As another solo exhibition approaches (17.11.17), I expect my art practice to become more focused and steely. Often a new technique will appear and bring something new into my world.
At the same time, I have to become a bit of a salesman, dropping off fliers here and there. This time though, the self advertising has gone smoothly and Art Edit magazine’s profile should be out soon.
No threat of any ego inflation here anyway:
Me : “Mum, I’m having another exhibition…”
Mum : “Why?”
We have a love of the dry wit in our family. I truly think my dear old mother was just wondering why now. Let’s hope, shall we…..LOL
My paintings are like notes from the Unconscious, as I try to understand the experience of this sensual world.
Being a psychiatrist, that work involves searching for the deeper narrative behind and below what my patients describe to me. Seeing it, feeling it, calling it by name and finally holding it long enough to work with the story. The same process is happening in my art practice.
Although my style has become more unbound, organic and sculptural over time, the underlying theme has always been a meditation on the felt experience of human being. The felt experience (as opposed to the analytical deconstruction of our lives) is what is both terrifying in it’s painful grandeur as well as electrifying in its promise of beauty and truth.
Our lives are surface phenomena that suggest a deeper story and each painting seeks out the bedrock arc of a day, a week, a year as may be. Just as each session of psychotherapy seeks the resonances from the Deep of the human Unconscious. I gave up trying to completely separate my work as a psychiatrist and my work as a painter once I realised they involve a similar seeking after Depth. Truth. Presence.
The universal language of colour, figure and form coalesce into these blocks of Time called “paintings”, Time and Space apparently captured inside 4 lengths of wood and heavy layers of paint, accented with natural objects such as stones, bark and other detritus.
Each painting has an emotional tone and a degree of conflict between chaos and order, just the same as each day provides a similar interplay of head and heart, bookended by dawn and dusk. “
“My technique involves “hitting” the canvas and leaving it. Hit and run. Find a place to recuperate and rehydrate as my canvases are often large and I travel through many layers over days to weeks. I wear a gas mask and sweat it out. The music is probably on the strong side.
I collaborate with the forces of perseverance and win over the better angels of our nature : experience, inspiration, freedom of action, daring, refusal to give up on a painting. I am a veteran of many failed campaigns in which the rubbish picture becomes the underlay of a memorable success.
My technique is “Get Out of Your Own Way”…….if you have an eye for colour and form, and you can turn down the volume of your L hemisphere conceptual mind, the painting will emerge in its own way. This is the most enjoyable part for me….the suggestion of standing aside as something makes its mark on the canvas. Whether you call it the Unconscious, Nature, Spirit or a slice of the Narrative of my patient that day , the joy of painting is standing aside and seeing what has manifested. Its the antithesis of narcissistic self-absorption.”
Recent and buiding evidence has shown how we are all running on timed patterns of rising and falling neurochemicals. Our hormones, our neurotransmitters, our insulin sensitivity are likely following a set rhythm. From there you can imagine how our levels of fatigue and motivation and anxiety, to name a few parameters, are interacting in a highly integrated way. I was amazed to see recent evidence of why we have that 2-3pm slump of concentration. It seems a part of our brain is basically running low on dopaminergic stimulation. As an ADHD psychiatrist, it’s relevant to the timing of medication. Looking at things from a distance, you see a stunning array of criss-crossing lines. Now we back to one of the central motifs of my art for many years : the Lattice. It’s a motif of imagery that captures so much of the aesthetic side of our understanding of the sciences.
The most other-wordly trip I have ever embarked upon is a self-guided hike through the ancient pilgrimage routes of Japan. These paths exist in the mountains and you come across ancient Buddhist shrines as well as more modern but distinctly memorable holy places, such as this cemetery. Thank you Japan for keeping something special in the post-modern world where everywhere seems the same.
Even though I have travelled to most of the places in the world that I wanted to, my recent trip to the great North of my country has stayed with me like no other. The paintings that have come from this trip are reminiscent of the lines and linkages in traditional Aboriginal art. I am very conscious that these paintings are “through the eyes of the white man”. I hope my Aboriginal friends understand that these paintings come from a sense of awe and astonishment at the depth of their ancient culture. Now, instead of thinking about another trip to Paris or wherever, now I think of returning to Northern Australia. That is my white man dreaming.
Another interesting way of doing self-portraits (or portraits generally, for that matter) is to focus on the home space, the studio space or the work space. The idea is earth-shatteringly simple: the places we inhabit most of the time contain a part of our essence and act like mirrors that reflect the bigger question of True Identity. For example, there are two places excluding work that I inhabit and feel like they reflect back at me my own identity. These places are overflowing with the “you” : the home, including my main studio (or creative work space) and what I call the Retreat (and a 2nd less used studio hidden in the bush)
The Retreat is a hinterland block of forested acreage with an unusually designed abode that was built by a sculptor influenced by Spanish, Israeli and Moroccan architecture. It’s a place I one day hope to open up to young artists and writers to allow them a magical escape from the world we live in (and through), the world of the angry, lost, envious, egotistical, broken-hearted, shallow, unwell, cynical and misanthropic. This is the world we can all relate to and are actively part of. The world of depression, grief and loss, trauma and myriad forms of suffering. Ugliness too.
So as a form of portraiture and as a form of journal-keeping, you can consider certain spaces as self-reflecting. Within these spaces of architectural presence, some rooms correspond to the inner-most sense of self you can possess.
Spaces are not what the real estate agent tells you they are, or what the bank uses to estimate your net worth. These spaces are the fundamental environment of your journey through the world. It takes time to stop and see them properly though. Just as it takes time to stop and see your Self after a self-portrait or a portrait by another. The unifying element is the worthiness of stopping and seeing. And appreciating.