I started painting

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After my big paint supply shop a couple or three weeks ago, there has been a great deal of limbering up.

I had wondered how I might break through into making some marks after such a long break… and when Helen Lopez  was visiting the other week, she suggested just doing colour experiments to get a feel for the paint, and see how that came out. That sounded like good advice, and given that she has actually taught painting I reckoned on it being a tested method and a great way to learn about a new (to me) medium. (Acrylics have changed a lot since I abandoned them for favour of oil, and there’s a learning curve ahead of me.)

Then I got inspiration from  this poem, Oubilette from Out of True by Amy Durant of lucysfootball fame. In the poem she writes about obliterating unwanted people from her past;

I can’t catch up on something I don’t have. I spent
a long time putting them all behind me.
There is no catching up to do. I have forgotten
their names and their faces; there is nothing left
of them inside of me except what they did to me,
the scars they left, the traps they set that I seem to
stupidly trip with every misstep.

and I recognized the feeling… For me, it’s not just people, it’s events, it’s my own actions and my own weaknesses. It’s my relationship with the restrictions of my illness, life regrets, a disconnect from my past art work, all sorts of things. I, too, wanted to put the past behind me and insist on the present. I grabbed a sketchbook from 2003 in which I had written and I began to paint.

a kind of ‘palimpsest’ after ‘oubilette’ by amy durant. elaine axten 2003-2012

There’s another thing. When I was a young thing at art school a preferred method was to draw, then tear out whatever passage in the drawing was working for me, glue it onto a new sheet and carry on working. I had been wondering exactly what to do with old work. I don’t want to keep it, and it doesn’t reflect who I am now. My plan had been to simply document and dump, but there’s a third way – cannibalize what can be used, paint over the pain. obliterate the clinging past. Acknowledging that the past exists, but insisting on the present day. Insisting on not telling the sad old stories over again. Creating a kind of palimpsestic form and letting the past peek through, but not letting it dominate.

There we have it, then. Here is the first image I have made in what turns out to have been six years – i just googled my last exhibition, and it was Silly Cow in 2006. Even that more recent work is worlds away from who I am and what I want to do now.

In short? GAME ON!

12 thoughts on “I started painting

  1. I am honored and blessed and also a little weepy.

    This is beautiful! I love it so, so much. Also, palimpsest is one of my favorite words, and one of my favorite ideas. I find it such a poetic idea, in so many ways. And it’s just a gorgeous word. It sounds so good in your mouth and in your head.

    Game IS on. I am so proud of you. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  2. Hi Elaine, how are you doing? Well… I look forward to your next edition, as ever but you know i am waiting to see what you end up doing with that paint!! Exciting! . Really good advice just getting going with enjoying the paint and colour. What you write here about your process with it is v cool, I like where it’s coming from. Palimpsest oooh! grat way to incorporate the past as well as moving from it. Authenticity, all the way I say, yo!!

    • why thank you, my friendy friend!

      it’s been too long, we should hook up soon. it’s weird for me to work so small, but it’s all about the small beginnings right now.

  3. I was touched by your work and your words. Takes true courage to white wash the past but so lucky for those rich glimmers that shine through. the stuff that made us who we are, warts and all. Look forward to seeing more of you artworks.

    • thank you so much!

      i am pretty excited about this new work. i had rather dreaded starting, since there was no obvious carrying on point from old work, so it was great just to get this flash of inspiration that lets me make something completely new without it feeling forced.

  4. Jesus you have all these friends who encourage you so much after one painting. I did whole fucking exhibition and no-one wrote anything at all, apart from Ros. I’ve gotta say it hurt. i’d have rather they said…I really don’t like this work you re doing now Fiona..but they sort of ignored my messages where I begged them to look. Sigh. Well I guess you remember enough about the incredibly academic way I paint to know that every part of me wants to say..’no elaine, don’t get a feel for the paint, don’t do abstract work that people have to guess what its about …if you want to splash about like a two year old at least give us some text on the image so that we can get our intellects round the work rather than just a vague feeling that our feelings ought to be engaged with it…. (Abstract art may be attractive but it seems to be a collossal waste of time not to mention valuable pigments and materials) I think you should be putting all the stuff you wrote into or onto your work but I have this thing that art should be explicit and obvious. I hate that thing they say…’it should throw up questions in the viewer…’..that, to my mind , is a totally unsuccessful piece of art.Anyway please don’t take this as nasty criticism it’s not meant nastily at all and I thought your painting was attractive (but that is damning it with faint praise) i remember having a really fun session re working a painting I’d done with oil pastels once..butb as you aren’t an academicky sort of artist then I really wish you’d put words all over it so that it was explicit..what do you think? I love angry art with words all over it.
    Anyway you evidently have a lot of friends, which I never doubted for a moment. I can’t say the same, I wish I could, but this is Somerset. Fiona

    • It’s such early days just now – I have no idea where my work might go… it’s barely started.

      I doubt it’ll get angry, 7 or 8 years of buddhist meditation kind of exposes you to your emotions without having to live them.

      People are very kind and supportive because my one way of expressing myself and connecting with people while I have been so ill is to blog – so a fair few people keep in touch with me here and on facebook. They know what my life has been like. I tend not to bang on about the pain/disability side of things because I don’t want to bore people, but they know that actually doing something art wise is a really big deal for me.

      I had a little look at your website – I love the one with the grapes and draped fabric. Beautiful.

  5. I meant..I remeber having a really fun session with you re working a painting of Hazel i’d done……do you remember? you thought I was total tight arse then (artistically speaking) We don’t change much do we? lol

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