Saturday, February 8, 2014

Work in Progress: This is the Fun Part

Intermediary: Work in Progress
It's fun to talk about a painting in progress, sometimes for me more enjoyable than talking about a painting after it's finished.  Once the work is finished, everything has been decided.  At that point I'm much more interested in hearing what the viewer has to say, what an individual walking up to a painting for the first time sees, interprets and understands.  
At this point… I would say this painting is nearly half finished, but it's impossible to say for sure, mysteries can still unfold, meanings can show themselves and changes can occur.  I can still have an "aha" moment when the meaning of this painting suddenly goes deeper, or takes a turn I never expected.  At this point I have, in my mind, an pretty general understanding of what it means, to me. 

If you wanted to wait and interpret my painting for yourself before being influenced by my intentions, stop reading now.  I am going to write about what I began to see in this painting, on the second day I worked on it.  
When it began I had some general ideas going into the image.  One was the idea of forces of opposition. Conflict.  Dichotomies.  I used a drawing of a bird and a snake in an attack/defensive struggle.  I also had an image of two creatures facing each other, also in attack/ defense mode.  One is a deer-like creature and the other has computer keys for teeth.  The third image I used is from a Medieval Alchemy text and it shows a bird facing downward with a rope in it's mouth.  At the end of the rope is a large stone.  From it's feet a scroll of paper unravels.
The three drawings, all torn from my sketchbooks, are drawings I have done in the past of things that interest me.  They represent concepts I enjoy trying to understand, ideas that help me make sense of the world.
I began painting by trying to visually tie together the images with paint while thematically tying together the images with new and larger images in the paint.
By the end of day two I found myself with a painting of a sleeping figure.  The meaning of the painting is beginning to reveal itself.  In the center is a seated Buddha-like figure.  He has technology - all that is man-made on one side of him and spirit/nature on the other.  Like the snake and the bird that surround the sleeping figures' head, these two creatures are in a fight- one has an aggressive stance and the other a defensive stance.
At the sleeping figure's feet is the bird, attached to his toe.  And the same foot that holds the bird with its' toe carries a large swan made of stone.
In the center of the painting is the Buddha-like figure.  His eyes are closed and his arms are wrapped around him like a straightjacket.  A tear falls from his eye.  The figure whose sleeping body stretches across all of these images also has his eyes closed.  The bird at the foot end of the figure drops the stone.
To me this painting is about being asleep.  I think it's something human-kind is very guilty of, and I do not excuse myself.  We are here in these bodies witnessing the essential nature of life, but we have our eyes closed and do not know what our roles are, perhaps we are even trapped.
The images in the painting imply that perhaps one of our roles is that of the intermediary between these worlds that seem at this point to be in opposition.  Whether or not they are truly in opposition is a question… is it a result of our sleeping that the conflicts exist, or do we sleep to avoid the conflicts?
I once had a dream, and in the dream a fatherly guide said, "The ones who know why they are doing what they are doing will control the technology."  Today listening to one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Heather Martin, I heard her say, "Know what you are doing."  It seemed to fit.
Perhaps I paint these to teach myself what I need to learn, but in the meantime, I hope I paint something that also gives pleasure to others.

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