Thursday, December 14, 2006

the colour red

scorched earth 110cm x 100cm oil and wax on canvas

Magenta red, cadmium red, alazarin crimson, red iron oxide, so many reds, each with its own unique redness yet each shouting its firey hue into the space it takes alongside zinc and titanium white, and others like raw umber. Fire meeting earth, scorching beyond the surface. This is one way I see this painting. I painted it last year and called it "scorched earth". It now belongs to friends Sukhasiddhi and Kenny in London.

I have been attracted to red perhaps all my life and I became aware of it more when i was 16 when my older sister, who I had shared a bedroom with, left home and I painted one large wall a pillar box red. It's more common to find all shades of red now for interiors but in the 70's, in Clacton where I grew up, it was hard to find anything other than dulux peach or cream! It felt very radical to paint a wall a bright glaring red. As much as I loved red as a colour in itself, it was also a statement of my freedom and independence having my own space.

At art school I was using a lot of red in painting and in one sketch I painted a dancing red figure, hair raised leaping upwards into the sky, full of energy, full of fire. Some years later I came across the Tibetan red dancing figure known as a dakini and I recognised a direct connection to that sketch. When I was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order in 2003 I took on a visualisation practice of Vajrayogini who is both a dakini and a buddha. She is very red, the colour of fascination and love. She is naked and represents our direct experience of life love reality.

I see painting as a kind of meditation and perhaps one of the greatest skills to be learnt is to how to get your self out of the way. I have a certain understanding and experience of working with the medium of oil paint and I can rely on that to some extent but I dont have an idea of what I am going to paint. I am not interested in representing anything in particular. I just start. I am much more interested in the direct experience of painting, the energy or felt sense of something lived and allowing the paint, colour and texture to come through as an expression of the present moment. This painting here, "scorched earth" is as much a painting about Vajrayogini as it is about the fire earth and heat of human existance. One of the things I love about painting is the different responses to them and how each painting is made anew by each viewer as they engage their imagination and how colour evokes associations. I remember a friend of mine coming to my house and seeing one of the paintings on the wall, pointed to a patch of red, and commented that he could see a father christmas in the painting. I liked that.

So what might appear to one person as santa might be blood or rust to another, which on one level are the labels we apply so we think we know what we are looking at. Yet when we loosen our conceptual labelling and see more deeply, more expansively at what is before us............... we might just see red as red and thats all.