Thoughts on Painting…

As a child I loved magic, and then, as a teenager I discovered the more lasting magic of painting, music and books.

Why is that combination of shapes, colours, lines in Matisse, Klee or who-ever it might be so enthralling, moving, wonderful ? And the astonishment, thrill of recognition of coming upon Beethoven, Sibelius, Mahler……

Now that I’m silvery-haired I ‘m still held in thrall by all that grown-up, magic ‘stuff ‘. And I go on trying to make my own. I’m not interested in being original or ‘innovative’ – that dread word so over-used in the media and art-speak blurbs.

Why do I go on putting paint on canvas in our information- deluged, so-many –reasons- to-get- distracted world ?

One reason is I that I still enjoy it, most of the time. There are hours when nothing seems to happen, rain falls, spirits sink, inertia threatens. Others when a little idea or glimmer of an image leads me on – things seem possible, invention happens somehow or other, the sun shines, music plays, colours come together in unexpected ways….. the spirits lift.

I love what Stravinsky said about the creative process – that the artist is a sort of pig snouting for truffles (ah but the mud and stones you have to get through !) and that he went looking for something he recognised when he found it. Absolutely – not that I seek to compare myself with him.

The thrill of discovery, of coming upon the unexpected. Where is the song before it is sung ? Nowhere; it is found in the making, by trial and error, choosing and gazing; pondering the choices. Following the thread into and out of the maze. Painting is a journey without maps; it is making your own puzzle, then solving it. It’s the clue taken up, the glimpse in passing.

It can be like amazing good news, or the dark depths of the forest. Neither difficult or easy, but can seem like either.

“Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something upon which to rejoice .’ T.S. Eliot

I still love modernism (maybe I’m a re-modernist. ) I believe in bringing disparate things together into a unity. Even if that unity might be dismissed by some as illusion.

The process itself lures me on. What if I try this shape here, this over there….then space, line , colour. One thing leads to another. Statement – counter statement. As in music – exposition and development.

Do artists still need heroes from myth and legend , apart from the noble dead who have gone before us ?

I like Orpheus – that old poet-musician who, even when those nasty bacchantes had torn him to pieces, his head still went on singing it’s essential song as it floated along the river of time.

Let’s keep on singing our sometimes peculiar songs. Life would be unthinkable without song and dance, dreams and symbols, colour and form, poems, puzzles paintings and play.

Stephen Webster