Monthly Archives: December 2020

Late Eden

"Late Eden" - Carraher 2019

Late Eden
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 in.

From almost exactly a year ago.  What doesn’t seem to change for me:  the interest in line, in pure color, in ambiguity, in the power of black on white.  And unrepentant faith in the spontaneous gesture.

Prodigals

"Untitled (12 2 20)" - Carraher 2020

Untitled (12 2 20)
December 2020.  Acrylic on canvas. 14 x 14 in.

Some paintings do quite a bit of wandering before they come home.  This one started months ago as just a black gesture on white.  It felt unfinished and…kinda lost.  Didn’t know where to take it from there.  It sat around for quite a while, until I got tired of looking at it and attacked it with the red.  At that point I thought it was done.  I didn’t love it, but I kept thinking I should learn to love it.  I put it up on the studio wall with some others and it always felt lightweight, but I thought maybe it was just because it was…different.  I finally put it in the stack to sign, photograph, varnish, and put away.

But when the time came to take those last steps I suddenly grabbed it and came after it with a big brush full of titanium white, and – presto!  It found its weight, and its depth.  It’s quite at home with the others on the wall now, even though it is somewhat different in style.  It has made it home.

"Untitled (12 9 20)" - Carraher 2020

Lisa’s “Promenade”
December 2020.  Acrylic, ink, paper on panel. 10 x 8 in.

This piece, also, was one of the wandering stepsisters for a while.  It began as one of the Aquaria, but despite a lot of fussing it fell short (it was not alone in this failure).  The efforts to save it got more and more wild, including the cadmium yellow, until at a certain point all hope was lost and out came the brayer and opaque titanium white – time to wash clean.  If it wasn’t to be an Aquaria, then it could be anything.  That’s when things got fun again.  The final touch was the three phthalo green stripes.  They are actually deli paper painted, cut out, and collaged on.  I secretly love stripes and was easily convinced they would be just the right thing here – which, in the end, I believe they were.

It occurs to me I should include this post on the thread about line, because both these paintings started with black line on white though they went far afield from that.  But line starts so many of my paintings, that thread could start to become meaningless.  I might include it anyway, though.  Lines seem to be the heart of the matter.

Weight

Paintings in studio 12 19 2020

I will sometimes put several paintings up on the wall together in the studio to see if any of them stand out as unable to measure up to the group.  Comparing their…weights, shall we say.  Almost one could say their cosmic weights, as when Anubis places the heart of the deceased on the scale against Ma’at’s Feather of Truth.  Although the heart that is heavier than the feather is condemned and devoured, what I’m looking  to see is if any of the paintings stands out for its lightness, its lack of substance or gravity.  Or maybe truth is actually the word I’m looking for.  Even though I might be uncertain about a single work, it’s funny how easy it is for me to see what’s lacking when viewed in a group.    

In the above snapshot of the studio wall, all of the paintings, for me, can hold their own against one another.  Even the magenta.  These are quite new, and I’m pleased with them.  That’s Joyce in the Bardo on the right.  And a little bit of sunlight in the lower left corner. 

Heights and Depths

"Heights and Depths" - Carraher 2019

Heights and Depths
2019.  Acrylic and paper on canvas. 12 x 16 in.

There are paintings that feel to me like I made them in the greatest innocence.  Where I experience not a hint of a preconception, and every portion is an exploration of new territory.  In this case I was starting with an instrument new to me – a marker I’d filled with a high-flow black acrylic paint – and was just seeing what I might be able to do with it.  I then, in the lower right, used another tool somewhat new to me, a brayer, to roll on the gold color.  Still with no thought of where it might be going, I used a sponge to bring the viridian from the upper right to the lower left.  And slowly, after that, things started to take shape, but all still an experiment – all the way to the end.  The “fish” appearing, adding the pink, continuing to whiten the “birds” – it was all the free play of the child.  It still gives me pleasure.  I don’t know if anyone else would like it, but I do.

Joyce in the Bardo

"Joyce in the bardo" - Carraher 2020

Joyce in the bardo
December 2020.  Acrylic on canvas. 18 x 14 in.

My mother is dying, on hospice now at home.  She was in the hospital for eight days, the first four in the ER because there were no beds available.  Because of the covid surge no visitors were allowed, and because of her condition it was almost impossible to reach her by phone or to know if she understood where she was, or why.

Now at least she is home, with those whom she knows and who care for her.  But how much of that she understands I don’t know, as she is in another bardo now, a twilit limbo of morphine.

Or perhaps it is me that is in the bardo.  I couldn’t reach her in the hospital; I can’t reach her now.  I can’t know what she wants, or feels, or needs.  I can’t know if she understands what is happening to her.

Or maybe it is all of us that are there, trapped by covid, incompetence, and craziness in a limbo life of no real contact and of dimmed connection, where true knowledge of one another cannot happen and action is not possible or means nothing.

I do not know if my mother has the will or desire to press past this state.  I know I do.  Our nation, despite nearly 300,000 dead, seems determined to remain in it.

Line Turns into Shape

"Crystal No 3" - Carraher 2000

Crystal Form No. 3
2000.  Pastel on sandpaper, 7 x 6-3/4 in.

My interest in the mutable relationship of line and shape goes way back – how a line, if it wanders long enough, often creates a shape.  And then can wander away again.  It’s a very basic phenomenon, but it’s slippery nature keeps me intrigued.  It’s one of the reasons I worked with pastels for years, I believe – after all, the pastel is both an instrument of drawing, and of painting – of line, and of shape.  The piece above is typical of the way I worked with pastel for years, as is this one:

"Crystal No 4" - Carraher 2000

Crystal Form No. 4
2000.  Pastel on sandpaper, 7 x 6-5/8 in.

At the time I would apply the pastel to the sandpaper by scumbling and then smoothing the powdered pigment to varying degrees with a brush.  The line itself, in these examples, was painstakingly recreated with pastel pencil or charcoal from an original pencil sketch.  The nuances of the surface I was able to create, as well as line-becoming-shape-becoming line, kept me beguiled.  Still does.  The works I do now look different, but the evidence of the fascination is still in there.

Line

"Untitled (April)" - Carraher 2020

Untitled (April)
2020.  Acrylic on textured canvas. 14 x 11 in.

I have a great deal to say about line.  Line dominates much of my work.  A lot of the works start with line.  Some finish with line.  And some of the works are nothing BUT line.  

It took me a while to accept this piece as it was:  nothing but a single line, and not such a fancy one at that. But after quite a while of it hanging around, I accepted that it was finished.  It simply didn’t want anything else. 

So…alrighty then.  

I drew with burnt sienna straight from the tube, a technique I’ve found to be alarmingly satisfying.  So satisfying that I kind of dole it out, reluctant to indulge in it too often for fear it might lose its charm. 

It was applied to a canvas that had been textured with Golden’s light modeling paste, leaving some places smooth and some bits of canvas exposed.  I then rubbed on a thinned burnt sienna with a sponge. 

And that’s the beginning of what I have to say about line.