Keirartworks's Blog

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An ethical line

To draw a line.

A simple line can identify both home and trespasser.

Political lines describe differences, places of meeting:  here and there, you and me, us and them.

Natural lines are always clear, but changing.  Shoreline, treeline, river, snake, stick, shadow.

“Snakeroot”, 6×6″, graphite and acrylic on paper, 1999. Sold

Lines can protect the sacred, the private, the personal from the public.  Open, traveling lines explore, closed ones separate, keep safe.

Implied lines blur understanding, strong ones describe structure.  Like ladders, scaffolding.

An ethical line supports both the one and the other.  If drawn with clear intention, such a line can offer a way through conflict to respect, reconciliation.

A good, quiet line, both firm and generous.  Provocatively simple.

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Indications

I wake among the starlings, deep inside their morning discussion, which centres mostly on comings and goings.  It’s a boisterous, cultural ballyhoodle, ritualized by the turning of the year. Starlings time their arrivals and departures here to the spring and fall equinox, just as we do our school years, our arts industry seasons, interesting.  I adore starlings, always have.  Their fall flight patterns – great clouds of them sharing one mind – are I think called murmurations. I hope I have that right, since that’s such a good and appropriate word.

BackDeckAugust

The vast, over populated ship of daily life turns slowly.  All events, micro choices, adjustments in thinking, new levels of perception are the increments of propulsion that churn it around the long curve of change.  For me, September is the moment when I look up and realize that there is an unfamiliar horizon both ahead and behind – always a moment of new understanding, a realization of the weight and measure of the year just passed. Heavy, light, compressed, expanded – the strata of the whole year, visible in one stacked moment of time.

LowerLakeMazinawDock

Bon Echo lies on a fault-line.  The Group of Seven painted there, Walt Whitman wrote there at a time 100+ years ago when it was a cultural retreat for artists.  Magnificent old grandfather cliffs rise as the result of a fault, and continue to rise each year.  What an honour it was, to see and hear them.

ShoreAug

Georgian Bay lies past the outer rim of the Michigan Bowl, the centre of which continues to sink every year, which in turn pushes the outer escarpment rim up, incrementally.  Nobody knows why this is so – not a fault, but a very old and ongoing geological ‘event’ that began when this part of the world was an ocean.  The rock that is pushed upward is in fact the bones of the sea creatures who swam here where I walk.

Faults and bowls and bones.  Oceans of time in one tiny summer.

RoofSunsetwPainting

It cooled down enough to paint in the last week of August.  We drove to Toronto and tasted friendship, then to Ottawa to install the fledged daughter into University, all in the space of five days.

The moment of stillness, of recognition that horizons have quite permanently changed stretches on, until we’ve had our fill of watching time, of bearing witness.

Shore2Aug

The starlings know.  Comes a time, close to every fall equinox, when you leap off the branch and begin the work of a new season.

Soon, soon.


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Since Now Began

in this place

between eclipse and equinox

there is zero gravity

Algomarine2016

before now started

there was a certain weightedness

AlgomarineAnchor2016

planned routines

ritualed paths

weighted thoughts, articulate

well crafted pauses

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since now began there’s

the sense of being drawn-

Algomarine2016D

an animated character

in a beloved story, drawn out.

Danger here, but not much

in the beautiful line of perpetual today

Algomarine_RopesB2016

But there is a whisp, a

taste of discomfort like

the memory of rootedness

AlgomarineRopesC2016

the memory of solid illusion

of knowing what next. 

And then this,  and then.. what,  then?

Shouldn’t I be more….?

AlgomarineRopesD2016

But no. 

Not in the between time.

AlgomarineAnchorB2016

Choices like onion skins that

veil the centre but follow its curve

each the result of the one before

covering more and more while

the sleeping centre

wants dark for its’ becoming

dark and wet and warming


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In Christmas

It’s the 18th of December, one week before Christmas day.  I’ve rehearsed and planned and delivered and engaged, I’ve painted and written and talked and sang and posted, I’ve cooked and sorted and laundered and cared-for and now all of a sudden on the eve of my first day off in what feels like centuries I’m hearing the call that maybe only dogs can hear, that no other human around me seems to acknowledge but nevertheless has got my full attention in this moment…

…. stop.

Not sure why this image. Something to do with Christmas I think.

This feels correct to the moment just previous to the moment I turned off my Christmas engines.

Basil Johnson once said to me, “Simple, and good – that’s all you need.”  We’d been talking about art, and what makes it resonate with human culture in the short, medium and long term.  As I remember, I’d been talkative and keen then – about socioeconomic indicators of health and growth, artists in the workplace and some utopian ideas around the political value of the arts as a generator of individual authenticity.  In 2004 I was Cultural Capitals Coordinator for my town of 22,000, doing my best to imagine and then somehow impossibly manifest a bridge between national and local, micrososm and macrocosm, embracing all issues visible and audible under the sun. I’d been given my rein, was impossibly curious, – a single artist-mom on the eve of a lifelong marriage that would only last a decade. I was provocative, insistent and intense, flailing.

“What kind of painting do you do?”, he asked, in a pause I’d left open.

again, no articulate explanation for this choice

My answer was long and exhausting.  He listened and gave me two words in exchange.

I heard them enough through all that noise in my head to swallow them whole and keep them alive in my belly.  They sing to me now.

 

I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

The planet, the politics, the migrations of people and animals; conviction, passion, intensity, art and music; friendship, hurt, joy and the passage of time….  our response can be simple.  And good.

It’s a choice, to live and work that way.

 

BHill_SEwindow

I choose therefore to fill my tomorrow with simple rituals.  Instead of a phone, a computer, a list of errands, I will make a breakfast, a burning, a giving-away, a silence.  I will listen to what lies under all the Christmas noise.

This is good.  Thanks, Basil.  I can feel you smiling.


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green gathers under

The morning is still still and grey weighed down by two feet of spring snow.  Even the sky is heavy.  The birds do their best to lighten things up but we have no warm welcome for them this year after the long flight north.  Just heavy grey, heavy snow, covered in old rabbit tracks.

It is the other end of winter.  Still fine and clean here in the country, but since the weather has stayed cold we are in a kind of stasis, shifting restlessly under the great white blanket that gets heavier and heavier even as it thickens each night with new snowfall.   Like a dancer who has been told to sit still, a singer told to be silent, and just wait……

MarchSnowfall

But Winter is not for waiting…  Winter is for telling stories to each other, to ourselves, is it not?   Winter is for listening.

I am glad of it this March of 2013, as we approach Easter next weekend.  I have gone deep this winter, deep deep into the ideas of legacy and inheritance, gifts and projections.  Into the effects of choice.  My work with these paintings and the music I’m writing has naturally taken me there, (amazing to me, what hand tools have inspired)  but other encounters and events in these months have resonated – some most alarmingly.

I’m almost, but not…  quite…  finished….  this process…. like a whale returning from the bottom of the ocean I need this extra time to find the surface again…

When I do emerge, it will feel very very good to speak to real people instead of paintings and recording devices, computer screens and cello strings.  It will feel so deeply rewarding to take my own garden shovel and just dig with it, rather than painting the idea, then the deeper idea, then another layered idea… of shovel.  (I’ll post the painting here so that you can see – a ridiculous layering of images, just to try to present these ideas about legacy and choice – ack, me.)

I can feel my feet tingling in anticipation of the soft cold mud that will receive them in my first barefoot walk outside.

Until then I work to finish.  This is also a fine, fine thing.

Tonight, the Georgian Bay Symphony and the Georgian Bay Concert Choir (some 180+ incredibles!!) will play a program composed entirely by Schubert.  Along with many many dear friends, my Mom is in the choir.  I will be in the cello section.  Mom & I haven’t played together in a big concert like this since Carnival of the Animals when I was 16.  What a joy.

HA!  As I wrote that last paragraph, the spring sun emerged through the grey.  Suddenly, it’s quite a different world out there – full of life and warmth, though appropriately (for me), still covered with a thick coat of white.

 

 


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Control

There’s a mystery rash on my right arm – a parting gift from the sowthistle, phlox and goldenrod I ripped out of the ground two days ago.  Each gardener forms a style that sits somewhere between super formal and the illusion of ‘meadow’ but regardless,  to garden is to chop, uproot, pitch, rip, trim, mow and prune.  It is an ongoing negotiation, in my case, between what grows here naturally and so very well, and what I want to grow that needs room and protection to flourish.  Natural growth negotiates with me by growing.  When I want to make a point, I use violence.

Peony flowers represent on of the great mysteries: how an something this huge and elaborate emerge from a bud the size of an olive?

There’s been a great deal of gardening violence this spring – in answer to the overwhelming growth of native plants (new and marvelous groundcover, carpets of oxalis, patches of wild daiseys that glow in the dark- I LOVE them!), I have removed my perennials from three old gardens and centralized them so that these things can take over.  Shovel, pitchfork, undignified exposed roots… the terror of transplant.

So, you see.  Even though I fully acknowledge that what grows here naturally will always trump what I do, my role is for the most part, the destroyer.  I have only the illusion of control, and in reality the very best I can do here is try not to interfere too much.  This is also impossible.

And humbling.

I can think of macrocosms to reflect this small gardening situation of mine – The Harper Government is to Canada what I am to my garden (although I suspect he has not found his humility yet – you think?).  My husband is to his business what I am to my garden (I know he understands humility, which is a big part of his success)….

The point is that all acts, all choices, all directives are done and made and given in the context of something greater than the act, choice or directive.  They can only be catalytic, in the long term, because we are not MEANT to be in full control.  We are meant to influence, to support growth in some directions, and discourage it in others – but always with the understanding that there is much we do not and cannot understand at work, and we could be wrong.

more of the impossible

Too often I fall into the trap of believing I’m in full control – of my work, my playing, my goals, my house, my chosen direction – that if I just work a little harder, get a bit more done each day, these things will remain secure and well-defined, and the long-term will be well-served.

Mostly this happens in the Winter months, when there’s no garden to remind me of the greater picture.

Then always, usually around midsummer, the jungle takes over, the lists get longer, the tasks get more complex, the social and emotional requirements more frequent and I realize that there is no such thing as security; there is only growth – and I do not control it.

The only thing I can be in command of is my own self.  Command, as opposed to control, because if there’s no room for revision, introspection and transformation, then nothing at all can be done.

...and more impossible

 

As Dan McGee puts it, we need to “Flower, for fuck’s sake.” This is utterly, entirely unquestionably impossible of course, because we have so many other things to do.

And then we consider the peonies.

Be well, y’all.