“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
Please join me. I’ll post some photos of the work up soon, I promise.
It’s just started raining properly outside; the sky has been wanting to all week. For me, Winter is a time of thought, of prayer, of meditation. The warmer months make me feel so much more. Winter draws me more to my head; in some ways, it is a season to think over the energy spent in Spring and Summer, and the conclusions I made in Autumn. It is a season of dark, quiet mornings, much like the beginning of time. All the life of the year folds away.
But there are colours and shapes in Winter that we won’t see elsewhere. May our eyes be open to them!
There’s no milk left to make a cup of tea, so I think I’ll go and paint.
Final Things, Spray, acrylic, oil and paper on wood, 40cm x 40cm
Window View, Spray, acrylic and oil on wood, 20cm x 20cm
Tracks 1, Spray and acrylic on wood, 20cm x 20cm
Holy Pulse, Spray and acrylic on wood, 2m x 3m, Fremantle
I sometimes find myself struck by the idea of passing hundreds, if not thousands, of people each day and every person being beautiful in their creation. And it seems we can’t process the depth and power of humanity that is pulsing through each and everyone’s veins, that we all surge with Holiness and God’s image. I would do well to sit and wonder on this thought; that we all bear the image of God and we all walk on the same concrete and look up at the same clouds.
The cold has silenced all the insects. The dark seems to make us speak softly, like gentle conspirators. Your mother says the grace and butters your bread. I do wish Boughton could have seen how his boy received his benediction, how he bowed his head. If I told him, if he understood, he would have been jealous to have seen it, jealous to have been the one who bestowed the blessing. It is almost as if I felt his hand on my hand. Well, I can imagine him beyond the world, looking back at me with an amazement of realisation – “This is why we have lived this life!’ There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
It has been a lovely few weeks in the studio: autumn swell is just starting now so I do plan to let things dry while I get wet …
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering, what you had
And what you lost and what you had and what you lost
Towards Dawn, Spray, acrylic and oil on wood, 40cm x 50cm
From the journal, earlier this week.
I spent a lovely chunk of time this morning walking along the shoreline at Leighton.
Not jogging, not salvaging wood, not finding treasures for the garden or studio, not checking waves. Just walking. Water up to my thighs and a warm easterly blowing on my face.
These moments of rest/refocus/calm seem to be further apart? Work in school in brimming with endless directions and conversations; the studio always seems to say a week ahead with possibility.
We never actually catch up with life; control is a myth.
And if we ever caught life with two hands, would it really be worth keeping?
I ask myself to be kind to myself in my thinking and to let the balance ebb/flow/ebb, to let chaos play its part.
But for today, here’s to rest.
Sea Foam, spray and acrylic on wood, 81cm x 59cm
Do you remember the morning?
When the shore
and the sea
clapped hands in sandy chaos?
Foam and salt and
the ripples of the sea-floor
and a moment of reverse expectations from a patterned ocean.
Sea Foam shows the moment a wave hits the receding backwash and explodes in sand, sea and salt. The painting exposes the earthy dimensions of the sea and hints at the irregularities of swell periods, sand banks and set waves.
Just as waves are birthed as a by-product of far-off storms, this painting had it’s genesis as irregular pieces of wood floating around the studio, begging to find their whole.
Sea Foam was painted using spray and acrylic paint and tessellated onto a plywood board.
I have a few pieces in the Brunswick Street Gallery 40 x 40 show. If you’re in the area, check it out.
The rain has stopped, the easterly winds are combing the sea nicely (well…) and Summer is just over two weeks away.
Thankyou to everyone who came and saw Introspect. I was very encouraged by all of our little conversations and thoughts on the paintings.
Thanks to HOT SOUP! for the venue and hot soup, Gage Roads and Barwick Wines for the drinks, Billy Bowen for some great photos, and party people for being party people.
Here are a few paintings I finished recently; enjoy.
Shell 1, Spray and acrylic on wood, 20cm x 20cm
Low Tide on the City River, Spray, acrylic and found objects on wood, 40cm x 40cm
Beach House, Spray, acrylic and paper on wood, 40cm x 40cm
Friday, 6:00pm, HOT SOUP! Gallery Fremantle.
Thanks to Gage Roads and Barwick Wines for the drinks, and Cut Copy for some great vibes while putting it all together.
Done. Email me for a catalogue of the show.
I have listened extensively to ‘Lost in the Dream’ by The War on Drugs while painting this show.
Well the comedown here was easy
Like the arrival of a new day
But a dream like this gets wasted
I hope the show has managed to capture some of the ephemeral nature of painting. It comes as dreams and it often leaves as dreams; it’s a pleasure to try and hold some down and keep it as paintings.
See you all next Friday,
Happy Saturday. Three days until Spring.
Here’s some more about the upcoming show.
Bones, Spray, acrylic and found objects on wood, 40cm x 40cm
Cut Copy and MTN. Good times.
I’m quietly frothing, just between us.
Please, join me for the opening night, Friday 11 September. Yes, it will probably be a home final for one of our great football teams. But I can promise you’ll see just as many ‘marks’ at this show. (Ha!)
I’ll post the show synopsis and some of the thought behind the body of paintings soon.
Mid winter and there has been plenty of sun/waves/grace.
Versions Part 1, acrylic, found object and spray on wood, 60cm x 30cm