Entangled (16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas)

I have been continuing experimentation with abstracts both in acrylics and oils. Because acrylics dry so quickly, I can build up many, many layers in a shorter time than oils. As a result, I tend to keep going for even more layers building up, scraping away, and making decisions about what stays and what gets painted over. It’s an evolution over two or more weeks for these. So different from my alla prima oils! Anyway, this one started off very different but ended up with (for me) an under the sea feeling. Others will no doubt see other things.

Tom’s poetic take on it is similar but goes back …well, to the beginning.

Bubbles burning up the fecund deep,
champagne reef a-swirl with venting gas,
primordial and proto quickly meet:
proto-cell and protoplasm fast
entangled in the ancient ocean depths
where chemistry and magic both combined
into something new, a broom that swept
the world with pulsing, growing, greasy slime
whose cells are now ancestral to us all,
whose origins are lost in bubbly chaos,
whose evolution made it great and small,
whose imperfections still come back to slay us.
We all began in beauty, vibrant, dark…
Partaking of that lost and vital spark.

image (c) 2020 Hilary Farmer
poem (c) 2020 TJ Radcliffe

17 thoughts on “Entangled

      1. As subjective as art is to the beholder, I like to think you are objectively great at what you do, as side by side comparison(s) with the great artists of the past will show you to be their equal in more ways than you might guess: technique, balance between discipline and inspiration, understanding of perspective and ‘golden’ proportions, composition, maybe a teeny bit of Maud Lewis’s whimsy, and so on. Personally? I would love to see you take on thematic form, even if just a trial run on cones or cubes, or something like Judith Berry’s spaghetti-like shapes from “The Retelling”. Double dare you…

      2. Wow! Thanks so much!
        Right now I am being quite intuitive with my abstracts. I may have an idea when I start but each piece evolves as it will… It’s not that I object to themes at all but I am feeling my way forward and seeing what comes of it. 🙂

      3. Artistic intuition aka the ability to understand without conscious reasoning is the evolution that you refer to… as far as I am concerned. As my academic field of “expertise” is East Asia (specifically, Japan) I am always drawn to finding parallels in Japanese aesthetics, in this case a literary one: the Zen monk Kenko in his Tsurezuregusa (“Essays In Idleness”). The “feeling my way forward-ness” of your work seems to reflect his statement, “The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty….leaving something incomplete makes it interesting and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.”

        Your evolving incompleteness is pretty damn powerful…

    1. The Tsurezuregusa is one of those classic works of world literature that everyone should have in their collection. Though it is not religious per se, it was written by Zen monk Kenko in the 14th century, so it has the ‘flavour’ of Zen infused through it. It is what is known as a “zuihitsu”, a work that “follows the brush”, i.e. a collection of random thoughts and essays on whatever comes to mind. It is the kind of book that is inspiring for creative people, as it reads kind of like a long improvisation. You can get copies of Tsurezuregusa that come in a volume which also includes a 13th century zuihitsu by the monk Chomei called the Hojoki, which is as famous in Japan as Kenko’s work. I prefer Kenko’s work, but both are great, and either one are books that if you bought only one Japanese classic work ever, each would be a great candidate.

      Another desert island work from Japan is the long 1933 essay In Praise of Shadows by author Jun’ichiro Tanazaki. Though it is dated, it still is a fantastic discussion of Japanese aesthetics, specifically the relation between light and shadow. There is a new 2017 translation, but I have the 1977 version, so the newer one may be even cooler. He was writing at a time when the old days of candles and lamps were being replaced by electric light, and the velvety beauty of darkness and unlit corners was being lost, thus the title “In Praise of Shadows”. All three of these books are really really worth having, especially if one is creative… and they are inexpensive. I recommend you buy any one of them, if not all three.

      1. Thank you for the great tips! I certainly could add some or all of these to my (already rather large) book collection …if I can find room on a shelf!

      2. The first volume of Paul Klee’s legendary notebooks, The Thinking Eye, is another must-read. Vol.2 (The Nature of Nature) is also great, but it is The Thinking Eye that blew me away as a young musician seeking inspiration from outside my art form, which eventually led me to creating graphic scores, and having international gallery showings. The key takeaway point for me was his idea that it was the process of forming that was the art (not ‘form’ itself), wherein lay the power of art; forming like nature formed, seed to tree. This also fits with the Zen idea of perfecting technique while letting go of results or expectations, as in Japanese archery where the perfect shot is one done with perfect control, not the most accurate hit on the target. The way Klee describes his philosophy and technique(s) is really inspiring and I would try to find a copy at a local college or university library to read in situ, as it is out of print and really expensive to buy. If you have any college art professor friends they may even have access to it, or a copy of their own. Seek and ye shall find…

      3. Always loved Klee’s work bu haven’t read the notebooks. I definitely have been focused on giving priority to the process over the result…

      4. Back a million years ago when I was doing my undergrad degree in music, I came across a photo of Klee’s “Around The Fish” in one of my text books. There was something magical about it, even though the photo itself was in black and white. Years later I got to see it at MoMA in New York, and they also had a full room dedicated to Klee. I used to go back to MoMA day after day, just to sit and look at Klee paintings like one watches TV. I also got the chance to see a room full of Picabia works at the Centre Pompidou in Paris everyday for three days, just sitting and glowing with delight. I really really REALLY love modern art: Abstract Expressionists, Judith Berry of course (go Canadian women!), Yayoi Kusama, my mentor Shozo Shimamoto, Paul Klee, Barnnett Newman (I LOVVVVE “Concord (1949)”), Romare Bearden is so great, I practically worship Laurie Anderson.

        I met Laurie at a party at Juilliard one time. I was sitting on a couch, and she just plopped down on the couch across from me. We were only separated by a small coffee table, and I could barely speak I was so thrilled and terrified. Here boyfriend (soon to be husband) the rock star Lou Reed then sat down, and thus I was having polite cocktail conversation with Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed! The great thing was that she actually speaks in real life like she talks onstage, with that “Laurie Anderson” cadence. Fuck gender stereotypes, I would love to be Laurie or Judith’s house husband, running around all day in an apron making grilled cheese/lobster sandwiches, vacuuming, and doing the laundry while not working on my music. But I digress… LOL!

  1. Hey, what can I say? I think a man can have martial arts training, a hairy back, can bench press 210 pounds, love NFL football… and have piping hot gratin dauphinois waiting on the table when my girlfriend comes home from work!

  2. Maybe that is where we have always led, in the arts. Everyone has done everything, so gender, identity, taste, race, politics, religion, and so on have always been in a great big mix. All those feelings, words, sounds, movements, and colours flying around the gallery.. best scene in the world. We get to do some amazing stuff.

    I once did a performance of North Indian raga-s on a bass clarinet that was run through some effects pedals while a performance artist got seam lines tattooed all over her naked body (in her attempt to overcome her fear of tattooing and needles). As the musicians came and went, her girlfriend held her hand to keep her calm. It was a really powerful event, not the average kind of show a musician usually does. But welcome to the arts, where this sort of thing goes on all the time. Art = freedom.

      1. Of course, the arts haven’t been perfect either. There have been a LOT of women artists who should have been categorized as masters, rather than “also present” on the scene. I call it the Salt lake Effect, i.e. the Salt Lake Olympic hockey finals. The women’s game between the USA and Canada was unbelievable. The US team was playing dirty, the refs were calling penalties on Canada for literally nothing, and so on. Yet they battled back to keep the score even, and eventually win against insane odds. It was the greatest comeback ever. And yet no commemorative DVD, and no big documentary, unlike the men’s team who won 5 -2, and Mario Lemieux’s performance was called “the definition of courage” for playing with injuries. Nothing against Mario, BUT the women had to play against biased refs and the opposing team, on foreign ice, with mostly US fans in the building. Their loss was practically guaranteed with all that set against them and yet they raged back and won it. If THE most heroic hockey game in history is forgotten, while lesser games are remembered more fondly, I have a very hard time thinking it is anything other than sexism…

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