Monday, 4 October 2010


I know I've written about the subject of my last post quite a bit in the past, but it seems to be a theme that keeps recurring. I think when I wrote about it at the beginning of the summer, I was taking 'non-action' too literally. At that time I felt a need to actually stop trying to do anything at all; to stop trying to make paintings for a while.

I think that can make new things happen. This time though, when I chanced upon another discussion of non-action, this time in a book about Tai Chi, I find myself in a very different position. I'm now relieved to be regularly doing without question; to be doing gently and naturally, pulled back time and time again, rather than pushing and trying. Liberated, perhaps, by just experimenting with materials, instead of trying to actually make images.

I've been trying to find a way to use acrylic paint that will work for me. I hate the stuff, mostly. Shiny, plasticky, drying in seconds to an invincible hard line. Thinned down it breaks up, and not in ways I find appealing. Thick it shows brushmarks, which I have no interest in. On acrylic paper the fake canvas makes a texture I hate. On paper it seems to go kind of muddy. The day before I was reading the Tai Chi book, I had finally given up and gone back to my gorgeous water colours. I think that's why the passage resonated. The minute that prussian blue flowed out from my watery brush, I felt something inside me let go. The marks that resulted spoke to me, were alive, promised possibilities. Instead of that dead plastic.

Funny business, this painting lark. You might imagine that I'd be working away at 'improving my technique' or some other such thing. Actually, I'm squelching around in my bare feet deep in the mud of cobalt egg tempera (metaphorically speaking, you understand...). And I can't begin to tell you how deeply, existentially, satisfying that turns out to be.

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