Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poems from the Moon Garden Opening

Poem Series: 10110  12x12" oil/cold wax on panel © Janice Mason Steeves 2010
My exhibition, Poems from the Moon Garden opened on Friday night at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario.  The show continues until November 7th.  Here are a few of the installation shots before and during the show.
Abbozzo Gallery Owner- Ineke Zigrossi
With artist friend, Shirley Williams on the right

My painting of the past several years has been strongly influenced by the archetypal concept of pilgrimage.  This current work has increasingly become more experimental and exploratory, turning inward and moving toward abstraction.  As I began this body of work, I decided to drop all my known reference points—to step off the edge of what is familiar to me.  In Buddhism, this attitude of setting aside, for the time being, preconceived ideas, beliefs and expectations is known as 'beginner's mind". Beginner's mind is like a child’s mind, just present to explore and observe and see things as they are.

As time went on, I returned to a combination of abstraction and representation, each influencing the other. Images of flowers in a moonlight garden came back into my work. The garden at night is a metaphor for life and death—which are inextricably bound to each other—and the creativity that comes out of that darkness. The darkness is what mystics call the ‘inside’ of things, the essence of things. Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and philosopher observed, “The ground of the soul is dark”.  It is where the true self lies. The idea of walking in a garden in the moonlight is like a dream, or a journey through the underworld.

This new body of work approaches the painting surface in an entirely intuitive way.  I lay colour fields of oil paint mixed with cold wax medium, on a wooden substrate, layer upon layer. I embed poetry and songs into the surface that they might live inside the work. The cold wax and oil paint, applied layer upon layer imitates the way that life writes upon us year after year, with its scrapes and healings, traumas and joys.  It holds these memories as our bodies do, as our lives do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wax Workshop

This past weekend my studio was filled with nine enthusiastic and industrious artists learning about the cold wax/oil process.  The air was filled with excitement.  The artists ranged from those with almost no experience at all to professionals, so I had a lot of explaining to do!

One of my goals was to encourage the artists to play, to experiment with a new technique and just let go.  So often we get hung up on goals, on making a product, on being 'perfect'.
I read to them from Eric Maisel's book, "Coaching the Artist Within", where he talks about the creative process. "To create, we have to take the bad with the good.  We're bound to write bad paragraphs along with good ones.  That's the eternal law.  We can get rid of those bad paragraphs later on , but first we must write them.  Otherwise we won't write anything at all .  If we try to write only the good paragraphs, we are three-quarters of the way toward paralysis.  The name that we've coined for this problems is "perfectionism".  But it isn't that people afflicted this way are striving to be perfect.  They are just striving to be good, which would be no problem at all, if only they also had internal permission to be bad."

I also read to them from the book, Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. "If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble.  Art is human; error is human; ergo art is error. Inevitably, your work (like uh, the preceding syllogism...) will be flawed.  Why?  Because you're a human being, and only human beings, warts and all, make art.  Without warts it is not clear what you would be, but clearly you wouldn't be one of us."

Because I was their teacher, I gave them permission to make bad art.

They tried.

© Christine Montague

© Barb Taylor
 In aiming to create bad work, I think that everyone loosened up and let go of being 'good' for a while.  And they made some very exciting work.

One of the participants, Christine Montague talks more about the workshop in her blog post.

"Creativity is about play and a kind of willingness to go with your intuition.  It's crucial to an artist.  If you know where you are going and what you are going to do, why do it?  Frank Gehry