Signature of the Landscape


Close up of Nagala that, from a certain angle, feels more planetary than painting

I’ve been in a particular kind of intimacy with my latest body of work (such a wonderful phrase to describe a variety of artifacts that feel connected…) Yes, you bring them into existence. You labor over every inch of their surface. You lovingly coax them along. Then something happens. They begin to talk back. They take on a life of their own. And then, if you are lucky, they find a place to live somewhere else.

I’ve been packing up an upcoming show for weeks now, lots of large paintings heading west. My intimacy with each piece has expanded into a full familiarity with their backsides, their potential unwieldiness, the scope of their girth, the width and length and weight of each one.

It has been a period with a different kind of focus, but a kind of focusing nonetheless. Being present even in this effort has its own rewards albeit harder won.

From Sarah Robinson’s highly companionable small book, Nesting*:

If we can be still long enough, details of the world reveal themselves of their own accord. Steven Holl counsels, “To open ourselves to perception, we must transcend the mundane urgency of ‘things to do.’ We must try to access the inner life which reveals the luminous intensity of the world. Only through solitude can we begin to penetrate the secret world around us. An awareness of one’s unique existence in space is essential in developing a consciousness of perception.” Rather than forcing our experience into a prefixed Platonic ideal or the totality of a planner’s prescription, contextual information is simply allowed to emerge. This is deep listening, the source of both poetic making and responsible action…

Through listening and observing, appropriate form emerges from the unique variables of the situation. Local insight yields diverse outcomes. This is perhaps why much of what indigenous cultures produce bears the signature of their landscape. Being situated is to be at the site, the unique unrepeatable place that is context.

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*More about Nesting here.

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6 comments

  1. Maureen’s avatar

    Love the close-up of your painting, and, as always, the marvelous quotes you share. Wishing you much success with the show!

    1. Ann E. Michael’s avatar

      I agree! The close-up is marvelously revealing and rich.

  2. Deborah Barlow’s avatar

    Thanks Maureen for your support.

  3. Elana Jan Bodine’s avatar

    Love the idea that the painting and its elements come to life and have an existence all their own. When I write children’s stories, the title pops into my head–always a rhyme scheme, takes over and dictates the characters, who then “tell” me what they do and say. It’s an unfolding process, and I love being part of that.

    1. Deborah Barlow’s avatar

      It is an unfolding, and so mysteriously so. It is part of what I love about making (which applies to painting, writing, music, dance.)

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