THE QUIET EYE: A CONSIDERATION OF STILLNESS
I am painting realist still life paintings of objects that appeal to me for aesthetic reasons. The criteria for object selection is purely visual, nonverbal and emotional. It is seldom nostalgic. Painting this kind of subject matter and using the techniques of layered transparencies that I do requires great stillness, presence, focus, and a considerable amount of time. This process centers me in myself as meditation does. It is a form of contemplation. The process also operates metaphorically. While it is my goal to see reality clearly, to see depth and transparency and to interpret them with accuracy in a painting; so it is also my goal to see reality clearly, with depth and transparency in real life. Stillness enhances my ability to do so, it brings clarity and a certain kind of peace.
The choice of still life as a subject matter or genre is rather arbitrary. I am most engaged by aesthetic and artistic concerns: composition, light, shadow, form, and colour. The pleasure of working with the materials, the smells, the texture of the paint…
is endless. Does the painting surprise or delight the viewer somehow, enough to make them pause long enough to be taken, however momentarily, from their personal concerns? If it does then it will have been successful for me. As a painter, it is my goal to provide the viewer with a space for an experience of stillness and contemplation, which is, I think, a necessary and yet elusive experience in our culture.
The relevance that my work has today is somewhat different than that of still life painting historically. Still life painting was often commissioned to represent and to symbolize the wealth of the patron. It was also used to showcase the skill of the painter. The better the painter, the more prestige, and yet another way to showcase the patrons wealth. The purpose of my paintings is not to remind people of what they don’t have, but, rather, given time to reflect, what they do have, on many levels.
The Quiet Eye or A Quiet Eye has been the title of a number of exhibits I’ve had over the years. It is my default title because it is an accurate description of what I’m doing when I paint my still life paintings..
Many thanks to Richard White formerly of the Calgary Downtown Association, and to Emily Barnett formerly of Devo Gallery.
The last Quiet Eye – A Quiet Eye continues… was at the High River Centennial Library from May 1 to 31, 2008.
Many thanks to Arlene Westen and the rest of the staff at the library.