The Winter is a time of experimentation for me. I slow down my regular production, pick up different media and unlike most of the warmer season, I use the dark hours to read more. I have read books recently on Vermeer and Hammershøi and most recently I have taken another go at William Blake (artist & poet), as well as explore primitive art and painting. I have been immersed in the study of visionary art and shamanic tradition of late. I have great appreciation for those whose imaginations can bring a story told around a fire into the visual world through images. I like to think of visionary art as a kind of ‘remembering’.
When looking for things to paint, I use my camera for creating a reference library. My camera can be a compositional tool and then I play with the light and objects in the paintings. Good reference material is important for realism. For ‘Window Seat‘, I carried a chair out to the house through half a kilometer of overgrown field to set up the composition I wanted. Photographs are a wonderful way to record what I see for when I return to the studio. In my memory I keep the light… But sometimes, in my memory there is more than light, there is a feeling – and imagination.
In a recent dream, I was standing at the side of a bridge, watching an old steamship pass, a steamship I had been stalking with my camera throughout the dream. It was very early spring and most of the snow was gone. Suddenly, the landscape behind the ship became radically interesting. The melting snow caught in the curves of the landscape began to take on strange colours and forms. I lifted my camera to capture what I was seeing, but, in my frustration, the photo would only burn out nearly white! As I struggled with the camera, the landscape began to transform and transform again until it was plain and suddenly the camera was catching the right exposure. My camera had been useless in capturing the vision of this seemingly dull, late winter landscape that had become something only I could see.
After last week’s exploration of the Native American Visionary Landscape artist, I thought I might offer some of my favourite non-native Visionary Artists: Helena Nelson Reed, Susan Seddon Boulet (deceased), Ernst Fuchs and a recent find, A. Andrew Gonzales.
What they all seem to have in common is the unity and flow in the work. Everything seems to connect to everything else and the air swirls and colours are intense. The visionary experience itself is another layer of reality sitting just above or below what we think we see. For me, it was a dream that reminded me of thin the veil is between worlds and that the inspiration for the artists sits in wait just beyond it.
On my easel sits an interior of the Fleger House, an old bedroom. I sometimes wonder when I review reference images of my old houses, what is just beyond the eyes of the camera. Perhaps it’s time to look further.