Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Grand Plan

In the corner of my well-collected room there is a gilded chair, with cushions of soft cedar green.

I observe both chair and my pleasure in it, thinking how odd it is to have something right there in my room so finely made that the gilding is not ostentatious, but appropriate.

I do not sit in it.

My room, looking away from the gilded chair, at the bay window couch I do my reading in.

My room, looking away from the gilded chair, at the bay window couch where I’ve been reading anthropological studies of the Western Conservatory Music culture all day

Art Fundamentals 7th edition (Ocvirk/Stinson/Wigg/Bone/Cayton, 1994); Free to be Musical (Higgins/Campbell, 2010); The Tone of our Times (Dyson, 2014) – this week’s doors, waiting to be unlocked, to be passed through. Other doors I’ve left open behind me, each granting passage into a thought-provoking room, hallway, staircase.

view from reading couch

view from reading couch

Up, down, through, in.  Cognitive dungeon to library to kitchen to widow’s peak – each a different ‘ology’, each a story that links to all the others ever written, and those only now being conceived.

My mind is becoming vast like an ever-expanding castle, which, although timely and immensely satisfying, is not entirely comfortable.  Often it’s a tight squeeze.  I forget things like where the car is, what music I need to find, what day it is….

Union Station subway poem, Rush hour Oct 27

Union Station subway poem, rush hour Oct 27

Travel and roads.  I’ve spent a great deal of time not-home, in-between.  I don’t mind this 600+ km each week of highway through orange maple trees and purple skies, cropped fields and pumpkins on shelves by the roadside. Pumpkins like people, each one a different shape and size, some sideways, some flat, some enormous, others tiny, a couple of them smashed into pulp on the road.

In between I read through and into cognitive change.  I tune my cello/voice and play/sing for Tom Thomson, for Mary Sue Rankin, who are gone from here but also Not-Gone, ever.  I am honoured and humbled to be part of a circle teaching gift from three powerful indigenous women, and to be gifted an improvised-traditional calligraphic rendering of my friend and colleague’s Chinese name. As the kilometres go by and events sift down into understanding, I realize with growing certainty that the most valuable ones are those that cannot be purchased.

Home from Toronto Oct 29.

Home from Toronto Oct 29.

Oh yes.  Lawyers (an interesting and useful contrast), to collaboratively and fairly settle and resolve a marriage that ended three years ago. Muffler replacement on my hard-working honda.  These are purchased in the name of maintenance, a ‘taking care of’.  A garden full of beautiful perennials (rescued from the bad marriage), now being choked by goutweed – I will start digging it out tomorrow morning, also putting away the beautiful summer writing space on my back deck, now blanketed by yellow ash leaves.

Certainly, for things like these, for ‘taking care of’, it’s good to earn a decent living.

ashtree_fall2016

My beautiful ash tree, three weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving. Now it’s mostly on the deck.

Remembrance day concert soon in the marvellously thriving community arts centre – this one a collaboration of elementary school musicians and the community concert choir, who both need cello, lucky me.

Things you can’t purchase, but have the greatest value.

Generosity.  Thanks-giving.  Remembrance.  Care.

 


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Colour Pages #1: Yellow

I’ve been ill and intensely insomnia’d recently – slowed down enough to obligingly revise my to-do lists from twenty things to one – or two if the gods are smiling.  In the in-between times, too tired to sleep or read or write or hold a thought long enough to notice what it is …. I’ve been bored.  This is no small thing and I do not make light of it. According to my upbringing and my deepest inclinations, boredom is a crime of the most serious nature.  A crime AGAINST nature, in fact.  It is absence of life and purpose.

YellowBell_Nov2015psd

This is not the yellow that I see in the original before me. The violet / purple in the background is close, after much calibration in photoshop. Why can’t I get the yellow to read, digitally? what’s up with that?

And so I feel like I’ve been KO’d.  I over-react in a kind of panic by revving my engines when I can find & start them – HUGE waste of precious gasoline.  In those moments, roaring like an worn out F350, I lock myself into an intense but oh-too-brief road-race contemplation of mortality, choice, autonomy, risk, personal truth… and joy, both humbly small and thunderingly huge.  I know full well this is a form of madness.

In the midst of this I ask myself, ‘What do you think?

(Like I’m in sanctuary, on White Cloud Island.)

About Yellow?

(Seeking relief, which it is.)

I’ll call these the Colour Pages.

same photo directly translated into black and white (photoshop CS4).  I did try, in a filter called ‘colour balance’ to remove every colour:  (red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta) and the result was close enough to be the same.  So, where is the black, or the ‘absence of colour’, in this hot yellow I see in the original in front of me?  What are my eyes  – our eyes! – seeing that science and technology does not?

This blog has always been about process – the articulation and the sharing of it, the practise and the primacy of it.  I’ve felt always that finished paintings are but a by-product of what happens on the road from concept to completion. This in no way diminishes the importance of paintings as living, resonant things.  In my experience the finished (by)product will  always ‘sing’ if the practise that leads to it has integrity.   In order for process to have integrity however, I feel that it must be the most challenging, transformational part of art-making.  Not for the faint of heart, if you’re serious and have respect for what you do.

I’ve noticed that my idea of what a ‘professional’ product is has changed – especially over these past two years.  My ear for intonation and tone has as well, musically, which is the same muscle. Turns out it’s a constant refinement of perception.

January 2016

January 2016

Yellow, then.   Hmmm.

Why do I associate yellow with a seeking of Knowledge?

Lemon, pineapple seem obvious but that’s not what I taste.  Why does it instead taste like cumin?

Why does it feel like yellow is not a colour, but a light?  Like the feeling of sunlight in April after a long winter.

Cold yellow feels toxic; I avoid it’s use.  (Curious that this yellow is often called ‘lemon’.  Huh. The manufactured colour is not the same as my experience of lemon, unless you can call a colour ‘sour’.)  Cadmium yellow is a colour I avoid using as well – it feels opaque, obliterating, like heavy, cheap cheesey food – doesn’t work well with others, or my belly. Naples, Windsor, Barium, Turner’s, Chrome… I’ve used all of these but they resist light and do not glow.

A little internet digging (here) offers some history of artists’ eternal inquiry into yellow pigment for use in painting…

Gallstone
Prepared from the gallstone of an ox and gives a reasonably dark yellow. Nicholas Hilliard found it useful for shading with miniature work. John Payne in the 18th century found that dishonest colourmen were selling an inferior substitute. He suggested in his book on miniature-painting that artists should approach slaughter-houses and that the men there should be on the watch for gallstones. In 1801 it was one of the top four most expensive colours, Ackerman’s showing a charge of five shillings a cake.
Gamboge
A native yellow gum from Thailand. A bright transparent golden yellow for glazing or water-colour, it is not a true pigment. It has been in use since medieval times. J Smith in The Art of Painting in Oyl, published in 1701, describes a method for preparing the colour, which usually comes in rough cylinders about 2.5 in (6 cm) in diameter. ‘For a Yellow Gumboge is the best, it is sold at Druggist in Lumps, and the way to make it fit for use, is to make a little hole with a knife in the lump, and put into the hole some water, stir it well with a pencil till the water be either a faint or a deeper Yellow, as your occasion requires, then pour it into a Gally-Pot, and temper up more, till you have enough for your purpose.’ (Pencil here would mean a small, soft, hair brush.)
Geranium Lake
A fugitive pigment made from Eosine that was in vogue during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Van Gogh used it in versions of his Sunflowers. Now obsolete.
Giallorino
A lead yellow pigment likely to have been Naples Yellow. The Florentine painter Cennino Cennini mentions that Giallorino is associated with volcanoes but artificially made. This coincides with Naples yellow, which in Antiquity was collected as natural deposits from Mount Vesuvius, but by Cennini’s time had been synthesised. Another possibility is that the name refers to Lead-Tin Yellow (see below)….

… if you’d like to know more, go to the link here.

March 16, morning.

March 16, morning.

So technical and so familiar a thing for me, this historical context for colour.

For the purposes of this blog it’s infinitely infuriating that I can’t show you how HOT with yellow this painting actually is, right in front of me in my studio.  This is not entirely because of my relatively poor equipment or knowledge of digital colour, either.  I think the translation is not possible – original painting to internet or print.  This both saddens and gladdens me, as a painter.

You’ll just have to believe and imagine a yellow so alive it burns your retina and blots out all other colour.  A threshold yellow, beckoning, compelling, and also repelling.  Nickel Azo yellow, with washes of  ‘Indian’ yellow (good grief, what does That mean?), Mars Yellow, Hansa yellow medium and light….

Later on March 16

Later on March 16, still wet when photographed. Traditional colour theory says that compliments bring out the essence of their opposites – green and red; orange and blue; yellow and purple.  In this painting I want to initiate a different conversation – Azo with Cobalt.  Intense, so far.  We’ll see who else wants to be at table with those two….

More to come.

I’m happy to welcome April sun again, heartened by it as I am every year.

Here’s a tag thought:  perhaps boredom is in fact a place where structure can be set aside so that other, more fluid and enduring, changing things can enter?

Colour pages will continue – like my digital version of Klee’s notebooks, which I long to read in english.  From my familiar painter’s island, these will be a freeform romp through thoughts around the business of and tools for making visual art:  colour, line, form, subject, song, frequency, culture and cultural democracy, transformation.

Chime in, by all means – the process is best if collaborative.  Together we are an ecosystem and nothing happens in isolation.

 

 


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Who designed this?

The Harness is off.  It’s over there on the floor.

Curious, to see this thing I’ve worn for 30+ years…  Who made it?  Why so tight?  Why the rough rope?  It’s ingenious, actually.  There’s a pull cord I see that will jab thumbtacks into my backside when I’m slowing down, and simultaneously tighten the collar around my neck…  added incentive to get through the last 10% of every project?

I recognize that this harness was designed by me, however unconsciously, from the inherited protestant ethic of Work as Suffering.  Life is work, therefore (inevitably) Life is Suffering.  Extrapolated:  If you don’t suffer, you’re not working hard enough.  This idea can take the joy right out of any task – even if it’s your highest calling.  It can in the extreme lead to the wearing of hair shirts, to self-flagellation, martyrdom/victimhood,  the false rationalization of the need to live like a starving artist …

up next.  Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy - to engage, or not.

up next. Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy – to engage, or not.

To be clear – I’ve had a super-productive, satisfying time since April, when I began work on the #Selfie project.  It’s been an experience full of engagement, surprise, transformation – rich with reward on every level.   I also met my harnessed self full-on several times, too, and recognized someone driven in a way that is not healthy.

With several new projects on the table now – each one full of promise, potential and fascination, I find myself wondering about this.  As I take the breath one takes before diving in, I wonder

Do I really need the thumbtacks?

Does it need to come to suffering and self-denial, this finishing?

Must it be a battle, every time?

 

resist underpainting

resist underpainting

At the very least I need to radically alter the design.  To find and use material that I like – softer, padded. No thumbtacks, no injectors full of anxiety, no neck collar.   Maybe it should be more like a well-crafted tool that will help me to pull a heavier load.

Or maybe the work isn’t heavy, and I don’t need a harness at all.

This is quite a thought.

dance step 2 resist underpainting.  The power is in the space between

dance step 2 resist underpainting. The power is in the space between

Maybe I just need to change my mind.

This is exciting.  So is 2014-2015.  So many neato, challenging collaborative and solo projects ahead.  So many Incredibles to work and play with.  Without suffering for any of it.

So, Honoured Protestant Ancestors.  What you lived and suffered in protest to is no longer life-threatening; the ethic no longer applies in any way that’s healthy and life-affirming.  Sleep in peace, with big smiles.  Grins, even.

 

“If you bring forth the genius within you it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.”

– Jesus, gnostic Gospel of Thomas (which didn’t make it into the bible.  Too bad.)

 

 


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#Selfie 19: The Writing of Book

As predicted, each painting for #Selfie has had it’s own arc of becoming.  They have all been surprises, have all taught me things I wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s been a privilege to be at the centre of this project and participate in the discovery, the shaping and polishing of each facet.  Quite a geological process – I am changed by it, I know.

I sat down to pull the book together and realized that even though the whole project has a broader, wider arc I was still inside it, making.  Still in process, still on the curve…

It became clear over the days of showing up for writing that this lovely broad #Selfie arch also had a corresponding shadow.  As I walked along this one it became narrower, and darker, and steeper – in descent.

Then I realized, “Ah.  This is personal now.”

also, “Ah.  This is writing of Book”.

'map' for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

‘map’ for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

#Selfie has been a great collaborative experience – music, performance art, spoken word, poetry, well-considered response and story.  Ron de Boer and staff, david sereda, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Coco Love Alcorn, Christopher McGruer, Paul Hartmann, Christian Wilke, Marcus Vichert, Norm Bell, Thom MacFarlane, Kate Walsh, John Fearnall, Brad Morley, Frank Klaassen… so many more who climbed in and on to add thought, response, notice, rhyme, feeling, rhythm, comment.  Highly resonant, this idea of examining #Selfie.

#Selfie Examination.

three of five images, underdrawing...

three of five images, underdrawing…

Did I think it had already got personal, in the making of the paintings?  Yes.  Yes I did think that.

But the paintings were one of five components to #Selfie.  There was also the collaborative performance; the collaborative spoken word; the blog (the way in to the paintings); and the book.  The book is the larger arc – both visible and public, and invisible, personal.  Not a compilation (though I thought that’s what it would be), not a summary or a closing paragraph.  It has elements of those ideas, but the book needed to be a distillation of the experience into something …chewable.

So I wrote a folk tale.

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

It begins this way,

A girl was born with a sleeping wound buried deep inside her.  She also had joy, which was clear for anyone to see.

While she was growing up, her family, who loved her very much, gave her another wound to keep, and buried it deep in her future.  They also gave her love, which was clear for anyone to see.

They made the wound they gave her out of pieces of their own memories, fragments of their parent’s arguments, scattered bits of rage and anger that they had collected from behind the doors and under the carpets, in the chesterfield beneath the pillows, under the beds, under the kitchen sink.  they put all of their hopes and dreams for her in the wound, and wrapped it all up in a beautiful cloth made from their love.

That was the way it had happened for them, the way it had always been, and the way it would always be.

more colour

more colour, corrected drawing

I’ve loved the essential nature of Folk Tales for as long as I can remember.  They don’t mess around with descriptive filler or emotional drama, but deliver metaphor in layers which the reader can take in and combine, to build their own image and intuitive response.  Always I’m trying to do this with my paintings.  This last #Selfie painting more than any of the others – possibly because of the book writing, and the Folk Tale…

When the time came for the girl to leave her parents and seek her fortune, everyone agreed that she was well-prepared.  Beautiful and full of life, promise, intelligence and talent, it was clear that she would have no trouble finding success, fulfilment, happiness and love.

And so she did.  As the years passed, everyone who knew her was reassured by the clean arc of her life, since This was the way it had happened for them, The way it had always been, The way it would always be.

She herself was happy, content and grateful for the comforts she enjoyed, until she came to the day in her future where her parents’ gift was buried.

TotemJuly27

Today from 6 until 8pm we will launch the book and this final #Selfie painting.  The show will come down on August 8th, and then #Selfie will be in Chapter Two, which I’ve not written yet, but I shall.  Here’s the link to that event if you’re nearby & on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/748736241853940/

The story to be told there is a more introspective one – it’s mine, certainly, but also it belongs to anyone who is pulled to #Selfie Examination.  Good heavens there are riches there – fragility; audacity; strength; disempowerment; blind, mute sadness; singing joy; risk and nourishment.  It behooves one to keep walking down the path….

Final painting.  This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is... interpretive.  Come and see the original if you can.

Final painting. This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is… interpretive. Come and see the original if you can.

In the story, the girl meets a Hermit.  Then she meets the Great God Pan.  Then she meets Baba Yaga, and ….

Well, write to me if you want the rest of the story.  It belongs, I think, to all of us.

 


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sitting bones

This morning’s cold has made the rain weightless.  As I watch from my third floor window I can feel the pull and flow of ocean, save that it’s air – currents made visible by tiny crystals of frozen water.  The north wind, playing.

My walk at dawn was full of the promise of this; I’m glad to be in the saddle now watching it happen.

NorthWindPlaying

The saddle today is all about music education – not just classical, not just conventional, but real and applied like a cord that weaves through every part of life (in Austria the bricklayers sing opera as they work). I’ve got alot of ground to cover from now to Sunday evg – on familiar roads, abandoned roads, through fields, bush and escarpment on animal trails – always pulling this cord (chord?) of an idea through it all.  (I’m tempted* to play a little with this idea (like the North Wind) and pull up the Minotaur in the Labyrinth myth….)

MusicBinders

There are models out there that answer the need for a strong, universal program for kids to learn and play music.  Every one of them needs to be altered to fit the place they will be.  Every one of them needs strong advocates on the ground, a solid team of non-competitive, collaborative teacher/player/coaches, and the clear understanding that without including and involving the parents, the community will never engage, the bricklayers will never sing on their scaffolds.

celloHip

There will be some valuable breaks from the computer – practise on cello & viola & piano, learning vocal lyrics, arrangements; rehearsing & playing a great benefit gig for the Phillippines with great friends (& incredible players); hikes in the playful snow.  Through it all my heart and head will still be in the saddle here, building a good plan.  I love this work.  Love it, love it.

detail of 4'x4' painting in progress:  D-ring snaffle bit

detail of 4’x4′ painting in progress: D-ring snaffle bit

I have the bit in my teeth now and girth snug on my belly – I’m both horse and rider, and we’re off.  See you on Sunday if you live here. Have a great weekend, wherever you are,  if you don’t.  ‘Hope you get to play.

Here’s the Phillippines poster:

calm in the eye poster1(1)

 

*maybe later, since it would require a pretty serious re-write.  I’m not sure that the bull-headed beast is a bad thing that needs to die in this version, and not sure we need one hero (we need many). Cut or change Theseus’ motivation, re-write Ariadne’s lines, keep the labyrinth as a metaphor for accepting what you don’t and cannot know until you’ve gone the distance,  give the Minotaur an archetypal weight and purpose because we need him, there’s always a scary beast….