THE PARADISE OF NORMALITY | Body is healing

The paintings are a celebratory rendering of our “exhale” as a family. They dialogue with everyday rituals which include walking, playing, sitting, painting and watching. They are a reflection on routine; that it could be consistently repeated instead of interrupted by seizures or traumatic events. This concept became the performance for which the paintings began to hold space.

In 2019, my son had brain surgery because he suffered from fatal focal seizures. The seizures ensured we lived in a state of emergency; a kind of disorder of anticipation for what could happen. Since his surgery, my son has not had one seizure and our family found personal reprieve at a time of extreme crisis during the covid pandemic. This ironic twist of events resulted in an exploration of a new state I found myself in. I describe it as a type of Nirvana. The work as it is presented, is an autobiographical examination of family peace in a time of acute global stress, a release from the impending prospect of trauma or even death. 

 

The paintings are a celebratory rendering of our “exhale” as a family. They dialogue with everyday rituals which include walking, playing, sitting, painting and watching. They are a reflection on routine; that it could be consistently repeated instead of interrupted by seizures or traumatic events. This concept became the performance for which the paintings began to hold space.

 

That is, the consistency of any ritual forces a dynamic dance between our experience of self and space. To observe and translate what we see is not unusual as artists but the emphasis here is not about pictures, rather, it is about repair. In my exploration of this initial question there was a deliberate return to observational painting. I was really experiencing and appropriating material from my immediate environment as I felt the need to visually absorb and experience all the detail. As such, I recognised a relationship developing between my body and my environment; the  plants and grasses in the garden spaces and on the verges in particular. 

 

The paintings are big, and their visceral surface embodies the notion of presence. They display all living things and they scrutinise those relationships in terms of  their patterns and their inherent construction. I have highlighted the tempos, the dynamism and the rhythms which were performed by the plants, animals and people within the boundaries of home. In  his installation and lecture performance series titled Theatrum Botanicum (2015–2018), Uriel Orlow looks to the botanical world as a stage for politics.  He explores the vegetal world as an active arena; a medium in itself where he demonstrates how colonial violence is enacted (Orlow, Sheikh, 22 : 2018). I borrow his understanding of the natural world as an active theatre space in order to demonstrate how the performance of healing could occur. Observing the same plant life in a regular routine allows for nuanced observations about the cyclical nature of life and garners a sense of connection. Engaging this way with my new, slowed tempo and noticing the varied rhythms in my space (both visual and performed) brought me back into my body and encouraged me to be present. 

 

I have enjoyed pouring paint and allowing the image to slip into focus. I have experimented with layered dyes and loud colours that intensify the unbelievable happiness of my reality. This intersection of translating  the pace of actual experience and the posthumous rendering of it, is where the tension in my work lives. How can I formalise this complexity? Is it only through painting? 

 

As a painter and a dancer I believe that painting is only one mode. In this body of work I have collected the soft data, like the sudden explosion of flowers off the neighbours sidewalk verge as I run past, the busy flight pattern of the birds making homes while I tie my son’s shoelace, or the unrivalled appeal of freshly mowed lawn under my feet as we play soccer. Things that are choreographed or performed envelop the atmosphere and have largely informed these paintings. I understand choreography as a way of being that petrifies a space – a way of remembering something that is living because I believe that experience retains power. Painting then becomes one way to formalise this experience because the slow, ritualised process allows time for the painter to digest the experience and translate it into visual form. I believe this to be the medium’s magical healing power and why it became adopted as the perfect mode to process my trauma. 

 

The meditative, laborious, difficult and ritualised language that you see here will forever speak to a process of healing which took the time to notice the rhythms and varied tempos of life and living. Gratitude and an overarching feeling of relief and happiness permeate these works. They emphasise the simple pleasures of being alive – of feeling lucky to be healthy. Their consistent narrative acknowledges the concept of repair; how to? should you? When to? Can you? Are you even allowed to take the time as I have? These are the questions that have bubbled to the surface after an intense physical exploration and they direct me as an artist into further inquiry around issues of healing through making, language, inclusivity, touch, the environment  and performance.   

More Pieces in This Series

Behind the Walls We Dance I

Behind the Walls We Dance II

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