Conversation in Taormina

"Conversation in Taormina" - Carraher 2019

Conversation in Taormina
2019.  Acrylic and charcoal on canvas.  18 x 18 in.

It was a lifetime ago that I was in Taormina, ancient city of the Greeks high above the Ionian Sea, in the shadow of Mt. Etna.  Did I have a conversation there?  I’m sure I did, as I was traveling with a companion of a lifetime with whom conversation has only ever been interrupted, never ceased.  While working on this piece the title formed itself in my mind, and so it was.  Conversation in Taormina.

I ruminated literally months over whether to add a sort of warm rose patch to the upper left, which I think would have been a becoming option, but in the final analysis it would not have fit this title.  That rose.  Too pretty.  Too rococo.  It would not have fit in that conversation.

So here it stopped.  With the gold shapes and Ionian blue dreams recovered from antiquity and the smeary charcoal lines swinging like jazz.

I wish a happy birthday to my companion from Taormina.  May the art of our conversation never be done.

Mid-November

"Astral Beauties" - Carraher 2019

Astral Beauties
2019.  Acrylic on panel, 11 x 14 in.

These two paintings were completed almost exactly a year ago.  They were new in style and exciting to me.  I felt the hint of something I’d been looking for.  A lot of work was launched from this new direction. 

They both feature acrylic paint manipulated with brayer and brush, as well as china marker and ink pen.  They are both fully improvisational.  

"The Goldfish" - Carraher 2019

The Goldfish
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

I suppose I might say something about titles.  Titles are integral for me.  If they’re wrong for the work, they just don’t stick; I will hate the painting until the title is fixed.  If the painting is in some way unsuccessful or I don’t care about it, the title will be just as unsuccessful.  Most often, except for untitled works, the name arises to my mind sometime during the process and is then stuck like glue – even occasionally shaping the work itself, in the end.  It’s the poet in me, I guess.  Words matter.  Sound matters.  Rhythm and melody matter.  

Untitled works are usually not paintings for which I cannot find a title.  They are, rather, paintings that reject further comment.  I do not wish to contextualize their reception with words.

It actually means a lot to me.  Can’t live with wrong titles. 

Happy

"Aquaria No. 3" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 3
2020.  Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

Things turned around in the studio yesterday morning – even before the announcement.  (After the announcement I really ceased to be able to do anything! :))) )  So I’m posting some things that invariably make me happy:  more Aquaria.  Not sure why they make me smile every time I look at them, but they do.  Small, neat, smooth, swimming in color, and intriguingly eloquent about those infinite worlds for which we neglected to make words. 

"Aquaria No. 5" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 5
2020.  Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

Last one:  my Pharoah-ess:

"Aquaria No. 4" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 4
2020.  Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

What Is Behind, What is Ahead

"What Is Behind, What Is Ahead" - Carraher 2019

What Is Behind, What Is Ahead
2019.  Acrylic and paper on canvas. 12 x 16 in.

I struggled a lot with this painting.  I felt completely lost over and over again, and abandoned it any number of times.  I kept coming back to it, convinced that at least I should be able to learn something from it.  There were several Hail Mary passes, including the white disks and the construction paper collage pieces.  And then there came a point where, suddenly, I loved it.  It expressed something I didn’t even know I felt.

That was about a year and a half ago.  I’m struggling with a similar sort of disaster in the studio right now – in fact, nothing is going quite right in there.  Pushing into new territory.  Can’t say it feels good.

Looking forward to joy returning.  Aren’t we all, right now?  When you’re deep in the struggle, joy seems so far away…

It Comes Down to This

"Bell Poem No. 10" - Carraher 2020

Bell Poem No. 10
2020.  Acrylic on canvas. 10 x 20 in.

My paintings are getting simpler, simpler, simpler.  By which I mean stripped down to nothing but what I see as the only essential elements, even when that’s very few elements indeed.

I have my moments of unease about this, where I am subject to the siren song of cultural notions of what a painting ought to be.  I am of course not alone in this species of doubt; most artists at one time or another wrestle with their own variation on this question.  And if the gods are with them, they ultimately or perhaps repeatedly reject it and ride forward into the scary isolation of authentic work.

But most of the time, I just know when a work satisfies me.  And at that moment I’m done with the painting, and with the doubt.

So it comes down to this, Bell Poem No. 10, my offering on this most momentous day.

Because October Is Over

"October Hours" - Carraher 2020
October Hours

2020.  Acrylic on panel. 8 x 10 in.

Completed early last week.  Brush, brayer, incising – multiple layers on this one.  Lots of changes.

October’s been an intense month, hasn’t it?  It’s finally finished.  Now it’s November.  Good luck to us all.

2020 Suite No. 3

"2020 Suite No. 3" - Carraher 2020

2020 Suite No. 3

Acrylic and ink on canvas. 14 x 11 in.

The final of the three paintings of the 2020 Suite.  The light value/temperature is really uneven in the photograph – I think a reflection of the unevenness inside and outside the studio these days.  The usual brilliance of October alternating with the smoke and haze of this very particular year.  The experience in the studio ranging between distracted and bleak.  The chaos just doesn’t quit, does it?  The dynamic will change eventually.  May it be soon.  And maybe then I’ll try re-photographing 2020 Suite No. 3.

Aquaria

"Aquaria No. 1" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 1
Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

So I’m having fun with these.  Brush, brayer, ink pen on white-gessoed panel.  The smooth surface gives me very different results than the rougher canvas I often use.  An exciting difference.

"Aquaria No. 2" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 2
Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

Pursued by Winter

"The Bear Pursued By Winter" - Carraher 2019

The Bear Pursued by Winter
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 in.

The season is coming on slowly this autumn.  The temperatures are still warm, and the usual returning social celebrations that mark this season in the desert are muted in this covid year.  But at this time last fall, almost three years into this malignant Administration, the weather was already decidedly cooler, the days crisp and shortening.  The wildlife was noticeably changing their routine, and the vultures had already passed through on their annual migration to Baja.  I’m not sure why but I felt the impending winter keenly, a foreboding of darkness and potential loss.

And that’s when these two paintings happened, the one above and the other at the bottom of this post.   I showed them last winter in the Members Gallery at the 29 Palms Art Gallery.  They occasioned an interesting discussion with a musician couple from out of state, one afternoon while I was docenting.  The gentleman was particularly struck by their calligraphic character – a subject I can certainly hold forth on – and later he sent me images from a book about the evolutions connecting pictures, hieroglyphics, and alphabets.

But my interest goes beyond that, to the existence of line not as a sign, or in a literary, textual or narrative sense, but rather when line exists in a further dimension, as a manifestation in itself, of itself.  (See for example here and here and here.)  I’m most interested in what might be described as line’s abstract expressionist potential.

But then again, sometimes my line will indeed end up with that hieroglyphic or narrative quality, as might be seen in the images on this post.  Sometimes that happens, and I’m content with it.

Anyway.  Whatever my own thoughts or intentions with the work, in the end they bought the painting and I was glad they had it.  🙂

"Death Creeps In to Winter" - Carraher 2019

Death Creeps in to Winter
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 in.