Category Archives: Zoom In

Do You Remember?

Today I want to tell you about a piece, inspired by a poem by Debelyanov, one of Bulgaria’s finest symbolists. Debelyanov lived a humble and not very happy life at the beginning of the last century and was killed in the First World War at the age of 39. His work was published after his death in two volumes, which are considered a classic and are part of the high school curriculum in Bulgaria.

Here is the place to say, that symbolist poetry is not for teenagers. At the time, I was wondering what on earth is all this melancholic, repetitive stuff about. Now I appreciate the foresightedness of the educator – I had to know about Debelyanov in order to discover him at a considerably later age than the one he died at. And 100 years after he lived. Hmmm, here is some material for thought …

The painting as well as the poem is titled Do You Remember. The title might suggest that it is about memories, but if you dig deeper you will discover that it is about lost innocence, the irreversible passage of time and a lot more.

Debelyanov’s poetry does not narrate but suggests deep and complex emotions impossible to name in simple words. It is this journey in the twilight zone of memory dissolving into subconsciousness that Debelyanov drew me in and which resulted in my piece.

If you want to know the very words of the poem, a (somewhat literal, non-rhymed) translation follows. It takes a poet to translate another poet and although I have had a go at translating poetry (from Arabic at that), at present I am trying to be an artist. So the musicality and the poetic merit of Debelyanov’s verse will be lost for my non Bulgarian readers. To read it in Bulgarian, click here.

Since my painting is not meant as illustration of the poem but a contemplation inspired by it, I am showing it first. You can click on the image to enlarge.

Do You Remember

Do You Remember

And now the poem:

Do you remember? Do you remember  the quiet garden,

the quiet home amidst the white cherry blossoms?

Oh, do not awaken in my prison those distant sorrows and forlorn memories.

For I am locked up in a dark prison cell,

distant sorrows and forlorn memories

My disgrace is my guard

and my punishment – the days of the past.

Do you remember? Do you remember in the quiet garden,

Whispers and laughter amidst the white cherry blossoms?

Oh, do not awaken the sprightly choir,

the  choir of angels from the days of the past.

For I am locked up in a dark prison cell,

distant sorrows and forlorn memories

My disgrace is my guard

and my punishment – the days of the past.

It must have been a dream … that quiet home,

They must have been a dream … the white cherry blossoms.

*  *  *

Shoes for Walking the Opposite Way

The Daily Prompt today is about Shoes and walking. Here is a pair of shoes, which tell a story goes against some established values.  I included a little paragraph which explains what I had in mind when I created the piece.

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Blind Date

The absurd Barbie-pink stilettos made of paper can provide no support. Stability is out of the question.  They are as desperate as the hope of their wearer and as fragile as her confidence. Her acute self-consciousness, is suggested by the mirror reflecting her every step.

This is a piece about hope, loneliness, insecurity and a forlorn desire to fit in a world where appearances matter more than substance. Although the wearer of the pink stilettos is not visible, she is intensely present. 

Blind Date was first shown in an exhibition loosely themed around Love to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

I strongly dislike Valentine’s Day, not only for its ugly commercialism. I dislike it because it is smug and insensitive to all the lonely people out there. The management distributing red roses to all girls on the floor (so that the ugly ones also get something) only makes it worse.   And no, I am not a frustrated single middle aged woman. Quite the opposite – I am a happy middle aged woman, who feels loved 24/7. Just  that Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with love.

A Sea Painting As Promised But Not As Anticipated

Elements Large low res

I start every day with an hour on Taino beach. Tough life, I know.

It is my very own thinking time because the beach is just as empty as you see it.

And instead of thinking of the beauty of God’s creation, here is what goes in my wicked mind:

Behind the idyll of this perfect Caribbean paradise, there is a sinister force eating away this and many other beaches. Coastal erosion is an ongoing natural process, which has been intensified dramatically by human activity and climate change.

Did you know, that dry land – the islands and continents which we inhabit, is a result of volcanic activity of earlier geological eras. The erosion of the coastline has been going on ever since the continents emerged.  However hardly any new land is being formed. At the same time, human population is growing exponentially. It simply doesn’t add up.

Back to my beach. Behind the photographer, who has taken the shot there is a different picture, which is just as spectacular. The carcasses of huge trees which have collapsed when the sea has eaten away the land beneath their mighty roots. They are dead, fallen, yet not defeated. Waves crush over them, tides come and go but they stay unmoved, sinking stubbornly deeper in the sand.

Looking at them, I couldn’t stop thinking of the titanic struggle between the elements of our planet and how petty and transient we are as a species.

This is the story of Taino beach which I wanted to tell with my painting. Sorry if I spoiled the touristy wonderland for you.

😉

Godly Testosterone

Shimal , 2011, acrylic, oil and desert sand on canvas, 90 x 110 cm

Shimal , 2011, acrylic, oil and desert sand on canvas, 90 x 110 cm

I spent in the desert 17 years living in one season  – constant, dry, unchanging summer. Warm, to hot, to scorching to Jupiterian . Never a cloud in the sky. Spare the occasional rain a couple of days in the year, the only weather you get is a sandstorm.  The landscape, arid and quite monotonous is full of life, but you have to look for it. The little that is shown on the surface is wind and haze. Makes you think that the God who created this landscape was a tired old man, grumpy and irritable, in a fit of impotent rage.

And then – bang!- overnight, I was in the Bahamas – right in the middle of the hurricane season. Nature here is intense – it rocks and rolls. The skies are never completely free of cloud, the rain pours, sometimes violently. Everything grows with a vengeance – you can literary hear the new branches  cracking as they split from the trees,  new leaves breaking from the buds. It is exhilarating, intoxicating, wild.  Godly testosterone at its peak. Look –

Genesis, Acrylic on Canvas, 47” x 35.4”   120 x 190 cm

Genesis, Acrylic on Canvas, 47” x 35.4” 120 x 190 cm

Yes, I painted the sea too, but that will another post.  

PS I am still a new blogger  battling with WP’s technicalities – no idea how to make my images larger without having to click on them. Tips appreciated.

Painting a City

It was the end of a travel – a return to the desert where I lived at the time. I had been to London, among other places, and was still quite full of its colours, sounds, smells, its rain, its greenery, its crowds, its art. But it was after the return to the arid, scorching  heat of Arabia in August, when the future painting of London started forming in my mind. It must have been the tension created by the extreme contrast between the two worlds – and me caught in between – that sublimated in this piece.

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London, oil on canvas, 110 x 90 cm

 

I wanted to tell my story of London. It is a city where I have never lived and which I know more from things that I have read and watched. So in many ways London is part of my imagination, rather than my existence and real life experience. So my story of London is not a narrative, it is impromptu, more like a verse, an emotional record of brief torrid encounters, unconscious of the passage of time, when I  immerse myself and absorb its London-ness as much as I can before returning to the desert where the narrative of my daily life was ticking. That exhilarating feeling, a mixture of urgency, joy laced with an underlying sense of doom.

The Process

I do not take snapshots – especially in places which I want to ‘live’ rather than observe. I had a vivid emotional cityscape in my mind ready to be poured out.  To trigger the externalization process, I collected images which carried something of that ‘je ne sais quois’ which I was feeling inside. Then I assembled them in a mood board, similar to this:

 

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London – the mood board

 

I normally do a lot of sketches in the process of developing a composition and then I discard most of them, which probably I shouldn’t do. I remember doing a colour study too, but I don’t think that has survived either.  As with most of my work, this painting went through several com-positional revisions until it arrived at its final stage.  I normally work on a piece continuously until it is finished.  Leaving a piece in progress for a long period of time then coming back to it has not worked for me so far. I do scrape out and paint over, sometimes I move whole compositions around. Sometimes glimpses from other pieces suddenly appear and persist.  For me painting is the most exciting, all-consuming, exhausting and rewarding thing – the process and the ‘high’ of being in the zone are the only reason I do it.

 Looking back at this piece it makes me wonder what my story of London would have been  if I had lived  there. What does a piece of art capture and express? It also makes me think of the impermanence of existence – London is not the same from one day to the next;  the impermanence of  perception –  the London of my imagination is not the same from one encounter to another – memories and experiences, direct, or indirect – all the images which we receive from through media etc, add layer after layer on my idea of the city and it evolves in a life of its own. Likewise my painting will receive layer after layer of meaning, attributed to it by every viewer who, in the process of seeing it will bring to it his or her feelings, experiences and imagination.