Monday, October 8, 2012

Especially rowan

A bowl of apples against rowan-berries. 12"x12". Oil on canvas panel
Last week, I planned to discuss relationships between process and meaning in with reference to two of my paintings (this is one of them), but spent my space on introductory remarks – which lead to the idea of a new series on this blog, "Process and Meaning". In the second installment of this series, I return to the original idea, but I think I'll learn from my own mistakes and confine myself to one painting for now (by the way, this one is still available on Daily Paintworks – the auction ends in six hours at the time of writing). 

This painting began as a landscape, en plein air and, as a matter of fact, on another, larger, panel. The view that attracted my attention had a sunlit path among the greenery, and a couple of rowan bushes at a distance – a very striking contrast of piercing greens and distant clusters of reds. The green-red color harmony is one of the most challenging and overcharged one; it might be soothing in nature, it may easily turn straightforwardly festive, "Christmas-y", but it can also produce a most acute and powerful expression of despair and anguish. The view I was looking at immediately linked itself in my mind with a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, where she defies her yearning for her homeland – because, in the end, it doesn't matter where to be infinitely lonely, and in which language to be misunderstood by strangers. Quatrain after powerful quatrain, she denounces the very idea of nostalgia, and yet she ends on an unexpected note but if there is a bush along the path, especially rowan...   

So this was the note, the motive, which inevitably coupled itself in my mind with the original landscape. Yet the motive was too strong for me to handle, its color scheme too piercing – the landscape was a failure, but I tried it again, and again, and again in the studio. This panel was one of these attempts, also failed – so I ended up painting a plain straightforward still life over it, but with the original landscape defining the color harmony and still partly visible in the right-top corner of the panel. Even now, with a bowl of wholesome fruit over the initial despair, the painting talks to me in the voice of this poem, its festivity underpinned by piercing despair of loneliness. Is this meaning "visible" to anyone else? Frankly, I have not the slightest idea. What do you think?
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