Some years ago I began collecting images of storms and riots. I remember at the time I knew that the world was at a turning point and that we were entering an intense decade or two of transformation. My view at the time was informed by dreams and my deepening study of divinatory symbols systems. The images of storms and riots were archetypal expressions of energy that was rising and I wasn’t interested in the details of particular events. I was fascinated by how powerfully they embodied the interplay of the elements earth air, fire and water that I was studying in both languages Tarot and Astrology. More on this soon.
The first two paintings with these themes in mind are these. What Lies Beyond the Storms and Path.
At the time I was fascinated to realize the archetypal world manifest literally in the material world. I had been studying astrology and Tarot for over 5 years at that point, a project I began in order to understand the workings of my own psyche. In the skies was Uranus and Pluto square, a tense dynamic between the rebellious uncontainable impulse for liberation and revolution and the deep impulse for power and transmutation. It was an exciting and troubling time. I first used the storm imagery to speak about the coming challenges, dark and chaotic on the horizon with an understanding that they weren’t ever to be vast enough to block out the light completely and that there would always be la way through and light on the other side.
It was a simple starting point. Because I wasn’t interested in any particular event it was obvious to me to construct the images so they would be obviously false, more a narrative drama than anything that could be mistaken for an observed moment “in” nature. I had been playing with mirroring images- you can read how I ended up using this idea here– and I can see it began in these two first storm paintings.
This year I picked up the thread of storms I began back then. They are only one part of a larger symbolic landscape theme that is growing in meaning for me.
Before I describe anything more I want to say a bit about the form of my artwork. Since my early years I have focused on drawing and painting. I love the European and western tradition of oil painting and I have never been pulled outside of paper, canvas-now linen- oil paint, drawing pigments. I have just recently began to try linen rather than the canvas I have always used and it will be a permanent change. My technique with paint uses a variety of layers of glazing, scumbling, shallow impasto and staining that is a beautifully satisfying experience on the linen compared with the canvas. The beauty of the process of oil painting, the sensation of the textures and colour, the slow (for me) moving meditation of it is both spiritual practice and compulsion.
My studies in the symbolic languages have done what I meant them to many years ago and that is to make some sense of my inner world and let me understand how I experience the “outer world” and beyond. That is a very large subject but for the purposes of talking about these images one part is important. Both Tarot and Astrology have as an integral part of them the elements- earth, air, fire and water. On one level they are self explanatory as elements of the material world around us, and they have symbolic meaning as well. It is this symbolic meaning that is an important part of the content here.
All through the process of making these my contemplation is on the interplay of elements in their symbolic meaning. Air speaks about mental activity, thoughts, ideas, communication. Fire is the spark behind action and speaks about drive, initiation, passion and forward motion. Water is the emotional experience, depth, sensual and creative. Earth is the material and solid, that which we can feel by its weight and texture. Further air has the characteristics of being hot and wet; fire of being hot and dry; earth of being cold and dry; water of being cold and wet. Dryness, wetness, heat and cold all also have symbolic meaning. The fifth element I use is the fifth of light which is spirit.
In a very simple way of understanding heavy cloud is heavy emotion, mixed with thought-water vapour. Hot and cold mix to create the funnel-power maybe chaos and destruction. The earth is stable underneath, too strong for the water and air to do much damage. Light illuminating space and stillness beyond. When I am painting it is these dynamics I think about, correlate them to my own day, my inner world or larger world events. Although I described here a simple level of prompts it is a rich contemplative experience that I expect shows itself in the artwork- yet another path of discussion I could go down in the future.
This has been a longer post than I expected and so I will write again soon, there is more to the conversation.
Thank you so much for reading.