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Why Art? - Because it can be awe inspiring

Before fine art, I spent a lot of time writing. From High School through to University studying for my MSc I spent hours writing 5,000+ word essays, creative writing, research papers and I enjoyed it. Work required writing a lot, but mostly in the field of Economics. In my spare time, I wrote fiction, short stories and novellas, but I never attempted to publish them as they were of a more... mature nature. Let's leave it at that, shall we? If you are extremely curious though, message me.

I might have mentioned somewhere, that one of my favourite things to do is to research. Give me a topic, or mention something interesting I have not heard of before, and off I am googling and finding the best books on the topic. So what did I do when I decided that Art it is? Research. First, I had to convince myself it was the right thing to do. I had to stop writing 24/7 because it triggered my rsi (repetitive strain injury), was badly damaging my wrists and worse of all, it triggered my rheumatoid arthritis - which had been in remission for a few years. I was not impressed given that I had to be back on fairly toxic medication and could barely use my hands. However, painting was one of my many interests, I had done plenty of it in the past, and I assumed it would not strain my wrist as much as writing did.

First of all, though, I had to convince myself that art was not a futile pursuit. Except I already knew I wanted to do art and therefore I just needed an excuse, or even better, permission to pursue something I enjoyed. One of the first books I found that would hopefully appease my soul was Ernst Fischer's The Necessity of Art. Here, not only should one pursue art for art's sake and for one's sake, but it was a necessary pursuit because the world needs art in all shape and form. According to Ernst Fischer, "Art is necessary in order that man should be able to recognize and change the world. But art is also necessary by virtue of the magic inherent in it." To see art as magic is, to me, the romantic side of art, to some extent. We want to believe that what we create is magic with enough power to move the audience and also shift the audience's perception in regards to the motif you are exploring. On the other hand, if you are familiar with the author Trudi Canavan, she wrote a series called The Millennium's Rule where she explores the idea that Makers could generate magic. Makers were artists who made tapestry, pottery, painters, etc. The most powerful Maker was Rielle Lazuli and she could fill an entire planet with magic through sketching and painting. That, in my eyes, is pretty romantic.

Literal magic and perceived magic. There are paintings that speak to you and tell you all about the decade during which they were painted. Before photography, the rich and powerful would sit for hours to have their self preserved for posterity. When we wander around the National Portrait Gallery, or the National Gallery, in London, we can see what Kings, Queens and even artists of centuries past looked like because of the portrait paintings and the self-portraits artists painted. We see landscape paintings of areas that are now covered in high rises, or see how Venice might have changed through the ages, given how frequently is was painted by different artists.

"David and Goliath" by Caravaggio (c. 1605-06)

These paintings speak to us through the ages and we can see what was considered valuable, how the artist perceived their time and the emotional state they were in, the inner turmoil of Caravaggio, for instance, was known for painting himself in his works. He usually placed himself as the perceived monster who is receiving his rightful punishment as a sort of penitence for his sins. In his David with the head of Goliath, he is Goliath, the sinner who deserved his punishment.

Da Vinci's fascination with curls - remember when art historians were trying to decide on the provenance of the "Salvator Mundi" and whether or not Da Vinci had painted it?, and with anything that captured his attention - given how he was well known for not finishing projects and simply starting on whatever he thought most interesting, is fascinating. I admit, I absolutely love reading about Leonardo da Vinci and there is no doubt about him being my spirit artist - it's his child like curiosity and fascination with anything and everything that draws me to him.

Da Vinci's curls. The 2nd image, from left to right, is the "Salvator Mundi"

Art has an unchanging truth to it, the human condition. No matter which century you look at, humans and humanity remains unchanged. Look at Goliath's face, for instance, that anguish is perennial. Recognizable throughout the ages, anyone at any point can identify that feeling, that emotion. There is so much magic in art that just looking at it through the ages, a kaleidoscope of colours that tells so many stories, so many lives and the number of people who have stared at the same painting you are currently staring at is absolutely astounding, and when you stop to think of it, to me, that is magical.

After the advent of photography, I still wondered, do we need fine art? Paintings on canvas, 2D art, a splash of paint on a flat surface? The sort of thing I was interested in? I went to museums, looked at contemporary art, which doesn't always appeal to me. Art became more abstract since a photographer could simply take the picture of a person. But then I came across hyperrealistic art and was rather impressed, even though I didn't see the point since a good photographer could point and click and expand it by however many pixels were needed. Interesting for capturing intense emotions and focusing on an aspect of the artist's chosen reason for exploring that particular mode of fine art. But I saw the potential in it. It was possible to add a twist in there that unless the photo was manipulated, it couldn't be done in real life. Then, of course, Photoshop and other editing software, allows you to do anything you want to an image.

"Soul Mates" 2015

Initially, I explored abstract expressionism and I wanted everyone to be able to identify with the subject of my paintings. "Soul Mates" was painted in 2015 and I lavishly covered the canvas with one of my favourite colours, French Ultramarine. I also used Golden Acrylics crackle paste over the underpainting so that over time, the painting would gradually show mild cracks and reveal some of the painting underneath it. A representation of life and how we all have set-backs, but also how those set-backs make us stronger and show us possibilities we would never have encountered hadn't we been through certain hardships. Back then, I was using acrylics because they dried quickly, were cheaper than oils and I could use many different mediums. I could lay the paint thickly knowing it would be dry within a day. It was the perfect medium for that style. But after a few paintings, I felt I had already explored what I wanted to and was ready to move one. That's when I started painting the flower faces. The idea was to use seasonal flowers on faces to symbolise the ages of a person, from birth to death.

"Winter" (2016)

I would also choose flowers that symbolised the particular emotion I wanted to capture. For instance, love and betrayal would have flowers that represented that, in accordance to the Language of Flowers. I also painted feminine and masculine sides to a person. I kept eyes and lips realistic as I believe those also betray a person's true feelings.

The more I painted, the more I felt the constraint and limitations of the canvas and the medium I had chosen. That's when I switched to oils and felt less limited. The longer drying times meant I could come back to a painting and mix colours on the canvas itself. I could play around more. It's also when I realised the canvas itself was not what limited, it was myself and what I believed I was capable of. So I taught myself more techniques, explored more and, yes, you might have guessed, researched more. I decided to expand on the themes I wanted to touch upon and the more I read, the more I learn, the more my eyes open up to a variety topics I haven't necessarily seen in art, or I have, but approached in a different way, or from a different angle that I would approach something. I find it extremely exciting to see that a 2D canvas still has so many things it can convey meaning to important conversations society should be having. Although I also feel I should be making my paintings bigger and bigger as something important should be seen by as many people as possible, and should really capture people's attention. On the other hand, if a computer screen is how most people will see the work of art, does it really matter? And yet, when you finally see it in person, don't you want to be blown away by the artwork's presence? I believe so. You want that moment to feel like magic. You want your mind blown, your eyes wide open and your breath taken away. You want to be inspired.

Recommended reading:

The Power of Art, by Schiama, Simon; published by The Bodley Head 2009

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Dixon, Andrew Graham; 1st ed. published by Penguin 2011

Leonardo da Vinci,by Isaacson, Walter; 1st ed. published by Simon & Schuster UK, 2018

The Complete Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, by Da Vinci, Leonardo - there are loads of different copies out there with his sketches, notes, etc


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