Friday, July 24, 2009

Shadowing Still

I’ve been reading a book by Alan Bennett, the British playwright in which he says:

“Always beneath the play you write is the play you meant to write; changed but not abandoned  and, with luck, not betrayed, but shadowing still the play that has come to be”.

That seems to happen so often in art, you have this wonderful vision in your head – I see a dramatic castle in red, or a cool green landscape, or a strange ominous juxtaposition of industry and nature… and then the tangible reality in front of me that develops on the design wall…fights me…says “No Jagged Red!- too unbalanced!”,  or “those the cool greens  are too blah or too blue”… or the cooling towers or pumping stations  sit there bland and placid in their fabric haven instead of lordly and threatening as I had imagined…

But sometimes, there is no “betrayal”.  Instead an interesting quirk appears, a fabric I’d forgotten about is tried, and adds depth and texture way beyond its unassuming appearance at the end of a dye session.  In fact it’s often the unpretty bits, the places where I simply wiped off the brushes, or spilled the dye when reaching for a fly swatter, or forgot and left under a bush for 3 weeks (yes that did happen! what a find!! better than truffles! and no pig necessary).  Those ugly sisters who actually turn out to add the spice to the mix. (yes! a mixed metaphor!).

So if you have an original intention, it can change…Let It!…shifting the point of view,  literally or metaphorically, can give a truer, stronger vision.  Looking at some of Margaret Bourke White’s photographs  I realized how thoughtfully she organized her images, not accepting the initial idea as presented.  A very low horizon makes the towers look so tall, or lining up the generators shows the rhythm of the engines…even the dreadful photographs from the concentration camps show by her use of the enclosure of the men with the timbers of the bunks a visual hint as to their imprisonment.  Ghandi is balanced by the spinning wheel of life – O Fortuna!  

So often people bring to workshops a single photo they’ve taken of their central idea.  But don’t just fix on one view!  A fixed viewpoint can be so limiting – in many ways on many levels.  If change happens, it doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned the idea so much as enriched and developed it into a probably unpredicted but fuller result.  The shadows bring the painting and the play to life ….

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

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