Friday, June 26, 2015

ENTRANCE

 

Entrance Entrance Mixed media on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015
 
ARRIVING AT A PARTY
Entrance is a fantastic word. It holds meanings that play with nuance. One meaning for entrance is that of a literal entry, like a gate, an opening, a foyer...something that allows or guides arrival at a place. One can also sit entrance exams that upon successfully completing allow entry into an educational institution. There is also making an entrance. For example, a flamboyant person, upon arrival at an event can make an entrance by drawing attention to themselves with their behaviour, style, clothing. They distinguish themselves from others who arrive without notice or attention. And, another meaning of entrance is to en-trance...captivate, beguile, enthral, mesmerise.
 
A flamboyant person, arriving at the entrance of a mansion where a party to celebrate a friend's successful completion of university entrance exams, could make an entrance that was so delightful and captivating that people might be entranced!
 
Where AM I going with this?
 
When I was painting Entrance Entrance [above] I was thinking about space travel. Yep, space travel! I was thinking about people who are planning to go to Mars, a destination they are not likely to return from. That's if they actually arrive! I was thinking about the discoveries of potential Earth-like exoplanets that may promise safe harbour for humanity in the future. It will require intergalactic travel! I read about these things...and...I am captivated by the possibilities. They trigger the imagination is ways that take flight...in a way I am en-tranced!
 
In Entrance Entrance, a cosmic landscape is interrupted by what looks like a gate, fence or bars that obscure the horizons beyond. Does this indicate an entrance to the wonders of intergalactic territories? Maybe it's a warning to tread carefully? Or, maybe humanity has already travelled forth, but cannot return? Maybe 'home' is on the other side? After all, going through an entrance does not guarantee a return.

The colourful 'barrier' may simply be a suggestion to stop and think. Many commentators remark that the 21st century is a 'crossroad' where technology promises amazing things, if we monitor and question carefully. If we don't, there may not be a way to 'turn back'. Just because we can do something, does not mean we should. I love the potential for inter-disciplinary research and investigation, drawing scientists, economists, philosophers, artists, and more together, to pave the future's pathway with rigour and excitement.
 
ENTRANCEMENT
Maybe the fantastic-ness of space travel and the promise of technological enhancements to and for humanity are like the flamboyant person arriving at a celebration...they have made an entrance into the 21st century and we are en-tranced.  Indeed, there is so much media coverage, popular and serious, of Mars trips, newly discovered Earth-Like planets, and seemingly extraordinary technological advances, including the potential of exponential artificial intelligence development. But, what if there are other 'arrivals' into the 21st century that have entered quietly without making an entrance? If they have, hopefully they are of the benevolent kind!
 
I am reminded of an article I wrote about recently. The article, Terminator Robots and AI Risk by Meia Chita-Tegmark, appeared in the Huffington Post in February. Chita-Tegmark is a PhD candidate at Boston University and a founder of the Future Of Life Institute, a research centre and think tank focused on existential risks posed by emerging technologies. In the article Chita-Tegmark writes about humanity's propensity to 'embody' fears in things we can see and warns that the real dangers may lie in the unseen. She writes, The risk of AI is very likely not going to play out as armies of robots taking over the world, but in more subtle ways by AI taking our jobs, by controlling our financial markets, our power plants, our weaponized drones, our media... Evolution has not equipped us to deal with such ghostly entities that don't come in the form of steel skeletons with red shiny eyes, but in the form of menacing arrangements of zeros and ones. 

Chita-Tegmark's article got me thinking...a lot. Shiny eyed and steel skeleton-ed robots or beguiling AIs like the beautiful Eva in the recent film Ex Machina or 30 year old Blade Runner's four awesome replicants are all examples of how making an entrance can en-trance humanity with extra-ordinariness and excitement. This entrancement somehow gives the impression that we are confronting our fears, lessening their influence. But, the outcome may be a diversion of attention from Chita-Tegmark's ghostly entities and menacing arrangements of zeros and ones. These arrive unseen and unnoticed, not attracting attention against the 'flamboyance' of 'embodied' manifestations.
We need to go beyond the surface...beyond entertainment ...beyond entrancement. Being entranced is a very human characteristic and whilst it can be extremely satisfying, it may be one of our most significant existential risks.  
 
You might like to also read these posts and see the paintings too:
IN SIGHT

WHERE THERE'S LIFE THERE'S...

UNSEEN 
 
Count Down To CODE
My forthcoming exhibition
Tuesday July 21 - Sunday August 2
Graydon Gallery, 29 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Open Daily: 10 am - 6 pm or by appointment
Artist's Talk: Sunday 26 July 11 am - 12 noon
 
 
Below is a photo of 3D glasses I take to my exhibitions. Why? Well, it was pointed out to me a few years ago, by a visitor to one of my shows, that my paintings would 'go' 3D with 3D glasses. When it was first mentioned to me I thought 'SURE', but as it transpired, many of my paintings do separate into multiple dimensions when viewed with 3D glasses. It certainly acts as a talking point!
 

 
And below is a photo of four works on paper that have been recently framed in readiness for CODE!
 
 
 Cheers,
Kathryn
 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

QUESTIONS - THREE PAINTINGS

 Maybe Off Limits? Mixed Media on Paper 21 x 30 cm 2015


These three works on paper all have titles that ask questions, so I thought I would 'curate' a mini online exhibition called Questions. Over the years I have painted other paintings that are also titled with questions, but these three paintings here will be included in my forthcoming bricks-and-mortar-gallery exhibition, CODE .

I like the idea of teasing out mini-themes within a larger exhibition and as I was sorting out images for my CODE catalogue I realised that these three works on paper ask questions which relate to humanity leaving planet Earth, to re-settle somewhere else in the Universe. For example, settlement on Mars is a serious consideration, with plans for human colonisation.

There are many reasons for why humanity's exit from Earth is proposed. One is simply driven by human curiosity, desire and explorative excitement. Other reasons relate to questions about the sustainability of Earth and threats to existence that may force a need to escape.

YET!

'Leaving' Earth does not have to be physical! For example, there is a proposition that in the future we will be able to download our minds onto a computer or robot. A downloaded mind could travel on intergalactic trips, developing memories and even 'sensing' the experience as if physically participating. The downloaded mind could 'outlive' the physical body, taking the identity into forever-land.


Can We leave? Mixed Media on Paper 21 x 30 cm 2015
 
Leaving Earth, both physically and as a downloaded mind, certainly poses many practical, ethical and philosophical questions that relate to the meaning of life and existence. Even downloading one's mind is a kind of 'leaving' in itself. Code becomes the form of departure. But, would there be a way of return, a rescue pathway if needed? Could we retrieve our mind from the downloaded entity?
 
So, what could be off limits? The painting at the top is called Maybe Off Limits? One of the round planet-like balls has lines, like bars, painted across it. Initially this suggests that maybe this place is off limits because of a hostile environment, unsuitable for human habitation. Yet, what if the bars are across Earth? And let's go a bit deeper....What if these round shapes are not planets, but symbolic of ideas?
 
The middle painting Can We leave? again has a round shape with security-like bars painted on it. Is this Earth, with security bars keeping us safe, forcing questions and possibly mitigating hasty decisions? Or are they prison bars, keeping us locked away? But, here's another question, is the round shape symbolic of mind, where the bars could be seen as both/either security or prison bars. What if this round shape is a downloaded mind 'travelling' through the universe long after its physical harbour has died and Earth has been annihilated? And, that leads me to the question Where to Now? the title of the painting below.
 

Where To Now? Mixed Media on Paper 21 x 30 cm 2015
 
 
Where To Now? is a painting of the future. It poses crossroad-type questions. The choice of route determines outcomes. Research into existential risks warns that we, in the 21st century, are at a crossroad. The decisions we make now, especially with emerging technologies, will determine the future in serious ways that will affect planetary survival.   
 
Oh boy...heavy stuff!
 
Yet, I love the contrariness of using painting as a way of posing questions about the pursuits of technology. For me, painting keeps me connected in ways technology cannot. In my imagination I leave Earth all the time! And, in a way, all my imaginings are 'downloaded' into my art...
 
Cheers,
Kathryn

Thursday, June 11, 2015

CODED LANDSCAPE AND THE BLACK SOIL PLAIN

Coded Landscape Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015
 
 
CHILDHOOD LANDSCAPE - BLACK SOIL PLAIN
Regular readers will know that I grew up on a flat black soil treeless plain on the fertile Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. The flatness and expanse of distance has influenced my art, but I suspect it also pre-disposed me to an embrace of cosmological/universal distance, both close and far.
 
The distance of my childhood landscape provided uninterrupted visions of Earth's horizon, often blurred on hot days by amazing shimmering mirages. These horizons could also provide witness to fantastic fiery crop stubble burn-offs, as well as the tantalising promise of rain. At night the blackness extended into a sky that twinkled with the Milky Way. Yet, whilst far distance seemed to dominate, close distance was given free reign to entice. By this I mean, it was as if immense distance brought detail to attention. For example, the spidery cracks in the black soil as it dried, lead to bigger cracks as the earth yielded to drought. This cracking quickly disappeared with the arrival of rain. Other details include the faint ting of green, across hectares of land, as the seeds my Dad planted grew into crops. Dust, chicken eggs, snake trails, spider webs, ants' nests, small whirly winds, the burst of mushrooms after rain, shooting stars...all these details and more were partners with distance.
 
RECENT TRIP
The photo below was taken by my daughter on a recent trip to my childhood landscape and home. You can see the flatness of the land, naturally treeless and abounding with fertile deep black soil. The relentless blue sky meets the horizon in a definite line, only occasionally interrupted by a farm house. When there's a mirage, blurring the meeting of sky and land, farmhouses seem to swim in a kind of elevated no-place. The crop that had been recently harvested, in this photo, is cotton. Cotton is a relatively new crop for the area I grew up in. When I was growing up wheat, corn, oats and sorghum were the main crops my Dad and our neighbours planted. 


Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox and the Pirrinuan landscape
 
 
CODED LANDSCAPE
Now to my painting Coded Landscape. Even though it is only a small painting 15 x 21 cm, distance is obvious, both close and far. A string of binary code for LIFE creates a landscape-like contour against a seemingly universal sky. The detail is in the code, yet so is the immense expanse.
 
This painting plays with Prof Nick Bostrom's theory that all of existence is a computer simulation. If, indeed, we are part of a universal simulation developed by post-human entities, I'd suggest that landscape, in the very broadest sense, is a continuous presence, thus a link that maybe 'coded'?
 
BUT! Landscape is a continuous linking presence whether there is a overarching computer simulation or not. Thus landscape may still be 'coded' in some form or another? For me, landscape and concepts of it, do link everything. How? At the instance of the Big Bang 'landscape' was born in the substance that became the universe, including Earth where our immediate understanding of landscape lies. Yet, in the 21st century we need to untether concepts of landscape form Earth-bound horizons. Whilst we humans arrived billions of years after the Big Bang, we also are 'landscape' because we are made from the same universal star dust.
 
'Landscape' provides a fluid framework for existence to be negotiated upon and within, and in reference to. Essentially it's a matter of perspective...which needs distance, metaphoric and literal! Existence IS landscape! And, perspective, literal and metaphoric, is crucially important for humanity to embrace in the 21st century. I have previously suggested that we need to develop skills of 'seeing' multi-perspectives...even simultaneously.
 
TECHNOLOGY
My Dad is a HAM radio enthusiast. On the farm he had tall aerials to capture and send signals, a shack full of electronic gear and vehicles equipped with communication devices...and more. He could communicate with people all over the world and this is well before the age of the internet. So, in this flat horizon-ed landscape of close and far distance, I grew up also surrounded by technology. Not only electronic technology but also the technologies utilised by farmers, particularly ones who had a predisposition to tech innovation!
 
It is against this childhood background that I imagine 'landscape' as being the continuing framework for existence into a future where technology will have increasing influences, both good and bad. With sophisticated tools of perspective and an 'eye' on 'landscape' hopefully the former outcome reigns!
 
Coded Landscape will be in my forthcoming exhibition CODE
 
 
http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/hidden-seen-in-my-minds-eye.html
The Hidden Seen In My Mind's Eye Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm 2004
 
 
 
MY NEXT EXHIBITION
 
 
Tuesday 21 July - Sunday 2 August
Open daily 10 am - 6 pm or by appointment
Graydon Gallery 29 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane, Australia
 
 
 
Cheers,
Kathryn
 
 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

COSMIC REVELATION

Cosmic Revelation Mixed media on paper 24 x 32 cm 2015
 
 
It is only 7 weeks until the doors open to my next exhibition CODE.
 
As always I am excited and nervous. But, I do look forward to seeing an exhibition hung and I love chatting to people who come to see it. I like the buzz.
 
WHY CODE?
I've chosen the title CODE for the exhibition because it's a loaded word! It allows me to play with secrets...those that the universe may hold tight, but we humans want to explore and understand. In the 21st century 'code' also takes on technological imperatives that influence our everyday lives. It propels us into the future with its unseen and unheard language working in the background of computer systems around the world. 
 
So, I try to tackle the secrets of the universe with my much loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life. My last post Tree-of-Life Dreaming explains some of the reasons why I love to use the tree-of life as a visual guide in my work.
 
Tackling computer code is a different thing altogether! I am not a computer scientist, however I do understand computer code's instructional symbolism. In some of my recent paintings I have included binary code representing LIFE. In a couple of the paintings I have juxtaposed binary code with the tree-of-life. Now...these were fun to paint...they tickled my sense of humour, but also stimulated lots of thoughts about existence and the future.
 
If you are interested in code and the future you might like to listen to Prof Stuart Russell speaking at the The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge University, about artificial intelligence. His speech was called The Long-Term Future Of [Artificial] Intelligence  I find it rather interesting that there are brackets around the word artificial! It kind-of alludes to intelligence, in its entirety, being questioned. Yet, I have listened to the whole presentation and I am excited about the future. I am also so very happy that really really intelligent people are thinking critically about AI development, to ensure that it will be for the benefit of humans and the planet.
 
COSMIC REVELATION
So, let's talk about the painting above Cosmic Revelation. Well the word revelation gives a bit of a clue, given my previously stated quest to reveal the secrets of the universe! The wavy lines could be strips of code imbedded in waves of energy? Or they could be whispering contours of another universe existing simultaneously with ours? But what about the spaces in between? Are they like the 'unknown' in black holes...some kind of energy concealing the continuity of wavy energy? These alternate spaces play with perception, at one minute appearing to be in the foreground and the next receding away from the viewer. They almost act like a wave themselves...maybe detected from a different angle?
 
Cosmic Revelation is what I call a cosmic landscape! It has landscape elements, yet it is not Earth-bound. Regular readers know of another of my quests....to untether landscape from Earth-bound horizons.
 
Cosmic Revelation will be in CODE. It's at the framers now, being framed up for exhibition. Although, I will also be exhibiting some unframed works on paper, so that buyers can choose their own frames.  
 
INSTAGRAM:
If you just want to see paintings please follow me on INSTAGRAM @kathrynbrimblecombefox
 
 
 
 
Tuesday 21 July - Sunday 2 August
Open daily 10 am - 6 pm or by appointment
Graydon Gallery 29 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane, Australia
 
 
 
Cheers,
Kathryn

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

TREE-OF-LIFE DREAMING

Tree of Life Mixed media on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015
 
 
Regular readers know I love the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol. Why do I love it?
 
  • The fact that it is age-old and crosses cultures/religions means that it connects life across time and space. When I paint my versions of the tree-of-life I feel connected, not only to the past but to future life also. The power of connection is of paramount importance as we are propelled into the cosmological 21st century.
  • Its branching appearance reflects systems of all kinds, both natural and human-made. These systems lie within our bodies and repeat across the Earth and also the Universe, at micro and macro scales. When I say human-made I mean such things as traffic systems, electrical circuitry, computer chips, telegraphic connections and more.  
  • My quest to untether the tree-of-life from traditional visual depictions, in order to tease out its potential meaningfulness in the 21st century, excites me emotionally, creatively and intellectually!
  • The symbol's meta capacities, I suspect, may help us remember what it means to be human. In an age where scientists, researchers and philosophers warn about existential risks posed by artificial intelligence and associated, maybe symbolic connection will not only save us, but also allow us to forge technological pathways that are even more immensely beneficial for us and all living creatures...as well as Earth and the Universe.


    Whoa! That's huge! Hey, I'm an artist and I can dream....
And, when artists dream they invite you to enter a world of possibility. In my case, my dreams are not without nightmarish dystopian possibilities, but I use the tree-of-life as a beacon of hope and beauty.
 
 
 
Life Calling Mixed media on paper 15 x 21 cm 2015 [SOLD]
 
 
Here's a link to a 2011 post I wrote about the influence of the tree-of-life on my work.
 
And links to recent posts where I discuss some of my paintings combining the tree-of-life with another symbol of life...binary code for LIFE
 
 
And, I enjoy the contrariness of using a traditional painting technology to paint images that reflect upon high-tech aspects of 21st century life and activity.
 
Cheers,
Kathryn
 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

UNSEEN

Unseen Oil on linen 90 x 80 cm
 
 
 
Unseen is the fourth 'code' painting I mentioned in my last post Universal Code

Like my recent painting and post Where There's Life There's... Unseen was inspired by  an article Terminator Robots and AI Risk by Meia Chita-Tegmark. She is a PhD candidate at Boston University and a co-founder of the Future Of Life Institute, a research think-tank focused on mitigating existential risks, including those posed by human level artificial intelligence [AGI]. In her article Chita-Tegmark warns that the real danger in artificial intelligence may lie in humanity's tendency to 'embody' its fears in images and depictions of objects such as terminator robots, thus diverting our attention from the unseen, and potentially really dangerous, aspect of AI: unseen code...strings of zeros and ones. She writes, Evolution has not equipped us to deal with such ghostly entities that don't come in the form of steel skeletons with red shiny eyes, but in the form of menacing arrangements of zeros and ones.

UNSEEN
So...in Unseen I've tried to make the unseen...seen. But, not in a technical way. Instead I have juxtaposed an age-old symbol for LIFE, the transcultural/religious tree-of-life, with binary code, another kind of symbol, which repeatedly expresses the word LIFE.

Tree branches interspersed along the ribbon of binary code, are placed deliberately. Three branches seem to grow from the tree and two others appear to 'grow' from the coil of code. Where does life begin and end? Does code appropriate LIFE, thus simulating it? Or, maybe there is a Universal Code, without time and space, that seeds all LIFE, simulated or not? Lots of questions!

The colours of the tree's roots are the same vibrant colours used to paint the binary code. Yes, it's deliberate...


NEWS
 
My next exhibition is soon
 
Tuesday 21 July - Sunday 2 August
 

I am calling the exhibition
 
CODE
 
Graydon Gallery, 29 Merthyr Rd, New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Keep and eye out for more details over the next weeks.
 
Graydon Gallery is a rental space and it is quite lovely inside, with pristine white walls and polished timber floor. The gallery is spacious and shows off my colourful, and sometimes large, paintings really well. There is ample un-metered parking outside and wheel chair access. Whilst I would like to have a dealer/s, it does not stop me exhibiting. I love painting...and I also love exhibiting. My previous work in curatorial capacities at National Gallery of Australia and in S.E Qld regional galleries means I curate my exhibitions with an 'eye' for how the paintings 'speak' to each other, how the space around them breaths and allows for the paintings to also 'breath' and more.
 
One of the benefits of rental spaces is that visitors can to talk with the artist, as it is normally the artist who looks after the show. During my exhibitions I have lots of wonderful conversations with people. In fact, impromptu artist's talks happen all the time. I start with a one or two people and by the end of the 'tour of the show', others have joined. I normally have a publicised artist's talk too and I am happy to report that these are really well attended.
 
I look forward to seeing you at CODE
 
* The recent budget [Australia] included new tax write-offs for small businesses for purchases of business related expenses under $20,000. This includes art purchased for fit-out etc. If you are a small business owner check with your accountant whether this new incentive [particularly the purchase of art!] is something you can take advantage of. And, if it is...
 
Cheers,
Kathryn

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

UNIVERSAL CODE

Universal Code Oil on linen 92 x 102 cm
 
 
CODE
Code...it really has grabbed my attention. There are four recent paintings to prove it. I've written about two of them Code and Where there's Life There's... And, now Universal Code above. The fourth painting is yet to be completed. You will see it soon, here on this BLOG.
 
The word code is a loaded one. It conjures thoughts of secrecy, war time decoding of enemy messages, morse code and secret service type manoeuvrings. Then we have a more secular use of code that embraces body language, innuendo, sarcasm...you know the type of thing...when someone is not saying clearly what they mean, but seem to think [or hope] others will understand. And, then we have computer code.
 
COMPUTER CODE
And, computer code propels so much of our lives, from daily tasks to major research, from BPAY to high frequency market trading and more. I am sitting in front of my computer, writing this post, and code is working in the background enabling my words to appear, even correcting them. Code is helping me produce and communicate. And, of course there is the insidious aspect of code enabling surveillance, secrecy, data collection, cyber malevolence, manipulation and more. And, let's not forget the double-edged prospect of artificial general intelligence ie: artificial intelligence akin to, and perhaps exceeding, human intelligence.    
 
But, my paintings are not literally about code...I am not a computer scientist nor an IT specialist. However, I do have an IT specialist brother and my Dad is a decades-long HAM Radio enthusiast with a keen interest in, and knowledge about, technology.
 
BINARY CODE
As with my last two 'code' paintings  Code and Where there's Life There's... my new painting Universal Code has a ribbon-like trail of binary code, repeatedly expressing the word LIFE.
 
Here's a very useful and interesting link that briefly discusses the history of binary code and its importance. Indeed, the first two sentences on the siteAll computer language is based on binary code. It is the back end of all computer functioning. very clearly shows how important binary code is. And, what is absolutely fascinating is that binary code's history flows from Sanscrit, to the 17th century philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz, to people like Alan Turing and Sir Tim Berners-Lee...and the plethora of others who make pivotal technological breakthroughs. 
 
The ribbon of LIFE binary code in Universal Code has a wave-like appearance. But, it appears to be a closed ribbon cradling a pulsing orb at the same time as seemingly 'withholding' external forces. Yet whilst the ribbon may appear closed, there is a tunnel-like feeling, as if the viewer is being drawn towards the golden orb or possibly catapulted from it. This gives the impression that we have travelled, or can travel, through a number of these ribbon-like sequences of code, either towards or away from the orb. When painting Universal Code I wanted to create a dynamic resonance of movement, agitation and energy. The way the paint cascades out from the orb suggests a multi-dimensionality of space...and maybe time too. Funnily enough it also suggests a birth canal or maybe the light seen upon death?
 
SIMULATION
I was also thinking about Prof Nick Bostrom's theory that all of universal existence is, in fact, a computer simulation operated by post-humans re-living existence. Here's his initial paper Are You Living In A Computer Simulation? You can also read more about the theory, with contributions from others HERE. I've previously written about how this intriguing and difficult theory has inspired some of my work. I am not saying I completely understand it, but its possibility is enormously thought provoking.
 
What is Universal Code's golden orb? Some might say it is the Sun. Others might think it is the Big Bang. Or it could be a star, a planet, an atom even. Well it could be all of these things and more. Any one of these would suggest that the painting is a landscape...a landscape of the Universe! And, regular readers know of my desire to untether concepts of landscape from Earth-bound horizons.
 
Or, maybe the orb is the highly sophisticated post-human 'computer' generating code which re-creates, maybe over and over again, in a kind of looping manner, all of existence. My repetition of LIFE in binary code sets up the potential for many looping re-creations! BUT...if we are a simulation run by post-humans, we are neither alive nor dead! Gee whizz that's a sobering thought! But, if we are not a simulation, there's an imperative for LIFE to continue. I did not include the code for DEATH, because whether we are a simulation or not, LIFE is a propelling force. It is a primary force, which axiomatically, includes concepts of DEATH anyway.
 
If we are living in a computer simulation the word LIFE certainly takes on different meanings. Indeed, to reduce LIFE to code provokes many existential questions. In fact, it is an important catalyst for reflection. And, that's why I think it is imperative that humankind pays attention to scientists, philosophers and anyone who thoughtfully poses questions about human endeavour.
 
Cheers,
Kathryn
 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

STUDIO FAILURES AND SURVIVORS

Ripped up works on paper
 
 
STUDIO UNDERBELLY
In a recent post called How Long Does It Take? I wrote about process...the painting process and particularly my kind of process. Interestingly a few artists, who also embrace the 'accident', the 'mistake' and understand the need for 'failure', have commented on how refreshing it is for an artist to reveal the underbelly of studio practice. By underbelly, I mean the fact that success and failure are handmaidens, with all the accompanying emotions across the distance between them. 
 
Sometimes a painting, that I consider a success, is completed very quickly. Yet, it's not as simple as isolating a painting in such a way. Why? Because, paintings don't exist without many preceding 'failures'...and successes too. It's part of an ongoing experiment...for me, the experiment is both about technique/medium, and how ideas might be evoked and delivered.

GRAVEYARD OF FAILURES
The photo above displays a pile of torn up works on paper. For a variety or reasons I felt they were not working out. With some I had walked away, hoping to return with 'new eyes' and Ah Ha revelations of what my next mark should be. Others were quickly ripped...yes with some frustration too! Yet, I know it's all just part of a process. Each 'failure' teaches me something, scaffolding my practice in a reality that keeps me stimulated. Boredom is definitely not something I experience when I'm in my studio.
 
One delightful thing about embracing failures, accidents and mistakes, as part of a normal process, is that regurgitating the same image, with only slight variations, is impossible!
 
THREE SUCCESSES!!!
SURVIVORS
So, here are three works on paper that I consider to be successful, for all sorts of reasons. You, however, may not agree...and that's absolutely ok!
 
 
Life Calling Gouache and watercolour on paper 15 x 21 cm
 
 
As I wrote above the ongoing experiment, for me, is about technique/medium and how ideas might be evoked and delivered. So success, is a result of complex jugglings and assimilations of practical application and intellectual processes, aided and abetted by my emotional responses and feedback loops. Some of these emotions are triggered by aesthetics and others by intellectual excitement that agitates not only the mind, but the spirit and soul.
 
LIFE CALLING
I consider Life Calling [above] a successful painting. Why? Because, I think it is aesthetically quite beautiful, but I also get an intellectual kick out of the possibilities in the juxtaposition of the tree and round ball. It is not clear what their relationship is or means. I like that this ambiguity poses lots of questions. The title provides potential clues perhaps...but it does not give an answer. Regular readers know I like ambiguity and the array of questions it allows. These questions are essentially wonderings and regular readers know I like to provoke wonder, for it is a gateway to....  
 
Another painting Life Calling: Anyone There? might also interest you. You can see it and read about it HERE
 
 
Cosmic Cascade Gouache and watercolour on paper 21 x 30 cm
 
 
COSMIC CASCADE
I also consider Cosmic Cascade to be a successful painting, for the same reasons that I think Life Calling is successful. Yes, there both have aesthetic and intellectual elements that excite me. And... yes, my interest in cosmology, the scientific study of the universe [maybe multiverse!] is evident, but I like to think it is not delivered in a didactic manner that shuts down wonder, spiritual investigations, emotionality and more.
 
This painting 'plays' with perspective, literally and metaphorically. The round balls seem to recede from the viewer into a distance, but are the balls planets or could they be atoms, or specs of dust...or even a history of thoughts?
 
 
Can We Leave? Gouache and watercolour on paper 21 x 30 cm
 
 
CAN WE LEAVE?
I nearly tore up Can We Leave? Yep, it was nearly cast into the studio graveyard where all failures go! This was before it was given a title and well before I painted the white ball or the blue lines. In fact, there's a whole layer of other paint underneath what you now see. This is one of those paintings I left, walked out on, hoping that when I returned with 'new eyes' I'd see clues for my next marks. And, in this case, I think anyway, it worked! I sprayed it with water, splashed more paint around, manipulated/painted a few areas and then I let it dry. I liked the result. I then painted the white ball and felt compelled to put the blue lines over the white.
 
Yes, compelled...strange way of painting? Not really. Compulsion comes from an instinct which has been honed by years of painting and thinking. In this case, it was an aesthetic instinct coupled with lots of thoughts triggered by recent articles about discoveries of potential Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars ie: maybe potential new planetary 'homes. Also, articles about plans to send humans on a one way trip to Mars. And, articles about potential existential risks we humans have 'invited' to the matrix of natural ones.
 
But, can humanity leave Earth? Have we created problems, such as climate change, bio-threats, nuclear threats and more, that mean human life on Earth will be cut short, before we have developed safe ways of escape? There seems to be an imperative to look after ourselves and the planet, to give us time to work out how to leave! The white lines painted over the white ball could be prison bars. But, are they bars across Earth symbolising that there is no escape? Or are they security bars symbolising another planet's protection? Yet, they maybe Earthly security bars symbolising our desire to protect our current planetary home? More broadly speaking the idea of security expresses itself across a plethora of human endeavour, physical, emotional, spiritual and more. Can we leave? poses even more questions...should we leave, how to leave, when to leave, why leave, what are we leaving, what are we leaving for, who can leave....?
 
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NEWS
  • I have a 'shop' on my website where I have listed small oil paintings and works on paper for sale. And, they can be purchased online via PayPal. The link is HERE
 

 
Cheers,
Kathryn