Sunday, February 21, 2010

Courage in Art

Requiem ©Janice Mason Steeves 2010

This is one of my new paintings that will be in my show at Wallace Galleries in Calgary, AB from April 24 to May 8, 2010.

I have written a number of articles about changing direction in art. It's topic that interests me because it happens to me now and again so I enjoy reading articles about other artists' thoughts on this. There was an article in the Artdaily newsletter this week about the work of Therese Oulton with a comment on her changing styles. Her work is being shown at Marlborough Fine Art in London, England.

"Those who are familiar with Thérèse’s work will be initially surprised by the apparent change of direction that her work has taken. In place of the large scale abstract compositions of the recent past, she is exhibiting here a new series of 24 small format landscapes. The artist, however, sees this new body of work as representing the continuation of her exploration of the various themes which have always been of interest to her: light, surface, texture, geography and landscape.

Describing these new, smaller, paintings in her profound introduction to the catalogue, "Brief Notes on a Change of Identity", Thérèse writes: “During the long period inching my way into these new paintings, visitors to the studio brought up various questions, reflections, comments here recorded as best I can - fragments, some jotted down at the time some not, so decidedly unreliable. Considering the lack of any transitional works marking the route from the ‘old self’, my nerves about their showing were nearly always redundant. More visitors seemed to claim there was no change, that they were still recognisably, coherently mine. Was I to take this as heartening proof that identity languishes somewhere beyond ‘styles of radical will’, or despondent that I hadn’t achieved the desired and revolutionary shift into the being another person, another painter."

Is it wanting to become another person, another painter that pushes an artist forward, to use new materials to work in new directions? For me, I have a sense when the energy of the work or the series is waning. I like to work in a long series. It helps me explore a subject deeply. But the energy subsides after a time and a vague restlessness enters until a new idea comes or a new method of working. There is fear in that change of direction. I think it takes some form of courage to be a painter.

Georgia O'Keeffe in the documentary, "Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life in Art, said "It takes courage to be a painter. I always felt I walked on the edge of a knife. On this knife I might fall off on either side. But I'd walk it again. So what. So what if you do fall off. I'd rather be doing something I really wanted to do."


"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself."

~ Soren Kierkegaard

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