There’s nothing like being given free rein for scattering any half-formed ideas to the winds. I’ve been thinking of basing my submission around four themed pieces employing styles found in Turner’s Fishermen on a Lee-shore, Klee’s Golden Fish, Hokusai’s Great Wave, and Hambling’s series of paintings of towering waves. I’d thought to copy those pieces in different media (soft pastel for the Turner, for instance) thereby introducing my own style, and bring in text that related to each period.
Then I remembered a poem called The Steeplejack by Marianne Moore which, in its first verse, says:
Dürer would have seen a reason for living in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched
with waves as formal as the scales
on a fish.
I’d made a painting of this a couple of years ago and I began to think how I could explore it – or the sentiment of it – using resonant images from reference photographs that I might render in the styles of the artists I’d identified.
The poem is full of colour
a sea the purple of the peacock’s neck is
paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed
the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea gray
and shapes (the ‘waves as formal as the scales on a fish’ above), and it seemed to me I might weave this into the four pieces which would constitute a whole, much like the verses of the poem.
I trawled google for suitable images of, primarily, waves and whales to reflect the key content of the art work I am drawing on. This is one of the early sketches of a huge wave. I’ve used wax as a resist along lines, peaks, and edges, then wet-in-wet ink, inktense (wet) and paper towel mopping. It’s a mountain of water, a toppling Eiger carved out of fluidity.
The black ground comes from an earlier sketched ‘copy’ of Hokusai’s original which I found lifted the image off the paper and had a resonance with Klee’s stark imagery. It’s stylised but not in quite the same way as Hokugai’s work. I think I’d like to enlarge that, maybe use black cartridge or black gesso as the base, and carve out those peaks and troughs as though it were a lino cut.
Why not use Durer as the basis of one of the pieces? I find his style, while impressively detailed, somewhat stiff and unyielding, and while that might be said too about Hokusai, there is something about the different cultural origins that draw me more to eighteenth/nineteenth century Japan than to fifteenth century Europe. There is this though; View of the Arco Valley 1496; a candidate for the ‘purple of the peacock’s neck’ stanza
The Steeplejack by Marianne Moore (1932) via Poem Hunter.
Image source: the-open-mind.com