|Silence Red 6 24x24" oil/cold wax on panel ©2012 Janice Mason Steeves|
This is the time of the year that we should take stock isn't it? Look back and see what we've done this year. What we've accomplished. Are the art sales up? Or down? What are we doing right? Or wrong?
More than this, I try to look back and see if my work has changed and grown. And if I have. I look back to see what I've learned and if it was what I thought I was going to learn.
I always try to write New Year's Resolutions. Some years I create detailed sections like they tell you in the books on Success: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Artistic, Financial. I divide them down into bite-sized pieces that would be almost impossible not to accomplish. It takes a lot of time and thought. I carefully file this list in my pink filing cabinet. By the end of January, I can't remember which section I've filed it under and in fact, I've forgotten what any of those bite-sized bits were. It's not until Dec. 31st that I go hunting for that list.
Mostly I am concerned with spiritual and artistic growth. I suppose that the two go together. They do for me.
My work grew in unanticipated ways this year as I decided to explore the idea of Silence. My September exhibition at Granville Fine Art in Vancouver was called Speaking of Silence. This series is my response to a chaotic world-excessive information, constant environmental noise, bombardment with electronic media, that sort of thing. Silence, meditation, contemplation are where I am focusing. These have always been important in my life. This year, they have grown more important.
Recently, The Menil Collection in Houston, on whose campus the Rothko Chapel is located, created an exhibition called Silence. Their website says: "Silence is a powerful force. It can produce profound emotions or conjure startling sensory experiences, and it seems inextricably linked to the passage of time. A prerequisite for contemplative thought, silence has become a scarce commodity in today’s media-saturated world. The exhibition and catalogue project Silence, considers this important and little-examined subject in modern and contemporary art."
In the fall I spent three weeks at the Cill Rialaig artist residency in Ireland-a quiet, remote location. I loved my cottage with its stunning ocean views and the companionship of my artist friend, Rebecca Crowell. I had trouble though quietening my busy mind. After the residency, I went on to Scotland where I had a wonderful week visiting cousins that I don't see enough of. The trip ended with a pilgrimage-a Christian one this time- to Iona, a small island off the west coast of Scotland, to the Abbey that was founded by St. Columba who brought Celtic Christianity to Scotland in 500AD. It was the perfect ending for my journey. The program at Iona Abbey was called Quiet Week. Led by Stephen Wright, the focus was on the Contemplative path. How appropriate. Silence and Contemplation. Something changed in me. I have no words for the change.
Robert Macfarlane, in his forward to the anthology, A Wilder Vein, suggested that "cognition is site-specific, or motion-sensitive: that we think differently in different landscapes. And therefore, more radically, that certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places, such that when we lose those places, we are losing kinds of imagination as well."
I love the idea that certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places. I prefer though to think that we can bundle up those new thoughts and pack at least some of them home to enrich and deepen the thoughts we have in our own landscapes.
I look forward to 2013 and allowing the time for contemplation and silence.