(Imagine playing golf and not keeping score, just playing for the beauty of it, the phenomenon of hitting a ball towards a hole)
An act of faith – unshakeable belief in…this primal, stupid, vital… the only evidence is that it has worked before, but only the deluded deny times when it has not.
When you shift from a comfortable position, dip your toe then just dive straight in. Why do I feel like I’m King of the World? This whole wide world belongs to me.
In these doubtful, fragmented times we can draw great strength from drawing’s great strength of being the most immediate agent for mining ideas previously buried beneath the complex strata of other, less recondite thoughts. We can see human endeavour first-hand. Unencumbered by technical processes, drawing can be evidence of the energy, ignited in the brain, that zips along the arm and out through the hand. It is a short trip with no stops for the impediment of tedious analysis or stuttering doubt to hitch a lift.
This flow is crucial. There is sometimes a hurdle, occasionally a blockage. Action painter Jackson Pollock – wild, enchanted, dialled-in - talked of ‘losing contact’ with the painting, Frances Hegarty talks of the performative element of her drawing work, the finished object standing as a record of a series of events, a palimpsest – layers and traces of the work and re-work of uninterrupted periods of three to four hours. Having established a conduit for his subconscious, Pollock sought harmony almost exclusively, whereas Hegarty’s work springs from smaller sketches – instigating the larger, more physical work - not copies, but stepping off points for intuitive exploration where a single gesture can influence the next decision. It is an exciting, liberating way of embarking but there is also anxiety in managing this great confluence, absorbing and filtering thoughts, feelings and information. One does not come without the other.
Formal underpinning in the form of pictorial space, a sense of composition or rhythm, perhaps, can be the balancing pole for walking this tightrope, the padded seat of the unicycle when moving back to briefly review what might have happened in this lost time of total involvement. There is a fear of overloading with ideas. A cousin of integrity is obsession, and leaving when things are not quite right is nigh impossible. Go home now.
And as the sound of the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ fades away, imagine drawing blindfold or scribbling while looking away, distracted by a squirrel or hot-air balloon. You finish and look down. You have depicted the most meaningful thing in your life, perfectly. By sheer chance, an exact replica of the most treasured possession emerges from your absentmindedness. Imagine moving a pencil around a sheet of paper whilst concentrating solely on how you feel, anything from euphoria to torment. It might be therapeutic. It might be fun.
Let us explore the idea of enjoyment in art-making further. Pure, unadulterated pleasure is hedonism and of no use or interest to anyone else. Such self indulgence will not usually result in anything worthwhile or anything that could be shared. Like a person who only brings one doughnut to a meeting, there’s nothing for us to get our teeth into, nor are we invited to. We need something else in the mix – a dash of purpose, drive, the awareness that, at some point, someone else will view the work and investigate and interpret with adequate sensitivity. Flit between being artist and spectator.
And then there has to be a task or challenge to move you on towards that extra level of contentment residing not only in a job well done but a new, different job tackled successfully.
Each piece is a distinctly separate encounter. They are of similar human size and connected by the materiality of paper and oil pastels – playful and unsophisticated, and the ideal medium for its exotic colouring and zestful, definite marks. They are raw, warm, fundamentally and vividly visceral, a manifestation of suppressed emotions. These drawings are also as pictorially sophisticated as anything this side of Frank Stella or Tomma Abts. They are simultaneously seductive and slightly disturbing. Like the remarkable, anguished paintings of Arshile Gorky there is an aura of reconnection with earlier instincts, a time before theory and weight of discourse that accompanied Hegarty’s work prior to this undertaking. The diary is cleared to continue a quest for the everlasting summer. There are elements and passages that resemble things we might know, but can only guess – vaguely corporeal, external and internal – an allusion to the unbearable fragility of our bodily existence, celebration of the privilege of being alive, or recognition and glorification of making pictures and longing to make pictures? This is a brilliantly created arena for psychological exchange and it is quite a confrontation. We need to match the artist’s courage. We defer to consider all the things that have happened here, the glimpses of the half-known, and barely concealed universal truths. The next will offer more clues. It does, but the more we have the more we lack.
Uncertainty is thrilling and killing, and I would urge you invest in this semantic symbiosis.
And as the sound of ‘Epigraphes Antique IV: ‘Pour la danseuse aux crotales’ by Debussy fades away let me describe for you two paintings by artists unknown. The first is of a flower in a vase. The flower is a lemon blossom, a symbol of fidelity and we know any object or motif has a potential to signify within a specific culture. The artist is unaware of the meaning. It is painted clumsily. This is not deliberate.
The second painting is more difficult to describe because there is no immediately apparent theme or subject. It is paint, different-coloured patches of thin paintsfumato, thin veils of organza, smoke hovering. Like Hegarty’s, it is rendered with an understated confidence. It is alluring.
‘Congruence’ is one of the three core conditions a counsellor must adopt in order to establish a relationship with their client that is likely to flourish. It is also referred to as ‘genuineness’, that the counsellor is able to be themselves, transparent, their outward behaviour corresponding with their feelings. It is a pertinent concept with this work and, more generally, this approach in mind. So much of the artist, and human being, is there for us. This kind of pleasure, unrepressed experience, is exhausting.
Europe narrowly won the Ryder Cup.
Commissioned by BLOC projects, 2010
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