|Collage: 'Broken Idol' ( Homage to C.P. Cavafy).|
by W.H. Auden
Jumbled in one common box
Of their dark stupidity,
Orchid, swan, and Caesar lie;
Time that tires of everyone
Has corroded all the locks
Thrown away the key for fun.
This first stanza of Auden's " Doomsday Song" suggests to me a wunderkammer or 'cabinet of curiosities' with is surreal assortment of images that time has consigned to the unconscious mind and forgotten. Yet this strange and seemingly incongruous collection of oddments, some clearly beautiful and others footnotes in tragedy from classical history, create a poetry of loss that seems psychologically charged with meaning and significance, however obscure or hidden. The odd collection of torn fragments in my collage are above taken from old art history books; the Hermes of Praxiteles, Bronzino's Portrait of a youth and Eadweard Muybridge's,' Figure in Motion' studies.
|Oil on Panel, Trompe l'oeil|
I have been experimenting with making a surfaces for painting using oak panels and wood moldings recycled from old doors and ceilings as a basis for laying a gesso ground and water-gilding prior to working in oils. The collage at the top of the page will be painted in a trompe l'oeil style similar to the rather loosely painted panel above which I made a couple of years ago, but on top of an ivory-like surface prepared following the recipe of Cennino Cennini in his Il Libro dell'Arte. I plan to gild the attached outer molding after the fashion of a 15th century Flemish panel in the style of Hans Memling. The collage although flat and two-dimensional perhaps resembles more the work of Joseph Cornell below whose boxes form a kind of surreal 'theatre of the imagination'
There are various stages in the preparation of a surface for painting which take quite a long time but yield remarkably satisfying visual and tactile qualities that cannot be achieved by other means. The materials do indeed matter as does the process and they are part and parcel of the meanings which are literally embedded in the final work. Below are a couple of pictures that show the initial stages of gluing and clamping the carefully sanded and cleaned panels together from sections of wood cut to size with battens on the back to give stability and the engaged moldings on the front - everything secured with animal glue, heated in a Bain-Marie and used whilst it is still hot. The front of the panel has linen glued onto the surface and the beginnings of a filler made from glue and plaster to mold the corners. The picture at the top of the blog entry with the collage shows the dried panel ready for final sanding and the the application of many layers of rabbit skin gesso to both size and prime the surface ready for the gold leaf and paint.
Voices, loved and idealized,
of those who have died, or of those
lost for us like the dead.
Sometimes they speak to us in dreams;
sometimes deep in thought the mind hears them.
And with their sound for a moment return
sounds from our life's first poetry -
like music at night, distant, faded away.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard.
C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems.