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Dancing with the Canvas

March 10, 2012

The Cove - Mixed Media on Box Canvas, 36x24x4"

View From the Railroad Bridge - Mixed Media on Canvas, 30x30"

For the past couple of weeks I have stared at these two paintings, waiting for them to tell me whether or not they are finished. I haven’t wanted to talk about them until I knew where to go from here. This morning I walked into the studio feeling at peace about them for the first time.

The reason this has seemed so important to me is that I feel they are a turning point for the scale of my work. I’ve worked mostly in small format for the past four years, with little desire to paint large canvases again. I now realize that my head has been ruling my heart, and that I have missed working large. There is an intimacy and immediacy about working small, but I believe the spirit can become a little cramped when things get too comfortable. The physicality of painting on a larger canvas calls on a different set of abilities, encouraging deeper breathing and movement – working through and around the canvas, going back, coming in close again, like dancing.

Maybe the following quote from Ellsworth Kely had an impact when I came across it this week on Famous Modern Artists Quotes:

My collages are only ideas for things much larger; – things to cover walls. In fact all the things that I have done I would like to see much larger. I am not interested in painting as it has been accepted for so long – to hang on walls of houses as pictures. To hell with pictures – they should be the wall – even better – on the outside wall – of large buildings. Or stood up outside as billboards or a kind of modern ‘icon’. We must make our art like the Egyptians, the Chinese & the African and the Island primitives – with their relation to life. It should meet the eye direct. – Ellsworth Kelly

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2012 10:37 am

    Love the movement and texture in your work. I think sometimes we can put our own barriers up which prevent us from trying something slightly different. It had be hard working on a different scale but rewarding too.

    • March 11, 2012 7:33 am

      Thank you, Kathryn. You’re right – I had gotten in kind of a rut with the small works. They have a lot to offer in terms of immediate gratification. So it was kind of a struggle to get back to painting big. I’m glad I finally did it.

  2. March 10, 2012 12:47 pm

    Both paintings are stunning Martha! Well done and I feel they are very complete. 🙂

  3. March 10, 2012 2:00 pm

    I was wondering when you would go large again Martha! I have always enjoyed both your large and small pieces and do appreciate how we can work in one size for a long while and then switch to another. I tend to both large and small overlapping for the very reasons you mention – intimacy in the small and freedom to stretch in the large. I am particularly drawn to your “view from the railroad bridge” for its warmth and mystery of finding things in its midst.

  4. WordsFallFromMyEyes permalink
    March 10, 2012 4:18 pm

    What magnificently creative pages you have here. The photo of your latest is excellent – huge, clear, & so colourful.

    I can’t sing or paint/draw, but have always thought how amazing it would be to do so. You must feel so good after doing a creative piece. I do, after writing. Beautiful.

  5. March 11, 2012 9:24 am

    I have really missed my daily fix here. I’ve not been well, and am shortly having an op, have kept computer time to the minimum. These are lovely. What an interesting quote too. Keep up the good work, Normal service will be resumed very soon! 🙂

  6. emjayzed permalink
    March 11, 2012 7:58 pm

    I love both pictures and found I agree with the quote too!

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