Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Bill Reid, Through and In

My phone is in Kingston, 200 km of driving sleet and transport trucks ago.

I travel through this with my daughter from my aunt to my niece. There’s a rightness to the timing.

Bill Reid's Orca

Bill Reid’s Orca

In the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau I find a plug upstairs after the cafe closes.  There’s a bench with cushions so I cross my legs and balance the laptop as I would find centre and lift my paddle in a canoe. Then I write, staring at horizon.

There’s a curve in the tail of Bill Reid’s Orca that keeps him suspended in the air, impossible and alive.

My paddle-calloused fingers type,

I intend…

2001- a painting from a show called Sea Hear, in which I tried once again to paint music

a photo of  ‘Play’ from a 2001 show Sea Hear, in which I tried with all my heart to paint music. My daughter, at 5, chose all the imagery for this one, especially the orcas.

Weightless I am, suspended in the air like this massive hunter whale.  Out of my element, on purpose:  I intend.

I am above the Ottawa River which looks drugged into surrender by the ritual, annual, comforting January cold, across from the Parliament buildings where Justin son of Pierre sits with renewed and informed vigour as our head of state.

They built the beautiful, flower-shaped, buttressed library on the river side, away from the possibility of attack.  Those Statesmen, their advisors, their Wives.  Some of them in came and chose and made it so in ways I can respect.

Bell1, 2015, 20" x 24", mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.

Bell1, 2015, 20″ x 24″, mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.

I think about my Scots ancestors who fled here two generations & eight generations ago to look for a horizon they could aim for, for once.  I think about now and La Loche and four people dead like lightning, like an arrow to what we need to see and be accountable for.  I think about Idle No More, about Truth and Reconciliation.

I can barely remember the last specific, technical idea I had about music or painting – these old old ideas are far stronger.

'Black'. 2014, 36x36, acrylic on dyed cotton.

‘Black’. 2014, 36×36, acrylic on dyed cotton.

I intend.

To take the next precious decade of my life to examine and build a good answer to these things I wonder and care about, more every day.

My thinking fingers have written this:

We are all a product of our own small community that overlaps in myriad ways with larger ones like the Internet, like a city, a collective, a field, an orchestra, a band, large or small.  I’ve come to believe over this small span of years that each is an ecosystem that thrives according to the strength of it’s connectedness.

I’ve found also that few connectors are stronger than the making of good music. As a painter who also writes and performs regularly as a vocalist/cellist I have experienced this time and time again: visual art and writing connect us more deeply to ourselves but music connects us, through ourselves, to others. One might say that community music is like mycelium – a connective tissue that can convey a supportive ‘nutrient’ through the system to everyone who requires it….

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper

The timing is right.  I will get my Master’s degree at Laurier, in Community Music.

Like the impossibly suspended whale, like a Rebel, I will pay for this with the proceeds from my paintings.  They will be on paper and canvas, in watercolour, ink and oil.  They will sing.

Bent_Tree_close

Find a door you like, one that calls change to you.  Then you go through and in.


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List of five

A rainy 5:20 am in the darkening northern hemisphere.  It is November 1.

StudioOctober22_2015

I was lucky enough to be on the road every weekend last month, to and from Kingston, Toronto, Peterborough.  I drove through ridings filled with campaign signage, fields of shorn crops, hills of red and yellow trees, towns surrounded by housing developments and the occasional marsh, feeling grateful and tiny.  Skies full of bruised purple clouds shedding rain even as the slanted sun blazed through to set hill and valley aflame.  All night on super highways through a 386 kilometre downpour, I wondered at my strange need to always be not the fastest, but the first, even on slippery roads.

The beautiful front porch of the Peterborough house I stayed in

The beautiful front porch of the Peterborough house I stayed in

For the first hour, driving is thinking.  In the second hour mental chatter dissolves into a song of the land and the way through it.  By the third there is no-mind, by the fourth, lightness of being.  I hadn’t realized how small my world had become, before October’s road trips.  Thanksgiving, indeed.

coach house garden in old Kingston

coach house garden in old Kingston

Home on November 1 is a tunnel into winter.  I assess, I simplify, I clean up the past seven months and carefully file valuable things – deck chairs and tables, garden plants, kayak, things found on hikes, shared laughter, simple grief, great joy, humbling rage that left me stronger when it had passed.  It’s the inner garden we prepare to tend now, during and enduring the frozen months.  Experience is compost.

Rue flourished this summer. Beautiful plant right out of folktale

Rue flourished this summer. Beautiful plant right out of folktale

I draw and paint bells for a show in early December.  I dig through art history to find work that explores line, light and colour for a drawing course I’ll launch this fall and winter. I write and teach music in my studio, and plan for an open house in five weeks, while Canada reclaims her soul after a dark decade.  Me too.


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Full Moon Morning

I stayed over because of the cat. He’s not mine, but I care for him over the winter while his owner’s away.  Six toes on each foot. Patti says that makes him magic.

He’d been locked in the basement for four days until yesterday when I got the store owner to let me go down and call for him – out he came from one of a thousand dusty corners, thin, wide-eyed and exhausted.  He’d been looking for freedom, but found dust-dark-no-water instead.  Clingy now, but it’s good to see him.

Knuckles staying in touch.  His owner and brother-cat, Toulouse come home tomorrow - I'm happy for him

Knuckles staying in touch. His owner and brother-cat, Toulouse come home tomorrow – I’m happy for him

Studio is not the best for sleeping but it’s wonderful to wake up in on a spring morning.  Three large third-storey windows face full east, and the sun spills in like honey.  Starlings hang out on the wires and chatter endlessly – Knuckles is mesmerised.

Studio facing northwest - a study in red

Studio facing northwest – a study in red

I leave for Toronto soon – visits with dear ones, airport trip and some hunting of insights, input.  Back home tonight, back here tomorrow morning, to record music-for-film, work on a painting commission and a Study in Blue, and share in the Joy of Knuckles as Paul and Toulouse return to his building.

facing southwest.  Just replaced the old 15x12 foot dropsheet - tabula rasa

facing southwest. Just replaced the old 15×12 foot dropsheet – tabula rasa

It will still be humming.  This is the best studio ever.


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Art of Time, Cadmium Red

I was walking down the street  When I thought I heard this voice say

red on it's way to black.  John Berger, via Art of Time, April 12, 2014

red on it’s way to black. John Berger, via Art of Time’s “I Send You This Cadmium Red”, April 12, 2014

“Say, ain’t we walking down the same street together on the very same day?”

wide_blue

Blue. Also Berger and John Christie who exchanged letters about colour which were read as part of AOT’s “Cadmium”

“Hey, Senorita, that’s astute”, I said.  “Why don’t we get together and call ourselves an institute?”

Paul Simon, “Gumboots”, from Graceland

yellow like light, against black like darkness.  Again, Berger & Christie's correspondence, & AOT

yellow like light, against black like darkness. Again, Berger & Christie’s correspondence, & AOT

Many marvelous synchronized happenings and conversations these past two days.  The world is rich with resonance.

Nothing institutional about this weekend, whatsoever.  I just like that lyric, and Aruna referred to it when we were eating tapas on Ossington together..

 

Paul Simon, from “Gumboots” (Graceland)


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Out of the Box

east stairs in my studio's building

east stairs in my studio’s building, where I’m not.

I’m drinking good beer in a sunlit window at Free Times Cafe where I used to hang out with my band in the ’80s.  When I arrived the speakers were playing an obscure (to me) Serbian singer doing everything from traditional love songs to hard rock, but now we’re on to Steve Perry – this is the personal playlist of one of the waiters since the restaurant’s computer isn’t working.  Said waiter is of Serbian descent, sings heavy metal and runs the open mic on Mondays…

What’s your favourite Journey song he asks me.  I don’t know titles, I say, what’s yours?  Wheel in the Sky, he says.  It’s coming up soon… And it does – …I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow…

I’ve brought only one pair of glasses, no ipod with my playlist, no map or plan and only remembered a toothbrush by mistake.  The objective has been met though: I am not home.

It’s been wonderful to shut down my internal industrial engines and just… be.

Photo on 2014-02-16 at 11.49

Day 3 morning finds me at Carrot Common on the Danforth, drinking a big fat latte.  I’m ready now to hit the road for home, eager to get back to work.  Priorities have had a chance to readjust, the list of goals is clearer, and I can actually see that what needs to happen next is not just blind, mulish work, but a few concrete, specific things.

Not a problem.  I love work.

And it’s been great to stop for a breather.

 


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Lip service

One month:  Corelli to Handel to Brahms and Faure to Jensen to Patootie to sereda to Kurt Cobain via Drew Wright.  In between some work re-arranging songs by JTaylor, Norah Jones, Kris Delmhorst and other specials for cello and voice.  Or just cello, or just voice.  And thumb piano (note to self:  revive and nourish friendships with sweet tasteful drummers).

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s.  Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s. Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

This sounds urgent, but it’s not.  It’s more like breathing.  Or working out, with the intention of finding muscles that haven’t been used for a very long time, and… using them again, even if it takes a rebuild.  And yes, yes, all that about pain and gain, too.

wild carrot

wild carrot

I believe it’s important to Do the thing that you feel compelled to do.  There’s a reason you feel so compelled, after all – you can probably trust it.

If there are obstacles to your Doing of the thing, don’t waste time blaming them, just remove, or find a way around.  Complaint and self-defeat have never once written a song or painted a picture:  dump them.  You’ve got better things to do with your time.

swimming-dock

St Lawrence River.

Jump in.  Do the work.  It’s warm.

Oh, and if you see someone else who’s doing the work, love them for it.

These days

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Delightful days, these.  In the grand pause of morning I can recall at least one, sometimes three marvelously shocking, transcendent moments for each day of this month – some mine, others I’ve witnessed.  Is this what you get when you jump into Georgian Bay at midnight on Nov 1?  If so I’ll make it annual.

The only painting I cannot sell the original of - inspired by Ted Huges' book "Crow", and painted after a near-death experience on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

The only painting I cannot sell the original of – inspired by Ted Huges’ book “Crow”, and painted in ten minutes after a life-threatening experience on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

We are alive in a rare time.

Perhaps I’m not the only one sensing this recent surge to collaborate with one another, to push the old boundaries of comfort, desire and suffering until a new level of release is achieved.  Tavener addressed it in his August interview (check the post before this one), Ted Hughes articulates it in a letter to his son (excerpted below) and if I look around me in close friends, family, colleagues I witness an active, sometimes urgently expressed willingness to … ‘turn and face the change’. Even, and maybe especially if there’s no clue as to what that IS.

my oldest friend Marcus' latest contribution to the ongoing conversation...

my oldest friend Marcus’ latest contribution to the ongoing conversation…

I found this at 6am this morning, written by one of my most favourite poets of all time – a writer brutal in his honesty, wild in his deprecating humour.  Share, share.

Ted Hughes, from a letter written circa 1985 to his Son Nicholas (it’s worth reading the entire text, and a brief contextual article)

….At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool — for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful. So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner. And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line — unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.

And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive — even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources — not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.

The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

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