Sunday, November 14, 2010

In process

I'm still thinking about a new work I began during my encaustic marathon last weekend. I am pleased with many parts of it but it won't declare itself finished. It was begun with great enthusiasm but waned as I proceeded. Sometimes the work that is fully conceived before you begin, peters out as you work. This is such a work.

If you follow my blog you know that I've returned repeatedly to the poppy in many of my explorations. It is loaded with symbolism and beauty. They have long been used as a symbol of sleep and death. The opium extracted from poppies has a sedative effect on the body and their red colour is connected to blood and death. It is difficult to image medicine with codeine or morphine. In many Greco - Roman myths, poppies were a favourite offering to the dead. If you are an explorer of cemeteries you will find poppies adorning tombstones to symbolize eternal sleep.

Ancient Greeks thought that poppies were a sign of fertility. Poppy seeds were thought to bring health and strength so Greek athletes were given mixtures of poppy seeds, honey, and wine. describes the use of Godfrey's Cordial during the Industrial Revolution. It was cheaper than food and kept hungry children quiet. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the tincture of opium called laudanum was as casually bought and used as aspirin is today. A large number of poets and writers of this era were opium addicts. It is hard to believe that these concoction were still in use in 1910 and it took food and drug laws to remove this dangerous narcotic from patent medicines.

In more recent times we use the The red Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), a common weed in Europe, to commemorate the war dead.

The poppy in this work is dreamlike and emerges from a pattern of past centuries.

The beginning stage of "Rising"

The design at the bottom is created using a sheer and flocked fabric fused into encaustic and then brushed with more red encaustic to pick up the highs and lows of the material.

After several layers of cadmium red encaustic is added and fused I applied a layer of Egyptian purple...
and then Iridescent gold metallic - all R and F Paints
Then the hard work began as I used a large blade to scrape back all the excess encaustic colours to reveal the highs and lows of the original pattern.
The shadow of the poppy in the upper right is an image transfer of a drawing I created this summer. I'm still trying to integrate the dream like quality of the poppy with the heavy patterning at the bottom. No solutions are occurring yet. I always seem to set up these dichotomies that are difficult to marry.


-Don said...

Thanks for sharing your process with this. I find it quite fascinating and look forward to seeing how you resolve your issues with it.

I'm also in the middle of one of those dichotomies right now. Thanks for being brave enough to share yours. It's encouraging to see that something which seems to be coming along so well from my perspective is giving you fits. It means I'm probably on the right track with mine.

I have faith that the answers are coming for both of us.

Happy Creating!


Kathy said...

I like the way you marry scholarship with creativity. It brings so many more layers of meaning to your work, and seems to match the way your work is constructed through layers of carefully considered designs and mediums. Thank you for sharing this process and I look forward to the end result.

Margaret Ryall said...

Thanks Don and Kathy for your comments. I am definitely a process painter who has learned at least in this one aspect of my life to just let things take their time and have their way.

My process does reflect the blending of the many aspects of ideas, research and reflection that my work is grounded in. In that process I honour the sense that is the strongest for me personally and that is touch. I have to physically engage with materials and the more hands on the process the more I feel I've left my personal mark on the piece. Thanks to your blog and the lively discussions there, I feel I have grown in my convictions to produce art that speaks to me.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Well you certainly have set up a good challenge for yourself, Margaret! That's the sign of a professional--who likes to stretch and grow.

I think the push and pull between concepts, elements of a composition, or even of textures or colors within a composition, can heighten the tension that really pulls a viewer in.

Thanks for the interesting background on poppies. I used to have a friend who gave her children one of those concoctions when they were teething. I was horrified, thinking she was overusing it and that they could become addicted.

Thankfully, they turned out fine and quite functional.