A couple of months ago you will have seen the promotion of my most recent solo exhibition, Trust.
Although the Little Fernwood Gallery is only open formally a few hours a week, I received some very positive feedback to this new work. And this is somewhat of a relief as it confirms that it’s “okay” to continue in this new direction. (I know these things shouldn’t matter but it would be a whole lot harder to be committed to a new path without some support behind me!) That’s not to say I’ll be giving up painting en plein air and trying to capture all the beauty I see in the world. What it does do is encourage me to explore ideas and emotions.
I have had a number of people wanting to know more about the paintings on the poster so I thought I’d share with you the process and thoughts behind the two paintings: “Wild Woman” and “Every Six Minutes.”
First, let’s look at “Every Six Minutes”
A while back (January 2014), actually when I was preparing work for the “Emergence” show, I drew up two figures from imagination in charcoal and black pastel on wood panel. I had no plan for them other than I was interested in doing more figurative work. I had been enjoying a book on Willem de Kooning and for these figures, I’d been inspired by his work “Two Women On A Wharf.”
And so the panel sat in the studio until June 2014 when suddenly I knew what these figures were for. I had just heard an interview with Rachel Solnit about her new book, Men Explain Things To Me, which I eventually purchased (highly recommended! – see Amazon link below). To hear the interview that so affected me, click here to go to the CBC page and then look down the left column to the first podcast that says ‘Listen’.
The whole interview is interesting (at the 14 min mark you can hear about the difference between the #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen hashtags) but the one place that I started to become really angry was at around 16:30 mark – women are afraid to walk the streets at night and so our lives are limited by fear. We should have the “freedom to participate fully in every way.” As Solnit says, this is a human rights issue. (At 18:30, Solnit lists the ways women are supposed to deal with their fear of walking streets at night – take a taxi, walk with a friend, crossdress – there’s never anything about what men should do! One of the very popular tweets in #YesAllWomen was, “Don’t tell your daughters how not to get raped, tell your sons not to rape.”)
So the interview got me riled up. I later read the statistic about women being raped every six minutes in the USA which gave the painting its title. (If you include the whole world, of course that number gets even smaller.)
I felt an incredible sorrow for all women and an anger and a frustration at our inability to be in this world without the fear of sexual violence. I was moved to create a work that expressed the horror of rape and gender inequality. I tried to say it through the stance of the figures, through clarity or non-clarity of the image, through the quality of line, through black and white and grey colouration.
I dripped diluted white paint over the female figure like a veil, like something half hidden. I realized that I needed to do more readjustment on the male figure: I felt the body was too soft, too curvy, too similar to the female one. So I took a white Derwent Inktense block and “carved” out the male figure in a more angular, bolder way. Then, using a calligraphy pen that I dipped in black acrylic airbrush paint, I wrote words that streamed out of me about violence against women. I usually don’t do work around provocative and raw issues but this one impacts me and all women and I felt such a need to make some sort of statement about it.
The other major piece in the show was “Wild Woman.” This painting came about in a totally different way – it was more about the materials and trusting the process.
I LOVE Diarylide yellow!! It’s one of my favourite painting colours. I decided to start a painting using the colour and see where it went. (The photos below of the painting as it progresses show colours that are much more orange than the paint is in life.)
At this point, it was difficult to decide what to do next: I was fearful of the next move, fearful of messing up. I knew that I wanted to develop the female figure. The Venus of Willendorf, one of the earliest known images of the body some 25,000 years old, came floating into my mind.
After much looking and deciding to trust my intuition, I put on some wild music and decided to go in with calligraphy pen and high flow paint, drawing lines then smearing some with my fingers, some with a damp paper towel. I worked very gesturally with my whole arm. I added more yellow paint and some white, all with a palette knife. I dripped and splattered the black paint onto the painting.
I then put aside the painting for days and eventually felt there was nothing more to add (or take away). I am delighted with the exuberance that vibrates from the figure and painting! This woman is powerful and confident, ready to embrace the world.
Two different pieces expressing such different emotions! I’d love to hear your thoughts about them. How do they speak to you? What do they tell you about themselves, about the world, about yourself?
As always, thank you so much for being here!!
PS. In case you are interested, here is my Artist Statement for the show:
Trust: An Exhibition Of New Explorations
As an artist searching for an authentic voice, I am working to trust the creative process, to allow my ideas to flow and let the work itself lead the way. Trusting the process and trusting my instinct to apply the mark, to let it happen, this is huge.
The paintings in this exhibition are a result of my letting go, of my trust in my own creative intuition, of allowing myself to trust that the work will evolve through a conversation with the piece. Sometimes I start with an idea (the horror of rape), other times colour leads the way (whether one I love eg Diarylide yellow or ones I rarely use eg. ochres and greys) or other times I make marks on the surface and see where they go. Sometimes I set myself challenges to do things I normally wouldn’t do, for example, use a combo of muted colours, or make the dominant colour pink.
I also trust the viewer to come to the work with an open mind and heart. Engage with the work and voice your opinion about it whether positive or negative. I look forward to reading and hearing your thoughts!
The works here are Explorations – my way of delving into new territory. Some pieces will open up a path to a new series while others will be unique and a one-off.
Gail Sibley, 12 March 2015
PPS. Here are links to the books (Men Explain Things To Me and De Kooning: A Retrospective) and Inktense blocks .
For Canadian purchasers (see below for US and international purchasing):
For US and International purchasers:
And yes, I receive a wee commission if you purchase anything using these links 🙂