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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Life is Juicy
By Susan Mackay
Aug 16, 2006 - 11:06:40 AM

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It’s raining today. Big hot splattering drops of water that soaked me the moment I run from the car to the house. It reminds me that life is juicy. Last week I wrote about the gallery space as an environment that transforms objects to personal and cultural relevance and as a place of analysis and reflection.

The challenge with all that intellectualizing and verbosity is that, it is too easy to be removed from interacting with art, to forget its visceral dynamism. Too easy to forget the intimate physical and emotional process the artist went through in birthing a piece of art. Too easy to forget the dramatic emotional impact on the audience. Its too easy sitting at the computer to ignore the messy process of creation. From smearing paint on a canvas, gouging clay or dipping into a molasses of emotion.

Quietness is the place of inception; before any piece of work is created or even conceived there is a time of observation. In the midst of the chaos and mess of life and living, the artist observes and distils. This is applicable to all forms of artistic expression. There is a moment of insight. It may be only a second of quiet in the middle of the constant beating drums of life; but in that instant an incision is made through the thick image of perceived reality, through to a sharp crystalline truth. This truth: personal, cultural, political, aesthetic or even religious/ spiritual is the essence of what the artist endeavors to express.

Observation is also the place of inception; it may be noticing how rain feels as it seeps through clothes and onto skin. And how a body’s slow warmth depletes as the breeze chills now-damp skin. Or how the ground becomes a patchwork of spots quickly filling in to become a sheet of water prickled by rain drops. The taste of the rain. With the physical observation comes an emotional connection, a feeling associated with rain. Rainy days in Scotland feeling so different from drenched days here in Grand Bahama. Memories of both. The internal atmosphere and associations between the two are so different.

Communication between the internal landscape and the external landscape brings potency to artistic expression. It is this deeper connection that makes art a language that is so vital to our comprehension of our existence; and touches us by evoking our own memories. All this stirs creation for an artist, and at the end of the creation of art, there is the gallery space for reflection and observation now by the viewer.

It is fascinating to think about pre-historic man living and surviving, yet in the darkness of a cave compelled to create marks and images pertinent to their life. The cave paintings discovered in Lascaux France, are a delightful example. The images are beautiful renderings of animals. They seem contemporary in their fluid expression and controlled exaggeration. It is almost a miracle to imagine the day that someone after hunting the buffalo and deer, was so filled with the essence of these animals that they picked up a piece of charcoal and proceeded from deep within, to re- present the essence of these animals.

The paintings are awe-inspiring in their beauty. They are beautiful not because they are exact replicas of the animals, but because the artist captured the truth of these animals beyond realism. The vitality of the animals is apparent in the quality and energy of line, and the contrasting sparseness against thick colour.

It is an endless debate deciding why they were suddenly created. What purpose they served and indeed, who created them; but from the context of art it becomes irrelevant. It is apparent that from a moment of intense observation, an understanding of the spirit of the animal was internalized and later, translated onto the walls. Then presumably an audience, the tribe, then enjoyed a moment of reflection while observing the images. Their own memories and associations transposed onto the walls of the cave. Their experience and knowledge of their existence expressed through charcoal and ochre.

The relationship between art, artist and ’gallery’ now created. This process remains the same today. Artists continue to distil the juice of life to create some essential truth that we then have the pleasure of enjoying, in the modern day cave - the gallery.

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