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)

 

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

O240-1: A Colorful Non-Being

This is probably the largest painting I have made to date. At about 75 x 60 cm it is not huge by any means but it is at the outside of my comfort zone with oil painting. This image was based on a small invented landscape I did months ago. The photo – snapped with my iPhone in my studio – unfortunately does not do it much justice.

I am back in South Africa for some time, assisting with the memorial service for my father. Sifting through old boxes of keepsakes, deciding what to keep and what to give or throw away – it feels like I am moving though thick liquid.

O240
O240: Oil on Panel, approximately 45 x 30 cm

Jet lag aside, the strange drifts of sadness and melancholy that sweeps my heart during the day makes me feel strangely alive and desperately tired at the same time. I recall reading about the painter Constable’s sadness after losing his wife. He wrote something like: “All is desolate and dark – still, the darkness is magnificent!”.

Perhaps these are the sort of things one should keep private; act like a ‘grown man’ in the spirit of Rilke’s poem:

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.

But I keep imagining someone coming across a blog post like this one – much as one finds a message in a bottle on the beach, and finding a strange comfort in it. And the thought of someone being comforted by my experience, gives me comfort too.

O254-sletch
Pastel on Fabriano HP Watercolor Paper (approx A4 size)

Lying awake at 2 am, I think again of Pessoa and his wonderful prose. He wrote:

To shrug off all duties, even those not assigned to us, to repudiate all homes, even those that weren’t ours, to live off vestiges and the ill-defined, in grand purple robes of madness and in imitation laces of dreamed majesties … To be something, anything, that doesn’t feel the weight of the rain outside, nor the anguish of inner emptiness … To wander without thought or soul – sensation without sensation – along mountain roads and through valleys hidden between steep slopes, into the far distance, irrevocably immersed … To be lost in landscapes that are like paintings … A colourful non-being in the distance …

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

Before my flight to South Africa, I wrote a friend and gallery owner who had invited me to exhibit at his gallery. I told him about the death of my father and asked to postpone our planning for the exhibit.

Wisely, he said not to worry about the practicalities but to focus on getting closure. He also mentioned: “when you return you may find your painting style had changed”. I am thinking that might actually happen.

To get closer to the truth, closer to that strange melody of caution and hesitation that has never left since childhood – if I cannot get that to show in a painting, why bother? What a wonderful opportunity to delve into the heart and love the questions inside.

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

 

 

 

 

O231: Transience of Things

This painting is another attempt to render a scene I see often on my daily walk up Driver Road. The source photo together with an earlier attempt is shown below.

In this scene I am approaching a steep hill with a grove of pine trees. The sun is rising behind and to the east of the the clouds, giving it a side and back lighting that creates an aura of light and shadow over cloud and landscape.

o86-source

Below is my first attempt at rendering this scene which I also posted earlier. Looking at it in this small format, I almost like the first one better, but the comparison is unfair. The first one (directly below), is much smaller and the paint applied much thinner.

o86

In my most recent attempt, the thicker, broken application of paint creates a shimmering density of color that simply cannot be captured by camera, and the larger scale mimics something new in the landscape:

O231
#O231: Oil on Panel (Size approximately 60 cm x 45 cm)

 

Much has happened in my life over the past two weeks. I cannot stop painting and my mind is wandering on far roads I have never seen; I am falling behind so fast in logging paintings. So I will have to just log some without a post to go along with each:

The painting below was painted over my earlier work posted here. I think I have since painted over it again – this may have been a mistake.

O232
#O232: Oil on Panel (Size approximately 60 cm x 45 cm)

The painting below was at the time the largest one I ever did. Sad to say this was only about 60 cm x 60 cm. It appears to be a favorite of my friends and family. I have since put a nice frame around it (below)

O234
#O231 Oil on Panel (approx 60 cm x 60 cm)

Here is #O231 in a floating frame I made – it is a horrible photo, color all wrong, but you get the idea:

O234-framed

And here are two smaller sketches:

O235
#O235 Oil on Panel (approx 8 x 10 inches)
O236
#O236 Oil on Panel (approx 8 x 10 inches)

O236-sketch

In the photo above, I show the thumbnail concept sketch on which painting #O236 is based.

Almost finally, here are two larger paintings, both are favorites of mine for their density and depth of color, but I get the idea most others are not too fond of it, which is sadly fine by me.

O237b
O237: Burn-stack in Winter, New Zealand
O238
#O238: Looking South-West, Making Good Time

So now I am almost caught up. I have about another 12 paintings to log to catch up but I am not sure when that is going to happen. Meantime I keep painting.


Last week someone close to me passed away. It was all in accord with the blueprint, but in many small ways, life will never be the same for me. Sadness blows in drifts through my day. Tasks are left undone.

In my frosty morning walks I notice the ducks – not feeling the cold because they are so thoroughly cold themselves. I recall again the poem by the 12th century poet Fujiwara No Teika:

You who fail to think
on the transience of things,
listen: do you hear,
in that far mountain village,
a duck cries on the frozen pond?

from The Poetry of Zen by Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton

 

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

O228-30: Emerald World

This is yet another attempt to come to grip with two things that lie at the end of my comfort zone in painting: (a) interpreting an intensely green landscape; and (b) innovating the horizon line.

In New Zealand, cool greens, whites and blues dominate much of the North Island landscape. Though most of my landscapes are invented, I find that I constantly draw imagery from my 3 km morning walk through the New Zealand countryside. Bringing that back into the studio is becoming my painting practice.

Handling large masses of green whilst still keeping depth, interest and variation is a challenge, and I keep on going at from different angles. I am quite happy with this effort:

O228
#O228: Emerald World; Oil on Panel (approx 45 x 30 cm)

 

I found a gem of a poem in Marie Marshall’s “Naked in the Sea”, dealing somehow with the same “problem of green”. Here are the first and last verses:

E is for the Emerald World: 
summer in all its sickening fullness 
the lush and green depth of trees 
alive with the rustling of bird-wings 
this time when the stink of wild garlic 
and of the crushed stems of fennel 
make the corners of my mouth ache 
...
give me the naked honesty of the desert 
of the undrinkable ocean’s sky-to-sky 
or of the dust-devils of the townscape 
because the emerald world of summer 
is a green gem of ever-hard promises
mocking the starvation-stone in my belly

Marshall, Marie. Naked in the Sea 
P'kaboo Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Below are two other paintings where I was pushing the edge of my comfort zone a bit. In the first, I was trying to keep a very light key. After this photo was taken, I unfortunately started fiddling with this painting whilst in a bad mood and managed to wreck it completely. It is now slated for recycling.

O229
#O229: Oil on Panel (approx 60 x 40 cm)

In the painting below, I was trying to work mostly in blue and grey. I have had a few good responses to this painting, but somehow I am not too fond of it myself. It was good practice though!

O230
#O230: Oil on Canvas (approx 45 x 30 cm)

I keep going through cycles of doubt and confidence – proving that I am alive and fairly normal. The Doubt, I believe, is one of the most feared and useful facets in an artist’s arsenal. But seeing it that way can be a challenge.

In Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, he advises as follows:

And your doubt may become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become critical. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perplexed and embarrassed perhaps, or perhaps rebellious. But don’t give in, insist on arguments and act this way, watchful and consistent, every single time, and the day will arrive when from a destroyer it will become one of your best workers—perhaps the cleverest of all that are building at your life.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. W. W. Norton & Company.

 

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

 

O227: The Universe Moves Slightly

This is a larger version of a small oil painting sketch that I posted earlier. If you look at the earlier post, you will see that the painting had two lives – an initial confused and darker one, and then it stepped into the light. All three versions are shown below:

This latest painting is approximately 60 cm x 45 cm in size which is about the largest size I am comfortable with right now, although I have two larger paintings on/off my easel that I am tinkering with.

I am out-painting my blog!

When I started around March last year, I used to blog almost every day and had to paint to keep up with my blog. Now I am posting #227 but this afternoon I already completed #243! I guess for an artist focused on painting that indicates a correct sequence of time/priority?

I sometimes share some of my latest paintings on Instagram – those that I have not yet put into a blog post (Instagram name is @fritzjoosteartist, if you are interested).

I have to say, one of the reasons for not posting as regularly is that I have not read anything inspiring lately, apart from Marie Marshall’s book of poetry that I mentioned in my last post.

Often, doing my morning reading and walking, I am inspired by something I read and can compose a paragraph to accompany it in my mind. Lately all I see is color – no words and very little sounds.

Well in case you need some inspiration for your day, I hope you enjoy this excerpt from a poem by Shinkichi Takahashi:

The Position of the Sparrow (last verse)
...
Because the whole is part, there's not a whole,
Anywhere, that is not part.
And all those happenings a billion years ago,
Are happening now, all around us: time.
Indeed this morning the sparrow hopped about
In that nebulous whirlpool
A million light years hence.
And since the morning is void,
Anything can be. Since mornings
A billion years from now are nothingness,
We can behold them.
The sparrow stirs,
The universe moves slightly.

Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk in 
Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breezes Enter

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish you happiness and contentment.

O226: Backscatter Memories

I am falling behind! I have made so many paintings since I painted this, I cannot really remember the person who made this painting, about 15 days ago. But the painting started like this:

O226a

and then went on to this:

O226b

This is an invented landscape. So who knows what dreams behind that hill, whereto that road over a half-ploughed field from another season, somewhere in Cullinan?

Yesterday I purchased a new book of poetry – this one called Naked in the Sea, by Marie Marshall, an award winning poet who posts some of her poems right here on WordPress. Some of these poems carry turns of phrase such as “..we will be whispered down” – phrases that take me right into silence and the wonder of not-knowing.

She starts off her poem “Leaf 22″ like this:

Time is now a commodity for wasting, 
so say the long minutes of daylight, 
and the backscatter memories, brave 
in the sky, of no more than half-dark. 

And yet each day there is a minute or two 
eaten away, a pixel here and there 
taken from a whole, day-long picture, 
and the wise, sad, glass-half-empty person 
knows she will wake up one day and there 
will be the end of the precious season.

Marshall, Marie. Naked in the Sea. P'kaboo Publishers. Kindle Edition.

As with many of Marshall’s poems, this one ends with a leap that turns my senses onto themselves:

Why do I spend my time dancing here, 
do you know?

 

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