Entering a dream with Pipilotti RistRead More
That ubiquitous blue circles the world and is the colour of the things we so often find beautiful. It is the colour of the sky, the sea and mountains from a distance.
Blue as a colour is both peaceful in its light shades and full of contemplation in its darker tones. To make a dark blue, or Prussian bluey black a brown is added to an ultramarine blue. To make a light whispy sky the white of the clouds blends with the blue of a summers’ day. The inky dark blue is an evening sky, a sunset over the mountains or a deep rough sea.
Blue in a painting is essential to me it grounds and exhales life simultaneously.
On a recent trip to Canberra I was keen to see a large painting by Indigenous artist Sally Gabori (Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda). The painting was stunning, at nearly 2 meters wide and displayed at the end of the room which allowed for excellent viewing.
I had not been aware of Gabori’s work until a retrospective exhibition was held last year at the National gallery of Victoria. As soon as I saw her work I felt a deep connection to her freedom of spirit.
Gabori’s life is as inspiring as her paintings and reflects her gusto and spirit. Gabori lived without white contact until the age of 23 at which point she moved to a mission and bore eleven children.
Gabori was of course very strongly part of her culture and wanted in her paintings to tell the story of her country.
Gabori did not pick up a paint brush until the age of 81 and over the next ten years painted more than 2000 paintings.
This image has stuck in my mind and replayed over and over again. I saved this image almost ten years ago now and I knew that deep down this was what I wanted. Tea and paint.
Having this vision, that resonated so deeply spurred the action subconsciously to head towards where I currently am. The way that the image captures the state of flow and creative reflection and exhaustion is what drew me to it. There are different states of being: the everyday, the state of creative frustration/ thinking/ fear about making, the flow (which is the magical place where hours pass by) and the creative exhaustion and reflection which vacillates between euphoria and self-doubt.
The right image, which evokes the dream, can open a different subconscious form of action and desire. There can be joy in desiring - listen to Bach’s ‘Man’s Joy of Desiring’ for an alternate abstract expression of the power of dreaming and desire.
Being creative is about listening to those small sparks of wonder. Some say being creative is about taking risks, which it is, but I think it would be far riskier not to try, because then you would never know the road not taken. If it fails, just paint over it, metaphorically too.
I am currently day dreaming about Luis Barragán’s incredibly coloured buildings. Barrágn was a Mexican architect who created colour saturated buildings which used shadow and water. He was awarded the Pritzker Prize for architect for his buildings named “a sublime act of poetic imagination”.
Barágan described his ideals as being amazement, enchantment, serenity, silence and intimacy. He sounds perfect and I love his colour palette and use of shadows and geometry which capture those ideals perfectly, in a heart achingly beautiful way, I can’t imagin actually being there.
Generally coffee and exercise would be this sidetrack in my mind, thinking when would I get a fix of each? Before or after exercise; or both? That I really didn’t feel like going to the gym, that I felt tired, that I needed to feel wired; a cycle of endorphins and feel good opioids flowing on a daily basis. Sound great and I’m missing it – just slightly.
This latest realisation came on both quickly and slowly. I had been thinking about it for probably a few years, occasionally over a morning coffee I might randomly Google is coffee good for you? Only to find evidence that it improves concentration is a natural anti-depressant. I could find nothing that showed there were any negative health implications.
Although, that deep down part of me knew this was kind of the case and kind of not really true. Why else was I occasionally researching it?
Until last Sunday there was the straw that broke the camels back; fortunately metaphorically. It was a lazy, kind of dozy Sunday morning and my yoga practice was of the restorative type and even that felt tiring. So I headed to coffee, one perked me up, delicious. By two coffees I was working on the base layer of a large painting, which was going well, but then in that kind of crazed adrenalin pumping caffeinated way I smeared all the paint. And then I headed to the gym for a long overdue workout. The workout was going well, until I went just a little bit too heavy on the squats and felt my back go. Always going that little bit too far, where the moment was overstepped.
I tried to ignore the pain and had a glass of wine at lunch. I then spent the next three days lying on my back in pain, which gave me time to read, reassess, sleep and not drink coffee.
While lying in bed I read a book about nutrition written by Dr Libby Weaver an academically qualified nutritionist with a PhD in bio medicine, so no fluffing and sprouting suspicious ideas. Basically, she freeded me from years and years of guilt about never exercising enough and simultaneously gave me permission to take life slowly. This for me could be completely life changing.
I was drinking coffee to spur that energised state that I once had naturally. Where did that go? I want that back. And yet the culprit may most likely be the very thing that I though I needed to get energy – coffee.
The book explains the many ways in which the body works and processes energy, with detailed but readable facts and case studies. I am not completely finished reading it, but would encourage you to find one of her books to fully grasp the magic interconnected nature of our bodies.
I will see how the experiment goes, but so far I am feeling so much calmer, more present in and the moment rather than feeling either ahead of myself or exhausted. It’s a bittersweet loss, something I love, but you know when its time to break up. Will you join me?
The book I read was ‘Calorie Fallacy’ but she has written many books.
Has anyone else had this moment of epiphany before an artwork?
I had a very similar experience to Anne Truitt, an American abstract artist working in sculpture. I was 19 years old. My father had died 6 weeks before. I was in Brussels, travelling alone and entered the art gallery to a huge, or what in hindsight may have tripled in size, red Rothko painting. And there I stood; for what may have been hours or minutes. But it expressed all the tears and grief that I had inside of me that were caught there. At that stage grief had caused my neck and jaw to lock and I could only open my mouth a little and was not able to turn my head at all, in fact I think the Rothko may have healed this as I have no recollection of this afterwards.
That moment changed my life. But it was not just the seeing, it was that a gallery staff member who came up to me and asked if I was an artist. Oh me? “Mais non”, but every part of me was thinking - yes! How did you know what I myself did not even want to admit to myself, because the idea of being an artist is so hazy, so unreal, so illogical and spacious in its intent. “Well”, said the lovely suited man, “You should be”.
The epiphany must have spoken louder than I realised. Maybe I cried? Maybe I really was there for hours, whatever it was I felt it resonate so deeply it still rifles there. The intense redness stirring my blood and my heart and my tears and will not allow me to let art go; as much as it hurts me sometimes trying to work out what it is I am doing.