Thursday, March 03, 2011


Portal Oil on linen 36 x 36 cm

On Saturday 26 February, at my exhibition VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At Its Core, there was an artist's talk with myself in discussion with art historian Dr. Christine Dauber. The talk went really well and I've had some great feedback from the people who attended. Amongst other things, Christine aksed me about beauty, and whilst I have thought about it before, and indeed have written about it on this BLOG, I found myself synthesising some of my thoughts as I spoke. Here are links to two previous posts on beauty.

I heard myself say 'beauty is a portal'. I said this in the context that ugliness and the regurgitation of scenes of disaster, ruin, and sadness in the media, and some contemporary art, seem to neuter empowerment. They drain us of energy as we feel overwhelmed by an incapacity to do anything to solve problems and to make the world a better place. 
Hovering At The Centre Oil on linen 30x 30 cm

Beauty, for me, is not a vacuuous prettiness or decorator kind of attractiveness. I choose to paint beautiful images and consciously elide ugliness, and in this conscious elision, ugliness exists in absentia. Ugliness is not a shadow tethered to beauty, but rather a memory which has been let go. This kind of beauty thus holds a pathos which reminds us of what we can lose if beauty is destroyed, or worse, rendered unimportant. This kind of beauty has the power to uplift, energise and re-invigorate. It is a portal! It has the capacity to be much larger than itself, taking the viewer into emotional and psychological spaces that fill the psyche beyond conscious limits and thus extending the conscious...a bit like Dr. Who's Tardis! 

Compassion Oil on linen 100 x 100 cm

Beauty stimulates the imagination. Yes, the imagination can still 'imagine' ugliness, but beauty balances the psyche providing it with a capacity to override the kind of focus on ugliness which disempowers, and acts as a destroyer too. I am reminded of something 'Harry Potter' author JK Rowling said in her excellent Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. She said, 'I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.' For me this statement conjures a few thoughts, one being that maybe the barrage of ugliness, sadness and destruction in the media reveals a lack of imagination which unfortunately reaches out to us daily from newspapers, computers, TVs etc. Another thought is that a lack of imagination arrests the ability of leader/dictators such as Mugabe, Gadaffi, to provide freedoms and rights that grow with and nurture a society. Indeed, as current events in Libya testify, the 'monsters' of violence and torture have been released.

Cosmic Dust Oil on linen 120 x 160 cm

I believe that beauty enables us to reach beyond sympathy, with its giver and receiver heirarchy, to a place of compassion where equality and empathy empower rather than exhaust. Compassion is not transient and it does not as easily fall prey to power plays. It is sustained by beauty and not exhausted by ugliness, even though it knows it exists. [see Compassion above]

I suggest that the catalytic agency of art is its ability to reveal, capture, portray beauty to stimulate imagination and exile monsters.

With the idea that beauty can be a portal taking us to dimensions beyond the concious I thought I'd upload some paintings which, to me at least, seem to suggest a conduit or portal to this place 'beyond'. All the images above depict a portal-like circle. All these paintings are in my current exhibition 'VORTEX: Seeking Stillness At Its Core'



Kay said...

Such a wonderful concept.I am in complete agreement! And the paintings you chose are so lovely and really illustrate the point. Have a great day

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

Dear Kay,

Thank you. I have thought about it a lot. You have a great day too.