Some time ago I wrote about the apprehension of being interviewed for an arts podcast. Well nerves aside it went pretty well, largely due to the wonderful John Dalton of course. Gently Does it, Johns podcast, is a must listen for any artist. With his casual, over coffee chat approach it is extremely interesting with conversations and rare insights with some of the worlds finest artists (why he chose me maybe the exception). Anyway, I hope you will take time to listen to mine and indeed all the others. Take a journey with he links below
He’s just a little strange, harmless but Alice and rabbit kind of strange none the less, noted Esmay Burton, chair of the Mt Betham ikebana guild. Always away with the birds he is, says they whisper and sing to him the secrets of the ancients. Messengers from the gods, he says. I don’t know about all that but the birds certainly do enjoy sitting in that crown of twigs he wears. Some in the town call him healer, sage, prophet but I just think he’s a little odd like his mother.
Jesus of the outback
jesus montelatt hated his name. As an only and somewhat otherworldly child he grew up in a small, blink and youll miss it outback town at the base of a hill , Mt Bethlan, ironically. His mother, small of stature but large in life brought him up as best she might with guidence from a dog eared, bible black book of poems. They called him a healer and brought their sick ones to be saved but it was the birds and their song, he always maintained, that repaired their ailes.
christabella fontayne was starbright, celestial light. An unwinged angel who landed in the spit away from the desert town via diesel and dust road train. Whispers had it that she was wanted by the demons of another life. Her lover, lost as they oft are in the worst of fairytales, now just an empty truck-stop daydream. She manages a sigh over coffee black and bacon fat eggs as another truck hisses its morning intent and trys to remember his face, his smile, anything.
Despite being a third generation inhabitant of the red dust, blue bush sour outback town Dolores Finklestien could often be found reminiscing about the old country just as her mother and grandmother before, though she had never been there and how the chickens would wander through the wood warm farmhouse searching for stale bread crumbs
johnny the cock.
Johnathon Cochran, or Johnny the cock as was more commonly whispered amongst the few maidens who trod the red talcum dust of Mt. Betham, loved old Noir movies. Cassablanca was the kick off. Despite the skin searing heat of the outback summer he only wore the tea bag wrinkled suit he found in a city thrift shop.
For years I’ve said that using watercolour was to hard and I’ll stick to oils thanks. Well I finally gave it a bash and it just felt right, refreshing, inspiring, exciting. It gave me a whole new direction. I dont think I use the medium “correctly” but I’ve found my own way. The works are more like coloured drawings than watercolour paintings but hey, who makes the rules anyway.
Try new things, who knows where it will lead.
Oh God, those doubts are raising their ugly heads again, crawling up my back and tapping me on the shoulder, licking my ear with their forked tongues and whispering their sweet nothings in my shell like. Why? you ask. Well talking, thats all, plain, intuitive, everyday talking.
I was asked to do an interview the other day, no big drama, until I remembered how inarticulate I felt just talking. Mumbling and fumbling around for words that don’t come, scratching around for the right thing to say only to blurt out some irrelevant twadle. Its a nightmare. I find it difficult enough just to talk at the best of times.
Its so very odd because when I write the words just come, lyrically, poetically, they seem to just dance across the page. When I talk I feel like a five year old. It got me to thinking about how we communicate and as is my way it all became allegorical.
Its like tea.
Talking is like making a quick brew, tea bag in, water, milk, stir. That’s it. Writing is like a slow brew of loose leaf tea in a pot, waiting for it patiently, contemplating the lovely velvet warmth and reminiscing about your last cup. Painting is like brewing the tea in the pot, contemplating how lovely the pot looks in that chiaroscuro light, noticing the little crack or the chip on the rim of the cup. Wondering what the pot would look like with a different pattern, loving that stream of translucent sienna as you pour the liquid calm into the beautifully decorated porcelain cup.
interviewer, so Karl tell me about your paintings
me, well, er, um its sort of (as my mind thinks about a lovely cup of afternoon in Paris loose leaf tea)
interviewer, so how do you go about starting something new
me, well um, I um……
interviwer, you’re a waste of time, interview over I’m going to Starbucks for a coffee.
how do you take your tea?
Three wise ones
This was actually the first painting completed in the series and sets the tone for the rest of the works. Theres an obvious Australianess in it’s being, with savage pepper hot light burning the strangely harsh, sparse yet serene landscape. Red dust dances like flame across the scene. There’s a down to earth simplicity here. The witnesses, more like town gossips than anyone important, bring simple gifts and don’t seem to awe inspired by the whole scene. A kangaroo, the very spirit of the land, watches on as does an angel, or is it in fact the muse, a messenger from the other. There’s a quiet whisper on the breeze here as to my own sense of place
There’s an obvious reference to the nativity in the painting of course but without the pomp and ceremony. None of that in an outback town. The three wise ones are women and why shouldn’t they be, after all who are the wise ones amongst us really. Anyway, they just heard a new baby had arrived and wanted a look, as women do. It was with this feeling that I wanted to bring forth my prophet.
Seemingly we have always had these individuals who try to light humanity’s path, wheather they be prophets, druids, oracles, shamen, priests or any manner of the like but are they born to this path or do they just become. Are they just normal people who gain an awareness of how things should be through say nature or are they guided by the divine. Do they hear the gods? Is it just a tap on the shoulder and whisper in the ear from the muse, or indeed just the sight of a morning yawn from the world around them. We need these illuminated ones. They are our conscience even if we don’t listen to them. They are our ground and the light on the horizon. Their message is essentially the same but foolishly we always think we know better. We twist their words, mould them to suit our ego’s until we lose the way.
So, I’m on this treadmill chasing the prize that dangles deliciously before me because someone told me, that someone thought, that someone said, that someone wrote, that someone heard, that the prophet fortold that this should be so.
He actually said, does anyone want an apple, theres enough for everyone
Its all well and good to have one of those great light bulb moments, curtousey of the Muse of course but it’s another thing to do something with it. So here I was all excited about the prospect of this new series of works, where would they lead and what would they tell, but where to start. Obviously one has to revisit all the religious iconography of the past and come to grips with some of the paths previously explored.
In the case of this particular work, the Annunciation, there are many fine examples. However I wasnt exploring an overtly christian paradigm. This was to be something much more personal in nature. On reflection though, I didnt see any harm in using some of the ideas and themes used by generations of other artists. They are well known and could be easily comprehended by a viewer of the work. The trick I felt was to explore my feelings about them and in the process weave my own beliefs into the work. Beliefs that may even change as the series progresses and I try to question myself in depth. I fear some will be quite illusive when push comes to shove.
So, the Anunnciation, a good place to start. Bring forth my new prophet.
First belief to be scrutinised. Do I believe in the immaculate conception ? No, I don’t think so. Now thats not the same as do I believe a man called Jesus walked the Middle East. Thats another question entirely and will take some consideration. ( I recall here a quote from a devout christian friend from many years past who once said to me, “keep thinking and questioning, assume nothing and remember Jesus was just a working class man” )
Ok, so no immaculate conception but who’s to say a woman wasn’t forwarned about her child. Call it what you want, intuition, premonition, a dream. I mean a person who thinks he got this whole idea from the Muse, a voice or subconscience messenger from the other has no right to argue that one. A simple setting then, quiet, evening perhaps. A time when one would usually reflect or be open to suggestions from the other, intimate. An angel or messenger for obvious reasons keys the painting but with subdued radiance. The room is sparse, these are simple people. Wonderful things do and should happen to the humble. I laugh heartily to myself on reflection. Is that winged being from the other letting that painted minx know she’s actually having my child. Maybe there is a pretence for the immaculate conception after all. Now I have to wait for this new prophet of mine to be born.
Bring on a new canvas and hot towels please.
Voices From The Crows Nest
We all seem so tired, dont we?
Worn out, frustrated, frightened of the abyss either side of the production line we’re all chained to. Television screens circle and spew images spurring us on, laughing, applauding. We march forward, our blinkered sight unwavering, set firmly on that apple dangled in front of our noses. We convince ourselves that its safer to chase the prize than jump off and anyway its so close. We slaver, knowing we’ll get a taste any minute if we just hang in there, all those voices keep telling us so. Soon we’ll reap that sweet reward, after all the treadmill seems to be going faster and faster. Our tongues at full stretch, aching, flick at the tempting fruit. Into focus come other tongues after the same prize, the one we have worked so hard to nearly snatch. Tongues become barred teeth and growls – you know the story.
There has to be more, doesn’t there?
Of course there is, we just got a little lost, seduced by clowns laughing as they ushered us into the fair-ground with promises of endless entertainment and all our hearts could desire. We got on the carousel and couldn’t get off. We fought for a better position, a faster ride a more comfortable horse until we forgot what it was like before. We exchanged the colour of spring blooms for garish neon and the winds whisper for squeals and groans.
There has to be hope though, doesn’t there?
Of course there is. Look above, high in the crows nest that nestles in the realm between earth and the heavens, the abode of our artistic champions. Painters and poets, seers and messengers who dare travel into the other, the abyss that surrounds the everyday. For it is through their works that we may see a different path.
It’s a tough gig though, isn’t it? Being an artist or a poet.
I mean trying to show humanity how to see the world in a new light, asking them to take time to feel again. What do you say? How do you show them? Would they even listen or see? What if you were wrong? Its a risky business all this dabbling in the mysterious isn’t it, always open to ridicule or worse. Its a calling not for the feint of heart is it. In essence its all about communicating a message searched for and dragged kicking and screaming from the other for all to see and ponder. Good luck with that one.
There are to few who are brave enough, or indeed foolish enough though to take up the challenge whilst others have no choice but are born to it. It is these visionaries, these prophets huddled in that precarious crows nest who hold the answers. If we care to listen instead of occasionally glancing up with confused
frowns and mumbled distain the world just might be a better place.
Scratching Ones Head
So it is that I sit at this very moment writing, cocooned in ochre and oxide red, charcoal grey and shadow black. The sound of heavy industry groaning and humming all around me as a never ending stream of steel is produced. I too am stuck on the carousel but want desperately to jump off and take my place in that crows nest instead of clambering up there when time permits. My apple morphs into a butterfly and my tongue a brush. The calling of colour is strong. I daydream, what if I just stepped off, just stopped and scratched my head as I watched the ride continue on without me. What then?
Would I look around and see signposts to other destinations, be free to choose anywhere, go and do anything, the thought is deliciously liberating. I pause, dim lights and feint squeals in all directions, carousels whirl everywhere. Same ride with a different game or do I just think to much?
I sit and ponder some more ( the power of a good ponder can never be underestimated ). What’s it all about then? Oh, not that old one I retort, God hasn’t it been done to death, you know very well that nobody really knows, so why bother asking such stupid questions?
Because I’m an artist?
My mind wanders as the carousel continues to moan and whine. I contemplate another journey into the mysterious aether of the unknown, the realm of the other, deeper this time. A quest to fathom what it all means. Its worth a shot. After all isn’t that what artist’s do?
I start……………… Blank.
A confused frown and grimace envelope my face just like those uninitiated below as they stare up to the crows nest with a grunt. Its a bit scary up here sometimes.
Where do I start?
Maybe I dont have to find the answers, the absolute, perhaps I should just try to pin down and make sense of my own beliefs, after all they are just as valid as anyone else’s. Search the other for answers to my dilemma and with luck give others an insight to theirs. Sounds feasible.
The game is afoot, as Sherlock would say. Tally-ho
Have you ever really asked yourself, with conviction, what you truly believe in and got a decisive answer. Or is it just me. Its tougher than you think, scratching and pawing through the caverns of your mind. Asking passing thoughts if they believe they’re right only to be taunted with another question in reply. Meandering down endless corridors only to find dead ends or sign posts directing you to even more obscure questions. What do you really believe………. Oh really?
Its worse than the carousel, at least you have direction there.
I ponder some more, dig deeper……..
Hmmmmmm, pin down beliefs.
Belief in what ? That was a stupidly open question to start with wasn’t it. Maybe I should just paint some pictures of flowers instead. Oh but the connotations of that, the hidden meanings or expressed feelings.
Who’d want to be an artist
But I digress. Back to the problem at hand. I pause to look out of a small window, my carousel whirls a few floors up from the ground. Blue skies, cyan, a single hue, no clouds. I soak up the calm serenity of it, still, sweet. I lower my eyes to heavy beams, iron and rust. Vehicles, prehistoric in size go about their business. Dust and plumes of smoke dance in the breeze. Where was I just a second ago. I think of flowers again.
Where did it all go so wrong? How were we so easily fooled by those clowns? ( it occurs to me now why some people have a dread fear of them ) Surely we must have got it right at some stage along the path, after all look at all the messiahs, prophets, sages, philosophers, indeed artists and poets who have tried to guide us through the ages. Maybe we just weren’t listening or maybe we just misinterpreted everything.
Maybe they were just clowns in a different guise.
I ponder, a long painters ponder
Then She arrives. I say she as I always feel the essence of the feminine, or is it just thinly veiled memory from books read. The Muse. She taps me on the shoulder, tentative at first, seeing if I’m aware. Another tap, I know that feeling, that spark. Something’s coming, germinating from the tantalising vapour of the other. She opens the door for me to take a peek.
“Annunciation! You know, like the angel telling Mary she was going to give birth to the messiah”, the Muse offers.
I peer through the door as it creaks open a little wider. What is She getting at ? I squint my gaze, She shakes her head.
” Prophets have all the answers don’t they ?” She sighs.
“Well I suppose so”, I mumble to myself.
Ok dear reader, epiphanies are not always instant light bulb moments. Sometimes the ever patient Muse has to poke you a little harder. But eventually…………. The penny drops
Why don’t you bring into being your own prophet. Paint him and see where it leads. Maybe you can make sense of your jumbled, rag-tag beliefs in the process.
Drum roll and trumpets please.
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