Storms

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.

What Lies Beyond the Storms 2013 oil on canvas 26 x 42″
Path 2014-19 oil on canvas 24 x 48″

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.

Over There 2021 oil on linen 12 x 24″
detail
This Way 2021 oil on linen 12 x 24″

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.

-janine

Dream, Breath, Mist

I have just completed the newest of a group of paintings I began over a year ago. You can read about them here, here and here.  With this piece I am continuing the themes of meditation, contemplation, mindfulness and deep awareness and this time I’ve explored the experience of what the “inner” space feels like to me.

Dream detail

When I first conceived the idea behind these works I was considering how one image could morph into another based on the subconscious projection of a viewer the way a Rorschach inkblot is meant to work. I described my interest in the multivalence of an image and of the emergence of meaning that might come from interacting with the paintings that I had not expressly put there.  Specifically it was interesting to me that the image of the portraits facing each other might, more than just “flip” to the image created by the negative space in between them, but combine with it in some kind of third composite image in a viewer’s mind.

Dream detail 4

The first ideas behind these works may not matter so much to you at this point, except to notice that the idea of three levels of the image- one element, a second element, and the third element that comes from the combination of the first two-is here in three layers of the painting. There is the “back” layer upon which everything else happens, the layer of the portraits and a third atmospheric and abstract layer on top of the other two; a back, a middle and a front layer.

Dream detail 3

As I said, with this piece I was more conscious of the experience of inner space, which for me is very colourful and full of texture and movement. These rich colours and mistiness is what I might assume others experience in a meditative space as well.  In this painting  I think of the three layers described above as follows… first, the blue in the back being the “field” of inner space, the colour that registers after one’s eyes have been closed for some time. The second layer, the portraits, is the subject of one’s thought which is has form and description. And the third layer, the mist, is the abstract activity of colour and movement that comes with having one’s eyes closed for any length of time. It is this layer on top of the others that symbolizes to me the third composite image that might arise from the combination of the others.

Dream detail 2

By the time I was finished working I was deciding between three titles for the piece.  Dream (being in the blue ground of a dream), Breath (the portraits and the pink breath between them) and Mist(the abstract level of inner mind activity).   In the end I think the most appropriate title given the rhythm of three that is present might be Dream, Breath, Mist.   It is 24×30″, oil on canvas and you can see it now at the Jarvis Hall Gallery.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

Peace

Hi everyone.  Welcome to my first post of the year and I hope that you having a great 2016 so far.

I have finished the first painting of this year and the second in a group of pieces that I have been developing for some time. Here I described how I came to create these images and some of the ideas behind them. In that post I summarized my intent for the work as “metaphor for meditation and contemplation, for mindfulness and deep awareness and hope that the experience for the viewer will be of the peace and balance that comes from these things.”  The title is Peace and it is oil on canvas, 18×24″.

 

It has been said that all conflict in the world is, in truth, man’s inner conflict that is projected outward. This is the idea I was most thinking about while painting. There are many wise people who speak about the antidote to struggle and strife in the world is the cultivation of peace inside of individuals. As I worked, this painting came to embody the moment when, at long last, one gives up looking outside of themselves for peace and gives in to the realization the only place to achieve it is within themselves.

Peace detail 1

As well, in this piece I moved away from using naturalistic colour.  I want the paintings to speak about inner psychological space and to that end I am experimenting with palettes that have as a priority emotional and dreamlike moods, deliberately unnatural by materialist standards.  Of course, as always, more about these ideas to come in future work and posts.

Peace detail 2

I am very excited for the opening this month of the new Jarvis Hall Gallery. He has moved just south of downtown Calgary and you can find all you need to know about finding it here on his Facebook page.   This painting will be there on display for the next couple of weeks.

Congratulations Jarvis Hall Gallery!