I have always struggled with making my mark.
Some people live vibrantly, painting, splashing, etching, layering, and filling their canvases with energising colour and texture. Some people’s lives seem passionately imbued with sights, sounds, people, places, hobbies, habits… I am not talking about professions, I am meaning individual’s personal tapestries. People who plunge into culture and community, people who enjoy and celebrate many aspects of the world we are creating. I admire and applaud many of the people that stand out in our community. I admire and applaud hearty homemakers, community stalwarts, keepers of tradition and pioneering adventurers. Where would we be without them?
I’ve encountered plenty of stuff over time, and yes I have enjoyed and celebrated much of it, but alas I have never really opted to develop or evangelise this, that or the other. After 30 years of adulthood; after years of scribbling, erasing, doodling and redrawing; I fear my personal canvas hosts an accumulation of unfulfilled shapes, smudges, faded bleeding colours.
As a visual and performance art student I was always attracted to the abstract. Many years on, I still find the abstract more enticing than the real. I am drawn less to the objective material and more to the subjective essential.
With our media currently covering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, I am reminded of a favourite painting of mine; Kazimir Malevich’s ‘White on White’. His Suprematist paintings were aligned with his ideas around “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than the visual depiction of objects. Today, we seek objective truth over subjective opinion, but perhaps today more than ever, with our object worship and linguistic ownership battles, it might pay to be more mindful of a true essential supre-subjectivity.
On a recent trip to West Cornwall, the place where I was ‘brought up’, I was reminded of the power of the natural, the essential. The sea, the water, the natural or wild, the powerful landscape of the coast. Many of us are drawn to such places. Like hill-climbing, where we can find ourselves at a thin place, where our object filled lives meet ‘space’. Where we are confronted with a space bigger than our canvas, a power stronger than our tools, a force that might blow away cobwebs or wash tired hands or weary faces. An abstract place, where popular objectivity might be seen as shallow mirage, a place where we might be able to feel more and think more.
I work with paper; large quantities of paper. It has struck me when I wash my hands at work, how remarkably refreshing the water can be after a few hours handling reams and reams of paper. We cannot objectively see the dust we are handling but when washing we can subjectively feel the cleansing soothing freshness of washing away the patina.
As I mentioned, as time goes on, I am drawn less to the material and more to the essential.
I have always loved Malevich’s ‘White on White’ with its off-white depth, its imperfect cleanliness. But I also love vibrant resonate stuff like the work of Frank Bowling’s pure abstractions. I am thankful for passionate people who enjoy and celebrate our world. But I consider it vital that we are mindful of the cleansed off-white, the smudgy greys, the tainted blurry edges, and the residual watermarks that are perpetual, eternal, and will endure in and around us no matter what.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein