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Experimental Painting #1: 25/01/24

Updated: Feb 3

As a means to get myself into some kind of painting rhythm, I'll be posting a series of experiments and reflections.

These posts are primarily a way to communicate with myself and develop my ideas, but perhaps they will be of interest to others. Plus, I am always interested in getting other people's reactions and feedback on my work - so if anything strikes you in this painting, feel free to let me know.

Experiment 01: 25/01/24

I've been watching a lot of Miyazaki films recently - Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, The Wind Rises, and My Neighbour Totoro. It's the first time I've seen these films and immediately they have become among my favourites.

Japanese culture has spoken to me for a while. Since my third-year philosophy module on Watsuji Tetsurō / Zen Buddhism, and my interest in Eastern philosophical approaches, I have had a strong pull towards Japan. I've always found this pull a little strange, or rather, abnormally strong - as if I must go to Japan, or that I will end up in Japan for some reason or other.

Strangely enough, my boyfriend will be spending two months in Japan this year, and so (inevitably it seems) I will end up going to Japan. It's funny sometimes how you just know some things will happen, as if they are already written.

Anyway, spooky things aside, this painting points towards that association with Japan. It seems very 'spiritual' to me - which is a word I struggle with, as I am keen to not go down a road of strange and spooky things, but rather to stay grounded. By nature, or rather, through my conditioning and experiences I am prone to be a bit 'floaty' and have a strong interest in the strange and the alternative. I like to do my best to remain on stable, physical ground, whilst having a healthy interest in the unknown.

When I go to a place of imagination in my artwork, I feel very uncomfortable. I think it's always good to have a little confrontation with the uncomfortable and to shine light in the dark - so I'm beginning this year's painting practice from a place of the unknown.

I guess I have a bit of a problem, or rather, discomfort with self-expression - but I mean self-expression in the deepest sense of opening up and accepting who I am. That seems bizarre to say because I've spent the last 5 years or so doing just that through therapy; however, some part of me is very scared of opening up to things.

Take this painting - it has a strong spiritual significance, yet I am uncomfortable opening up to my 'spirit' or 'self'. I feel that I want to make art that comes from this authentic place, but I'm too scared and too ashamed to go there. Every time I try, I feel that this kind of work is not 'good enough' and that I should be painting or drawing something more technically challenging.

Then I produce a painting or drawing that is forced. A piece of art from the ego that says, 'Hey look I can draw well' or 'Hey look I can contrast colours to this effect' etc. That's not what I want.

For me, the whole point of painting in the first place is self-expression and investigation of reality/existence. I want to use painting as a mirror, and actually allow myself to look what's there rather than to make something beautiful or impressive for the sake of others liking it.

Perhaps the more 'real' piece of art is the one that refuses to bow down to the whims of the ego and says 'this is' irrespective of what others' reactions will be.

Anyway, today's experiment is a testing of the waters and a chance to look within.

Why Japan? Why the feather in the top right? Why does it look like spooky ghosts are roaming around in an undead world? Why do I want to know...?

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