Keirartworks's Blog

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


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I feel change

It’s a mouth-taste, odd.  Also pit of my stomach when I notice I’ve casually ‘turned over a stone’ and uncovered memories from 13 years ago.  Remembering I ran away then, wondering at the grand plan that overrode those better instincts and pinned me like a specimen inside a story that wasn’t mine. For a decade.

Print of the Music Room at Haddon Hall, Darbyshire.

Print of the Music Room at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire.

I understand I’m being triggered by recent events that have little to do with me.  It’s fascinating – I feel my pulse change as old traumas rise to the surface, still stinking like dead fish.

In three years I’ve healed enough to function well at a steady pace, to build new systems that will I hope benefit many, articulate plans well enough to go hunt them with proposals, maintain full-time work and a part-time Masters study.  But these rememberings are embedded deeper than surface function.

I’m shocked, ten years on, by the detail of my recall.

 

stgeorgestreetsigns

This is happening now because I’m painting again, in preparation for the December 3 Studio Tour.  There is no way around it – the visual art work always takes me down and in.  The paintings are a by-product.

Nov 2 Bridge to CM Masters

Nov 2 Bridge to CM Masters

Standing Rock #NoDAPL,which on facebook is getting twenty to thirty times the coverage of the US election, world-wide.  It’s not just the pit of my stomach that knows this is a game-changer.  Idle No More, indeed.

I seek to understand my own ancestors, and the ways and means I can forgive them – industrialists, colonials all – for the damage they wrought here.  I am part of that history – that long awful story of dominance, abuse and neglect.

bridgenov2_2

My belly is telling me change is here.  It’s time for a new story.


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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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Lift out

These days begin in darkness and wet.

Windsheild

We live in multiple layers of clothing against the cold damp of constant seeping rain, walk under umbrellas, and peek out from under shelter until some blue sky appears.

JonesFalls2

Then we breathe the blue and the coloured leaves, and roll in the damp ones underfoot.  We go to the flashing streams, the roaring falls, the pounding waves and we exult

..until the rain and the cloud and the pounding wind bring us under and in again.

Wave2Oct_21

These times.  Pressured, heavy, challenged, shifting.  Some of us don’t have dancing feet.  Some have not learned to swim.

CurbPuddle

Two days ago in Ottawa a man died on Parliament hill.  He suffered from serious mental illness  – serious enough that he found himself a gun and  shot another man who worked as a soldier there.  I grieve for both men, whom we, in our culture, have failed to see clearly.

Poem for Michael Zehaf-BibeauMichael Zehaf-Bibeau, for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist, and for every single one of us who struggles with addiction and mental illness, in sorrow for this:

Broken Voice
September 24: studio

Thought can re-write history, she says
Meditative thought influences the order of things
Orders them more neatly so there’s less damage done.
and there’s the
small voice the difficulty
swallowing
the closed throat mid-
sentence, the little
alarms shot with adrenaline
the subtle gagging that
no one notices but
There’s no problem. Who

…said there was a
problem?  Mental Illness is only
addiction is only
another form of terrorism-
We just need more Security and

I think I caught something in
the subway – just a virus it
comes and goes it’s
not
permanent.

…something about bare feet, walking
about not leaving prints behind,
and if you do your feet print
history

I’m looking at them now,
the prints
but I can’t read
I’m not sure what happened.  Or how…?

I just want to drink an ocean of alcohol
passive-watch movies that siphon rage
go to classical concerts full of fury, listen to poets
who have found something
to let somebody else do the darkness
the refined, articulate hurt that they’ve managed to
filter through all of their exhausted bewilderment how
can I

Impotent. Invisible. I just want to sleep. only sleep.
it’s taking every ounce of my strength
to resist the rampage,
The terrible roar in me.


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Junk?

I’m about to leave for a long-awaited trip to Lake Superior.  We’ll take the kayaks, a lovely new tent & good camping gear (the best wedding presents ever); the bikes, some tomatoes from the garden since the plants are now overflowing, books, cameras, and my own cluttered mind, in hopes that the latter can be washed clear in the cold cold waters of the Great Lake.

It’s like jumping off a cliff.

I think about what I’ll come home to with my clearer mind – a ‘before-and-after’ question.

I look around now and I see bags and clothes and recyclables, a painting that needs re-framing, trim for the interior windows on a chair, fireworks left over from Dom’s birthday, a set of bongos, three bats of roxl insulation, a huge bag of birdseed, hats and coats and bags – and that’s just the obvious layer.  Add a psychological one which in part will explain my mental clutter: each item is connected to an ongoing narrative – my gardening shirt from yesterday, which I will wear this evening while mowing the lawn; cardboard recyclables from food we’ve consumed, which we are hoarding for future woodfires; the painting I gave to Grant the first Christmas after we met of a frog (why a frog?) under a tree; the pile of trim made from cherry wood which was a posthumous gift from Grant’s highschool shop teacher; and on it goes.  Please note- the last two sentences are as unnecessarily long as our house is unnecessarily full of stuff. 

writing place of choice downstairs at home

None of these things are simple – some carry stories heavy with complexity – the roughly oval, green-striped rock, for example, which we brought back from Ireland.  In my mind it goes with a picture of Grant’s dad who is walking alone toward the ocean on Nicholson’s point, his coat billowing in the coastal onshore wind.  The entire family was on this trip back to find Nicholson roots in the North of Ireland, near Kilkeel and the Mournes.  We had a poignant, rich time that was full of laughter and discovery, and two months after we returned, my Father-in-law died suddenly from a heart attack.

taken by a kind passer-by in our rented house in Tipperary, near Nenagh, on the last day of our trip.

For me, the whole story of Bob is embedded in that rock, which nestles against another from Russia, and another from Dunaad in Scotland, and many many others, all holding connection to place – the French River, where we camped with my parents 8 years ago; black basalt from the shore (above); a piece of rubble from the great wall of China.  They rest together in a big wooden salad bowl on legs (another great wedding present), which likely will never be used for salad.

We’ve inherited furniture and plants – desks from McMeekin’s; a dresser that once belonged to my great-grandfather Keebler, who built the Circle Bar factory where my studio is; two christmas cacti-one from Grant’s maternal grandmother, and another from the paternal.  Both those ladies come with stories that could fill volumes.

More psychological clutter. We’re getting better at it, but, when we’re relaxing at home we see all the events, choices, labours, tasks and materials that went into putting the house here these past six years – and also what the next tasks, tools, labours & materials will be. Sometimes this is just not restful.

If I close my eyes, I can hear all the tales from all these things, this house, these posts & beams-  singing softly into the room – each with its own resonance and frequency.  It’s very very rich.

It can also be deafening.

Note from 2016:  I’ll have to do this trip on my own someday.  We didn’t make it to Superior, and the marriage was over by the next summer.  My life is MUCH less cluttered, now.