NaBloPoMo IV: Digging and Delving

Oil Painting Site I“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.” Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Do I really need to introduce Monet? Remind, perhaps. That the pretty paintings of Monet and the Impressionists were in their day considered radical. Their works encountered aggression and derision. Painter Berthe Morisot, who married the brother of Edouard Manet, was once attacked at the opening of an exhibition of Impressionist paintings.

Site I Panel II (Close Up - Left Hand Side) 487x500In that day, artists worked to certain formulae and if they were lucky, their works were selected for, and they got recognition through, the salons of the official art establishment. Paintings, including landscapes, were constructed in the studio, not painted in the open air, from direct observation. Until Monet and friends. 

Cézanne said, famously, that Monet was just an eye, but what an eye!  Yet, by the above quote, Monet would seem to contradict that. Monet is saying the eye sees, but what is seen is then filtered, through brain, mind, soul, to the hand. What ends up on the canvas is the product of this eye-to-hand process. And it seems quite an arduous process, a digging and delving one, archaeology almost.

The quote reminded me of a description I came across of an archaeological dig process. It was published by FAMSI – Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. There are seven steps:

1 removing top soil
2 using pickaxe
3 tall dry sifter
4 handheld dry sifter
5 hand trowel
6 small poker and paint brush
7 wet brushing

I thought the process could also describe the stages of an art project, and the necessary soulful exploration.

Site I Panel II (Close Up - Right Hand Side) 481x500 I did a suite of paintings some years ago based on our then garden, in France, which we were renovating. We dug up lots of bits of old china, other stuff. I tried to establish a personal relationship with these objects in my artwork. It was difficult and painful.

That’s when I first coined the term Poetic Mapping. It seemed I was mapping out territory, but through feeling, rather than scientific method. The images here are of my first painting. I ended up with sort of unruly grids! I couldn’t take this project any further. It would not have come about at all had it not been for Monet. And a few artists and movements since.

“We have to dig and delve unceasingly.”

(And accept that sometimes we aren’t digging in the right place).

About AnnIsikArts

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