Skip to main content

Following A Series: In Search of Poetry





How does a series come about? What is it that makes an artist want to follow a few paintings along to see where they lead? Is it simply making the decision to do so? Or is it something exciting about them that sparks other ideas?

The current series I'm working on began at my artist residency at the Baer Art Center in Iceland in 2016. It took a few days to settle into the residency. As I walked the treeless farmland that hugs the coastline of Skagafjordur where the residency is located, I became fascinated with the dark and imposing cape. It would be an island except for two long bands of stones that join the cape to the mainland on either side, creating a freshwater lake in the centre with a black sand beach.  Seen from the water, the cape is a breathtaking expanse of basalt columns that have formed into overlapping layers which flowed into various curved shapes as the volcanic columns were cooling long ago.




I didn't interpret this landscape directly, but I was certainly inspired by it as I tried to paint it in an abstract way.


I painted every day gradually letting the work change as I focused on one element or another or as the landscape grew in me.




I continued this series in the fall of 2017 when I came back to the Baer Art Center to teach a workshop and to stay on for a 2 week residency.







When I came home, I wasn't sure I could maintain the energy for the work without being in the landscape. But then as I continued to look at these pieces, I wondered if I could work with them in another way by adding on panels that would describe the colours of Iceland. I'd made a colour chart when I was there and decided to use it to help me remember the colours I'd seen.








And then, I began to play with the colours alone, using various sizes of panels. Pursuing what I find interesting, following the feeling of the work.


The work became even quieter. Barely a whisper.


I've been following where these paintings have led me. In search of poetry.


And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.     
Pablo Neruda



Comments

  1. lovely and an inspiring post that invites me to think about series.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Gaye. I always seem to think in a series. It could be a brief series if the work doesn't hold me, or a multi-year series if I can find creative ways of gradually changing the work as I go.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Inspiring images and words. The Neruda poem has always been a favorite!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely. Janice!!! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for the accumulation of images that explain so clearly how you allow your work to teach you. And thank you for the Neruda. love you xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Judy for your kind words. I'm a big fan of your blog!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

About Place: A painting workshop on the Camino

Rebecca Crowell and I are staying in a gorgeous retreat centre on the Camino de Santiago called Flores del Camino. It's in the small stone village of Castrillo de los Polvazares with a population of 100.  Voted one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, the streets are cobblestone and each of the unique earth-coloured stone houses is joined to the next in rows that wind through the town.



There are no yellow arrows or brass shells embedded in the village road marking the way of the Camino, as there are in larger cities. It basically consists of one-street and the  Camino resumes at the edge of town.  Paying attention to the moment doesn't stop though when you come into the village because walking the uneven cobblestone streets is an exercise in mindfulness itself!



The owners of this retreat centre, Bertrand Gamrowski and Basia Goodwin are committed to supporting pilgrims who are walking the Camino, offering them a place to stay as well as offering dinners (payment by donatio…

A Case for Coming to Art Late in Life-Part 1

There are a lot of us out there who have come to art later in life. My workshops are filled with women (mostly) who are between the ages of 50 and 75 (The baby boom generation). Probably most are between 60 and 75. And what interesting people they are! They bring their life experiences with them to their art––their heartaches, joys, achievements, worries, and gratitude. And they are, for the most part, committed artists. They are embracing art like it's finally their time. It's what they've been waiting their whole lives to do. They come with their souls on fire.

"and there was a new voice 
which you slowly
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do––
determined to save
the only life you could save." The Journey by Mary Oliver

 It doesn't matter how old you are if you have passion for life.

That passion can carry us a long way. And while recognition is important in the way…

Art Workshops and Mary Oliver

To begin each day in my painting workshops, I do a short mindfulness meditation to bring our focus into the studio, into the workshop. And then I read a poem. Words that might inspire. Poems that might, in the words of John O'Donohue, "create an invisible cloak to mind your life".

My workshops are filled with women (mostly) who are generally between 55 and 75. The Boomer Generation. These are women who have worked as teachers, nurses, doctors, professors, engineers and who are now retired or near the end of their careers. Many are also mothers of grown children. And grandmothers. They've come to art later in life and are ready for a second career, finally able to follow their hearts to discover their creativity. But still, many are tied to their roles as mothers and grandmothers and find it difficult, as women do, to allow themselves space and time where they are not nurturers and caregivers. Time for themselves, for their creativity.