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Vivaldi at August’s end

Summer grows into Autumn.

In two weeks I play cello for these, and for Gloria and the Oboe Concerto in F (more info here); it’s good to have such a soundtrack to live and work by.  Thank you, Vivaldi, for composing this music 300 years ago.

I listen to II mvt of the Oboe concerto as I take stock of my studio.  It’s in transition –  from the heat-wave quasi-prison it became in preparation for an artisan booth full of functional art pieces these past three weeks to the fully open creative space it will be for the next eleven.   Full production begins tomorrow for the first instalment of a multi-arts & performance show, #Water will ‘sneak peek’ for an evening Saturday November 14 in Massie Ontario.

It’s Clear the Boards time.

A photo taken early July, when I stretched the ten canvases that will make this first leg of the #Water show.
A photo taken early July, when I stretched the ten canvases that will make this first leg of the #Water show.

In these days, a flushing of old ideas and concepts; a quiet but detailed acknowledgement of the impact of events these past ten weeks; a clear light shone again upon the plans I made last spring for this September until June 2016 – in short, I need to allow my mind to change its shape.

To allow room for the grand mistakes that teach me more than any school or schedule ever could.  Room to make these impossibly subtle ideas manifest in paint, music and words.  I want to wrap my audience in soft understanding of the large and tiny things that affect the ecosystem that we are.  I want laughter to be a big part of the performance, in which we entertain each other, and challenge each other a little, so see and hear things slightly differently.

I want elegance out of mess, I want insight into muck, I want a way through to something unimagined.  I’ve some idea that what I can see in my mind is possible, but not really.  I know I’m going in with big blind spots, and this is more than a little terrifying.  I’m going in though, regardless, rich with gratitude and good collaborators.  I’ll tell that story here in the weeks leading to November 14.

What will I do with these paintings that water and gravity have already made play with? I've never worked in this kind of specific collaboration before. hmmmm. What will it be?
What will I do with these paintings that water and gravity have already made play with? I’ve never worked in this kind of specific collaboration before. hmmmm. What will it be?

Gig to play now.  I’ll be back here in eight hours, where the engine now purrs with promise.

and Vivaldi plays on….

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#Water: Surface tension

There are four new paintings living in my studio as of last week.  The experience of watching them come to be was shared by good friends – an artist, a poet, a songwriter, a filmmaker, a composer throughout the day and evening a week ago.

Here’s where they came from – a photo of my painting wall taken a year ago, after the #Selfie paintings were done and hanging in the gallery:

This is a huge canvas that has served as the 'catcher of drips' on my studio wall for the past six years. it will become four huge paintings - each with five years of painting drips embedded
This is a huge canvas that has served as the ‘catcher of drips’ on my studio wall for the past six years. The drips on the right were accumulated in five months, the ones on the left over five years.

The plan six years ago when I treated and hung this dropcloth on the south wall of my studio was always to take it down when it got interesting, cut it up, and stretch it into paintings.  I did this last Tuesday, which was also a revolving door day here, many visitors – SO exciting.  It took some time to find the pieces that fit each stretcher, but I have ten so far that work, with the possibility for one or two more.  Here’s the largest one:

I'm in this so you get an idea of scale.  This puppy is wider than my wingspan.  But it had to be.  I see dragons...
I’m in this so you get an idea of scale. This puppy is wider than my wingspan. But it had to be. I see dragons…

Here’s another, medium-sized one that’s quite different.  I see a moray eel…

Eel_July1

Then there are these two – also mid-sized…

this one is close in size to the previous one.  I see sunset at dusk over the water
this one is close in size to the previous one. I see sunset at dusk over the water
This one now hangs with the red at the top.  It looks like a torrential storm
This one now hangs with the red at the top. It looks like a torrential rain storm

There are six more smaller, more intimate & delicate ones – I’ll  post those as well when they’re stretched.  These are all paintings about water, by water, which found its way and made its mark with the help of gravity and paint.  They’re part of a multi-arts installation/show I plan to launch in October-November (will announce where and when soon when all the details are in place).  My hope is that because these are also music-based pieces, it will tour in medium-sized music venues with or without the performance component, and encourage discussion about and around… water.

Ubiquitous water, with it’s cohesion and adhesion properties.  Essential water which becomes political when big money gets involved.  Reflective water which perhaps tells us more about ourselves than we think.

Water that spiders walk on, that whales swim in, that hangs in the sky as clouds and freezes inside buried pipes.  In the paintings that water has made over five years there are sea dragons, moray eels, thunder and lightning, heavy clouds, peaceful reflection. Chagall came into the studio yesterday and thought these would be wonderful things to work with. I agree.

More to come – look for #Water.

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#Selfie 12: My face belongs to you

As a musician I know this – that I am most effective as a performer when I get my Self out of the way, and simply allow the music to flow through me and out.  People who are listening are then much more able to hear and recognize themselves in what’s being played, and can then respond more deeply.  Who I am matters, of course, and whether I’m grounded, healthy, emotionally honest and stable – but only in the way that a conduit should be strong and wide enough for the greatest amount of energy to travel through it.

cellobelly

In the weeks of working with the ubiquitous #Selfie phenomenon I’ve come to wonder if in fact it works this way with my face, too.  I know my voice is, but my face also?  An instrument?

A strange sensation, looking at this photo of my cello.  It's like looking at my own back.
I feel a strange sensation looking at this photo of my cello. It’s like looking at my own back.

I can’t tell what I look like when I’m in conversation with other people.  I suspect, because of the wide gamut of responses I get, that I look differently to close friends than I do to colleagues, differently again to family than to strangers.  A good and longtime friend remarked some months ago that he’d never seen my face look so open.  In response I immediately closed it, and said, with some gruffness, “Nobody sees my face this open”.  Certainly not I.

the latest #Selfie painting - 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall - about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person.  Who one is, and also who one is not.
the latest #Selfie painting – 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall – about the way negative and positive are both required to describe an object, an idea, a person. Who one is, and also who one is not.

At this point I believe that my face is like a sketchbook for use by whomever I engage with.  I wear it in public knowing that it’s up to me to keep it clear of furrowed brow or clenched jaw, since if that is written there I will most likely encounter anxiety, repressed anger, rigidity and emotional blocks in the people I meet.

There are at least ten thousand songs written about this.

I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning.  Art factory, here...
I suspect that this painting will be mostly finished by tomorrow morning. Art factory, here…

It’s also up to me to keep my cello in tune and my bow tightened, with good rosin on the horsehair.   In between painting tasks I habitually run through finger exercises, dissect and practise tricky solos to ensure that I’ll present well at the concert tomorrow.

There is personal expression, yes.  But I would say that it’s an exchange of sensibilities, awareness, perception and empathies between me and you.  A live improvisation, if you will.  In a good conversation we reflect all of this for each other by changing the shape of our mouths, foreheads, moving our eyebrows, opening or closing our eyes, shifting our gaze away then back from each other.

My face is more familiar to you than it is to me, when all is said and done.  You can tell, often before I can, whether something is wrong or right in my internal world….

a posed #Selfie.  Always less comfortable, since I'm looking at a camera through my face that I don't know.
a posed #Selfie. Always less comfortable, since I’m looking at a camera through my face that I don’t know.

I have the same odd feeling looking at this photo as I do with the back of my cello.  Is THAT what I look like?  It resembles me, but no, it’s only one of many possibles.  I suspect I look quite different when I’m with people.

But then we need all parts – including the shadow – to describe the whole.

 

I have a PS.

Anyone in the area who loves smart, engaged young people should come to this concert at Meaford Hall tomorrow (Monday May 26).  The GBSYO is an incredible team of folks with great energy and skill.  They’ll be joined by more excellent string players from the Georgian Bay Secondary School in a massive string orchestra.  I’m very excited and honoured to be part of it.  Do come – I know you’ll love it.

GBSYO_May2014_finalB