It is a wet and windy day and I am staring at my ongoing painting, “The Way to Eleusis,” in the fading January light. My mood is as bad as the weather yet my original inspiration came from a warm April day sat on the original road, amongst the flowers and wildlife with the Acropolis in the distance. Not all experiences easily transfer to art!
My artist’s struggle may be as difficult as the psychological challenges of the original mysteries at Eleusis. My problem is deceptively simple, how to interpret in paint the feeling of being there? How to capture the magic of the moment, of my sense of oneness with place? I have the usual pencil sketches, colour study and photos done there, but they are not the feeling in my head.
I posted something of my problem at the end of last year and I think it is important to talk about my struggle as an artist which in purist terms is to make new visual meaning. That philosophical challenge involves a constant reinvention of how I see and interpret the world. I can always paint in the style of my last painting, create another recognisable landscape, rely on my skills to do what I know I can achieve, but to what meaningful end?
Many people who are not artists think that good art comes from inherited talent and that success arises from the professional deployment of learned skills. Well some of it does, but the greatest successes by far come from artists challenging themselves to do that which is just beyond their reach or vision. My present battle is not with skills or technique but with the limitations of my own vision and way of working. How to interpret anew and not revert to my comfort zone when faced with a 1×2 metre work which stubbornly refuses all my knowhow to manifest my feelings of being there, on ‘the way’.
I have learnt a lot lately from the work of Joan Mitchell and Peter Lanyon, having seen the recent show of his amazing ‘flight’ paintings at the Courtauld. Although there is a host of mark making, colour combinations and compositional ideas that can be gleaned from their work, what really struck me is their sheer determination and struggle through time to manifest new visual meaning. I am not them and have to find my own way, pun intended!
So work on the Way to Eleusis will continue along with my other stuck work until hopefully I will scale yet another foothill of the never ending mountain, get at least a momentary sense of success before setting off once more for the unattainable summit!