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Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose. Why?

I have never really understood that quote of Gertrude Steins.

I saw a new bird today on my beach walk. My first response was to get out the bird book to identify it. That astonished me.

As I stilled my mind’s excitement, I saw two birds then three then five. They weren’t camouflaged to look like either sand or driftwood yet I almost missed seeing them. Why?

How much of the world do we not see, missing the whole experience because our minds are too busy to process the information that is right before our eyes?

Is the naming of a thing replacing the understanding of the thing?How can a rose be only a rose? They differ from one another in so many ways. The biggest for me is smell. They all have their own individual scent.The wild rose here, which is a huge bush with clusters of tiny white flowers has a scent that is the essence of the hand lotion my mother used when I was a child. So by association it smells like hand lotion not like a rose.I have a iris variety, left-overs from the church bazaar a few years ago which smells like grape Kool-Aid, not like iris, except to an older generation who didn’t grow up with grape Kool-Aid, to them is smells of Iris.“Talking is often a torment for me, and I need many days of silence to recover from the futility of words”

Carl Jung

From the book On Silence by Joseph Dispenza

If we were as sensitive to the visual world would that too overwhelm us and force us back to darkness?

One of my most enjoyable summers was spent sitting under a moveable umbrella following the light around the garden to paint these small (8 x 12 inch) watercolours.

Living in a Material World

The materiality of things and their essence is fascinating. That charcoal stick I used to make marks was once a grape-vine. This piece of chalk was formed from beached sea urchins millions of years old.

It is all so mysterious and magical this changing of substance, one thing into another – very alchemical.

To witness the manufacture of silk is an unforgettable experience. The feeding and housing of thousands of worms so they can spin a cocoon only for machines to unspin it to make silk thread is enchanting, it is then woven into cloth in patterns and colours that still have no equal!

Tom Thompson might have been a dandy, I’ll never know. But I do know that a silk tent (instead of canvas) and silk shirts (instead of denim) do not make him one. They are the marks of a man with a very practical nature.

If you have ever slept under canvas (smelly, especially if wet) or had to pack it out of an isolated camp (heavy, especially if wet) you would see the sense in this too!

Silk is ounces to canvases pounds, breathes yet is wind proof, dries quickly and is a thin skin that lets in light compared to the dense airlessness of its counterpart.

A silk shirt has all the benefits of denim but none of the disadvantages. It is wind proof (as is denim) but also warm in cold and cool when it is hot, and unlike denim also dries quickly and is feather light. The colours are also a lot prettier and it is soft to the touch. What more can you ask for, this is perfection.

This was before nylon, a synthetic fibre designed to replace silk. Its biggest disadvantage is that it doesn’t breathe, so although light weight it is hot when it is hot and cold when it is cold and retains all moisture, very unsatisfactory when compared with its original inspiration. Nylon was invented in 1935 by Wallace Carothers, with a lot of help from Dupont and previous chemical explorers.

When silk became scarce because of the 2nd World War, 1939-45, as it was used extensively in the manufacture of parachutes my mother tells the tale that all the school children were encouraged to harvest the seed pods of the milk weed plant, natures close equivalent to silk.

Is it me, or do we invent things when most needed for war? or is it all serendipity?

Tom Thomson, Canadian Painter b. August 5th, 1877 d, July 8th, 1917

Thought for Today

Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven

In his autobiography A.Y. Jackson complains that he and the rest of the group would spend half the day trucking through the woods to find that perfect composition, getting back to camp foot sore and mosquito bitten to find Tom sitting by a campfire painting the vista from the door of the tent.

I’ve always thought the biggest difference between Tom and the rest was the way they saw the world, vision.

Tom didn’t need to leave the campsite in order to find worthwhile subjects to paint; he was painting negative space, the place that exists between the material world.

Now Emily (Carr) painted the spirit of place not just her totem poles but her trees too are imbued with the unseen world. They are living sentient beings.

David Milne on the other hand painted more from mind then emotion. It was an intellectual exercise, reducing the marks almost to abstraction, limiting his palette so that the colour had room to breathe and soar.

Every time I encounter work by these three artists I marvel anew at the freshness of their vision.