Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This is my latest painting which I have called 'Paradise'. Readers of my BLOG would recognise that it flows from my previous work inspired by the tree-of-life and tree-of-knowledge. My last few paintings have introduced Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden into my visual explorations of the symbolic and metaphysical potential in stories and iconic motifs.

My interest is not in literal interpretations or illustrating history. My interest is in the possibility of gaining emotional, spiritual and conceptual sustenance that is meaningful in this contemporary world in which we all live. I am not interested in prescribing what this meaningfulness is because I believe each person has the capacity and urge to search for their own meaning. Age-old iconic motifs and stories provide a gateway for each person to open and proceed to explore at their own pace and in their own direction. Readers of my BLOG know of my aversion to the didacticism I see and read in some contemporary cultural offerings, particularly children's literature. Didacticism does not provide a gateway with endless pathways. It is more like a cattle crush. [the yards designed to feed cattle or sheep through to be branded, loaded onto trucks etc.]

I have called my new painting 'Paradise' because the Garden of Eden is described as a paradise. It is also described as a temple, thus indicating that it was a place of worship where a personal relationship with God could take place. Many years ago when people asked me where I lived I would often say, 'In my head.' It sounded a lot more interesting than saying Dalby or Goondiwindi! As a child I daydreamt all the time, much to the dismay of my teachers. However, daydreams are an escape to a paradise, a place where everything is possible. I believe that our Garden of Eden [our temple] lives inside us, in our imaginations and dreams. I also believe that some art is the perfect catalyst for imagination and dreaming, especially if it causes a person to ask questions, to wonder and to reflect. As people do these things their abilities to understand metaphor and symbols becomes more attuned. I have previously written about my observation that contemporary society has lost its ability to 'read' symbols and then to extrapolate meaning from them. Visual literacy skills are not just about knowing what a symbol might represent, but also understanding them at a metacognitive level where meaning can be responded to in both an emotional and intellectual [even spiritual] sense.

A painting, by providing just one nano second of a story, does not attempt to complete it, thus the viewer can provide their own pre and post narratives. My new painting could be said to be based on a narrative ie: the story of Adam and Eve, but what I like about stories which are mythic and symbolic, is that the viewer can place themselves into the story. Thus, the narrative becomes a constantly new one, never before written or seen, yet the core of humanity exists as a spine or trunk of a tree. A person returning to a painting which has provided them with an internal emotional/intellectual or spiritual journey can find themselves taken even further on their subsequent viewings. A number of people who have bought my paintings have told me they see something new in the painting they bought each day. I love hearing this, because it means my painting lives rather than decorates.

A visitor to my house this week spent about 3 hours looking at and talking to me about my work. He made a comment which really blew me away. He said, 'You know you'd return from the dead to look at your paintings Kathryn.' WOW! Now this got my imagination going for sure. Lots of ghosts wandering through my house to get their 'fix'. We discussed what he meant, which was that each painting seemed to have endless possibilities for thought and contemplation, and that one idea lead to another and another, thus making it seem unlikely that one lifetime would provide enough time to fully explore. I took this as a great compliment.

Readers of my BLOG also know of my interest in distance and perspective. Stories/myths and a iconic motifs represented in paintings are like single points with endless trajectories for story and meaning in all directions. Horizons exist behind, in front, beside and under, with each horizon once reached revealing another. Indeed, sometimes returning to a previously visited horizon is important. These horizons may be close or far in temporal or spatial distance.

'Paradise' depicts the moment Eve is created from sleeping Adam's rib. Trees grow from Eve's outstretched arms creating a multitude of colour and pattern. Please read my last two or three posts where I have written more extensively about Adam and Eve, a story which is shared by the three Abrahamaic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. My interest with 'Paradise' was to create a sense of the universe, awe, movement, beauty and extra-ordinariness. Surely these are all elements which the temple aspires to achieve. My other interest is the fact that shared stories connect us forever.

I love painting because each work exists as a point/gateway with endless possibilities. The viewer creates these possibilities and in this way quietly and privately extends my work into the collective memory and consciousness.

Paradise Oil on linen 62 x 82 cm 2009


moneythoughts said...

I enjoyed reading this post Kathryn, as it gave me a better understanding of your work even though I have followed it for several months. I thought you put it all down quite well.

As for people looking at pictures and thinking about them, I haven't been in a classroom in many years, but unless things have changed, education, at least in my country, is not concerned with children thinking. Children are taught to pass tests, not think on their feet.

Perhaps your art work in a book with instruction on how to view art and think about what it might mean would be a great course for children of all ages.

In a recent Smithsonian magazine, which I subscribe to, there is an article about a woman that teaches New York City police how to look at a paintings to learn how to see things. While this class has a specific purpose, to help police understand what they are looking at when on a scene, its ideas can be applied to children as well.

When I sketched from a live model every Thursday evening, years ago, I enjoyed the challenge of seeing what was there, and not what I thought was there. People can sharpen their powers of observation. And, children can learn to think about paintings like yours and more.

Audubon Ron said...

As a student of the Christian Bible (to include Judaism in the Old Testament) I see now conflict between your work and what the Bible says. I was a non-believer until the year 2000. Then almost like Paul, I was knocked off my stool where I immersed myself in the Word. Actually, for an entire year I was hooked on Bible study and even worshipped with the Messianic Jews on Saturday. I was and still am a church nomad, but I really have a problem with organized religions. I find them all apostate. I can’t listen to a sermon without wanting to write an editorial afterwards, so I ceased listening to sermons.

So when you say, “A person returning to a painting which has provided them with an internal emotional/intellectual or spiritual journey can find themselves taken even further on their subsequent viewings,” in my view, you have also described the Bible. Each time I read it, it offers a different meaning and journey dependant on the current situation.

In your paintings on this subject of Adam and Eve I do not see a religious connection but more of a relationship. A binding of sorts and as the Bible says, the two shall leave and cleave and become one flesh. Now some have gone so far as to say the one flesh means children. I don’t understand it that way. In a recent story I conveyed the pain of my ex finding a boyfriend though I’ve remarried and we’ve separated 9 nine years. What was bound between us is still there in certain ways. So, I see that binding in your painting. The relationship, though strained, still goes on.

And also, I worked as a volunteer for seven years with special needs kids at a therapeutic horseback ridding center. When I first arrived, I couldn’t stand being around those kids. Their disabilities grieved me, I almost quit. Then one day, as I was watching a young girl on a horse, a sub vocalized voice said to me, “Ron, I told you I made you in my image, but I never said exactly how. What if I see you in heaven and my face is the same as this girl with Downs Syndrome? You had a chance to see me on earth, but it was your pride that prevented you.”

I gravitate to the artist as much as I do the art. I assume that what is expressed and how it is expressed is from the heart of the artist. I like your heart. I am comfortable to be around you. I trust your honesty. And this only proves my point all the more about art; it expresses the abstract in ways that words are insufficient.

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Hi Fred,
It is largely the same here with regards to children being taught to pass tests rather than to enhance children's thinking skills.
I have three children and I get quite upset when I think about the deadening that occurs in the classroom. In the last 2 years of senior school children are expected to think, but many are so self conscious, unsure, too imbued with lock step processes that they find it difficult to know what they are meant to do or are even capable of. This is my observation.

I have heard about all sorts of places using a discussion about art as a way of experiencing really looking and seeing [rather than looking but not seeing]. I believe it is becoming more generally acceptable, but I hope discussions are not too mediated.

I took my youngest daughter's grade 1 art class for nearly a year. The teachers were present and assisted me. I always started the class with a short talk and discussion about paintings which I had chosen to reflect the activity I had prepared [which was connected somehow to the curriculum to get the children to 'feel' connections]. These were not my paintings [although once or twice at the children's request I brought my own in], but paintings by other artists, some famous....some not.

And....then to get the children to talk about their own art. Now that's a very rewarding experience.

Thanks for visiting.

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Hi Ron,
I totally agree with you about someone returning to the Bible and on each return gaining something new. This is also my experience, although I have not 'studied' it in full. I also agree with your comment about my Adam and Eve not being really religious, but more about relationships. These relationships are contained within the story but also that the story itself is shared by different religions ie: my suggestions of forever connectedness.

A painting has the unique quality of not providing pre and post narrative. Sure, these can be implied but an artist plucking one 'scene' from a book somehow releases it [for the viewer] from the text context to the potential of something else.

The becoming 'one flesh' can be interpreted quite a few ways from man and woman being one togther, that within each individual we have the potential to express both masculine and feminine essences as 'one', that the human race expressed through the representation of Adam and Eve is 'one' and so on. The enterprise is one of searching for this 'oneness' which ultimately I suppose means with God or even as God.

What I like is the sense of potential.

I read your post a couple fo times about your ex. I will admit to not knowing what to say...and as you know I normally do say something! I hesitated because your story has loose parallels with mine except I am the girl and you are the boy! But, I thought you were very brave in saying what you did and it helps women understand men a bit better. I also agree with you that divorce does not end the relationship. Now this is a whole new topic which is immense!

And thank you for your last paragraph. It is beautiful.

Audubon Ron said...

After reading my comment I see a typo. It should read, I see "no" conflict between your work and what the Bible says.