Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The City in Which I Love You

These paintings, though new, have been gestating for some time. Several years ago I started a few sketches along these lines. This was when I was living in Vancouver, on the corner of 1st and Commercial, the ground from which the images here grow. If this city (this city within a city) marks the horizon of my imagination — the convergence of mountains and water, steel and concrete and glass — it is falling in love there which transforms the place, for me, into something deeply playful and serious and worth remembering in as many ways as possible. This points to, generally, one of my primary joys in, or desires for, painting itself: the need to take note, to “tarry with” a place, to know and remember it — not only as it is but as it is for me. Painting is so much a practice of attention and memory, even if imaginative and expressive. What motivates this work, more specifically, is the enduring impact of a conversion, of starting life anew because of love. Themes from Song of Songs — of union and separation, heedlessness, pursuit, risk, the relationship between human and divine love, the absolute singularity and beauty of the beloved — were woven into my thinking during the painting process and, I hope also, into the work itself.

About the titles, they’re mainly borrowed. I don’t usually title my pieces — I mean, not in advance, and then only descriptively. But to my surprise, names came first this time. It seems appropriate to me that these are gathered inscriptions, gleaned—from other people’s thoughts and words — since so often, especially every time I pack up and move (I suppose moving, finding and carrying home, is a recurring thread in my work), I realize that nearly everything I have has been given to me. My home is full of things I have only received, things that were carefully chosen for me by someone else (and this is one sign we can’t think of our lives as our own). So often when I’m working, using some item unthoughtfully, meaning intrudes and I remember who gave it to me and on what occasion, and this makes daily life porous and fills it with gratitude. But we live in a posture of forgetting places and people, even, or especially, when surrounded by them. I suppose this series, then, is an offering of not forgetting. For Stephen.

The voice of my beloved: listen!
bounding over the mountains
toward me, across the hills.
And he calls to me:
Hurry, my love, my friend,
and come away!*

* Song of Songs 2:8, 10. Translation by Ariel Bloch and Chana Bloch. (Title borrowed from Li-Young Lee’s poem in his book of poems by the same name.)

* On the Inskirts, 24x36

* Kingdom of Fragile, 30x40

* When You Go (or You Come Too), 14,18

* S.R.O. Crow, 14x18

* One of Many Ways of Gray, 14x18

This Audience of Cancelled Faces, 20x24

Every Separation is a Link, 24x24

* Peace Beneath the City, 20x24

* Come Away to the Skies, My Beloved (or Raise High Your Joys), 24x36

* Birds on Lines #3, 10x12

* How Long Will We Stay this Season? 8x16

* The City in Which I Love You (or Chinatown), 24x24

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