Past and Present Tenses

I used to make small paintings in emulation of artists I admired such as this painting of a sprig of holly in a crystal mug meant for a study of the early still lifes of Van Gogh.  The lozenge pattern of the mug, which one can find analogies for in certain Van Gogh drawings, was as significant as the “green-black” of the holly leaves (a color that Van Gogh loved) or the expressionistic pointiness of the leaf’s shape.  The scale, the smallness, the spontaneity of going outdoors and collecting a sprig and painting it all of a sudden were other things that I took from this master who I wanted to understand.

Yet there’s not just emulation of a famous artist:  the holly tree grew outside our house, you could see it from the living room window.  The mug was a fixture in the kitchen cabinet, container for many a cup of hot cocoa on a winter evening.  These were ordinary items from my life at that time and signified more about my life than I ever guessed then or than I can even guess now.

Whether memory lane provides a quiet stroll through the past or a fast-paced on-ramp into the future is sometimes difficult to gauge.  This painting that I made years ago seems to chide me now for the less-than-spontaneous patterns of my current art-making.  If I go back to that, I sense that I am not really going backwards but forwards….

Advertisement