Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Walls Inside Part 1: Where Do We Come From...Where Are We Going?

The self-isolation mandate and the shutdown of physical cultural spaces has me looking at my own walls.

Generally I do not decorate my walls with paintings I have made. (When I display other people’s paintings I don’t really think of them as decoration either.) But when I used to live in spaces where I rented a single room and shared a kitchen and bathroom, I would fall asleep and wake up looking at the paintings I was working on.  This habit has persisted. Though I am not painting at the moment (other than little watercolors) I have on the walls of my bedroom two paintings that represent an unfinished thought. Though the paintings themselves have been finished for some time, there is in each of them something I will pick up again.

This is an oil painting on paper. I painted it from a photograph I took in France. I am pausing now, trying to remember if I was with David when I took this photograph and where exactly it was. It was near the Mediterranean and David was there for sure. 

The composition of this painting is not a composition I gravitate to, not a composition I have used before that I can remember. That and the calligraphic black trees not representing my usual shorthand or gesture make this painting a little alien to me even though I am the one who painted it. I notice the halo around the two branches cropped on the left hand side. I notice the slight curve of the horizon line. There are wisps of white paint, smoke, that may be exaggerated but that remind me of Provence and the smell of burning grass. And this is fire territory, there had been fires that year and I wonder now if my knowledge and memory of fires informed the way I drew the trees, which look charred, though I do not recall the trees in the photograph were burnt. There is pink in the foreground that almost looks like an accident but reminds me now of when the wind came across the Mediterranean from North Africa sometimes it carried sand from the Sahara and left it on the windows and cars in outside Marseille. But that had not happened when this photograph was taken and not when David was there. 

am thinking of how some parts of this painting, the alien facts of these–I do not want to say decisions because when one is painting it becomes a kind of séance, a thing only part under one's control, part not–these marks, these material utterances, seem to come from someone else. But I was someone else when I stood there taking a photograph on the passenger side of the car David had been driving. And I was someone else a couple of years ago when I painted it. And I am someone else now when I am writing about it. 

This view is rare for another reason: I have not usually been drawn to representing scenes of the water, views of the sea. Even when I have lived near the water, I spend a lot of time turning around, my back to the water. In beach towns I like to look leave the beach and walk to see things a block or two away. I don't think this painting is really considering at the water. Maybe I remember now, stopping the car with David, looking at the road snaking behind us, looking at the road ahead that went to the sea.

This painting was the result of a gesture of looking around, a gesture I made standing outside of a car in southern France a long time ago. It is also the result of a decision to make a trace of paint on a piece of paper some years later. About a year ago, looking back and squinting forward I hung this painting on the wall. These words are the result of my still standing here trying to figure out where I have come from and where I should go from here.

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