Huginn (thought) sits atop my shoulder, whispering viciously in my ear, tearing at the meat of me. Picking. Me. To. Pieces. I am bound tightly, movement restricted, I can barely breathe. I am tethered strictly by five strands that burn in the dark landscape. And yet….
Muninn (memory) sits behind, keening softly, waiting. The ropes continue to burn, yet are bright in the darkness. Each a figure in my life, parent, child, lover. The reason they constrict me, that they have any power at all over me is simply, love. My loves, they anchor me, I could let go, but I would flail, lost in darkness.
My hands open in supplication. My palm fills with light, which spills though my fingers, it is a blessing, this binding, it lights the darkness. Huginn & Muninn remain birds, they still fly, even when I remain tethered, steadily, in place.
A storm brews to the east, the leaves blow & theswallowsswoop; it is a day that smells of rain & high adventure.
The children stand brave, the elder the hero-protector.The littlest the sidekick, steady & true, gazing, adoring, at his brother. Swallow wings sprout from their backs, poised to give them safe passage.The swallow migrates, but no matter how far it roams, it alwaysreturnshome;the brothers are an anchor to each other, always.Family.
The wind is in their nostrils; the wild lands lay at their feet, ready. They face the future quest, holding hands to steady each other, bright with possibility.
The wings sparkle in the late afternoon storm-light, the figures shift between worlds, the leaves & swallows become the decals on their walls, the rain begins to fall, & the mother calls dinner.
We started and stopped with an image taken on my phone as I drove home one afternoon, a storm brewing to the east behind our house hidden behind the hill.
I had an idea of S wearing an owl mask & taking flight, originally it was to be called something about enlightenment, regarding the wisdom of children leaping gleefully into the unknown. This image just didn’t work & I couldn’t put my finger on the why. So to the back of the pile of ‘waiting’ paintings it went, waiting for the light bulb moment, perhaps a thought bolting from the blue, or an image that clutched my gut. Obviously that can take a while!
So a fairly long wait it was, and in the meantime I had many very strong images that were dying to be painted, but not being a millionaire to afford thousands of canvas’s I needed to be a bit pragmatic in which one I would paint next. But the brothers just kept cropping up, the big hero brother protecting (& perhaps leading astray ever so slightly) the little brother, who gazes at him in adoration. They just had to come to light, so I chose to boldly (or recklessly depending on how you see it) paint over the wise child, & instead paint heroes.
Now painting over images is liberating, but it does take a certain amount of courage, to start fresh & trust in your ability to create something better than before, in short, to take a leap of faith. And when you do it, oh happy days, it is giddy & uplifting, but the risk must be taken first, the courage must be screwed up, you must take that step forward.
And on to construction! I was thinking as I sang & danced along to my tunes while painting today that creating a painting is really an exercise in harmony. You start with the base notes, the beat, the atmosphere of the background, temperature & composition. You play with the tension between elements and colours until it starts to hum, warm & cool, gestural loose paint application allowing the more refined areas to sing, and as you build & add elements that add depth & meaning to the work as well as a visual symphony. And I know that the word ‘symphony’ might be a bit too bold for my humble paintings, but i love it when a plan comes together, including all those bits that are totally unplanned but seem to be meant to be & brings it almost full circle.
We started with two brothers, acting as brothers do (when not fighting), the elder being the hero, the smaller being the loyal sidekick. A small foray into trying to warm the background lead to me getting carried away with Flinders red-violet (as you do, I dare anyone not to get carried away with the sticky mulberry gorgeousness of that colour), which didn’t quite work, but a little patch of dark on the cloud near his shoulder reminded me of wings- ping! Zap! Boom! But no, the fluffy white ones would just not do, they needed to have a bit of gravitas, a purpose rather than just a random element.
Ping! Zap! Boom! Welcome swallows! I have used swallows in another painting to depict homecoming. They have been used by mariners as tattoos to give them safe passage home as a swallow is migratory, but always comes home, and we happen to have many of these beautiful wee birds right here, in fact roosting in the garage, generations of them, pooing on the cars.
Good, swallow wings, not showy, quite humble, one of the images I found for S had an outspread wing which looked pleasingly like a cape to go with his whole samurai Indian ensemble (because lets face it, when you’re a kid more is definitely more). And oh- Zap! Boom! The boys have a decal in their room that I put up with a tree and blowing leaves & Ive added swallows flying around the entire room. Perfect! The background now is not just a picture of the way home, it is also their room, with blowing leaves & swooping swallows.
So we came all the way back around to an image of flight, albeit with a different connotation, this one about returning home, & how, with family, you will ALWAYS be home. But maybe there is a bit of childish wisdom in taking a leap & seeing if you can fly…. but of course you can my dears.
I will save the actual artist statement for another post, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with the little tune I’m building, its got a beat that I can hum to. Or sing loudly off-key to if I’m being entirely honest….
Oh happy days, the boys are almost ready. Does anyone else feel ridiculously proud of their artworks when they are just about ready to fly on their own? When you love them so much you would happily keep them forever. Who knows what lies in store for these boys, exciting isn’t it?!
He sits amongst the stars, fashioning universes in his tiny, dirty fingers. A slightly grubby small god, gazing into the late afternoon sun, he contains all possibilities, creator & consumer of worlds, a wild and deep force of nature. This, is love.
Fox is depicted as a force of creation, molding universes in his hands as he stares into the afternoon sun here on earth.
That rising emotion of love that a mother feels when her child is born spans eternity, limitless, a force of creation, enfolding everything. It spans worlds, as do children, balanced between what is real & the unbridled nature of childhood imagination. Love is infinite.
“Fox is OK mummy, he’s just eating his stars”
This little quote when Samson was 4 and Fox was a baby was the catalyst for this painting. I had asked Sam to check on the Baby, which he did, & as babies do, Fox was stuffing anything into his mouth, the anything happened to be a muslin wrap printed with stars. From this I had an enduring snapshot in my brain of my giant baby consuming stars out in the universe, but the image itself didn’t come until he was 1.
We were on a trip visiting relatives in NZ for Fox’s first birthday. On the long drive back to the airport to go home, we stopped for a break at a small town with a pretty awesome park. It was late afternoon, a perfect sunny day with that warm light you only get at that time & dark clouds starting to gather in the background for an evening storm- do you know the colours I mean? The light quality of warmth & the cool dark blue blacks of the storm front. I lay on the grass with my bubs & took some photos. Here he was, small but gigantic, a grubby force of nature, the light of my heart (well, one of them). That feeling when your heart swells two sizes & the hairs stand up on your arm at that perfect moment, the very air shivers.
And yes, of course the Pixies ‘Gigantic’ was the soundtrack to most of this painting.