Artist blog - When does destruction breed creation? Creating Birth from Death.
There is a fundamental circularity in life. A natural rhythm. These are the certainties in life – we are all born. We die. There is comfort in that certainty. But often, in the darkness and despair of death, there is new life. Life goes on no matter what. And often, when lives are touched by death, the life that is then continued takes on an extra precious quality. It is imbued with significance that perhaps before was taken for granted.
And yet, not all destruction is bad. Sometimes, destruction is necessary to create something new. Something different. Something better than it was before. Existing takes effort. Creating something new creates monumental effort. And sometimes, that extra effort and energy needed to create something new, has to come from the destruction of the old.
But when this happens, the old never truly is destroyed. It doesn’t die and become erased out of existence. Instead, as it is incorporated into the new, it takes on a new life. It is recreated in a new vision. It lives on, perhaps subdued, perhaps transformed, but it lives on. And it fundamentally creates the continuity of life.
Does failure have a worth? Should it be destroyed?
Often it is said that there is no failure, just feedback. Wise people say that it takes multiple failures to create a success. More importantly, they say that such success cannot be achieved in a vacuum alone – it is fundamentally resting on the back of all those failures. I believe that this is true in life and in art. This is why I never destroy any of my failed artworks just for the sake of destruction. But, I look ways to destroy them with the purpose of creating something new out of them… Let me explain…
As an artist of many years, I, like many other artists have many experiments that failed. Some, because I made a mistake. Others, because the composition, colour, tonality, or balance didn’t work out just right. And others failed because they have transformed themselves past the point of beauty and into chaos. I work with a variety of media, many of which are water based, including inks. Water-based media are amazing to work with because they rest on the juxtaposition of control and spontaneity. As the artist, you control some of the inks and paint. But some inks and paint take on a life of their own interacting with the paper and water in ways that you could not predict. This means that often, there can be a substantial difference between a newly finished wet painting, when I have put my paint brushes down, and a fully dried artwork, once the inks and paints have made their way through the paper, paint and canvas. Sometimes, those are happy transformations and they are a fundamental part of why I love working with water-based media. But other times, they mutate and end up transforming into something that I no longer recognize. Or want.
And so, like many other artists, I have artworks that never see the light of day. Call them sketches, call them studies, call them failed experiments or just bad art, but I have artworks which as a complete painting are not what I am proud of and want to show. And yet, I never destroy those failed experiments. Why? Because I don’t believe in destruction for the sake of destruction. That type of destruction I find vulgar and violent. Unnecessarily judgmental and harsh. And as an artist who often experiments trying to find something new, I believe that destroying my failures gives them too much importance. It makes me focus on the past rather than the future. Forces me to fight the failure that is a fundamental part of creating art and living life, rather than simply embrace it as a natural part of trying something new.
I keep those experiments. And I reflect on them. Sometimes, I look at old artwork out of a personal curiosity to see how my style, technique and ability have developed over the years. Sometimes, I look at them the way I look at childhood photos – interested to see the common threads that unite all my work - seeing the common characteristics of my work that I don’t necessarily even realize I have. And other times, I look at them for inspiration – to “mine” my own artistic history – failed and successful to see what else I can do, what speaks to me, what excites me and moves me forward.
When you destroy in order to create something new.
These thoughts were in my mind when I started my Gold Lust series of artworks. I wanted to destroy as a way of creating something new. I went back through some of my old paintings that didn’t quite work out and I pulled out the ones that had elements that worked. No painting is ever all bad. Each painting, even if it’s an experiment or a study or a total surprise, has individual elements that have worked and those that haven’t worked at all. I wanted to pull out the elements that worked and use them to create something new. I had some paintings in my studio, where for example the right hand side of the painting looked great, but the left hand side didn’t look good. As a whole painting it didn’t quite work, but there are elements of it, which were good and usable. And I really wanted to be able to use that good part of them to create something else. To give them a new life. To use more common day language, I essentially wanted to recycle or upcycle elements of some old failed experiments into new artworks to see if I can create new compositions that shine.
That is how I started looking into this idea of cutting up paintings and making collages out of them to create new artworks. These new artworks were my Gold Lust series. While the initial paintings that make up by Gold Lust series were created out of “failed experiment” artwork, ironically, the feedback on that series has been so positive that I have ended up making brand new paintings in order to cut them up. Which was a very odd feeling… the idea that you are creating something for the pure reason of then destroying it to create something else. But again, it goes back to making creation out of destruction.
Gold – bringing honour and respect to sacrifice.
To help honour the old paintings that were used to create new artwork, I wanted to add an element of richness and respect. To layer in a an aura of homage and honour around those cut up old paintings turning them into new artworks. With this method, I was reminded of the artistic tradition of Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries where there are thousands of religious images – icons – that are framed by gold and sometimes silver. In traditional iconography, the central image, whether it’s the Virgin Mary or other religious saints, is framed by a halo of gold or silver focusing the eye of the viewer and imparting more importance and respect into the subject. Visually, the gold shines and creates a certain lustre that is unmatched by other colours. It draws in the eye of the viewer so that there is no ambiguity as to the subject matter and the focus of the painting. But symbolically, framing with gold and silver imbues the painting and the subject with a certain regal quality. It commands respect. And signifies honour.
As much as you can use gold paint, and I do, it’s nothing compared to actual metal material. The lustre and shine of real metal is different from paint. And because it is a different material, it plays with the light in a way that just gold paint can’t. I use artist quality faux gold and silver leaf – it is essentially a metal that is specifically created for artists to use in their artwork – it is not pure gold or silver, which would be quite expensive as a material cost. But it achieves a remarkable colour, shine and lustre that is essentially the same as that of pure gold and silver, and means that the final artworks are much more affordable for my clients. I have found that using metal leaf is such a fascinating process and it adds a certain opulence and richness, and warmth to the final painting.
Gold and silver are such regal metals and colours. They instantly elevate and uplift. Visually but also symbolically. For thousands of years in human history, these metals have been used to adorn, decorate, and signify a special meaning. Especially considering the inception of this series of artworks, which was using destruction to bring forth creation, I felt that using such symbolic materials to frame and highlight the raw ingredients was important. And necessary. Adding the gold and silver leaf to the paintings gives them a certain respect, and a continuity – it helps pay homage to the destroyed old paintings that have created brand new living artworks. Helping honour the continuity. The circularity of life. Helping honour the destruction of the old that is then incorporated into the birth of the new.
To learn more about the artworks in my Gold Lust series and to purchase directly from my online gallery, click here - https://www.veraveraonthewall.com/collections/gold-lust.
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