“Moments Of Being”
Paintings on display in a new show at Art Pistol Gallery in Glasgow -opening this weekend -were created during a new phase in my work of creating narratives within images.
In trying to convey stories within paintings and drawings I have been acutely aware of the element of time - of trying to capture within one instant the legacy of moments that have gone before.
The flower has always seemed to me to a visual motif that captures this sense of time passing in an impactful and powerful way.
The life span of a flower is easily observable to humans. The act of cutting flowers to display seems to be an act that effectively illustrates the fragility and brevity of life and our desire to capture and savour moments of beauty within it. Cut flowers allow the colours, shapes, fragrances involved in their existence to be closely observed and appreciated while paradoxically cutting this existence shorter- the sensory experience has become all the more vital because we have hastened the flowers’ demise.
A heightened moment of beauty leads to a intensified witnessing of decay and entropy - of time passing and a story told.
I was exploring these ideas when my good friend Lauren introduced me to the works of Virginia Woolf, the importance of flowers as an emblem within her writing and her concept of “moments of being”.
Woolf’s writings reveal her belief that life seems to be divided between a great deal of ordinary activity and exceptional moments that function as a form of “revelation”.
These moments are sparked by objects or sights such as the flower. In a novel like “Mrs Dalloway” which is saturated with the image of flowers they act as a symbol which unlock greater emotions. These moments of intense experience are captured within Woolf’s writings as explorations of her characters’ inner lives. The flower creates a change to the self in that moment and leads to a heightened sense of identity through reflection on time that has passed. It transforms “non-being” to a “moment of being”.
The facial expressions, the eyes and the physical stances of the characters within the paintings and drawings I create also give - I hope - some access to their inner lives. The combination of these people and their emotions along with the passage of their lives as suggested by the flowers creates narratives that I will continue to explore. I’ll also continue to explore the writings of Virginia Woolf.
Over the last few years I’ve been displaying work through Art Pistol - a Glasgow based gallery who support emerging artists and give exposure to them through their website and also initially through a series of exhibitions in pop-up venues before opening their permanent space on Cresswell Lane last year.
My work has always been very narrative driven and seeks to conjure moments from ongoing stories for the viewer to interpret and engage with. I’ve tried to create exchanges between characters in the images and explore the relations between the figures and their environments. Over the last couple of years a strand of my work which I have created for the gallery has become more focused on single figures within an image.
I’ve become increasingly interested in what sometimes seems like a neccessity (at least for me) for isolation and time spent alone in the process of creativity. I’d read Sara Maitland’s book “A Book Of Silence” about the experience of silence and solitude. The book examines the possibilities contained within silence and the need for quiet and solitude and how these can actually be positive and even essential experiences that are increasingly less honoured and provided for in modern life. This inspired me to create a series of drawings called “An Observance Of Hermits” - images of people caught in moments of solitude. I tried to capture expressions in the faces of the characters to portray that these moments of feeling alone can be sought after and provide peace and inspiration - alone doesn’t always mean lonely and silence can be something we crave.
Reflecting on some earlier paintings I had produced for Art Pistol that I’d assumed were unconnected, I realised that they also contained solitary characters, people trying to find and hold on to a moment for themselves.
When I starting work on a new series of paintings for a show in Art Pistol at the beginning of this year I took the decision to try and isolate myself - as much as I could- from other people for a period of time to create the paintings on display in this show. Whether I did this because of the stories I wanted to tell in these images or whether my experience of being on my own to work influenced the narratives, there seems to be an underlying theme in these paintings of people “taking a moment” for themselves, of stepping away from other people to undertake an experience of change and gestation that may not be possible in the company of others.
The paintings I finished over the first few months of 2015 were featured in a show opening in Art Pistol’s Gallery in September 2015. The characters seem to be alone in the paintings and have chosen to try and be unobserved, to use the time and silence and freedom offered by isolation to look to the past and future and make choices.
In “Once I Sought Shelter, I Sheltered And Then I Grew” there is a figure standing on top of a bomb shelter in a wood. He appears to be emerging from a period of healing and reflection, having hidden himself away until he was ready to begin again.
The girl in “Hidden From The Sky I Flew” has sought out an abandoned and empty environment where she can give free expression to her passions, hidden from observation, questions and comment.
The character in “And His Gaze Fell Not Upon Me” is also trying to avoid judgement, hiding from view from the cottage on the hill behind her which resembles the eye of god. The figure in “Cock Of The Whatever” doesn’t care if he is being watched or judged, happy to be on his own.
“An Emergence” features a woman who is aware that she has undergone change, watching herself be reborn. The expression on her face suggests that she possibly feels wary and perhaps even a little afraid of her new self.
In “And On Into Another Tomorrow” a cautious looking character is encouraged to take the hand offered to her by another facet of herself and continue down the path to whatever awaits them.
“Waiting For Something To Want” is perhaps the most literal depiction amongst the paintings of being alone with your thoughts and contemplating what has gone before and what comes next.
All the paintings in this show have characters in them whose thoughts are perhaps similar to mine as I painted them - how much do we define ourselves and how much do we allow ourselves to be defined by others? And how much it is possible to change?