Grocery store “…ya, seven car pileup in Dundalk. I’m not going home to London looks like…”
snowfort stories – there were three of us, so … that’s when the snowbanks along the roads were 14 feet high- we used to run along the top and jump over the hydro lines…
I guess some people like winter, probly they don’t have to shovel… Better get extra, looks like we’re socked in…
I’m here in the warm painting light thinking about old things. There’s nothing in this studio that isn’t grounded in history. Even the studio space is specific to this – it was part of a ladies’ hosiery factory founded and run by one of my great-grandfathers (mother’s mother’s father) in the 1920s that at one time employed 200 women. If I close my eyes I can hear them talking to one another in counterpoint to the rhythm of the knitting machines…
I just finished a painting that I’d thought was about a snaffle bit – a reference to Athena’s golden bridle that Bellepheron used to bend Pegasus to his will. I was going to call it Unbridled – but that just shows how little I know. It’s called Chalk Horse, and in this painting, she is a mare. We have been locked in battle for a week, but I do get it now. She’s lived in the Oxfordshire hills for somewhere near 3000 years, and is known as the Uffington Horse. This week she’s been very much in my studio.
Snaffle bit? Pah. Stomp.
There’s something about writing music or prose, about making paintings that demands utter openness and honesty. It’s a place of utterly precious fragilit, but there’s nothing judgemental about it – it’s just that when an image rings true then it has become itself – that’s the work. Any contrivance, any force of will or intention will just get in the way. So you listen. It’s got to be collaborative if it is to have any relevance to the world at all.
Good art is always relevant to the world – it’s the why of it. Art, music, writing, dance, theatre, – these immeasurable, difficult things are our best chance to change our minds about ourselves. This is where the difficult questions get asked, the ones that require real honesty to answer.
We are all of us very good at building dungeons for ourselves, are we not? As I listen to Leonard Cohen, at age 75, sing about his Secret Life, I think this must be so. We build them of bits and pieces of our failures and from inherited shame, and keep the dark door shut, when instead we need to spend well-considered time there, alone with ourselves – it’s the hardest thing to do, perhaps. For me, this is where I get humbled, every time – groping around in the dark for something I recognize, something that can hold a difficult beauty.
I emerge always with fewer words.
Gratitude. That’s a good one.
It’s become a bit like being in my own reality TV show, this process of getting paintings out the door. The day has just passed that I’d targeted as my deadline, barring a major dharmic intervention. I will say that I have made great progress, and these two huge impossibles are very close to being their actual selves. And out my door.
But there was a major dharmic intervention on Sunday – one that snuck up on me like a viper and bit me so subtly I didn’t realize it until later when I felt myself go into shock. I kept painting, but in fact I was at full stop.
To back up and provide some clarity, I’ve found a description of dharma that fits here,
“Dharma means the intrinsic nature of a thing. Just like the dharma of sugar is sweetness and the dharma of water is wetness. The dharma of the living being is to render service to God….”
(my apologies, this is not sourced properly in the Urban Dictionary where I found it, so I can’t tell you which guru originally said it)
In my world then, a dharmic intervention is an unexpected event that hits you on all levels – emotional, physical, psychological, professional, personal (insert others of your choice) and shocks you enough that veils you’d never known were there are ripped away to reveal some Home Truths – the difficult ones. In these instances there’s no avoiding or denying whatever has become crystal clear. It’s impossible NOT to have a new perspective about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
So to translate: I thought I was painting about something incredibly deep and wise and well-crafted, from a place of experienced and well-honed detatchment. Something big and unexpected happened, and because of it I now know the paintings are about something else entirely. In a way, they’ve been painting me.
So, another week will do it, I think. I begin an intense course of study today, and every evening is also booked with rehearsals. But I don’t need that much sleep…..