Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Tidal Series

Recently I came upon an image of Andrew Wyeth's painting "Christina's World", a painting I loved as soon as I saw it in New York on my first visit there in spring 1980. It was nice to be reminded of this painting and also to remember it's associations for me and effects on my own work.

In 1980 one of my sisters, her husband and young daughter were moving back to Ireland. In the week before they left I was minding my baby niece and did a sketch of us (by mirror) which I shortly thereafter turned into a painting, "Me & Jess". In this painting I was wearing my favourite outfit at the time, a turquoise skirt (with tiny Miro-like patterns on it!) and a red tank top.

This outfit later was a way of identifying myself in drawings, paintings and collages. After I finished my Fine Art degree in 1986 I was suddenly hit with a moment of insecurity about my future as an artist. After speaking to a friend about my lack of ideas and unsureness of where my art was going, I could not sleep and had a vision of a series of works which I later came to understand as transformation. I remember clearly leaping from my bed and gathering paper and pastels to furiously draw the images (at this time I was using both hands for drawing) before the idea disappeared.

In the first drawing (above) the figure is crawling to the water. This is the drawing which I associate with "Christina's World". In later drawings the figure encounters something in the water - her reflection, her spirit, her home - and becomes one with it before transforming into a red-sailed green boat, sailing through the firmament. This image of the boat often appeared in my dreams at the time, and was most definitely me. The image below is one of the later drawings, where I imagine some spinning happening and the yellow will later turn into stars.

I had planned to do a series of 27 paintings based on these drawings before I turned 28. I did 18 of the paintings, but never felt they had the same energy as the drawings, so abandoned the project as I began other work. I then got ready for my first move to Ireland (Aug 1988) and began my first "Great Purge" in which I destroyed quite a lot of my work and belongings, as I could not store or take everything with me. I did cut out one of the figures from one of the paintings, and that remains with me, in a corner on the wall in my attic.

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