How The Words Disappeared

August 20, 2015

 

How the words disappeared from my poems as they turned into paintings.
I would like you to enjoy looking at these paintings in the same way you would enjoy listening to a good tune, without worrying about its meaning or significance. A simple melody or a dance tune doesn’t “mean” anything – it’s just a tune. It might make you feel happy, sad, peaceful, or excited.
It might remind you of other things or people you know, but in the end it’s just an enjoyable experience.
I’d like you to have the same sort of experience when you look at these paintings. That’s why the titles I have given them are all titles of country dance tunes from a wonderful collection called
“ Playford’s Dancing Master”
Some people like to know how an artist arrives at a finished paintings, or what their ideas are. If you are interested in that I will try and explain.
Working with a poet in the studio got me thinking about the visual artists and writers influence each other. Often a painter will be inspired by a piece of writing and make a picture which illustrates the poem or story in some way. Sometimes it’s the other way round, and a writer will be inspired to write something based on a picture. I began to wonder whether it was possible to create a poem/picture in which the words and the colours and shapes arrived together and were of equal importance. I was influenced here by painters such as Paul Klee who often combine text and painting in this way, and especially by the “Word Paintings” of the Scottish painter Alan Davie.
I’ve always been a bit self-conscious and embarrassed about writing poetry. Somehow it all seems a bit too personal. I wanted to find a way of making a poem that wasn’t just me expressing my feelings – something more impersonal. I came up with the idea of “re-cycling” an already existing poem – randomly selecting words from a poem and shuffling them around till they made a new kind of sense.
Here’s how it went:
1 Without thinking about it too much select a poem.
2 Pick numbers out of a jam jar – like picking out raffle tickets.
3 If you pick number 10, write down the tenth word.
4 Carry on like this until you’ve filled a page with word.
5 Cut out each separate word and shuffle them around until they make a satisfying “poem”.
6 Fit the words into a grid onto the paper or canvas.
7 Select colour combinations for each square of the grid with the same random method.
8 SEE WHAT HAPPENS !

I produced several pieces of work using this method, but somehow I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. I began to realise that I was more interested in the colours, textures, and patterns made by the paint than I was in the words of the text. (Maybe this is why I am a painter and not a poet.) Anyway, the words gradually began to disappear and I was left with a grid of coloured squares.
That doesn’t sound like a very promising development, but I thought I would just plod on and see what came of it. And somehow the more I worked at that very simple formula, the more it seemed to open up possibilities for a purely visual kind of painting.
Well, that’s part of the story about how these paintings developed. I could tell you other stories – about my fascination with ideas of chance and order; about the correspondence between colour and music; about the kind of poetry birds would make if they could write………… but life is too short!
As I said I’d rather you just enjoy the paintings in the same way you’d enjoy a good tune.
I don’t even mind if you want to do a little JIG!!

 This whole series of paintings will soon be available for sale through my website gallery. Please contact me for further details. 

 

 

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© 2019 by Nigel Folds