September 2020: Covid Paintings
I made notes as I worked on these 5 recent paintings.
The first was a big one; based on my photos and sketches from Cape Tribulation, Myall Creek, and other people’s photos from Downey Creek North Queensland; and tentatively I called the painting “Interdependence” but later renamed it “Myall Creek Cosmic Microcosm”
At this time our main cause for concern was the galloping climate dysfunction (being denied by the neo liberals and their fossil fuel masters), in the form of prolonged drought, high temperatures, enormous bushfires to the east; and awakening several mornings to near blackness from the smoke.
But there were reports of a strange corona shaped virus discovered in China…
“Myall Creek Cosmic Microcosm”
Oils on canvas. 122 x 178cm (big)
I wrote notes to myself every few days like:
Now about this interdependence:
Firstly its similarity and kinship with music enthuses me. Then there’s the cosmos.
Reflections don’t have to reflect exactly, literally. But just enough to say (possibly) “reflections here and there”. Look first at the squiggles. This job requires “right concentration”
24th Feb. Trying to marry interdependence with anarchic invention…The conglomerates of spirochaetes/squiggles are growing.
There is a story going from left to right. Its like a tune…
6 Mar. Today I seem to be working with semi-tones and some tentative edges (Edges should be semi-permeable)…
10 mar. Giving a little rein to Mother Intuition, but under scrutiny – mindful intuition.
12 Mar. First job today was achieving better tonal authenticity. Then ghostlike opportunities – more abstract shapes than sculptural, just for the moment…
Getting it coherent, but not rational (please not!)
And then on 18th Mar:
Several days of non-work; unable to concentrate with the virus approaching. Looks like more tonal work will help.
31 Mar. Getting difficult to concentrate with the covid threat but it seems that seeking out pointers to sculptural/architectural shapes emerging- is a way forward in difficult times.
3 April. I’m harmonizing and improvising “shapes” and thinking of Monet’s Nympheas
10th April. Some interesting wraithlike vapours arising with prospects.
At this point I put Myall Creek aside and began a new job which I called at first: “Looking for the Silver Lining”
but later changed to: “The Silver Lining; Where is it?”
A page with a couple of spidery sketches and caption; “Big Bush in the rain.”
29th April. 3rd day on Silver Lining. The Habit Rabbit and Gunny are there.
This one is dictating its abstract needs and I follow, searching the photos for something that “fits”
So I should be doing also with the previous unfinished (unfinishable??)”Myall Creek”.
12th May. Spirochaetes. What are they?
more like: Vessels, nerves, organic wiring, stitching of interbeing.
Sometimes they aggregate to resemble (via accident or assisted accident) mouth parts, beaks, feathers, claws, insect legs and wings, butterfly patterns, stipples of moss and bark and venation-
Where do they come from?
I spend most of my time in bush and garden looking at them. As well as photos, videos, books which I collect.
I like to think these aggregations can expand to embrace the cosmos.
19th May. Still alive! Back on “Myall creek”. Get the large light aggregations echoing one another…
Its coming together nicely I just have to make the birds sing…
Some bits are a bit too well drawn (heavy) Some bits a little too dithery.
20th May. I can hear some clicking noises but it ain’t birdsong yet. The various sections are making sense and beginning to converse but a bit false just yet. There are some invertebrate spirochaetes.
May 21. Now the larger aggregates begin to shuffle about and reach out- no social distancing here! Getting close to “finish”
26th May. The aggregations are becoming units – little sculptural pendants. I must not let them become nonsensical. Or even relevant.
28th May: Today I am that other fellow who likes his paintings to look like something and I’ve been inserting such things. I have come back via another route, if “back” is where I want to go..My brain has been addled by coronavirus fear. I have to remember that the chance of stroke or heart failure is, and always has been greater. Enjoy Bach, Gottschalk and Nino Rota and get on with it.
Ist June. I simply must have another go at it.
It had got too misty airyfairy and no fucking guts so I am trying to get more intestines and bollocks into it… Chopin’s Ballades and Impromptus showing the way.
24 June. After a spell away I am firming in this and that. Insect parts, decorations, pulling together pseudo entities (spirochaetes). Its looking good and it may be finished.
“The Silver lining:Where is it?”
122 x 92 cm
Oils on Canvas
Somewhere here I finished Silver Lining without further comment.
Then I began another which I called “5 Aggregates” simply because my Buddhism studies have been revealing to me infinite excruciatingly delicious concepts all at once. The sort of feelings that I get walking through the bush and thinking that the living part of planet earth is where it all starts, and still depends. That humans are the ones who can almost sense it, can almost articulate it, but then always(?) forget or dismiss it.
As well as trying not to think about dying from covid.
122 x 92 cm
Oils on Canvas
And so to my notes again:
5 aggregates: an allegory.
22 June. Never mind the characters just yet. Just get the stage sorted.
24th June. Who are the characters and whom the props? Entities and near-entities and the disentitying process. Where a patch of colour can reach its maximum intensity in a blob: Thats almost an entity. But nothing quite makes it to a complete isolatable entity. The global inter-connections are stronger. Like molecular physics, ecology, astronomy. Everything. This seems terribly important to me.
3 July. Beginning to notice major shapes (tonal and colour) and taking them seriously. Some nice homespun bigbushy things happening.
Then another page with a very light sketch and caption : “Idea of a bridge/keyhole”
“Tunnel to the Pre-covid Times”
122 x 92cm
Oils on Canvas
22.7.20. Still alive and starting anothery. BB with bridge, keyhole, domes whatever.
I’m trying to be a bit mathematical at this stage ie choosing which lines to emphasize etc…
29.7.20 Its possible these might be my last paintings. If covid takes me to her bosom in the next few months I would like to have done a few things I’ve not yet done.
Using richer colours and being utterly insouciant about it.
31st July delineating volumeable spirochaetes.
5th. Poking around desperately, when a suggestion of illumination appears its a godsend (!?!)
Movement of light becomes a narrator.
Starting sinkhole in wrong colours.
The weasels and spirochaetes are lurking already. There is a stork and a toucan lining up for immortalisation.
13th Aug. When I am unstimulated by a current painting here is what I can do:
Look for things that are almost pleasing me and work on improving them.
These things might be:
1 Pictorial depth
2 Colour combinations: co-stimulations
3 Interbeing of dynamics, shapes, textures. Edge-to-edge body language.
4 Crescendos and hierarchies of light/illumination (remember Rembrandt)
And suddenly its finished.
Then I was able to begin a job I had been eagerly wanting to begin for a few weeks.
Its obvious that in this covid era I will not be able to travel overseas for maybe years; and being 78 years old I’m wondering if I will still be spry enough to travel when I’m over 80.
So I have to somehow receive imaginary postcards from all the places I still want to visit.
This time it is Bhutan.
Cards from Bhutan depicting the butterfly, the tragopan, the drongo, the sandgrouse are pinned up in a wintry Big Bush painting.
“Postcards from Never”
122 x 92 cm
Oils on canvas.
Please be careful everybody; the covid wolf is still out there.