to hell with solemnity and proper art

Artwork by Michael Leunig

 

In his scrumptious essay Regressive Painting and the Holy Fool, Michael Leunig  – Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet – speaks about the way our brilliant ideas often act to sabotage true creativity, leading us into frustration and disillusionment. But all is not lost, he suggests, for our temper tantrums can be the portal to the domain of the holy fool, and that’s the source of our authentic creative expression. The following is a short extract from the essay, which I posted recently at the awakened eye blog.  

It could go something like this: the painter might begin a piece of work with high hopes and set forth with an interesting or brilliant idea in mind, but all too soon the painting begins to fail, the idea collapses and ambition starts to sour.  The transcription from the intellect to the canvas is looking lifeless and artless, and the painter is starting to feel despondent.  It’s not working!  How often it is that the mind and the hand have lost touch with each other.

The painter redoubles all efforts but this only makes things worse and regression is happening as dismay and disillusionment set in.  Soon enough the painting is in a miserable mess and everything is in disarray. It looks awful and the painter is emotionally heavy with self-doubt and disappointment.  The worst has happened, the situation is lost and the painter’s ego is peeling away.

Little is it understood but at last the painter is breaking free, albeit a free fall – into a disturbing state of not knowing.  The regression deepens, reason has fled while tantalizing and delinquent infantile impulses are felt: the petulant desire to destroy the painting and get rid of the evidence; the painful reminder of inability and failure.

At this point one of the noble truths of creativity may begin to emerge: ‘disillusionment precedes inspiration and growth’.  So instead of abandoning the failure as many would, the artist recognizes an opportunity to be free and play about casually or recklessly in the ruins; to experiment and throw all cautious technique, all self criticism and high standards to the wind because now there is nothing to lose and nobody is watching.  Before long the painter has forgotten the failure and becomes absorbed in the anarchy of spontaneous gestures and spirited whimsical play.  The holy fool and originality are at hand. The artist is painting unselfconsciously and with happy abandon – and somewhat like a child.

To hell with solemnity and proper art; the joy of discovery is all that matters now; the unprecedented textures, the way the colours have by chance smeared into each other: beautiful startling subtleties and unimagined miracles small and large to delight or shock the eye.  And so it proceeds until the painter is staring in fascination at this revelation that the hands and impulses have created in a state of regression; a state that could not have been planned or organized – but simply happened when ego and ambition had sufficiently crumbled.

– Michael Leunig, Regressive Painting and the Holy Fool


I realise that many readers of this blog also subscribe to the awakened eye (nods and waves to you) and have probably read Michael’s essay.  But for those of you who haven’t, do yourself a favour and immerse yourself in his writing about creativity, authenticity, playfulness, wonderment, beauty, the holy fool, plus a selection of his whimsical artworks. Here’s the link:

on losing the plot and regaining the world of the holy fool

A couple more quotes – I can’t help myself, these are so cool…

The artist needs to know how to lose the plot
– how to not care and how to not know –
and how to actually enjoy that freedom
and understand what a blessed revitalizing state all of that mess can be.

The most joyous painting is not done for the art world, it is done for the inner world; it is a self delighting other-worldly thing – a getting lost in regression and solitude; a sub-literate, semi-delirious way to be with the spirited little fool in the depths of one’s being for a while – there to invent one’s art freely, and there to find enchantment, infinite surprise and the bright wondrous question ‘What is this?’

http://www.leunig.com.au

Michael Leunig Appreciation Page on Facebook


A Leunig post from the archives, 2010

artist, leave the world of art!


Michael Leunig, Holy Fool - Artworks

Holy Fool, Artworks, by Michael Leunig


 

my brush is my suijo

 

I’d never attempted a self-portrait

until the day

I drew my breath

 
In John Daido Loori‘s must-have book for artists of all persuasions, The Zen of Creativity, he writes about the way shakuhachi maestro Watazumi Doso Roshi regarded his flute as a tool to monitor his authentic integration with, and expression of, the Life Force.

[The] ability to be free in his music was the result of Doso’s life-long, unrelenting commitment to the discipline of the breath. He actually wasn’t very interested in the shakuhachi as a musical instrument.  He called his flute suijo, which loosely translates as “concentrated breathing tool.”  Doso saw himself not so much as a musician or entertainer, but as one who is totally devoted to developing his life force – chi – by utilizing and strengthening his breath.  The bamboo flute was simply a tool for that practice.  He said once, “Since I must have some way of knowing how my breath is doing, I blow into a piece of bamboo and hear how it sounds.”

The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori  (1931 – 2009)

This intrigued me. For many years now, part of my own art practice has been to use a single, horizontal brushstroke to express the exhalation of my breath.  It’s a contemplative practice I’ve written about before on this blog (see the links below), and one that continues – whatever the vagaries of my life.  It’s clear to me that my breathscribe paintings are my suijo, my “concentrated breathing tool”.  They show me how my breath is doing. Which in turn reveals what my mind is doing. And that tells me everything about how my Life is doing.
 
 

Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, Breathscribe Series, Desert Breath

 

More helpful advice, this time from Watazumi Doso Roshi himself. It applies equally well to artist and musician, singer and dancer, indeed, to all of us as we embrace genuine authenticity:

So in that sound you have to put in your guts, your strength and your own specialness.  And what you are putting in then is your own Life and your own Life Force.  When you hear some music or hear some sound, if for some reason you like it very well; the reason is that sound is in balance or in harmony with your pulse.  And so making a sound, you try to make various different sounds that imitate various different sounds of the universe, but what you are finally making is your own sound, the sound of yourself.

Watazumido Doso Roshi (1910 – 1992)

 

My outer life has vanished,

but love’s breath still breathes for me.

– Hafiz

 


how many ways can you draw quiet?
California breathing
breathscribe series


aquascape : homage to Itchiku Kubota

paintings
Queensland, Australia
 
aquascape series, copyright miriam louisa simons

 

In the 70s and 80s I was working in textile surface design – at first creating one-off designer garments and ensembles, and later making pieces for walls to wear.

In 1987 I received a generous Arts Council study grant to work with master indigo dyers and shibori artisans in Japan.

It was in Kyoto that I learned about the ancient technique of tsujigahana, researched and redeveloped by Itchiku Kubota.

At an exhibition of his kimonos in Kyoto I was almost unable to stay on my feet in front of the beauty and power of the works. They were simply breathtaking. I came home with a treasure of a tome, resplendent with glorious photographs of these silk masterpieces.

Years later, when working with toxic dyestuffs was a thing of the past and I was delighting in the possibilities of tube colors, pastels and brushes, I decided to make a study of a panel from one of Kubota-san’s kimonos.

It was the beginning of a new series of paintings – the aquascapes.

360 x 820
acrylic paints on textured canvas
mounted on canvas covered panel (not shown)

Private collection, Hawaii


[Imagine my delight to be ‘Featured Artist’ in the new issue of ONE: the magazine.
Since the editor used a tiled version of this aquascape as the background to my page, it seemed timely to post it here, with a little background information.]


I paint with my back to the world

 
Yesterday I moved home and studio. Body and mind need R&R. What could be better than a cup of tea and some wry wise reminders from painter Agnes Martin about what matters? I love what she shares about staying in bed until she knows exactly what she wants to paint. Ahhh.

 

Agnes Martin - Gratitude 2011

Agnes Martin – Gratitude – 2011

 

I don’t have any ideas of my own
and I don’t believe anybody else’s,
so that leaves me a clear mind …
– Agnes Martin

 

 


john macormac art

 
Irish artist John Macormac came into my view via interaction with this blog. I was delighted to meet another artisan who shares some of my idiosyncrasies – there’s a magpie here too, gathering bits of information and stuff, never disposing of anything, and always amazed that she has the ‘perfect’ bit of (whatever) for the unfolding of a making. The way he works in layers – scraping and over-painting, cutting up and creating anew – is right up my alley. Hmmmm. Might have to drop in to Belfast some time soon!
 


 
My work deals with an overload of information. I am like a magpie drawn to intricate detail, collecting and manipulating pieces of visual culture. I combine collage, oil paint, acrylics, emulsion, ink, spray paint, conte crayon, chalk, felt tips, pencil and anything else I can find. Found photographs and fragments of text can be included because of a personal sense of meaning, or purely as passages of visual ‘noise.’
 
John Macormac - Shoreline

John Macormac – Shoreline

I wanted this work to echo the feel of a beach in winter.
I employed a muted, faded colour palette.
Scrim was glued to the surface and resembles fishing nets.
The piece is an irregular shape, this also recalls pieces of flotsam and jetsam
worn with time and tides.

My work does not start with a finished image in mind. Rather it carries a sense of practical progression; each new area suggests the context and space for the next aspect of the piece. I often work on several at a time. The work is in a constant state of evolution and reinvention. Layers are added and scraped back. Each finished piece displays evidence of this process of revision, editing and adding new elements until it feels right to stop. Sometimes pieces become overworked. I often recycle them by cutting them up and using parts that ‘work’ to create new images.

– John Macormac
 
John Macormac Art

Click on the screenshot to see more of John’s work.


Edited to include Shoreline – a piece that particularly speaks to me.


blessed are the painters of the sublime light

Deborah Barlow: O R B I L I N I A

JMW Turner: TURNER FROM THE TATE


 

Deborah Barlow - Peridawna

Deborah Barlow, Peridawna, detail

Orbilinia is a series of abstract paintings that explores the nature of otherworldliness. Rarefied, meditative and serene, they hang together to round out a suggestive sense of celestial sanctuary and sacred retreat. Complex and meticulously layered, their atmospheric materiality shows no trace of brushes or traditional painting tools. Their surfaces grow by slow accretion similar to the way nature marks the land, with each layer exposing as well as veiling its elements.
– Orbilinia website

Deborah Barlow: O R B I L I N I A – A PAINTING INSTALLATION

March 11 through March 16, 2013. An opening and artist reception will be held on Tuesday, March 12, from 5-8PM.
The public is invited to attend.

Woodbury Museum
575 E. University Parkway N250
Orem UT 84097
801.863.4200

ORBILINIA website
Deborah Barlow
Slow Muse


 

JMW Turner - Sun Setting over a Lake

J M W Turner, Sun Setting over a Lake (c 18400)

Turner was supreme …  in his response to real places. In the notebooks and in the many watercolours of sites in Britain, Switzerland or Italy, he is able to see and to reveal to us something that all too often remains invisible before our very eyes: the wholeness and life of nature manifested in the light that dissolves all particular things into unity.
– Christoper Allen in The Weekend Australian

TURNER FROM THE TATE: The Making of a Master

To May 19
Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace  Adelaide SA 5000
(08) 8207 7000


27.10.12 + the nitty-gritty

 

daily details 27.10.12 - miriam louisa simons

 

acrylic on canvas


Once a spark of creativity illumines you, the act of creating becomes a journey into the uncharted.
It requires a kind of willing surrender, to the unknown, that can be both daunting and divine.
True creative expression can never be our own, we are the hands and heart through which it flows.

– Osho