Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seeing the Whole Picture

Safe Home  42x42" oil/cold wax on panel © 2012 Janice Mason Steeves

I am back in the land of the healed!  My arm is out of the cast, my right foot is almost better-whatever was wrong with it, no one still knows-and my eye is totally better.  Hallelujah.  It's been quite a winter.  I haven't been back into the studio yet.  The wrist is so weak and vulnerable still.  But soon.  After a bit of physiotherapy. Meanwhile, I am still getting lots of prep work done for my classes and having interesting email conversations with other artists.

Today I received an email from an artist friend in Winnipeg who asked a group of us, "What effect does narrative have on an image?"  He wondered about the value or importance of text to support an image, such as an artist's statement or even a title.  

 I wrote back to say that I have found that writing adds another dimension to my work.  My painting is totally intuitive and process-dependent.  So until I begin to write about it, I don't necessarily understand what it is about.  For example, the new paintings I have been working on this winter-the North Atlantic Series-just started to flow in the early winter, pouring out of me actually.  I went with it moving from one piece to another.  However, when it came time to name the pieces, I was surprised to find that the titles that came to me were related to the landscape of the island of Inish Maan in Ireland, where I had visited in October.  It was through the naming process, that I came to understand how much I was influenced by the power of  place. And expanding from there, I came to realize how important the concept of place is in my work and has been for the past 18 years or more. This explained my intense interest in travelling to visit sacred places and pilgrimage sites. All of this was a revelation to me that I never would have learned if I had not named the pieces, and written an artist's statement.

When I was at the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin in October, listening to Sean Scully interviewed for Irish Public Television, I heard him mention that he had moved a lot as a child and has always had trouble trusting in place.  This resonated deeply within me.  I had also moved often as a child.  I thought about it over the next few months and realized that this lack of trust or connection with place has been the catalyst in my travels and the focus in my art. My artist's statement discusses it further.

I find that putting words to visual images that come from the non-verbal part of the brain, is a struggle that does not come easily.  But sometimes connections happen that seem magical.

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