My engagement as a creator

The experience of artmaking:  body, self and word as ontological environment.

Lynn Millette



Phenomenology, hermeneutics and metaphor

Relevant theories on the creative experience

Crossing over from memory and experience

A phenomenology of my consciousness: processes
of perception and introspection as they relate to my studio practice

My engagement as a creator



Intuition, 2005 (Interior Experience)
Acrylic on canvas
106 x 318 cm

In this chapter I will describe the thinking process that I experienced while painting the series Interior Experience (2004-), and the difference from the kind of thinking that occurred while working on the project The Ends of the Earth (2002-2004).

 The Ends of the Earth is closely related to language. The paintings evoke memories, sometimes represent the banal and could serve to stimulate a viewer's consideration of social concerns. Generally these issues deal with matters outside my body. I then describe how, quite unconsciously, I began to cover over my representations and abstractions. I began to cross over into another kind of interpretation where I was able to express on canvas my involvement with both my inner and outer perceptions. Through my investigation of phenomenology and hermeneutics, I became aware of a part of my existence that had been left practically unexplored.

With Interior Experience, the object of consideration is my physical state as I am painting. As I sense my body my thoughts are of a different nature - focused inwards. Finally, I describe the similarities that I see between the workings of the physical body and the many systems found in nature. I relate how the temporal present comes to the forefront of my consciousness when I engage in an activity of physical endurance in the same manner as when I am painting. It is my sense of physical presence in the moment as it occurs that stimulates my awareness of myself as a creator of meaning.

We all make art differently. How we act or think when we make art might appear similar from one person to the next but each starting point is different and each justification unique. In my studio I am exploring the perceptual capacities of the brain. How can I disassociate myself from the subjectivity of my own perception? From the beginning of my inquiry into the artistic process, I have observed myself attempting to describe something that comes naturally to me. My creative thoughts surface and submerge randomly in an intuitive manner. I have learned, however, that this does not mean that they spontaneously materialise in irrelative thoughts. As an artist, I make meaning through aesthetics and I suspect that a part of why I make art is related to memories. When I do remember things either from lived experience or from deeply embedded dispositional images, I sense that I am closer to some kind of truth about myself and the world I see. What is between the perception of inner and outer worlds is my organism, through which life itself resonates. My relationship with the world confirms the existence of my self inside of me. For me, making art objectifies the complexity of experience as naturally as certainty is born of doubt itself.

When I planned my project The Ends of the Earth (2002-2003), it was to continue my inquiry into formal concerns that I had with On Nature (1996) and Media/Medium (2001) both of which expressed my relationship with the natural world. When I hear the sound of a thunderstorm, I know that I am physically linked to nature, however, when I see the structural interventions that humans put in the landscape, I wonder about how our faculty of reasoning seems to be at odds with nature.

I wanted The Ends of the Earth to be a means to describe, through painting, human culture and what it changes in the environment. The idea of a frieze enticed me because of my desire to bleed images of their objective content. I knew that grouping images formally dilutes literal and representational content, and in a patterned border their aesthetic quality is enhanced. I wanted to choose recognisable pictures that would create a kind of chaos through variety. Source images were selected for visual qualities rather than narrative content. They came from newspaper cuttings, magazines, as well as my own photographs and videos. They all went through a process of transformation and abstraction to broaden the scope of interpretation.

us beach

Detail from The Ends of the Earth, 2003
Oil on panel, 20 x 20 cm

For the first part of the project, I completed a series of uniformly dimensioned oil paintings on thick plywood panels that I wanted to hang at eye level around the perimeter of an exhibition space. The installation was organised through chance formal similarities in the panels. I wanted to surround the viewer with an ambiguity of meanings as well as challenge them to examine the individual paintings at close proximity.

I look at a project that I am working on in terms of what it is saying, and I know that it reflects a certain meaning, but it always feels peculiar to me that it reflects something different from what I had initially planned. I think that this occurs when an idea crosses over from the inside to concrete reality. As if by instinct, embedded dispositional images cross over and I am only aware of them after they are processed through my technical skills into a material form. My initial notion will change in appearance as my work seems to develop in its own direction. I feel that I do not have absolute control over my creative process, yet I do bear full responsibility for its outcome. In its gradual materialisation, a mental abstraction is difficult to grasp because it reveals too much or is not logical. I obviously cannot entertain whatever comes to mind so my thoughts are moderated by an internal rational system constructed from my experience that censures the forbidden and prevents a loss of control. Each individual creates within themselves a culturally and socially mediated degree of ethical logic (Green, 1998, 47). I use intellectual and artistic discretion to assure clarity and situate my work within a context, but I will eventually have to accept the work as it transpires. If I wanted to contrive perfection, I could work at it my entire life and complete nothing. Through my experience I have learned that every painting is a stepping stone to the next one.

ends of the earth

Details from The Ends of the Earth, 2003
Oil on panel, 20 x 20 cm each

While perusing images for The Ends of the Earth, I began wondering about language, codes and meaning. The concepts of classifications and taxonomies came to mind as I surveyed the diversity of metaphors that I had to work with. I sensed, along with the narrative content, a kind of meaning that is present in religious icons. In the Judeo-Christian tradition icons were meant to be read symbolically since it was forbidden, for religious reasons, to see them as representation (Mitchell, 1994). There is a certain logic to this kind of representation within iconoclasm because meaning, for the most part, is language. I see the picture of an object and a word describing that object will replace my mental image. I have to consider language when I make an image because I am a part of the outside world when I make art. I have an inner language but my social language is related to the written word.

The close relationship of image and word has existed since the beginnings of symbolic systems of communication. Perhaps as an empirical record, paleolithic artists recorded animal behaviour and aspects of culture (Millette, 1997). Pictograms, ideograms and hand tracings left on the walls of caves communicate as signs. From the aesthetic came the first symbols and then around 8600BP the earliest examples of written language (Rincon, 2003).

Language is a hierarchical system. Although concepts may be complex, the words and grammar used to describe them are not. When language is written, it is dependent on convention to ensure that only certain words within a comprehensible set of rules are used to accurately convey thought. A base subject and predicate cannot be removed from a sentence without it changing meaning or becoming incoherent. Language, through words, is the foundation of discourse in philosophy, the arts, the social sciences and the physical sciences. Even so, in a culture where words are the primary method of communication, artists have created objects and situations throughout the centuries to express meaning. Archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan (1993, c.1964) believes that from the outset, at the end of the Mousterian period (c.35,000BP), the written language was an abstract symbolic system and as soon as language could be transcribed and understood by others, art split away from writing (192).

There is a difference between pictures and words. Through the project The Ends of the Earth, I was exploring the hierarchy and grammatical structure of symbols. Images, for example, a picture of a cat or of a bottle, can be directly representative and objective structure for visual language emerged from the Bauhaus in 1923. Formalism provided a framework to unify the functional and aesthetic aspects of art making. Early in the twentieth century the discipline of semiology had already begun to address the language of signs and the relationship between human behaviour and symbolism. However, an important distinction between language and art emerged from formalism. Written languages acquire meaning through the conventionalisation of symbols and signs, whereas an aesthetic representation refers to itself for meaning. Another difference is that written language describes awareness but a picture is an object of such perception. Art is neither symbolic because of its prototypical nature nor semiotic because the sign in an artwork refers to linguistic references that may not have the same meaning as the aesthetic representation (Foucault, 1983). Art directly mediates human meaning and reflects a subjective sense of presence, provenance and temporality.

ends of the earth

Details from The Ends of the Earth, 2003
Oil on panel, 20 x 20 cm each

In The Ends of the Earth the paintings generally emerged from the objective and formal choices that I made. The explicitness of the source pictures tended to shift my perspective outward toward social, moral and ethical issues. The figurative content had been largely retrieved from language-oriented sources such as the printed media which I organised through colour and shape. I noticed that in some instances I had intentionally selected pictures to provoke a reaction while at other times I preferred banal or superficial ones. I was expressing narrations from a perspective that was outside my body whereas I felt that my inner thoughts were of a different nature. There is a difference between truth and authenticity. If an observation fits into my physiological system of senses, it is true because my five senses tell me that something exists; or if truth is proven by an empirical method, I accept it as part of my logical world. Merleau-Ponty (1962) argues, however, that in the matter of perception, reason fails to acknowledge that inquiry necessitates a certain ignorance that insists that I should be looking for what I do not know (28). When I am looking at my self-in-the-world phenomenologically, the object of consideration is the me inside. There is no object of inquiry because the magnifying mirror is turned on a truth that is already within me and if I dig deep enough, I will find something just beneath consciousness. Authenticity comes from self-awareness.

The Ends of the Earth, in progress, December 28, 2002 to June 16, 2003

The Ends of the Earth became a literal manifestation of my inquiry into the phenomenological method. Because phenomenology is so intimately linked to the written word (Heidegger, 1977), it was natural that I would initially use images conventionalised and with discrete meanings, like words. I decided to use an alternate approach for a large canvas that I was working on in the same theme. With the large painting I decided to go through a process of covering over the images that I found and transposed onto canvas. Some of them I glazed over, while others were partially covered by another image. The entire surface of the painting became a busy multicoloured compilation of pictures unified through a horizontal and vertical grid made of bands of transparent blue or white. I dispersed recognizable flag icons throughout the painting, suggesting that I was dealing with global issues from a particular worldview. Where, in the frieze, the images were individual depictions that could be freely exchanged without affecting the overall meaning of the artwork, in the large painting I literally buried the source images. The frieze was, in many ways, conventional through its association of complementary images, where the large painting was conceptual in that it was about the creative process of choosing and filtering source images.


Detail of lace from The Ends of the Earth, 2002-2003

In one of the last stages of my large painting for The Ends of the Earth, I had traced a detailed picture of a lace motif onto a dark background on my canvas. When I started to paint over the tracings, the lines appeared sewn in and out of the canvas. I liked the way in which the shapes seemed to go sideways into the picture plane. When I distorted them, they seemed to recede, creating a novel sense of depth of field. These motifs begin to appear in Dream Interrupted (2003), an intuitive response to the moment of crossing over from sleep to consciousness. Painted in two parts, the left side of the canvas has a number of transparent multi-levelled surfaces in a space devoid of light. Like overlapping islands, images float within a pitch-black atmosphere. When perception is in a relaxed state, free associations occur. In this painting I express a dream state where thoughts roam. Thin white lines appear to vibrate as they move upon the surface of other transparent islands, creating ripples, cones and tubes. A large black shape, at first hardly perceivable against the dark background, comes into view as it overlaps a white gesso ground and continues past the picture's edge. This black shape is literally cut off the picture, along with the canvas that it is painted on. On the right panel of the picture, in a greenish ochre atmosphere of paint, the black elliptical shape collides with an ambiguous object. I have created the impression of a tear that violently pulls apart the worlds of dream and reality.

dream interrupted

Dream Interrupted, 2003 (Interior Experience)
Acrylic on canvas, 160 x 300 cm

I began Dream Interrupted with information that I had assimilated from working with The Ends of the Earth. I painted a metaphor about the crossing over from dream to consciousness as a physical break because between consciousness and sleep there is no language. I called it Dream Interrupted but only later did I discover that neurochemical activity in the thalamus literally breaks sleep to spark consciousness. The body comes to life autonomically with the self emerging from an acephalic synapse. The merging of perception and a sense of being is so primary that it happens before thought itself (Alexandera, Kurukulasuriyaa, Mub and Godwin, 2006).

The creative process has access to what seems to be inherently known. By what means did William Blake come to the idea of eternity in a grain of sand? Chalmers (1996) suggested that experiential knowledge might be a fundamental but experimentally unproven property like electricity or mass. He notes that theories are not only based on empirical evidence, but also on the principles of plausibility, simplicity and aesthetics (216). Although the things I make come from a synthesis of knowledge both learned and inherited from my biology, it is my mind that makes the connections and I may not be immediately aware of it. Later I realise that I knew about this from science or I painted that from experience, but direct references are always an oversimplification. Although I had read about perception and consciousness, in Dream Interrupted I distilled the knowledge into a metaphor of lines. I simplified things to a point where I was not saying anything representational. A metaphor is hardly anything at all and in this one I am not actually saying much in terms of language, but the painting uncovers something relevant about the way things actually work and like Blake's grain of sand, it accrues truth as empirical knowledge expands.


Detail from Process, 2004
"Through spirals I could create the impression of masses that accumulate in perspective."

Midway through my research, the reading that I had been involved with in my inquiry into creativity did not appear to have affected the work that was on the walls of my studio. However, when I started experimenting with Dream Interrupted, something happened and my hands were suddenly transcribing on to canvas what my mind required. Through spirals I could create the impression of masses that accumulate in perspective. I felt that this would allow me to create something that I had never seen before in my work. My lived experience, I suspected, had traced patterns within my self like the wind does on sand. I physically sensed these gestures inside my body from which I found images that faded, surfaced and changed. I painted a line, like a thread, something simple that would enable me to trace moment by moment on the canvas my process as I worked. I felt peculiar twitches, barely noticeable, that permeated my organism and quickly vanished only to be replaced by other forms. I visualised these sensations as half image, half physical and I was a captive audience to my self as I experienced a continuous flow of my own recollections. My painted lines evolved into long continuous tubes that congregated in shapes. In Process (2003) these shapes start at the bottom of the picture and gradually form piles in an upward direction toward the top of the canvas. Structures of different sizes come into view, as if they had slipped in from a source at the very bottom of the canvas. White forms twist and coil as they fade into undulating heaps. As I painted I imagined the darkness of a warehouse fading to grey in the corners, filled to the ceiling with discarded pipes and tubes. My gestures in themselves represented nothing recognisable, but inside a picture plane, I could do anything that I wanted with them. I could change scale, create perspective and work with values. Gradually, the sharpness and the size of the forms diminished as they approached the upper part of the canvas to reveal a surface of hills and valleys — an interior landscape.

Moving away from the semiotics of The Ends of the Earth shifted my focus inward, heightened my physical awareness and made explicit the sensation of time unfolding. Art reverberates something that cannot normally be verbalised. Unique forms materialized within my mind's eye that represented what I was feeling in my body. Conscious of the process occurring, I attempted to hold in mind the moment as I painted and I recognized that the exterior of my self was different from what I felt inside. With Process (2003), I felt the present and the passage of time seemed slower.


Process, 2004 (Interior Experience)
Acrylic on canvas, 155 x 202 cm

After I had finished painting Process, I was curious to see what kind of depth of field I could render through the use of complementary colours. I had a larger painting in mind that would address some of the obscure mental images that occurred to me as I was working on Process and I also wanted to elaborate what I had learned from the gestures that I had used. I had never applied colour theory in a literal manner and I was curious to try it out from a technical perspective. I was still thinking about my body and feeling all of its fluctuations. I was visualising movement up and down like waves in flux with holes, because things fall in the body in response to gravity. I wanted to paint these depressions and a sensation of movement downwards — or upwards depending on orientation. Viscera (2004) is a direct outcome of painting Process. It represents the many systems involved in blending together discrete elements in a seamless way to make an organism work. The painting is a metaphor for the sum of an ongoing synergy of many subtle bodily sensations, practically indiscernible from one another as they occur. I wanted to describe the quietness of that experience. As in the case of my body where there is no empty space, I left no place in the painting in which to rest the eye. I wanted the coloured spirals shaping the forms to remain separated as if they were electrical wires within some kind of organic system. I chose to use a simple linear device that would (ideally) permit the eye to see time within every coiled line and that would express, "time is passing — my time is passing". As I painted, it was like saying, "I was here." I started at the bottom of the canvas and as I worked my way up it became a landscape. I saw shapes that I could directionally manipulate with colour and the form of the landscape took the shape that I felt from within.


Viscera, 2004 (Interior Experience)
Acrylic on canvas, 160 x 300 cm
"..a simple linear device that would (ideally) permit the eye to see time within every coiled line and that would express, "time is passing ‹ my time is passing."

At a certain point I began visualising some emotions as tension in the form of rubber bands or elastics. I did not know how such a metaphor would work and I needed some guidelines from nature. I had already tried some things with sketches on a black surface, but I was not sure that they would make sense in a painting. I consequently started looking at trees but they seemed to be too complex for what I had imagined and then I began to look at photographs of icy surfaces. I chose a source image of an ice gully with contrasting shiny and opaque areas. Because I wanted to orient my painting vertically, I turned the picture on its side and from that I started sketching and planning a painting. In the process, I started to explore ancillary things and strayed from the source image. As a painter, I naturally want to push paint rather than follow particular structures or plans. However, I did not have the time or material resources for too much experimentation, therefore I disciplined myself to continue what I had initially intended. The surface of Weaving Emotions (Fig. 64) is made of lines that represent, to me, links of time that could be unravelled like string. In the back of my mind I knew that I was involved in my literature reviews and that I was considering Merleau-Ponty's notions of temporality in particular. At the same time I felt a need to work at the studio and to be free from the parameters of figuration that seemed to be so tightly linked to a representational language. I wanted to express a state of something or a condition. Weaving Emotions touches the senses in that it symbolises the way human beings put things together. It is like the fastidious organisation that weavers apply recursively to strings. People make things from nothing — great walls from pieces of brick. I wanted to make a picture of something that I feel but do not see. I wanted to recreate the inside of myself by interlacing time. The painting is a metaphor for the becoming and passing of time

weaving emotions

Weaving Emotions, 2005 (Interior Experience)
Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 160 cm

Weaving Emotions (2005) conveys tension through the vertically oriented sinewy shapes that go from the top of the canvas to the bottom. A wall of white is tightly rendered through lines that imitate ramiform shapes covered with spun string. There is little depth of field in the painting. Close to the surface of the picture plane, rows of vertical forms of similar size compose the right hand side of the canvas. Thin ribbed columns, some tubular and some angular, traverse the picture. To the left there are things that seem to be covered in gauze, while other forms are bent by the tension of woven strings. There are shapes that appear to have been wrapped with silken threads. In the lower middle section of the picture, there is a release of tension where cascades of lines flow in a downward direction. With the completion of the painting, I saw that it had encompassed ideas from Process but also metaphoric imagery and painting techniques from my 1999 work, Cocoon Chair.

cocoon chair

Chaise cocon (Cocoon Chair), 1999
Oil on paper, 76 x 57 cm

As I was thinking about making a picture I began considering what it actually was to make a metaphor. I realised that it was nothing or rather, it could be anything. What if I intentionally chose to paint nothing? I had a mental image of a spiral and I wondered how it would manifest itself suddenly appearing. In my perception, nowhere is the sky and I decided that rather than making it pale blue and far away, I would paint a sky the colour of earth to bring it nearer. I began inverting things pictorially by placing cool colours in the foreground and warm colours in the background. Although I could do anything with this kind of metaphor, I began to ask myself inside how such things should be expressed, because when voided of external references, images must come from the mind and that is precisely how this metaphor came about. I said to myself that it would start forming from nothing as if something in the air begins to take shape. As it becomes something a tube forms. My painting, Intuition (2005), is oriented horizontally. To the left, a purple net materialises in a burnished sky. Floating in mid-air, unattached, a tube-like shape extends to the middle of the picture plane. Behind, other shapes navigate the dusky atmosphere. On the right hand side, a transparent yellow mass fills one quarter of the picture from which extends a mangled formation. Toward the centre of the composition, blue and yellow extensions gravitate toward each other. In the dim illumination of a rust atmosphere shapes stretch and become fine points. Far in the distance they will eventually touch. Intuition depicts the workings of instinctive knowing. In the face of many possibilities, reason is always overshadowed by intuition. When engaged in understanding, the will is viscerally attracted to spontaneous insight. An inkling comes from deep inside to finally crystallize into an object of inquiry.

The idea of assessing my own organism through my senses has become my access to metaphorical exploration. My work is a way of saying, "this is what it feels like in my body" and from that temporal physicality I make things. I imagine awareness as sonar scanning the inside surfaces of my organism. I swallow and my neck is a massive column through which air and water follow different channels. There is a contraction and the flow squeezes downward into a pool. The air remains higher up and like a warm cloud, it sits there for a while until it is expelled, leaving room for another breath to blow in. There are echoes from the outside that resonate against arches upon arches, toward an apex, somewhere, but I know that my body possesses no cavernous place. This is my imagination making mental images from the sensations I feel. This is not phenomenology; it is rather the inner self creating metaphors through language. Metaphors come about as extrapolations of some of the shapes I visualise, like a neck as a column or the stomach a pool. Metaphor involves language whereas phenomenology is about authentic experience.

With Interior Experience I am producing metaphors of what I imagine my body to be inside at different moments as I paint. To express meaning that reflects my physicality, I need to remain as true as possible to the transposition of my physical awareness into my visual perception on the canvas. As I work I feel as though my body separates me from the outside world but then I realize that all of my senses are at work, bringing me into the world. It is through my senses and by no other means that I perceive the world. My body is the primary initiator of what constitutes my perception of reality. Once that is firmly established, my mind proceeds to think.

All things possess a generic shape. In the forms I invent I see the lines of a river traced through the land, the shape of a mountain or the effect of clouds being pushed by the wind. A dam imitates a waterfall but the waterfall seems to work better than the dam. Within that dissimilarity, I distinguish man from nature. The shape of human thought is made manifest through the post and beam, the inch and the metre or the street grids of our neighbourhoods. A computer motherboard resembles a cityscape with the skyscrapers, boulevards and industrial parks that represent human culture. The computer seemingly has the generic shape of human reason and we have now begun to imitate ourselves through computation. I am beginning to understand how the mind is hard-wired in such a way that we have some circuitry that is related to operations on the outside of the body and some that is meant exclusively for the inside. In my conscious mind I have very little information about the cognitive processes involved in thinking out a problem. My nervous electricity closely reflects the phenomena I observe in my exterior environment. Human nerves trace a system of jagged lines analogous to the shapes that cut through the night sky during a thunderstorm. I carry the traces of the planet within me. Multiple commands move at light speed overlapping other multiple functions that take place to keep my mind aware of my inner and outer worlds. Travelling in tunnels, messages and commands leave their portals and move toward their destination. While in transit, other commands and messages are being received, conceived or are in passage as well.

Imagining that the electric energy that activates the heating elements in my toaster comes from some remote area in the north is difficult for me to grasp at this moment. It is complicated to explain the workings of electricity, let alone understand how it gets to our homes. The knowledge that energy travels like the blood in my veins recedes to the back of my mind as I go about my business. Electricity does not ooze out, as when a vein is punctured; rather, it is invisible as it struggles powerfully with whatever happens to cover the conducting line or cable as it goes through the system that I depend on. It is easy to forget that electricity is a natural phenomenon like the blood in our veins.

tree trunk

"As if to examine something inside myself that I cannot see, I look at roots in the ground..."

One kilometre along the road on the mountain I see the forest bed with a soft airy surface of rich browns from twigs and dried leaves. Ferns and saplings are interspersed with boulders and stones that combine into a swaying pattern of sunlight and shade. The sound of the movement of leaves rises and falls with the humid breeze. The birds are silent for a moment, I am only aware of the insistent tune of a cicada. The occasional crunch of bicycle tire against gravel brings me back from solitude and compels me to glance outside from my inner world to reveal a couple of young people walking. I am still close enough to the city to hear traffic now so I will go further.

Near the top, a panoramic view of downtown, the bridge and the South Shore stretches into the haze. The sounds of urban busyness have subsided except for a faint persistent rumble that hangs in the air. Because I run here, this place is more in my body than in my mind. I am aware that it is an urban park but it is embedded in my emotions.

As if to examine something inside myself that I cannot see, I look at roots in the ground, comparing them to my organism (Fig. 66). I know that the roots belong to trees but I like to think that they belong to the ground so that I can imagine the earth and the soil having a system like mine. If I open it up, I will see nerves, tendons and veins like my own. I have sensed many things about this place close to nature through my body. It has become a metaphor for my physicality. As much as I can look down at my own body and remember my life, I can look around me on the mountain and remember in the same manner and with the same depth. I have felt the present here and I have felt it when I paint in my studio. When perception renders a moment authentic, it is like picking out a stone from a shallow river bed. By looking at it in your hand, from all the other stones, this particular one is singular. I create from a moment that lingers in the present and from so many moments in life it will become singular and authentic.

I am working on a two-part untitled painting (2006) that addresses the landscape. The terrain is painted fire red and there are black and branchless trees as if they had at some time been consumed by flames. A forest floor is strewn with cables, cords and wires that make their way through the woods, crossing and twisting between pole-like beams. In the foreground, a few basic structures signal the presence of man in the environment. Built of the stick-like timber of the forest, these spindly structures seem held together by intertwined lines and cables. A large sooty pipeline sits on more contorted cables and cords that lead the eye to the lower right-hand side of the canvas. A quarter of the size of the painting, the right portion represents the innards of something that seems to have been knotted together into a free-flowing system. Painted in reddish-brown, it has the appearance of dry blood or decaying flesh. Entrail-like structures are defined by a black contour line that separates them from the scarlet background. There is a central element in the composition that I call the "hub". It joins the cables and lines from the forest, the man-made structures and the large black pipeline. Inside the hub, I see different lines joined in an active chemical solution that bubbles in greenish hues. The composition of the painting appears somewhat oriental with sparse trees like sticks devoid of branches. I can see the surface of the earth rising like a hill in the background. At this moment, the picture encompasses all of my ideas. I am content that I made sense of my thoughts and was able to conceptualise them into a depiction of all these man-made and natural elements connecting into a kind of machine, or hub.

red painting

untitled, 2006 (in progress), Acrylic on canvas, 152 x 268 cm

The nature of perception requires me to be dependent on my inner world to know that I eat and drink the outside world and that it feeds me. My outside includes everything except my self. I can see my hands pick a blade of grass and feel the delicate thing between my fingers. I can physically move in the environment but I can only see what my inside believes. I cannot leave my body to walk around me or casually pass by myself on the street. I want to know more about myself because of the difference between the inside and the outside. At times I live in a grey area between my inner world and the one outside of me. In this place I feel as if I could put my ear to a wall and listen carefully, not to what is happening on the outside of my body or within my imagination, but what is stirring there, between my two worlds. The creative process is self-awareness. I see my self in the art that I create and it is in my nature to want to know more. I am sensitive to looking at the world outside from inside and I want to share my wonder at being a part of the exterior world. Learning about art is important for creation but I am alone when I paint and I do not need anyone else in my studio. In the course of my inquiry I have learned that aesthetic truth is inside. The path inside is one end of the bridge to authenticity and the other end is the painting. Between the two, there is my body.

Everything is tentative in my art-making process but when I examine my completed work I can see that it encloses the time in my life that it was developed and clues to my self that I cannot normally access. They appear through signs and traces left by felt sense and intuition, a result of the interaction between the preconscious and the conscious. The authentic rendering of my experience within the space and time I live is an ontological statement that remains in the artwork. Mental images occur to me in the temporal present and perception of the present is dependent on an awareness of the body. It is for this reason that I believe a means towards authenticity and the self is through focus on physical presence. The athletic activity of running is a complete physical engagement for me, where my body is in the forefront of my consciousness as my mind constantly evaluates my physiological limits. As weight shifts from one leg to the other, I fill my lungs to replenish my heart and muscles. Until I physically adjust to the energy level required by my body, my attention remains affixed to my body state. I feel as if I am in a time tunnel, where the perception of the moment is where the present passes through me physically. As long as I remain in this active state, I will sense myself as being in this particular place.

In my need to grasp the mysteries of my surroundings, I have recognized that the course of my life and the direction of nature run on parallel paths. Through my art practice, I have developed a body of work that expresses my fascination with our existence on a planet that overwhelms our capacities to understand and master nature. I think that this might be why I see running as a metaphor for my life. It symbolises that I must persist no matter what. Every step tells me that I am my own person and that I am the best that I can be. When I used to sprint, as a child, the pounding in my heart made me feel like I was alive. I liked the effect of the endorphins but at the same time, it was intense. When running, as I get tired, I try as much as possible to synchronize my step and my breathing. I know that it is my will that pushes a little more and tries to dig down a little deeper for energy and resources to finish the run. Every bit of my body is wanting to stop, but because I know how my body works, I simply bring in more air and push through the activity.

On an icy day my physical body comes to the forefront of my mind. My perception is focused on the road and I am completely in tune with my organism as the sensation of my body, my weight on the ground and my breathing becomes very loud. These are my feet that hit the ground, fighting gravity with each step. I push my weight off the ground and then it falls back and I have to catch myself so that I don't lose balance, always trying to keep my body light. In the cold of winter, my vision is limited to my periphery. I listen to the background noise of a city already at work. I see white sky that tells me that it is a regular day. I see sticks of trees, as tree trunks reverberate in rhythm as I run by. I look at the road and I see the marks of people who have walked, of dogs and of other runners. Sometimes I put my step right into those footprints and I will follow their steps for a while as the road curves and dips. I notice trees in rock that persist and grow up straight from the open face. I see things that survive in the form of twisted tree trunks with lumps and holes and families of squirrels. When it is windy I hear the pine trees in the little piece of nature that I have in the centre of the city.

mountain slope

"I see sticks of trees, as tree trunks reverberate in rhythm as I run by."

When I run I notice very ordinary things that are very important. This place keeps growing every season. In the spring, when I come back from a run, I close my eyes and all that I can see is green. Everything on the floor of the mountain seems to float in young bright greenery and then I see the brown of last year's leaves. They too were green last year and now they are on the ground and that is life. I see myself involved in this cycle when I run. There is always a moment that I am reminded that I am mortal. I have this body that I have to address all the time. My organism reminds me that I am human in every way, that I have a thinking mind, that I am a mother and that one day I will face mortality. Running is humbling, and beautiful and healthy and sane. As I run I am reminded that my life is for a limited moment. I sometimes realise that all the people that I see are sharing my life and living the same moment. I imagine the people in the cemetery, who shared this city together. At one time they could walk on this mountain and greet each other and one day our lives will end as well and other people will take over. All of this reminds me that I have things to say. There are feelings in my heart and many experiences that I want to express. I cannot foresee what will happen, but while I am in the process of being, there are times that I simply must persist. Sometimes it is difficult but I will not stop until my body cannot go on. Drive has to do with my will. It takes over the person inside me who wants to quit or take the shorter route back. Something in me says no. The best is within me and so I pull and I refuse to quit. 

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