“I’m a far and away now vagrant; I’m drifted off coast
Settled in to a concreate rhythm
Beating slowly and close
And in the hands of a foreign danger and in the enemy’s fires
The closest you’ve come to living in a long, long time”
The Diving Bell, Gang of Youths
There’s a warmth to summer and a colour to youth; they live somewhere between our memory and our emotions and while both summer and youth may seem distant seasons, I think we can all access them. This body of work started as one of energy and urgency: I was feeling and seeing patterns and colours that I knew would fade with the last of summer’s warmth, and so the initial process of painting and collecting was visceral, tactile, rough. The colours would soon be leaving my eyes and my heart for the calmness of autumn, so how can they be collected, arranged, carried? And quickly.
A strong image that I took into the studio process was that of ‘waking from dreams’: the moment our eyes open and the colour of the afternoon seeps in. It is truly a liminal and a vulnerable moment, a statement of the in-between, this flood of light and colour and shape that quickly morphs into reality and whisks us away from the dream world. There’s an almost ‘unfinished’ property to dreams: if we could, we’d refine, polish, shape, straighten, reduce. To leave them as they are takes courage, overriding our perfectionism and other’s expectations.
I like to reflect this tension in the studio, to leave areas unfinished and leave the process bare and shown. If art is to tell our stories, then it needs to carry our mistakes and our shortcomings. Paint is a truly beautiful medium for me to work with, given how tactile and reactive it is. And I like letting paint show the process, show the pauses and the rushes and the moments of pushing/pulling/prying/praying/pressing/pouring that is painting. Show what I am seeing and what I am feeling.
And the water: oh the water! Living so close to the coast means I collect ever-changing experiences of the sea and the shore. Writing from a cold winter, it is hard to reengage the flood of colour and emotion that permeates this body of work. But I do recall the sunlight beaming like chalk dust through the bluest of water. I remember the heat of the day building on the sand. Diving for shells, tasting salt and sunscreen, the circlet pattern on coral, the silver/flash/black/flash/silver of herring by torchlight. Wind from the south, sun from the north, long nights/slow nights, orange sun on blue water.
“Break thou the bread of life, dear Lord to me/
As though didst break the bread beside the sea.”
I see a bravery in youth that I would like to always carry into the studio. To be brave both visually and in the process of painting is something that I truly believe comes only with time. It requires us to listen to ourselves, to hear our voice clearly despite its imperfection and to discern where we mimic and mime and move away from this. It is early days in my painting practice and I would hate to look back years from now and see that I didn’t embrace these days for what they are. I am learning. I am producing work that may not last. I am making mistakes and I am vulnerably presenting parts of my world and my self without veneer. Maybe the bravery of youth that I’m peering into is a bravery that doesn’t bow down at the altar of externalities, of the group. To be brave is to come alive inside and to start to hear yourself as beautiful.
I’m sitting in a winter sun with a cold wind, thinking about paintings that talk about summer.
To our brave selves,
12 August, 2016
* If you’d like to see a full catalogue of work for The Colours of Youth, drop me an email: nathan (at) theendstop.com