A Memory of Rain
inks &acrylic on raw linen
32 x 43"
I am in awe of Earth’s primal forces. Their beauty inspires me as a painter -- not as literal objects -- but as experiences and metaphors. Water is the first in a trilogy of art shows I’m planning on earth’s essential elements — Water, Fire and Air.
Ranging from contemplative to ferocious, some images of water provide solace, or celebrate the way water brings life to drought-stricken land; other images suggest the destruction of life in hurricanes and the recent tsunami in Japan. Ultimately the energy of water is connected with the cycle of life -- birth to death. The next two shows in the “Elements” series on Fire and Air will open in 2012 and 2013.
By presenting images of water that inspire wonder or appreciation I also hope to raise consciousness about the social implications of water. At a charity event for The Samburu Project on July 9, Samburu’s founder will show a video about her ongoing efforts to drill water wells in Kenya’s cholera-stricken communities, and people will see how much one well can nurture an entire community and bring it back to health.
Tell us about how this work is different (or the same) as the work you have exhibited at TAG before.
The series I’ve shown at TAG in the past three years explore elemental energies, ethereal landscapes, and our human journey. Each series is a distinct approach, yet they all express a sense of wonder and, taken together, become a meditation on the veil between seen and unseen.
In 2010, I embarked on the new series expressing the vital energies of earth’s elements. These paintings are somewhat more abstract than earlier series, evoking a phenomenon rather than depicting it.
Compared with the muted introspection of “The Sepia Series” and the monochromatic “Seekers Series,” now color returns with bolder imagery in “The Life of Water.” Still, together with “The Seekers Series” and “The Sepia Series” these new paintings reach for order amidst wilderness, an underlying balance in the universe.
inks & acrylic on raw linen
24 x 63"
Rich blues -- cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, phthalo, brilliant, turquoise, prussian and any others that caught my eye – play with bright white inks and acrylics to leap out of solid black grounds in most of this series. That’s not an attempt to be literal (in fact pink seas turns up in a few of the pieces). After several years of blacks and browns, I was ready to be re-energized by color.
I still like unstretched raw linen for its dimension and textures. Unleashing the energies of nature on a tamed perfectly stretched, flat canvas feels inhibiting. To me, nature should be on as natural a surface as possible, even if the resulting work is less than predictable or neat.
Very few of these paintings have representational elements – two have sailboats, one has hands, one has a face and hands, one has a vague figure – but that’s only 5 paintings out of 13 in this show. Most are abstract, far more than in the previous series where landscapes were identifiable. My overall direction is towards abstraction.
How do these paintings come about - what are you thinking as you work?
I try not to think as I work. When it’s going well, I am the paint. Well, actually I’m the human who squirts more heavy gloss medium into a cup of watery white or splashes the canvas with a brush filled with Chinese ink or sprays an acrylic edge with alcohol or chases a drip or stuffs paper towels under the canvas to shape the flow or becomes exasperated and paints out everything black, leaving only the interesting parts. But I don’t know if that’s quite thinking, more like animal instinct. I do think critically about each painting afterwards, in the editing and finishing process. And in the two figurative works, Water Blessing 1 and 2, I planned the image completely in advance because I had something specific to convey about the preciousness of water to people. But for this series, that kind of analytic thinking has been more rare than in the two earlier TAG series, many of which were drawn before I began painting.
Water Blessing 2
inks &acrylic on raw linen
32 x 19"
Being amazed. Some of these works are quite large, and I make them flat on a big table outdoors. Since they’re sopping wet for a long time – three days in the case of thick textures layered with slow-drying medium – I’m not entirely certain what the effect will be when the piece is brought indoors and stood on an easel. That begins a process of refinement, returning the painting to the outside table or working on an easel, but with this series I’ve been delighted how many of them turned out.
What comes next?
Red! Orange! Yellow! “The Life of Fire” in all its symbolic and energizing permutations. That will be my 2012 show. As a continuation of “The Elements” series, I expect to keep using unstretched raw linen, probably again with images emerging from black. But we’ll see where the paint takes me.
Pam Douglas's exhibition begins June 21st.