Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Hamilton Residency 3

My new middle name is Curiosity.  Like a little kid, mouth open: wow. huh? how come? really? Wow, really. Who?

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Strangely, it feels like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, living my brand new daily life in an arts hub in the old rather broken, semi-forgotten industrial sector of this big city where my Grandmother raised her children. Memory cells light up each night with twenty new names and connections, emails fly out daily from my computer to people I’ve just met, or want to meet. The work on the walls of my studio changes before my eyes as I try things I’ve never tried, make mistakes I’ve never made, sort through which ones to keep and which to release.

There’s a lot of trust in the air.

I’m deeply aware of my solitude, my autonomy, and grateful beyond measure for the opportunity to stretch myself well beyond what has become comfortable. In the sixth day of the first full -time week I’ve lived here, I can feel my thinking, my painting, my writing and my awareness shift as old belief systems dissolve. There are seven weeks left of this residency, and every one of them is glowing with promise.

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From school to studio; books to paint. It’s a complex shift in awareness and perception, I find.  The road from left to right brain is populated with circus performers and street musicians, frequented by students seeking their masters of illusion, lined with bright market tents full of tempting diversionary tactics. You quickly discover that only tourists stop at these, that it’s important to stay mindful and moving forward.

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It has taken a while to sort out who actually lives here, in the space between things predictably linear and things … shaped and sounded differently.  I’m finding that this right brain work is more about releasing what I think I know than applying any learned structure and experience to what I do, since the objective is to change and expand my understanding of what’s possible.

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Often the return to people and conversation is a shock. I’m happy to be reading the reader’s edition of Carl Jung’s Red Book (2009, Shamdasani, Ed.), which is providing some context for the conscious choice to enter transformative space, and be changed by it. A good ‘bridge’ book, as is Once Upon a Time, a short history of Fairy Tale (Warner, 2014), and The Heart of a Peacock, a collection of short pieces by Emily Carr.

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It’s been useful, occasionally, to dip into Art Lessons, Meditations of the Creative Life (2003, Haynes), or a bit of Emerson. Also to shut the whole thing down, go sit in a big chair at the Jackson Square cinema, eat popcorn and watch Aquaman.

Art heals, writes Sean McNiff. I agree, wholeheartedly. Nature heals too.

Now I’m surrounded by human nature, not my beloved lake and forest from last summer, and we humans are complex. Thank you Nora Bateson, for this 8 minute video, which inspires me to make my own, about what art work makes possible.

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In this place of broken sidewalks and boarded up warehouses we grow art, like sprouts push up asphalt. Slowly, bit by bit, but as surely as the sun rises in the east, artists take places like this and clean up old toxic abandoned soil, growing impossible things in impossible places because it is their nature to do so.

It is a reclaiming of health; I’m grateful to be part of the process.

 

 

 


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#Water: These Changing Seas

Do we all have a natural buoyancy?  I wonder.  Some call themselves ‘sinkers’, and describe the great effort required to stay afloat.  This is subjective, of course. Effort, to some, is a thing to be minimized if not avoided altogether.  To others effort is a joy,  a ‘coming to meet’, a solid, positive investment in something of value.

The ground for the largest of the #Water series paintings (so far). It's a 7'x6' piece of the backdrop canvas that caught the 'runoff' from six years of painting on the south wall of my studio. I'm working on pulling an image out of it - a collaboration with history, in a way. I've overlaid an adult floating figure in it to see if I can suggest a feeling of immersion

The ground for the largest of the #Water series paintings (so far). It’s a 7’x6′ piece of the backdrop canvas that caught the ‘runoff’ from six years of painting on the south wall of my studio. I’m working on pulling an image out of it – a collaboration with history, in a way. I’ve overlaid an adult floating figure in it to see if I can suggest a feeling of immersion.  Not quite what I want, but close…

For others effort is an expression of desperation – a wild reaching for anything that might keep them afloat.  What they grab and use is of no value to them other than a means to rise to the surface.  Even at the surface there is no rest from anxiety, just more effort, more grabbing for fear of sinking again.

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Out of your element.  A fundamental lack of trust in the place you find yourself, a fear that you will become lost to it. Or perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that you are meant for greater things, and as years go by and your greatness still eludes you, you feel yourself caught in the powerful undertow of mediocrity.  Similar effect: your sense of value becomes distorted in the effort to get out. You feel compelled to climb upon and over people you consider mediocre in order to rise and claim your entitlement. In the endless urge to betterment, who has not felt chained at times?

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I prefer surrender to a strong, focused curiosity – the kind that reveals great value where it might not be immediately apparent. A buoyancy I can admire comes from a sense of ‘rightness’ of purpose that is in equal part intuitive and practical, and never rigidly self-serving. I prefer a kind of faith with eyes open.  A trust generously laced with discernment, Havel’s ‘deep and powerful’ hope,

Vaclav Havel, from “Disturbing the Peace (1986)”,

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

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Havel has long been one of the strong voices that puts wind in my sails and floats my boat.  If the word ‘meek’ means strength under control (as many say it did when the Matthew 5:5 was written), then to me that describes the Czech playwright & politician who gave us a chart for humble human courage and dignity – even and especially in absurdly turbulent waters.

Appropriate to a recent experience of mine is this,

Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.

In my experience, humility and good humour do not sink.


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trip theme

I’ve had early morning conversation with one of my rarely seen Incredibles, who is now off to work.  Two others flop in their beds – they will be vertical, and then verbal, soon.

but hang on – the snow is blowing from left to right through the alleyway behind my head.  Horozontal snow is normal in the wilds of greater Kemble where I live, but odd here in this city of 2.6 million.  A Toronto adventure lies ahead – in which folks will perhaps be shocked out of their daily sub-routines into something more…  accessible?  Present?

We are here, for a short time, to float – metaphorically – on a deep urban river in sea kayaks, letting the currents of humanity determine where we will go, and only occasionally choosing paddle-directed routes when compelled by curiosity.  I know of no better way to clear my mind of what has been, and then open it to possibility.  Maybe a long, deep sleep comes close.

The opossum who appeared at our house on New Year's Eve - on a walkabout from Virginia perhaps?  He didn't stick around in any case...

The young opossum who appeared at our Southern Georgian Bay house on New Year’s Eve – on a walkabout from Virginia?

In the next morning’s pause after the early Incredible has left for work I feel a need to name a sub-focus for these 40 hours away – ideas explored several times in conversation with both familiars and strangers.  Allow me to summarize these surprisingly intense discussions – with Enzo at the coffee shop who is working his way off the street, with J who is walking with himself in friendship, with F, M & D, who have their antennae out, with the Norwegian-born writer interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on CBC radio who’s really not sure he should have taken the risks he has taken…  here goes:

The most difficult thing to do with our lives is to make a positive, functional plan that nourishes ourselves, first.  The plan needs to answer an internal passion, utilize natural skills & beloved tools, fan the embers of curiosity and feed back sustaining energy.  The idea and what it manifests should have a built-in capacity to serve a larger community  – i.e. – someone you have nothing to do with can look at, read or hear your work and say, ‘a-ha.  That’s me.’ (or “that’s my aunt.”  etc).  Or they can pick up what you have made and appreciate it’s design and function as part of their own plan…

Imagine the concept is a well-designed garden shed.  The plan becomes the framework.  The work that follows is ‘fleshing it out’ – making it functional, accessible, dry, light etc.

It’s so very easy to make everything else more important than this – even and perhaps especially care-giving, groceries, the internet & a trillion things that can be taken personally but are not that important.  It’s also very easy to believe that unless your work brings in income, it’s not valid.  This is just simply not true.  What is true is that if you find the concept, make the plan (custom-sized to fit what you can realistically accomplish) and then persistently apply the work, what you make will sustain you – more than possibly financially, definitely psychologically.

It will also make everyone else around you much happier.

framework for a concept

framework for a concept

Further to the Theme as discussed :

Once you reach that inner “I’ve Got it!” place,  Forward momentum comes naturally.  Priorities fall back into an order that makes sense, you will have abundant tolerance for all the silliness of your friends and family and the next task and the next will become crystal clear  (as in:  If I’m going to do this, then I’ll have to make a functional space for the doing part – done.  Then I will need a little money – done.  Then I will need this much time – done.  Then I will need a deadline – etc).

I believe everyone and every community on this planet should be engaged in some part of this process right now, for the sake of humanity and the ecosystem we are part of.

The alternative is depression, anger, rage and eventually despair.   Add guns and greed, and …  well.  This is what we’re in the process of healing, are we not?

Happy Monday, all.