Canvases in Pieces

I’ve made some carved adjustments to the Wake Up print but haven’t yet printed the results. What I have been doing is dismantling and cutting up old paintings that I’ve felt are not my best. I’m working, slowly, to whittle down my stuff–whether works I’ve made or things I’ve bought. As part of that I’ve decided to be bold and take apart some canvases. This has felt daring at times because I feel that I’m breaking a taboo. I now have a pile of large and small pieces of old paintings. What I’ll do with them is still percolating within me.

One important thing I learned the other day was: Do not cut up your work until you’ve photographed it whole, that is, unless you don’t want a record of it. I reassembled the jigsaw puzzle of the most recent canvas I’d cut up after realizing I had never taken photos of it. This, despite having taken multiple photos of most of the other work I’ve done.

One of the most detailed processes was dismantling an old self portrait on a canvas board–peeling the canvas off, sponging the back to remove bits of the paper board still stuck to it and then recycling the board. Once I’d done that and cut the image into pieces, I played around with the strips and wove some of them together.

I’ll let you know where all this playing around leads as I find that out myself.

Recent Happenings and Prints

I had a great time at The Heart Show that four of my prints were in during February. I was happy that two of the four prints I submitted sold. Since then, I’ve been making more prints and adding finishing touches to others.

This first block print is one I’ve posted before. I returned to work on the hands and one arm of the creature and now feel the print is complete.

This next print arose from an old painting that I recently cut into sections. I had thought of making a card deck from the painting but later changed my mind. The painting is an apocalyptic scene of great suffering. I chose one of the faces I’d cut out and added a rescue dog to give her comfort. The first photo shows the rough proof on my bulletin board with the woman’s face from the painting above the print. The final photo shows the completed print. I call it Mercy in Dire Times.

Kevork Mourad

For the past 2 weekends, I’ve gone to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto to see the work of Kevork Mourad, who was artist in residence at the Museum. I wasn’t familiar with his work, but was drawn to watch him work because he was combining painting and printmaking. I loved seeing him work last weekend–he combined painting on flexible plastic sheets with mono printing on large pieces of cotton fabric. Some of his work that he’d done earlier in the week was spread out on the floor and I knew I wanted to see the finished work. It is now, through February 24th, hung in 2 large arcs of 3 layers each. He has created a beautiful city. Parts are broken, parts are whole. They conveyed a haunting atmosphere.

Kevork was born in Syria. I heard him telling another visitor last week that he was creating a city where all 3 major religious groups live in peace–harkening back to Spain in, I believe, the 9th and 10th centuries. His work combines spontaneity with musical collaboration. I didn’t get a chance to see the musician who collaborates with him live, but saw them together in the video that was playing near the installation. His work is tremendously inspiring to me. Here’s a few photos I took each week.

Kevork at Aga Khan

Kevork Mourad art

Kevork Mourad Instal

Kevork Mourad Instal2

Kevork Mourad Instal1

Joy and Despair

This painting began as one related to my father as a teenager.  That image is now hidden under a layer of red and yellow paint.  I was unhappy with the quality of that image because I found myself working in a tight fashion.  In an attempt to free myself, I painted lines and shapes with gestures that felt more energized.

This is what followed.  It surprised me with its joyful air because I began the work on a day of despairing over the latest scientific warnings about climate change.  Painting the image raised my spirits even as I thought: This beautiful world that we desecrate.  At different points in the process, I was reminded of a Persian carpet and the ocean.  My enduring love of seashells has entered the painting.

I used acryl gouache paint and, again, added some directly printed impressions of stamps that I made years ago.

Raw

This is the work I showed a detail of in my last post. It has gone through extreme changes and finally developed into this image that I am now going to stop working on and let be.  In some ways it’s an awkward piece and I felt it was trying to tell me something, so I wrote about it. Here’s the print/painting/collage:

And here’s the writing, be it prose or poetry:

Now the fragments of my sharp childhood become pieces of old paper, old carved imprints cut and torn and glued to something stable so I don’t whirl apart. I glue and paint and ask the pieces what they are, how can paint and print relate, how can the parts talk to each other–easily or not, like I do when awake in the dark unable to move. Here paint moves, the print says something in a language I can’t quite place which is good because it’s like a dream, beyond my intentions. And in order to hold this uneasy work together, I frame it in a strange landscape, so it doesn’t fly away yet but shows its strange self perhaps howling at the sky. Something or someone sees. That’s what matters–some consciousness even in sinister times and the beauty, the possible beauty of colour and an awkward curved or straight line. 

Old and new, what’s become of the fragments falling through air–old voices and hands, dried petals and leaves, paper flowers, old garlands and sea shells falling lightly to earth forming sand out of lives once lived, the sand on which I walked as a child collecting spiral shapes kind enough to place my dreams in, the sand that I and this work are becoming even as summer passes into fall.

Slow Going Plus Writing

I’ve been working on another piece that combines part of an old linocut with gouache paint. It’s been a tough one in terms of design. I’ll post it here once I finish it. Yesterday I said aloud while working: “I should just throw this against the wall.” After that I made some progress! Here’s a detail of the work:

Meanwhile I’ve also started writing again. Years ago I wrote often, but had mostly stopped except for keeping a journal of daily events and dreams. Now I’ve returned to writing as a way to slow the loss of nouns as I age. I find that writing longhand helps me.

This week I recalled an excellent book I used to refer to when I facilitated expressive arts groups. It’s called PoemCrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. It’s a very lively book, beautifully written, that offers many, many ideas about writing poems without getting hung up on trying to define what poems are or are not.

I got out the book and am using it to give me jumping off places. Here’s something I wrote the other night that began with the author’s talking about names.

I will write myself into a new name, the other side of Lily, a blue shadow under pines in a night forest where the luna moth flies and I sleep, a bear of a dog by my side. I am covered with needles not of my grandfather’s, but of trees who wish me no harm as I wish them none. It is here I die each night, ready for my last, happy to awaken to the sun and the tiny birds stirring the air with song. Here I am no outcast. I am on the other side of war.

Fish

This is another one of the recent pieces I’ve done, again combining part of an old linocut with stamps and gouache paint. This is the first work in which I included stamps that I printed right on the board.

It took me a long time to see what might be emerging in the work. I saw the central fish first, but much of the piece was unformed for quite a while.  When the green and pink fish finally emerged, they reminded me of childhood paintings.

As I work, I’ve started paying attention to light, dark and medium hues. I learned to focus on this in textile courses I took when I was doing fibre art work. I find that photographing the work on my phone and doing a quick edit to a black, white and grey image helps me see what’s going on and not only be caught up with the colours I’m using.

Here’s the full work plus a close up:

P.S. My apologies to the birds who don’t want to be ignored!