CS Lewis asks, through his story of Alice In Wonderland, “How do you know where you going if you don’t know where you’re coming from?” I can see through my own rearview mirror that my paintings have changed. No longer about my personal, existential dilemma: they now seem more about my response to the world outside.
The painting never seems right, even when a part of the picture has worked and is looking the way I want it to look, something else needs fixing. The painting is continually talking back to me. That is the most satisfying place that I live in as an artist; in that place where my patience is challenged by the imperfection that my work is revealing. The moment the painting no longer talks back, it begins to stagnate and I have to decide whether to push through or walk away.
Charcoal, together with oil paint, is like walking a tight rope. There is no safety net when I make a mistake. Oil and charcoal are not natural allies. It is the tension between them that makes them so powerful when they work together. There is no set formula in the way I address my painting.
Each piece is a combination of looking and doing: non-action and action. Not some premeditated or known about way of action, but something that is closer to intuition and spontaneity – and a response to my life and my work at that precise moment. Through time, I am engaged in the contemplation of the figure situated in space. As I become more aware of space I direct my attention in a way that requires me to manage my perception and maintain my awareness in the present. This is what I must do to complete each canvas.
A close friend repeatedly tells me; “Jus-I see you are dramatizing the dilemma of the woman’s body – so fluid and unpredictable vulnerable to nature, biology and time.” I mumble, “It’s about being human.” - not really up for feminist debates.
I am learning to accept criticism and interpretation in a way that does not interfere with the cloudy rear-view mirror that shows me where I am going. It is true we are vulnerable. But that is not what my paintings are about. My paintings are about me; or rather, that part of me that I don’t really know about. And at the same time they are about all of us engaged in a process of becoming ourselves.