Finding Harmony in Art Through Nature

The process of formulating a painting is fraut with difficulties.

What may seem to be a very simple relationship between colour, subject and form to an outsider, is often a complex web of decisions that you made, un-made, and didn’t make at all.

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Songs in Miniature, Oils on Board

The above painting is at first glance a fairly straightforward piece, in composition and chromatically. There are only really two tones here, and the piece holds itself together thanks to this quiet harmony.

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A beautiful location, painting in a 16th Century Palace…and I love the shot of this painting, but somehow, the harmony just wasn’t there. (I will paint this piece again one day!)

Nature works in harmony with itself; even though it doesn’t always seem to be the case. Raging savanna fires restore the balance of populations and fertilize the grass, the weak die so that the strong can survive. There is a delicate, complex web that unites all species, all habitats and all natural phenomena.

The harmony of nature is the theme I approach in painting. And New Zealand’s sparky, fat parrot the Kakapo is a perfect example of this. This unfortunate flightless parrot had evolved in perfect harmony with its natural forest habitat that was free of ground based, furry predators. But times change, and we, like the Kakapo, have to evolve with them or find a new harmony.

The purpose of this blog is for me to lay down some ideas for my next painting; figuring out what harmonies I need to figure out before I put paintbrush to canvas. It’s important for a painting to appear unified and effortless, whilst at the same time evoking a sense of a deeper meaning behind it (and I’m not talking the meaning behind a black square, either, I’m talking something real). How do I transform a subject, a topic that moves me, into a canvas that moves others?

Kakapo Watercolour Painting
Watercolour study for the upcoming Big painting!

Instead of looking at the finished painting as the goal, look at the whole process. An evolution in itself.

Extinction’s Expression (Tasmanian Tiger)

Thylacine Oil Painting
Thylacine, Oils on Canvas, 2012
On 7th September, 1936, Hobart Zoo in Tasmania lost the world’s last Thylacine…
Above is my tribute on canvas.
Stripes of a tiger
Away from the tiger.

A kangaroo’s gait
Without a kangaroo’s legs.
A wolf’s appetite
Without a pack.An opossum’s posture
Away from the Americas.

A marsupial’s pouch
Without God’s grace!

Pacing up and down
The cage of clowns
A Tasmanian tiger awaits
The leap of extinction.

Man will weep salt
Where once he exhaled saltpeter.
Howl pierced by the rifle-shot,
Like a star crashing into the moon.

The darkness of new wilderness
Brought not the songs of bonfire,
But the fear of tamed convicts
And their silhouettes of cancerous sheep.

And there is a fear that will not sleep. A fear wed to the chanting monks on the streets of ancient Europa, where all of man’s kingdom is bathed in (stolen) light. I could never feel the heartbeat of death as plainly as when I looked into those living, haunted, dead eyes, the black-and-white prisoners of the camera’s imagining of that mercy seat. I can’t forgive anymore, I’ve lost that Christian fox in the hole of my inner being. There are too many guns drowning out the once promised choirs.

Free the human animal from its cages of myrrh, gold and musk. The gifts that elevated our gaze upwards, making the earth a dark, crawling desert teeming with the misunderstood. To drink the blood of communion is to hunger for the blood of the hunt. A hunt without equals, as that between a king and a whore. A hunt drenched in saline myths, that can only end in yelps of flapping eye-lids. And if man were a butterfly he would fly to the Milky Way to learn the knowledge of atomic supernovas.

The tears of St. Lawrence that shower the once-proud sky every August weep only for their own nature. They who once soothed the embryonic earth in frozen life, giving it reprieve from the volcanic storms, is now but a slave to a thieving saint. The shooting star has been enslaved, and its prison cell-mates makes a sorrowful list: the Americas, the Mediterranean skyline, and Tasmania.

Words by Justin Fenech

Further Reading: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/on-this-day/2010/09/on-this-day-death-of-the-last-tasmanian-tiger?adbsc=social_20160906_65124136&adbid=10153882401008339&adbpl=fb&adbpr=100614418338