I’ve just finished this mixed media collage encaustic. It’s called Chapter.
There’s more than one meaning to the word chapter. The work has risen from a musing and a fusing of two.
In relation to books, particularly fiction, Chapter includes mystery and suspense, clues, symbols, theme, adventure, characters, mood and setting.
It’s a shot at all those things anyway. I plan on developing more coherent work on the Chapter theme.
The work is a development of a collage – one of a pair, actually – I began some years ago but was unable to push to a conclusion.
That I’m able to progress it now is because of a recent and substantial shift in consciousness, a Damascene moment. If you’re more at home with the scientific paradigm, a cognitive therapist might describe the phenomenon as the uncovering of a skewed concept.
Shift in consciousness, Damascene moment, I might also choose to call it (Poetically) Mapping satan. If you believe in God and satan, or in some other definition of the good/evil concept, you’ll have experienced that satan or pseudo-satan, doesn’t want people to be creative, because making art parallels the art of the Great Creator). When you’re being creative, it could be said you’re communing with GC.
My hitherto hidden skewed concept was blocking my creativity at concept and discouraging me from even starting artwork.
Enough philosophy. The collaged pieces are glued to small sheets of khadi paper. I like any excuse to use khadi paper as it has a kind of holy aspect in its connection with Gandhi. I’ve written about khadi and Gandhi in my blog Taking a Walk with Gandhi.
I brushed white encaustic thickly over the top of the khadi sheets, then glued-on the collage, which has various heights. I then added more encaustic around the edges, then scraped most of it off with a wood engraving tool, to re-reveal the khadi paper.
I needed to add more pigment to the encaustic and while shovelling the powder into the melted wax, I was reminded of a dream, one of a group of dreams I had, night after night, for a period of time during 1997.
It was a coming of age dream, even though, in years, I was 47 in 1997. (I’ve grown up many times!) Everything in the dream was white. I was in a white room in a house. Two workmen – in white overalls – were sitting on chairs at either end of a small white table. They were playing cards. They were facing me, smiling broadly. Each held out his spread of cards to me. The cards were blank and entirely white. The room was coated in a white dust.
The dream was a message for me. The white table was a tabula rasa – blank slate – and the blank white card spreads (mini tabulae rasa) meant: “Play the cards you have been dealt.” The cards I have been dealt would be my talents, however humble.
Why card players? Why two men? I thought of Cezanne’s series of five paintings of card players. In these, all the card players are men – workmen, peasants. They are concentrating intently on their cards, on the game. The series has been compared with Dutch 17th century paintings of card players, but in these, the theme is of drunkenness and gambling; out of control behaviour. Cezanne’s card players are sober and contemplative.
There is no drama. There is tension in the works, described as a tension of opposites, but Cezanne’s card players are engaged in communion, I think, both sacred and secular. The men were peasant workmen, taking respite from their manual labour. They are silent. The card game was silent social communion. The bottle of unopened wine in one of the paintings is reminiscent of The Eucharist. The men are still using their hands, but they have switched tools of their trade for tools of social engagement. These paintings are quite holy, I think. Cezanne said of these paintings, late in life, to author Jules Borély:
“Today everything has changed in reality, but not for me, I live in the town of my childhood, and it is with the eyes of the people of my own age that I see again the past. I love above all else the appearance of people who have grown old without breaking customs”.
The message of my dream was that I was to battle with the tensions of creativity, to play my dealt blank cards, to colour them in. That was how I was to be in the world. I now see that this was to be holy battle, a crusade against my own spiritual ignorance. And to find a way of passing on my observations – my adventures. That was to be my card game.
The two men were messengers, angels in white overalls, rather than gowns of gossamer. I bet they’d tucked their wings into the back of those overalls!
The white powder? I had never been able to figure out why the room in this dream was coated in white powder. Talcum powder came to mind initially – to do with new life (babies) and it is to soothe and at the time of the dream I was sore, I’d just lost both parents and a younger brother in less than a year.
Now the white powder has meaning for me as pigment. White pigment. And I suspect, specifically, titanium dioxide. Titanium white pigment is referred to as the perfect white, the whitest white. It is also naturally occurring; oxide of titanium is generally sourced from ilmenite, rutile and anatase. Rutilated quartz, by the way, is considered an aid to creativity, if you believe that crystal has healing properties. I was to play my cards and to colour them by availing myself with the materials around me, you could say, God-given: the earth. I had the tools, I had the materials and I was to get on with it.
All this talk of cards. A couple of weeks ago I made a small encaustic collage – of knotted paper – that was to be one of a pair which I was calling King and Queen. I finished King, but didn’t like it. I hung it on a wall on the first floor landing and went back to the studio. Five minutes later, there was a crash and the sound of breaking glass. Descending to the first floor, I found my collage had fallen from the wall. It had fallen onto its back, onto a rug which was on top of thick carpet; yet the glass had exploded and was scattered everywhere.
I had to laugh. It seemed that the Great Creator didn’t like my collage either and it was a case of back to the drawing board. The following day, it came to me that I ought to have included some bits of playing card, specifically the King of Hearts. I bought a cheap pack from my local Aladdin’s Cave (second-hand shop). They are running wild around my studio table, just like that unruly pack in Alice in Wonderland.
Strange weavings (and knottings)! I’ve been weaving words recently too. More on that in another blog.
I’m going to revisit my dream journals. I’m so glad I began recording my dreams – which is almost 30 years ago now. I couldn’t even interpret them to begin with, but recorded them anyway and I recommend the practice of keeping a dream journal to all artists.
The use of white encaustic has also added temperature to my work. Temperature isn’t a quality I’ve considered before. I will be considering temperature in future works. This will help with mood-setting and colour choice.
Are you playing the cards you’ve been dealt?