Some years ago, while going through counselling for past traumas that affected my then-current life, I embarked on a type of soul journalling. Each page differed, depending on what I was struggling with internally. Mostly, it involved collage and a bit of mixed media, led by instinct rather than design, aesthetics, or correct composition. Looking back through the journal, wings were a frequent, though subconscious motif, in entries years apart, including the two below left, which are a similar image, one winged figure a painting sketch and the other an altered clipping from a magazine.
If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope to come back as a winged creature. No, not a pesky persistent fly, and not the much-maligned (by me!) European wasp. The feathered variety would be my wish. How wonderful to be a Wedge-tailed Eagle, to soar, hover, plunge, and coast on air currents, high up in the blue and white. peach and lavender, gold and gunmetal. Even so, I would be just as pleased being a diminutive Silvereye, to flit and dart on fast-stutter wings.
Each year, for the Clarice Beckett Art Award, I usually enter a linocut or woodcut print, but it’s also an opportunity to do some painting, which I also very much enjoy. Due to a different venue, Gorman’s Art Gallery in Casterton, this year, entries per artist were reduced to two. Just as well, or I would still be out in the studio, working. With renovations, technology hassles and one thing or another, the deadline for entries was upon me, and no new work done. Not to worry, ideas and themes were germinating. I duly filled out the entry form with two titles, different mediums and prices – piece of cake. Time to get to work.
A strange chain of ‘synchronistic’ events in the forms of a dream, a remembered dream from long ago, memories, and a resurgence of confused emotions, produced a yen to express the joy and pain this conglomeration of aspects brought about. The result, two very different works.
Teaser alert: As both recent works are up for judging in the next few days, I don’t feel it’s right to ‘publish’ the completed works, just yet. So, just a sampling of details.
One, featuring magpies, much-loved and frequent visitors to my patch, was a detour from my normal printmaking methods. I decided to try a monotype, a more painterly style of printmaking. Thinning the printing inks with Linseed oil and turps, I painted the image onto a piece of perspex. Once complete, I dampened a sheet of printing paper, laid it over the ‘painted’ surface and transferred the image by burnishing. The result was a bit paler and with less definition than I had hoped for. More moisture needed in the paper next time, as the ink dries faster than anticipated. Another learning curve, which is all part of the joy of printmaking.
I was pleased with the print, but felt it needed something else, more defined. Out with the matt board, knife, and shellac, and a collagraph was born, and duly added to the foreground. Much happier. He makes me smile.
That completed and drying, it was time to embark on the painting. The original idea involved a young woman and a dove, inspired by a dream, after which I woke to have La Paloma running on repeat through my head. Since first hearing the tune as a girl, I loved it, though why it cropped up in the dream, I have no idea. It was, however, apt symbolically. (The subconscious mind is a curious thing, for which I have great respect.)
During the prep work – considering size, available frame, canvas or board – the theme of wings and flying had been stewing, mixing with memories of past joys and pains, and the recollection of another very significant dream, also bird-related. By the time I was ready to put paint to board, the image in my head had morphed into something quite different. But, could I do it? There was only one way to find out.
For me, painting is a more fraught process than printmaking. Carving a block and printing the resultant image is always an adventure into the unknown. I am braver, less worried about failure. With painting, there always comes a point where the Internal Critic rears his shaking head. His gelled spikes of hair gleam like new razor blades in the spotlight of my self-doubt. “It’s never going to work,” he sneers. He wears my father’s smirk so very well. The Critic’s snide comments used to knock me away from my work. (And, yes, I consider my art my soul’s work.) Not anymore. If there’s one thing the traumas of the past have taught me it is that I can be just as bloody-minded as the Critic. I turn up the music in the studio, sing along, loud and joyfully, and carry on.
Not every painting is a ‘masterpiece’, but there is something of me in every painting. In this most recent work, there is a whole lot of me – hopes, dreams, wishes, heart, and once-shattered soul. The feeling during its progress was very much like when I write something, fact or fiction that rises from the depths, and in which I know so much is invested, emotionally. Whether others ‘get it’ is unimportant. What truly matters, is that a level of healing has occurred, through the creating.