OBSERVATIONS IN MEMORY
Lately I’ve been considering the role of my memory in my painting practice. We usually think of memory as a recalling of detailed description based in an event we have observed. Sometimes all we remember is our emotional response. Other times remembering is such an intense emotional experience and we try to block it out. It seems to me that we need a little detachment and to feel at the same time in order to access the range of experiences contained in a memory. With a little curiosity surprising aspects of ourselves turn up. Self observation skills require attention and development. I’ve challenged myself to observe something that has caught my attention while painting, as well as my response to it, remember the experience and give voice to it.
One of the paintings I am currently working on is a larger landscape from one of my Kangaroo Island studies from my recent trip there. My reference material for this painting includes a small colour study in oils for colour and atmospheric reference, a black and white photograph for detail and a pencil drawing for tonal value.
Colour studies done on location are incredibly valuable as a doorway into my memory. I meditate on the study and slip into imagining myself in that place, painting the study. As I look at every stroke I remember the colours and shapes that I observed in the landscape. I smell the air and remember the fresh sea breeze on my skin. I remember how the warm afternoon light made the rocks glow. Through remembering my body begins to feel slow, relaxed and spacious, just as I did on location.
While I recorded details of my observations in paint, my body recorded the entire experience. It’s like through long and careful gazing the scene entered the pores of my skin and my body responded. During the act of painting my whole body paints. It’s not just the physical movement of painting, but the conversation that flows through my senses. In remembering my whole body remembers. My night time dreams and associations from my past embellish this conversation. This conversation is largely one of images, sensation and feelings with occasional words. I observe all these things.
In my studio I consciously meditate on my little studies and observe what effortlessly arises from my body. This includes body sensations, thoughts and feelings, memories, associations and dreams. It’s a practice to stay close to this information and hold a space for my body to remember. Its also a practice in not doing but allowing things to happen.
The featured painting above is part of my upcoming exhibition in September. (You can read about my exhibition here). I’ve titled the painting “Inner Life of a Landscape Painter”. The paintings in this exhibition focus mostly on my inner landscape. However, I have observed that through the practice of self-observation and remembering conversations with the landscape around me have seeped into these inner spaces. I don’t know how this happens. Some mysteries are unexplainable and I cherish that. Thanks for reading.
The above painting is titled “Inner Life of a Landscape Painter”.
It is painted in oil paint on Belgian linen. It’s size is 30cm X 30cm.
My exhibition opens on Sunday September 11th at 2.30pm at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery. Mark it in your diary as I would love to meet you there.