‘Pilgrimage’ continued… A Work in Progress Update

A glimpse of how the completed work should look

We have been silent on this blog of late as we re-orientate our thinking to a new environment, a new land and new inspirations. This re-direction does not mean wiping all the old creative thought-patterns aside. It is always about building;

Panel 3: The Way*

about moving forward based on where we have been, but trying to keep it fresh and alive. Sometimes this is the most difficult part in any creative project.

I cannot speak for Gill; but for myself, the fun part is the ongoing execution of any piece. It is what keeps me doing what I do. I never relish commencing a work, and I am rarely happy when I finish – or at least after I have finished, when one must find the nerve or courage to push your child out to face the wolves.
Last year I contributed to Artmap Argyll’s exhibition for The Year of Iona 2013; an event tied in with the Irish events loosely labelled as In the Footsteps of Columba. The theme was one of Pilgrimage, and our interpretation could be as exact or as tenuous as we chose.
I did not want to contribute an picture illustrative of a story from Columba’s life, nor did I feel that art was to triumph over spiritual content. My interest in symbolism revealing spiritual ideas in many paintings of the Italian Renaissance was an area I thought I might explore, but I did not want to produce a 15th century lookalike either. In the end I consider that I have failed to achieve anything close to the vision I saw in my mind’s eye. Not a disaster; just different from the original concept.
Panel 2: The Truth*

There was also the idea that suggesting a stained glass window might be a way to go – and certainly it does lend a unique air to the work, but as always, doubts creep in. There is too much of my cartoonist leanings for my liking, but maybe I should not suggest such a thing and put ideas in your head.

In the final analysis, there has to be an integrity to any artwork that transcends failure of technical effect, and I hope that this I have achieved. 
Early on I realised that some sort of written explanation needed to accompany this project, as many of the symbolic elements are obscure, even as others are readily discerned. At that point I felt that the written part of the work had to be integral to the whole. Indeed, as the original motivation for me was a sort of visual sermon, it seems only proper that it should incorporate one, although this may also be seen as an admission of failure. If the visual sermon cannot survive on its own merits then it is not a visual sermon at all.Not every artwork needs chapter and verse to reveal what it has to say, of course, but sometimes a bit more in the way of explanation can set the viewer in tune with the artist’s vision. It can also upset, of course, if the artist’s vision differs significantly from the viewer’s initial response.

I have spent a lot of time over recent years interpreting other peoples paintings – to give myself a deeper understanding of the artistic imperative behind works that have had an impact on me. 

Panel 1: The Life*

It occured to me that many artists relish being obtuse or obscure; assuming that it confers an air of mystery or sophistication at least on their work. I believe that an artist should not merely provide the viewer with an interesting or beautiful image, but should also have layers of understanding and depth to raise a work above the everyday.

At the end of the matter, “it is what it is.”
Once the work is complete, I shall publish as full an interpretation as I can, along with the final images, although I wonder if it will ever be a settled matter. Even as I paint, I am seeing additional aspects that I had not expected, and so it grows and grows – not like Topsy, maybe, but into a different creature than I had envisioned.
This work in progress, has been an interesting adventure, and one that has had an unusual impact on myself; not the least of which is this post, which has become a public pondering on my internal dialogue. I wonder what the outcome will be, if indeed there is an outcome at all. There has been no attempt on my part, until now, to make a statement to anyone other than myself, and thus I can expect no more than blank incomprehension from others.
The artist however, always hopes for others to understand the motivation and the struggle; to appreciate what has been achieved and the cost, not in financial terms, but in …what? Most people rarely connect on that plane, I suspect. In the end, it should be enough for me to see what I have learned from this project; to have done, then cast aside and moved on.
It is only a picture after all, it is not a matter of life or death.*Click on the images to open the lightbox and see more detail.