Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shapes, relationships and edges

My recent thinking about the labyrinth led to a few other thoughts about art and our relationships with shapes, edges, where the real art lies. For me it's not in color, which comes a distant third in importance to shapes,their relationships to each other and to the viewer, and their underlying significance as objects. It's certainly not in making pictures of stuff!

Some of the real joy of art lies in tiny intersections, and as you create the work, there's a stab of out of body insight, in small movements. Like the place where you push down the last thread you just wove in a tapestry, that movement of the fingers and the hugely satisfying covering of the warp in an elegant, unforced kind of way.

Or when you tape around the edges of a paper before drawing or painting on it, so that you deliberately let the work travel over the tape, then after the work is finished, remove the tape to see that wonderful sharp edge where art meets white all around the edges. Just removing the tape is an experience. Seeing how your work now isolates itself from the world and has left your hands.

Or when you make paper, and when it has dried, slide your fingers under the edges to lift it from the support, gently moving under it until it responds to your touch like an animal.

Or when you use water to mold your paper over a form, spraying so that the jet of water becomes your pencil.

Or when you play an instrument and just for a moment, achieve a note that is pure and lovely and has a life of its own, riding on your breath.

Or when you write a sentence that really says what you meant it to, with the rhythm, vocabulary, and cadence that work just right for it.

So often these joyful moments come without apparent effort, and certainly without putting thought into it. It's when you surrender to the materials and let them work, that's where art is, and if you're lucky it comes to you now and then, if only for a moment.

One of the most inspired gifts I ever had is the CD of Sting, thank you, S., In the Labyrinth, which is songs mostly of John Dowland, very different from Sting's usual musical vocabulary. I am much more familiar with Dowland than with Sting, but when he departed from Dowland, to sing an eighteenth century piece, "Have you seen the bright lily grow", he established himself forever in my respect for his musical skills.

On the word "grow" there's an ascending scale which is truly HARD to sing accurately, just very demanding,and I've sung that song many times, with varying degrees of success, mostly unsuccess. He sings it and with the greatest of ease renders that phrase, entirely, beautifully. So I know he knows how to sing. He knows exactly what the instrument of the voice is and how to use it and make it sound easy.

Same with the Mamas and the Paps, those ancient rock legends, whose music is still good, and that's because there are a lot of quotations in it from medieval and renaissance works. John Phillips, I guess, was the writer of a lot of it. Very intelligent musical underpinning, no wonder it's wonderful. If you play medieval and Renaissance music, which I do, you recognize the licks in songs like California Dreamin.

So there's my high flown musings for the day. To be followed by the strictly functional: I'm wearing my latest knitted goods, my new MaryJane slippers, knitted, but with crocheted straps (which I crocheted on while wearing the slippers to make sure they fitted! looked pretty comical). They are almost as hard to make as creating a PBJ sandwich.

I can't get real MaryJanes that fit my bumpy old feet, so I had to make slippers instead.

And you can see the latest joy of tapestry, using mostly my handspun dyed with KoolAid, as I work toward the end of the second panel.

Looking forward to the third, when I will be into the blue, purple, black range. At least that's the plan.

But the piece itself might lead me in some other direction.

However, this being a two-way blogstravaganza, post here the sort of little joys you get, doesn't have to be from art, just from any part of your life. Those tiny things that color the rest of your life and make it a better place to be.

Please share! that would be fun. A lot of people do email me, which I appreciate hugely, and it would be nice to open your comments up a bit to the world, if you'd like to. Just click under here where it says comments, and a posting box will come up. If you can't fathom the ID stuff, just check anonymous (you can put your name in the body of the post, though, so we know who's talking) and go from there. Thanks!


  1. One thing that brings me great joy is seeing the first kowhai blossoms as that means spring is just around the corner and then the first pohutukawa blossoms as I know summer is definitely on the way.

    The reliability of the seasons in an increasingly unreliable world is very grounding.


  2. For the benefit of North American blogistas, let's tell them that Minimiss is posting from New Zealand, where her seasons are opposite to our oncoming winter!

    Lovely post, thank you. Off to look up pix of the flowers you mention.


  3. Hi Liz,
    Stef here. Haven't the foggiest notion how to do this any other way. Have you tried jello to color the threads? That's what they used to create the horse of a different color in The Wizard of Oz.
    That's it for now. I'm definitely pre-verbal compared to you!

  4. gorgeous post, liz. thank you for this!

    i love moments when the alchemy happens in the kitchen e.g., toasting seeds turn one delicious flavor into another... the minutes when water and 'stuff' become soup...


  5. Your post left me speechless - so beautifully written.

  6. Listening to Leonard Cohen sing "Hallelujah", "Bird on a Wire" or nearly anything else;
    Looking at the shadows thrown by trees across the green lawn;
    The first snow flakes (the first only please note);
    Sharing laughter with friends;
    Reading your blog - you are a talented blogist.

  7. The smell of woodsmoke as I walk home through the dark.


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