Tollifson again:
Some of our thinking is useful and functional, but we can notice that much of our thinking, maybe most of it, does nothing but generate suffering and confusion. With awareness, we can begin to feel when thought ceases to be useful, when it slides over into obsessive rumination. The more we pay attention with awareness to any thought process, the more we can become sensitive to where it ceases to be functional. Ultimately, the clearest and most truly creative decisions, discoveries and breakthroughs come from a place totally beyond the thinking mind.
What I have learned to my surprise (again!) over the past few weeks is that a healthy, nourished body exposed to a lot of sunlight really does tend to host a more positive, healthy mind. The old “healthy body, healthy mind” cliche, a bit more personally experienced.
But there is something of benefit in all internal seasons. What beauty is there not also in the spirit in repose, slightly reflective and objective. I can only imagine the mood of Pessoa when he wrote:
The more I contemplate the spectacle of the world and the ever-changing state of things, the more profoundly I’m convinced of the inherent fiction of everything, of the false importance exhibited by all realities. And in this contemplation (which has occurred to all thinking souls at one time or another), the colourful parade of customs and fashions, the complex path of civilizations and progress, the grandiose commotion of empires and cultures – all of this strikes me as a myth and a fiction, dreamed among shadows and ruins. But I’m not sure whether the supreme resolution of all these dead intentions – dead even when achieved – lies in the ecstatic resignation of the Buddha, who, once he understood the emptiness of things, stood up from his ecstasy saying, ‘Now I know everything’, or in the jaded indifference of the emperor Severus: ‘Omnia fui, nihil expedit – I have been everything, nothing is worth anything.’
A while ago I became frustrated with a landscape I was doing in pastel. It was looking a bit too pastoral and pretty for my taste. It left nothing for the viewer to complete with her imagination. It lay around on my studio floor for some days while I walked and shuffled over it as I came and went. The image improved considerably!
I then reworked it a bit, took a photo and then edited the photo (adding warmth and editing the contrasts), until I came up with the image below. I loved it. It has the warmth and emotional honesty of a true landscape – that is – a landscape seen through eyes of someone who actually feels, fears, lives and breathes.
I posted the above image on my Instagram feed and (sigh) it has received the most likes of anything I posted! I set out trying to reproduce this style of image on paper. My strategy was to lay a foundation in watercolor to get the right warmth, then add the rest in pastel and stomp on it to add some random marks. This is what I came up with:
The image was not quite the same – it lacks the glowing warmth of the edited photo. But it is real and has a charm of its own, so I decided to try some more paintings in this style. Below are some results:
It has been a hard year for our family. The original family unit was down from five to four when I was eight years old. Now in the last half of this year year we lost two more. They live on in the minds of the remainder and the many others that loved them.
I keep seeing in my dreams landscapes where the light has another color. Perhaps something like the painting above? Rolf Jacobsen wrote about this:
In countries where the light has another color
the faces along the streets at dusk
can turn to pearls in a slow sea of indigo.
And you must ask yourself - what do these
fiery diadems reflect here, and whose hands
have scattered them across these dark waters?
Rolf Jacobsen - from:The Roads Have Come To an End Now, translatedby Robert Bly, Roger Greenwald and Robert Hedin
Read that again – that last verse. Those are big questions, aren’t they?
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content as the year roars to its end.
The painting above is charcoal and pastel on paper. I mount the paper over a rough board with some old, dried acrylic paint blotches on it. The rough surface forces me to focus on big areas and not get lost in details – one cannot draw anything small on such a rough surface!
I recently decided to paint on paper rather than board or canvas – mainly because I have so many paintings standing around making me mostly sad. I cannot move around in my studio anymore. Just by coincidence, a fellow painter/blogger commented on my last post that he had started to paint on paper for the same reason.
This got me thinking more about why I put so much time, effort and emotional risk into my painting practice. I can tell you one thing, it is not for the money! (oh God I wish it was!)
I went back in time to my past self, sitting in a small apartment in College Station, Texas in the early 1990’s, getting up at 5 am to practice drawing and make charcoal sketches. Why did I do that?
Moving over my odd 20 years of on-and-off painting, I think in each fresh assault on painting, my motivation evolved in three phases:
Phase 1: I see art that touches me and inspires me. Something in me awakens and says – also want to do that! Motivation: to make something beautiful.
Phase 2: I get feedback from other people (my wife, and these days, blogging or Instagram friends mainly). My motivation morphs – I like having the approval of others, I want more of that.
Phase 3: I strike a plateau. I now turn out paintings steadily, find some pleasing, others not. I still enjoy the praise of others, but part of me starts to wonder: (a) do they really mean it or are we just “liking each other’s stuff”? (b) What do I do with all the paintings?
I think I now go through the above cycle of motivational change in small (monthly) and large (annual) rhythms. Phase 3 is not an easy one. When I am here, I face into the fact that I will most likely never be a famous painter, and – commercial aspects aside – there are simply not enough people who know or are interested in my art to even pay postage to receive it. So what now?
I understand that some may respond to this stage/question in a pragmatic way: “paint better and market yourself and your art better”. But the way I am put together, this state only makes me question deeper.
And the answer I arrive at is always simple, and always the same: I paint because I want to be happy.
Some instinct tells me that painting could be a way to be happy. But one can only be happy in the Now, while painting, not only when and if the result is satisfactory.
And always this points me to the attitude I assume while painting – it is either a gentle, rhythmic, humble form of communion with Something mysterious that is greater than me, or else it is a small, scared pursuit tinged with greed and trepidation.
And to be honest, one the days that I do assume the attitude of communion with something greater than me – working alone and quietly in my studio – I invariably find that there is very little need for strain and control, because the image emerges by itself with only some gentle coaxing from me. And the joy I feel in those moments lasts for hours, makes it all worth while and draws me back again and again. Maybe one day that could be enough for me. I hope.
I am reminded always of the lines from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding when find I drift away from the communal, spiritual attitude into more self-absorbed materialistic one:
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
(text copied from this site)
Thanks for visiting my blog. If you are interested to see more of my paintings, please visit my (slowly) growing website: Fritz Jooste Fine Art.
Those of you that have followed my blog for a while will have noted (perhaps with an eye roll 🙂 ) that I am very often plagued by doubts and fears about my art. It is not a depressing state – simply a part of the fruitful dark side of life. I share this personal stuff in the hope that it would resonate with some other artists out there.
Over the past weeks, I often pondered the two questions “what should I paint?” and “how should I paint?” For some people this would probably be a short deliberation. I wrote about it before in this post.
But for me, this time around, it went back all the way to the “what do you want from life?” question, which is just a hop-skip-and-jump away from the big one: “Who am I?” This sort of progression of questioning is just the way I am – I expect for some of you reading this it may be similar?
I often look at some of the hyper creative and/or skillful painters interviewed on the Painting Perceptions website. These rock stars of the art world generally spend several years drawing from life, studying color etc. before becoming a certified “Master in Fine Art”. The best of them take that skill set and hone it into something that can express their unique voice in new ways – and some of those are just mindbogglingly impressive.
Although in my earlier years as a painter I put in many hours of drawing from life (my poor wife!) and still have notebooks from more than 20 years ago in which I painted pots and pans or systematically copied all of Bridgman’s beautiful drawings.
Despite having some skills in the ‘drawing from life’ department, I am often perplexed about where this leaves me, as someone drawn more to landscapes in the middle and far distance, where quality of light and mood predominate, and focus and detailed drawing is less important.
I am interested in how can this type of composition be perpetually developed into something deeper – more unique, more inquiring? Or is there perhaps a limit to what can be done with this style of landscape:
Please don’t suggest practical answers to the above question! these are questions I long to solve myself! 🙂 There is lots more that can be said about this topic, and…
I think the debate deals with having something meaningful to say versus saying something not necessarily meaningful in a very skillful way. Both have their merits – I think am inclined toward the first – but in visual arts the second approach may just have more depth to be explored over a lifetime?
But in the meantime, as I try to develop my skills and experience as an artist, I will stick to the advice of the painter Thomas Aquinas Daly, which I also quoted in my earlier post referred to above:
…my deep emotional involvement in my subject matter is the essential ingredient that carries my work. For years I floundered in a quandary over what to paint, until I realized the most rudimentary fact: that I should paint what moves me, and if handled with some degree of facility, it should in turn move others. The mistake I feel a great many artists make is in labouring to render material that is totally devoid of feeling…
If a subject matter doesn’t incite my emotions and possess my full sensory attention, it simply doesn’t get painted…
By selecting my subject matter with sentiment, I feel I incorporate a spiritual dimension that is the essence and true strength of any vital art form.
I am sure some artists may disagree with this sentiment, but it just happens to resonate with me. One thing I know for sure – the artist who does not seriously consider these sorts of questions and solves them at a deep internal level will most likely eternally dwell in the forecourt of the arts and craft markets (I realize this is super OK for many artists!)
But for those of us interested in these matters, we have to consider this question deeply over many years. It is probably a way in which there is no ecstasy:
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
Two weekends ago I had my first solo exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in Hamilton, New Zealand. It was exciting if slightly nerve wracking and very rewarding to see so many of my works hanging together. Below is a collection of images from the exhibition opening:
As luck would have it, one of the most respected teachers in the USA, Martin Campos, was in New Zealand to teach and he also attended. Martin is an Adjunct Professor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. You can find an interview with Martin Campos on Painting Perceptions.
I was quite thrilled to have roughly half of my paintings sold at this exhibition. I have reflected on the experience extensively. As a child, I was taught that “showing off” (i.e. exhibiting yourself!) was a bad thing. Something not done by people of character. So being there as a center of attention drawn to myself took adjustment. I tried to mindfully observe the experience as neutrally as possible.
At a solo exhibition I guess it is common for people to point out what paintings they like. Even though no one said what they don’t like, one senses somehow what is not so popular. This creates in me a huge risk of being diverted from what I believe is my true goal in painting – getting to know myself and my internal world better, and providing an outlet for things in me that I value deepest.
I recall reading about the dangers of having an audience in the book “Art & Fear“:
The risk is fearsome: in making your real work you hand the audience the power to deny the understanding you seek; you hand them the power to say, “you’re not like us; you’re weird; you’re crazy.”…catering to fears of being misunderstood leaves you dependent upon your audience. In the simplest yet most deadly scenario, ideas are diluted to what you imagine your audience can imagine, leading to work that is condescending, arrogant, or both. Worse yet, you discard your own highest vision in the process.
Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (pp. 39-40). Image Continuum
Naturally, this does not have to happen. But one becomes highly aware and sensitive to this danger. After all the excitement abated, I took time to reflect deeply on my art and what I wanted to achieve with it. This period of introspection was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this exhibition experience. I feel I have since deepened in my mission as an artist and heeded the advice of Bayles and Orland in “Art & Fear“:
The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work.
Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (p. 48). Image Continuum Press. Kindle Edition.
Amiel said that a landscape is a state of feeling, but the phrase is a flawed gem of a feeble dreamer. As soon as the landscape is a landscape, it ceases to be a state of emotion. To objectify is to create, and no one would say that a finished poem is a state of thinking about writing one.
and something from one of my earlier posts:
Time and time again, a hurried pace, ambition and lack of self awareness takes me to the place of humble-making. There I find myself. Gold is found where I stumble and fall without hope.
I am not that steeply sloping hour that Rilke wrote of:
My life is not this steeply sloping hour
in which you see me hurrying.
I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death's note wants to climb over -
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.
Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Robert Bly in
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you are happy and content.
In my last post I was up to painting #258 (count started when I took up painting again last year). I am now up to #280, not counting smaller mixed media abstracts and pastel landscapes such as those shown below. I am painting faster than I can blog, I have found out!
So for the time being I will not attempt to post all of my paintings anymore, but perhaps just a selection of a few favorites. You can see more paintings at my web site, or if you are interested to see what I am up to on a more regular basis, please follow me on Instagram (#fritzjoosteartist).
Below are some of the paintings I have recently made:
Some of these will be on display in my upcoming exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in Hamilton, New Zealand this weekend (24-26 November). There will be an opening at 6 pm on Friday 24 November. Please come along if you happen to be in the area!
I wrote in an earlier post how, not too long ago, I picked up two books on TS Eliot in a dusty second hand bookstore in a small holiday town in Australia. One of these in particular has been very rewarding – this is The New Poetic, by C.K. Stead.
I have never been able to make sense of some of Eliot’s poetry, and ‘The Waste Land’, in particular, has been a challenge for me to warm to. Yet I could not help sensing there was something there – I felt it but did not understand it. Stead masterfully addresses this common response to Eliot’s poems:
‘The Waste Land’ is composed of a series of projections of ‘states of feeling’ having no fixed centre but their common origin in the depth’s of one man’s mind. The poem traces in its rhythms, in its music, and in the sequence of its images, the evens of that mind at a particular time and in relation to a particular set of external circumstances – circumstances of which we can only ever know a very little.
…it is the feeling, not the experience, which is the poem’s ‘subject’.
This resonates with me at this particular time – very seldom when I paint do I have a particular image in mind. Most of my landscapes are invented (my small sketches in particular). But at a certain point, while painting purely abstractly, something starts to emerge, as in the sequence below:
Often when I attempt something like this, it turns out to be nothing. Or something briefly appears but in my greed for it to be more, I take it past the magic moment. But when it works out, it is something quite special. I sit in my old leather chair in the corner of my studio and watch the painting dance into the darkness as the sun sets.
I found that the best results are those when I leave the world completely behind while working – especially spectators and invented critics. It seems TS Eliot had the same idea in mind when he wrote about the poet (as quoted by CK Stead):
…he is not concerned with making people understand anything. He is not concerned, at this stage, with other people at all: only with finding the right words, or, anyhow, the least wrong words. He is not concerned whether anybody else will ever listen to them or not, or whether anybody else will ever understand them if he does’. (TS Eliot – The Three Voices of Poetry).
I close off with a short poem – one of my favorites:
To Magistrate Zhang
Late, I love but quietness:
Things of this world are no more my concern
Looking back, I’ve known no better plan
Than this: returning to the grove
Pine breezes loosen my robe
Mountain moon beams play my lute.
What, you ask, is Final Truth?
The fisherman’s song strikes deep into the bank.
Original Poem by Wang Wei (translated by J.P. Seaton
in The Poetry of Zen, by J.P Seaton and Sam Hamill)
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and that you are content.