Wednesday, April 6, 2011

further thoughts on an art practice and the year that was.

painting based on a work by Paul Klee form his Vol 2 Notebook.

Years ago I heard a fascinating lecture (notes are stashed somewhere) and a thought that travelled with me from that was a discussion on the concept 'to coagulate'. The speaker's lively imagery kept my imagination dwelling on this idea around things needing to coagulate before they become fully embedded in one's psyche.

She argued our oft acquisitive approach life, to work and ideas... compelled as we are to consume more and more as we go along... leaves us periodically needing to stop the flow and 'close in' so as to address the necessity of coherence! By giving time to chew things over... work out what to reject  ... how to re-incorporate the rest  she suggested we could move forward ... strengthened, deepened, reinvigorated by this interlude.

Musing on how energy collects around a strong idea the first step seems to demand of us that we become clear re what is of central importance. Taking time for things to 'coagulate' it could be said is what precisely what allows one to arrive at what really matters.

From the Mirriam-Webster dictionary:

Definition of COAGULATE

transitive verb
: to cause to become viscous or thickened into a coherent mass : curdleclot
: to gather together or form into a mass or group
intransitive verb
: to become coagulated
— co·ag·u·la·bil·i·ty noun
— co·ag·u·la·ble adjective
— co·ag·u·la·tion noun

Examples of COAGULATE

  1. The eggs coagulate when heated.
  2. The medicine helps coagulate blood.


Latin coagulatus, past participle of coagulare to curdle, from coagulum curdling agent, from cogere to drive together — more at cogent
First Known Use: 15th century

section of a painting completed after hospitalisation
for 15 days in Feb, 2008 ...I'd needed constant blood
tranfusions over two days till I was stabilised...!

So why consider this now?

... words work slowly, over time.... offer me a potent source for contemplation. 

For each person who commits to 'Practice' their art there's endless deliberations ...over years... on how best to approach development of ideas and execution of one's work (lets not even start on the rest). To insist there is one way... a right way... when we are now, more than ever, aware of individual differences and at the same time celebrating  enormous global diversity of cultural forms and practices, would certainly be a blighted view!

A Tumblr site seed capsules I recently began reveals, for me anyway, the particularities of how people 'see'... especially evident in those who pursue their vision with verve. Tumblr's visual archive means one's own postings or reblogged writings, poetry, quotes, artworks, photos etc are easily accessed. I'd not expected it to be so useful or engaging a process... for tracking ideas - visual and textual... and thinking! Curiously it has spurred on feeling more at home with my own idiosyncratic artistic impulses and mark-making ...not out of self-regard for what I do... rather ... in finding a quieter middle ground between that familiar love/hate see-saw re the work! Simply by 'getting' more into the essential truth of what interests and concerns me. 

 'to coagulate' ...  describes quite well this much needed 'slowed-down time' I've had over the first few months of 2011.  Ive been pondering  thoughts on "the art of interpretation" in a similarly slow way.


a presentation of an artistic work (as a piece of music) from a particular point of view interpretation of a piece that is a touchstone for violinists>

Related Words adaptationreworkingvariation
a distinct treatment of something (as a story or a play) interpretation of The Nutcracker>

Related Words versionadaptationtranslation

Basically... last year felt like the running shoes were on from February till December during the residency ... and for someone who actually enjoys a lot of quiet studio time without dead-lines, is not afraid of working really long hours, with not so much as a date on the horizon for a show ( I know - not the done thing) last year was quite shocking in some respects.

On the other hand it was the perfect timing for moving things on and throwing together ideas that had been brewing for years.

This past few months have been essential for catching one's breathe.... and despite other undertakings keeping things busy,  this precious opportunity to go over certain ideas and themes...  observe ideas coalgulating or "thickening into a coherent mass" ... well that has been invaluable! 
journal page included in 'homage to the seed' book

When commencing the residency in February, 2010 the first weeks were bewildering despite the well-defined focus and plans, familiarity with the location and such. The journal was a life-saving device whilst playing with possibilities. The page above, from the beginning of the journal, arrived out of a conscious effort to not be waylaid emulating the work of botanical illustrators. I was after a development of my own visual language around seed forms... building on what I'd already been working with.

This page from the book can be clicked to enlarge for reading ... it brings the process of drawing cross-sections of seed capsules together with the creation of motifs which were then employed in paintings like on the oval below.

This seemed the most pertinent way to refer to Biodiversity in its multiplicity ... in a manner that was simultaneously based in realism whilst being abstracted to translate as a symbol.

Queensland Rainforest Fruits : Seed capsules - cross sections
representing the biodiversity of species to be found in this state.

I kicked off this post today after revisiting this quote below from NY based artist Philip Taafe in conversations with American Poet Robert Creely. Taafe's work resonates with me - his interest in forms, in symbolic languages and forms that survive the archaic world ... and yet he is very contemporary and engaging on different levels. Click to enlarge for reading. Written 11 years ago the ideas are certainly relevant to me now...

From Homage to the Seed book

Something I'm appreciating increasingly as I work on seeds and all that they represent ... culturally, politically, scientifically... is that seeds and plants were of enormous significance to the ancients...their lives depended greatly on foraging, hunting, harvesting a crop, on knowledge of what they could eat, what would kill them, what might be medicinal and so on.
When images of these forms found their way into engravings, wall frescoes, mosaics and textiles ... these motifs weren't simply decorative but held great spiritual, symbolic or cultural value. 

We've lost something very life-preserving in cutting ourselves off so dramatically from nature, from intimate knowing of life-cycles in nature, from the symbolic realm and cultural valuing of the earth and its abundant heritage. 

I'm certainly not arguing for a govt-led reinstatement of belief systems and rituals... but I'm certainly keen to see more complex and penetrating ideas brought to the table for dialogue on how we think about our seed heritage, the biodiversity of this planet and the relationship between all things... and the cultural thinking that sustains the links between all things.

And in this light we have much to learn from those who've come before us and those around the planet whose cultural practice has not divorced them from honouring this profound symbiotic relationship.

symbiosis |ˌsimbēˈōsis; -bī-|noun ( pl. -ses | -ˌsēz|) Biologyinteraction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to theadvantage of both. Compare with antibiosis .• a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups a perfect mother and daughter symbiosis.DERIVATIVESsymbiotic |-ˈätik| |ˈˈsɪmbaɪˈɑdɪk| |-ˈɒtɪk| adjectivesymbiotically |-ˈätik(ə)lē| |ˈˈsɪmbaɪˈɑdək(ə)li| |-ˈɒtɪk(ə)li| adverbORIGIN late 19th cent.modern Latinfrom Greek sumbiōsis a living together,’ fromsumbioun ‘live together,’ from sumbios ‘companion.’

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About Me

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Blogging for me is an extension of keeping a journal which I have done in various forms over the decades. The difference being this is not a closed book! I like that it offers an opportunity to explore that which concerns me as an artist and as an individual about living and participating in this vastly complex, unquestionably exciting yet unnerving time in human history. Through the blog I hope to increase the possibilties for cross-pollination which I believe can strengthen the sense of being part of something both personal and universal that is vital, expansive and refreshing.