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Du 07/12/2022 à 17:00 jusqu'au 04/02/2023 à 17:00

The Music of Image and Word 


I recall reading a book on the art of Northern India. How certain images or symbols are painted again and again over generations. How the paintings vary in accordance with the hand holding the brush and the state of the artist—mental, physical, emotional, spiritual—which was guiding the hand on that particular day. From this idea, an image of interconnection emerged: a co-creative loop of artist, hand, and work. Not only does the spirit of the artist inform the painting hand, and thereby the work; the work also informs the body and spirit of the artist. 


      Almost a decade ago now, I had been working on a book for several years. The subject matter was layered, extending from the deeply personal to the historical. However, as the chapters and revisions piled up, my health deteriorated. And even if other factors were involved as well, the project was certainly not helping. Descending rapidly, I felt I had to make the difficult choice of putting the project aside despite my attachment to completion, to the work, and the many hours I had poured in. My health was in need of restoration. Somehow, I understood that an immersion in painting was the vital medicine. 


      Alongside my writing, I had been painting. Drawing and painting were my constant companions from childhood onwards—through high school, my college years at an arts and design school, and my career working as a designer. But in returning to the studio five years before, following the birth of my first child, I was unexpectedly led to explore a new visual language. My work had always been figurative, but at that point I began to discover an abstract geography of color and form, and with it, a soothing non-verbal silence. 

      I sought a cure. Every day, I went to my studio as a pilgrim setting out, trusting in the work itself. I dove into the silence of geometry and color, which nevertheless created a kind of music—inaudible, but filled with rhythm and vibration. Images came to me in dreams, or in response to pieces I was working on, each painting giving birth to new ideas. I sketched and took notes to keep up. Sometimes I would glimpse a certain color combination—in a book or photograph, the peeling paint of an old house, pieces of juxtaposed fabric. In this stream of work, a memory was unearthed. Suddenly vivid after so long: a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when I was fifteen years old. I remembered enigmatic, colorful canvases and a sense that they were addressing something invisible. While searching for the book that had accompanied the exhibition, I finally found a used copy to order: On the Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985. The pages were full of the imaginative vision of Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Hilma Af Klint, Kazimir Malevich, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and many more. Their explorations further fueled and influenced my own.   


      Transformation works in hidden ways, and quicksilver-like is impossible to contain in a single definition. The process of painting had shown me one of its facets then. With patience, help and support from others, my health gradually became more balanced. I continued painting, and eventually also understood that the writing I truly wished to pursue was in the field of poetry. It took a long while to give myself permission to do this; I had been telling myself that poetry wasn’t ‘practical’, or too difficult of a pursuit. But I could not turn away from it. 


      The word-images of poems and the motifs of paintings each have their own respective language. While we hear the music of a poem, we see that of a painting. To return to the idea of a co-generative loop: a state of mind, spirit and being leads my hand; my hand creates the work; and the work, in turn, creates me. My hope is that these paintings will in turn speak to some part of the person who views and experiences them and kindle a flicker of recognition or possibility. Just as the reader brings their own reality to each poem read, so the viewer does the same with each painting seen. 


      One can say perhaps that collectively we have all been struggling with debilitating illness on different levels these past few years—that of the country and of the globe. How does one cope? Every person’s answer will be different. Some will work on outer changes and others on inner. Or possibly a combination of the two. Painting and writing have been two channels, including others, through which I have attempted to navigate the turbulence, and the pains of communal illness. Maybe we can take inspiration from Alchemy, which, if not abused, strives consistently towards evolution, whether it be towards a literal or metaphorical gold—and whose ancient practitioners took an oath to always use whatever results arose for the good of all. 


Laura Johanna Braverman



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