A Form of Communion

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?

P36
Charcoal and Pastel on Fabriano HP Cotton paper (first wrinkled, then stretched, which creates the “veins” throughout the painting)

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?

P29
Charcoal and Pastel on Fabriano HP Paper

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)
P38
Charcoal and Pastel on Fabriano HP Paper

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.

 

 

 

Larger Questions?

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.

O270
O270 (oil on canvas paper)

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?

O273
O273 (oil on canvas paper)

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:

O278
O278: (oil on canvas, 16 x 16 inches)

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?

[If you are interested in this issue, I strongly recommend you study the interview with Harold Reddicliffe on Painting Perceptions].

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.

Thomas Aquinas Daly – Painting Nature’s Quiet Places

(out of print)

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.

T.S. Eliot – excerpt from Four Quartets

Thanks for visiting my blog. Apologies for the long post! If you are interested to see more of my paintings, please visit my (slowly) growing website: Fritz Jooste Fine Art.

Place of Humility

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:

I was very honored to have some established and respected artists such as Jennie de Groot, Santie Cronje and Michelle Ives at my 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.

O276
O276 (oil on canvas paper)

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.

P37
P37 (charcoal and pastel on wrinkled paper)

 

I leave you with some beautiful prose by Pessoa:

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.

Back to the Grove

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!

IMG_3591

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.

IMG_E3773

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.

 

 

 

 

O255-O258

After a trip away from home in August and September, I really struggled to get back to painting. Pressure at work and a mind that was too busy meant I was only in the studio for short periods of time and those were mostly short and distracted. In this mind-state I just played around with paint and slowly emerged three abstract paintings which I decided to keep. Some others did not make it…

O255

The one above was the first time I painted on canvas in quite a while. I rather enjoyed the feeling of canvas and will probably revert back to canvas more often in future.

This second one was painted the next day, and I started leaning into a more green and blue atmosphere. This is oil and cold wax on panel:

O256

The third one was made in the same week. It seems to be the most popular, based on Instagram likes – if that is anything to go by:

O258
O258: Pathless at Night (oil and cold wax on panel)

Robert Henri wrote:

THE WORK OF THE ART STUDENT is no light matter. Few have the courage and stamina to see it through. You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways. We like sympathy and we like to be in company. It is easier than going it alone. But alone one gets acquainted with himself, grows up and on, not stopping with the crowd. It costs to do this. If you succeed somewhat you may have to pay for it as well as enjoy it all your life.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit (p. 12). Basic Books.

When I made the last painting (O258) I was feeling my way through the days. My father had recently passed away (I wrote about this in another post), and since my return to New Zealand I have been ambivalent about my art and what I want to – or will be able to – achieve with it. I mean – why do this?

The emotion I felt reminded me of the phrase from Rilke’s poem “We must die because we have known them”. It is the sort of uncertainty one can perhaps only keep silent about – like wandering “Pathless at Night”:

...
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
is silent.

As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Oh yes! I have a silly little website up now for my art! For my upcoming exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in November,  I needed to have something more than an online blog presence, so I created my site Fritz Jooste Fine Art just to showcase some paintings.  It still needs some work to make it more professional, but it is there at least.

Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and long-time supporters who have encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.

 

O252-4: Wait Without Hope

One of the larger landscapes I have done. This one is about 70 x 70 cm (Oil and Cold Wax on Panel). The images below show a close-up as well as another painting done in the same week.

O254-framed
O254: Oil and Cold Wax on Panel (approx. 70 x 70 cm)

It is difficult for my iPhone camera to capture the nuance of light and color correctly. In the photo above, the painting appears to be almost uniform in tone and color in the fore and middle ground. But as the closeup below shows – there is a bit more color and variation than the camera captures:

O254-detail

 

The painting below is one of my favorites, but sadly it does not seem to appeal that much to others (going by my Instagram feed). That’s OK with me.

O252-framed
O252: Lost Landscape (Oil and Cold Wax on Panel, approx 60 x 45 cm)

My numbering of paintings got mixed up – there is no O253, but I do not have the energy to re-number all the ones afterwards, so this will have to do!


In a sleepy, seaside second-hand bookstore, I came across two books on TS Eliot (one of my favorite poets). The one is The Invisible Poet: T.S. Eliot, by Hugh Kenner. My morning coffee has new life all of a sudden. Kenner densely but steadily persists to show how Eliot found his way through the no-mans land of artificiality in his art, partly through his study of the philosopher Bradley:

It freed him from the Laforguian 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; and it released him from any notion that the art his temperament bade him practice was an eccentric art, evading for personal and temporary reasons a more orderly, more “normal” unfolding from statement to statement. 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.

The Invisible Poet: T.S. Eliot, P48

For me, Eliot’s poems are landscapes of the inner landscapes of people who may or may not be Eliot himself. It exposes, but does not focus on, the petty decisions (“I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled”), to larger ones, including: “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

But always the question “Who Am I?” seems to hover around Eliot’s poetry.  Kenner quotes a segment from Eliot’s play “The Cocktail Party”:

Who are you now? You don't now any more than I do,
But rather less. You are nothing but a set
Of obsolete responses. The one thing to do
Is to do nothing. Wait.

This may seem fatalistic or nihilistic; but Eliot I think was pointing at a more humble form of waiting, as hinted at in “East Coker” (one of his the “Four Quartets”):

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

 

Thanks for visiting!

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.

 

Thanks for visiting my blog!

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

 

Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you are happy and content.

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

 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

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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