Saturday, February 2, 2008

4. Norman Lindsay's House, Slump, and The Minister

The past week or so I have been in a bit of a slump with my art. I'm not sure what it is - at first I thought maybe it was my roommate (and fellow artist) heading off to New Zealand and being alone in the studio. I thought maybe the lately rainy weather had killed off the nice summer we were closing off on. I also spoke to a few other artists in different countries and they too, incidentally, were feeling the same way. I couldn't finger the precise reason.

Its an interesting phenomenon, the art slump, and I think eventually you start to develop a sort of fondness for them (perhaps more so in hindsight, however). I generally find myself in a slump every 6 or so weeks, and its just a few days of being unable to paint well, or feeling general dissatisfaction with what I produce. But I have begun to notice that the end of a slump generally heralds a new breakthrough or evolution in my work. I forget who said it or where I heard it, but there was a great quote to the effect of 'cherish the moments of great difficulty in your life, for they are often the herald of the greatest inspiration, as the fire heralds the rebirth of the phoenix'. Something like that. I think once you get used to 'the slump', you can learn how to live with the dissatisfied feeling, instead of pushing it away or trying to ignore it. Instead you embrace it, you listen to it like your stomach grumbles when you are hungry. You take time off and let your art wax and wane like the moon, and when it comes back it is full of renewed vigor and strength. I would be really interested to hear from you guys - what sort of slumps you get, how you feel about them, how you overcome them and so on.

Today I visited the Norman Lindsay estate in the Blue Mountains, a half hour drive outside Sydney. The mountains are a stunning natural landscape, very inspiring and full of the power of life defying the negativity that preoccupies 'modern' life. The grounds were stunning and recalled the halcyon days of Australian artists in the height of bohemia. There was a massive circular swimming pool carved into a cliff face, surrounded by statues, now overgrown with grass, that evoked memories like a cheesy flashback sequence in a film.

The studios were left as they were when Norman died, and it was great to vicariously connect to someone of such a similar personality to my own; Often when his wife would hold big jazz parties with the creme of society in the 'main house' on the hill, Norman would spend an hour or so mingling and 'picking his victims'. These would be artists, poets, or people whom he thought could hold a good conversation - and whom he would then retire with back to his private studio a hundred or so metres away. Outside of the noise and the drinking and the debauchery, he would sit by the fireplace or at a canvas and discuss painting or literature or philosophy. I definately have a streak of the hermetic in me, and I sometimes feel the same way living in the city - that I am most inspired when I take from it in bite size pieces and then retire to contemplate or to create alone or with close friends.

Then there was this painting which I just finished now. It was only about seven minutes worth of painting, but it came about through a somewhat personal conversation with a close friend and artist. Our discussion left a very strong impression on me and I felt like I needed to somehow translate that impression to canvas as quickly as i could in the fleeting moment, to make my thoughts concrete, to bring the archetype out and visualise it and paint purely the feeling or the intention and not worry about aesthetic. Sometimes artists can get a bit jaded with their own work, feeling that it lacks personality or a message, or that it is conceptually uninteresting. I think moments captured like this, without conscious cognitive reasoning, can be the most powerful reminders of how art can help us all work with the powers of our mind, and the collective human narrative.

It's called 'The Minister'

Enough from me - sorry (to you and to myself) that I couldn't post more personal paintings this time, as I have been chocker-block with work work. I found 3 door panels discarded on the road recently, which i sanded, stained and partly primed, which im looking forward to doing a triptych in oils on. Hope you are all inspired and sustained. All the best. A


kitsch said...


I found taking up a hobby (photography) on the side is good, another outlet for some sort of creativity. I use it to carelessly to experiment with things and self learn, without the pressure. After, this gives me a sort of boost to get back to work after doing something amusing or kooky(a small achievement, i suppose). I think, just rotating things around helps. Or perhaps its just pure procrastination.

Is this the same normal lindsay that wrote the magic pudding? It gave me nightmares as a kid.

Adam Paquette said...

One and the same. That's how I knew him too - I was surprised to see that he was in fact a fantastic draughtsman and an avid painter. He was also expert at crafting model boats out of salvaged materials (and they are amazing... better than any kit model you would ever see, and about 2 metres high).

In fact, 'magic pudding' was a bet with another artist to see who could get their own rediculous concept published first. I believe the other artist did, and he won 5 whole schillings from Norman! Norman later went on to enjoy bragging rights of biblical proportions when the Magic Pudding recieved national acclaim :) Hehe!