Art as Divination?
Have you ever noticed shapes and figures, monsters and animals hidden in the swirls and patterns of marble or peeling paint? My green marble bathroom tiles are seething with all sorts of wonderful patterns, and one day I will just sit in there and copy them as carefully as I can.
I think that it was Leonardo who advised his students to do just this. He said it was the best way to liberate and encourage creative thought.
I have been working on a collection of paintings of trees for some time now. It’s a subject I return to quite often. I have made so many sketches and studies on the subject that I am seeing tree shapes everywhere. My feelings around their wanton destruction and our disregard for their importance are also coming to the surface. When I found a pile of canvases in my studio that I had resurfaced ready for repainting, I wasn’t really surprised when the random marks became worried faces and trees. This is probably true for all of us; we will find things in odd patterns that are relevant to what is currently happening in our lives. It’s a bit like reading tea leaves – a way of divination perhaps.
Once you start seeing things, it’s hard to stop. First you will probably see faces, as that’s what we humans seem to identify with most easily, but soon other things will pop up and surprise you too.
I often over-paint canvases and paper using a homemade crazy roller. I tied string around a foam roller and then use it with a mix of gesso and acrylics. Lovely! The unpredictable marks that this produces on canvas or paper are always interesting. I just couldn’t make those marks on purpose.
In this way I can produce sets of patterns with lovely textures that just have to sit around and wait until I am inspired by them. Then the trick is to pick out just enough detail to define what I have seen without losing the mystery of the marks. It’s as if the pictures are paintings themselves, and that they were just waiting for me to be in the right frame of mind to see them. I suppose someone else would see completely different things in them……
I will be showing these paintings in my exhibition at Palazzo de Piro in Mdina this September. If you are not already on my mailing list for updates and invites to my classes, events and exhibitions please pop your email address into the box on this page!