When a painting gazes back with the most intriguing question anyone can ask of another: Who are you? The answer is: A Mystery.
Listening not talking
The process of painting, or any act of creativity, is an unconscious one and talking about it somehow strips it of its power.
Painting, for me, is a process of listening. And if I’m talking, I’m not listening. Painting is non-verbal!
Rarely do I hear a shout. Usually I feel a timid whisper and I have to be quiet enough to not scare the feeling away. Somehow, I must express in paint what wants to become visible. I must paint what is subjective, my response to a mood, a feeling or an idea through shape, colour, texture and movement.
When I think I’ve finished a painting, I take it out of my studio and bring it into my living space before I hang it in the gallery. I live with it for a while, gazing at it, socialising it perhaps, domesticating that wild thing and the wild part of me that created it.
Over several weeks, I gaze upon my work and I watch it transform from raw paint into a something that changes, adapts to its environment, something that lives.
I see things which I was not aware of when I painted it. Not just what I see with my physical eyes – the shapes, textures and colour contrasts. I start to see with my mind’s eye. I see memories of people and places and times I have never experienced. I begin to get the gist, the significance, the meaning of my work. What it’s about.
Each painting develops a life and a voice of its own, independent from me and when that happens I am content that the work is finished. It is ready to go out into the world. Only then do I hang a painting in my gallery to be adopted by a loving art collector.
Painting Gazes Back
When I lived with my latest painting, something rather unusual happened. The painting gazed back!
I felt a mood for sure, a dark one, but my physical eyes, could not help but to see ‘things’, hidden objects: buildings, wind, fire, rain, graffiti. Then a particularly striking image appeared that I could not ignore: a face gazed back at me.
I resisted for a while. But finally I had to give in. I took the canvas back into the studio and worked to bring her into focus.
I do not know who she is. I don’t think she is anyone I know. But I can’t help looking at her and asking the most intriguing question anyone can ask of another: Who are you? And the answer is a mystery.
Copyright 2016 Joanna McFarland; ‘Gaze‘; acrylic on canvas; 30 x 40 inches.