It's not possible to overwork in this heat...Robin said that his car was registering somewhere in the region of 98degF yesterday, and it's hotter today...so hot it's hard to settle to doing anything at all. But it's more than possible to overwork a concept, as I came to realise, today.
I've been working with the idea of 'In More Than One Language' (or IMTOL, for short). For me, it works in a number of ways. There's the language of art itself, the different styles and methods of working with a given set of materials. There are languages themselves, that vary in writing methods and styles. There is the hidden language of symbol and metaphor. And then there is the language of the half seen, half glimpsed and half understood; the marks, manmade or natural, that seem to suggest some sort of meaning, but which is neither word nor symbol.
It is a broad, broad concept, but I have found myself recently focussing almost entirely on the latter part of it, the half seen, the forgotten, the potential language. In doing so, I find that I've been limiting myself to a particular way of thinking about the painting, and a particular approach, also. And then I found myself wondering why I wasn't actually working the way I want to work. Instead of flowing, as they usually do, the paintings have been stuttering along, complexity over complexity, hard to understand and to make. Yesterday, though, I went upstairs, really only intending to move some paintings out of the studio space, so that I could make some new ones. What I found, though, was that there was a painting up there, waiting to be made...so I ended up spending some time with a large canvas and some blue paint. The result is at the top of the blog. It is so unlike the rest of the IMTOL work; it has space, movement, light... all the things that are important to me as an artist.
Finally, I realised two things. One was that it was related to another, earlier painting, that was started as an IMTOL, but seemed to end as something different. The other, was that the reason it was unlike the other IMTOL work, was that I'd stopped *thinking*... rather than making an IMTOL painting, I was making a painting...and whilst it fits into the IMTOL concept, it is its own sweet self. Basically, I managed to get out of my own way, and make a painting that is real.
I work best when I let the unconscious mind do the thinking, and just turn up with a paintbrush to record the results. When my conscious mind says, you have to do x, or y, then the painting is stilted, self conscious and overdone. So there. That doesn't mean that the rest of the IMTOL work is bad, necessarily...I've learned a lot from it, about painting and about myself. But it does mean that I'm going to lighten up a bit, think less and just turn up at the canvas more often. Even on hot days like today!