Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Study of Silence

This winter I read a post about the study of silence in yoga.  The post suggested doing one's practice in silence and noticing the differences.  Most yoga classes play soft music and I was in the habit of playing music when I practiced at home.  I thought the idea interesting and gave it a try. I soon found that I was eliminating music from other things, like when I write every morning.  As much as I enjoy listening to music (I'm listening to it right now) I found that in some situations music was intrusive.

I decided to study silence in my work, my painting.  I painted for several days without my familiar music.   I wrote some notes about that experience and I'd like to share those thoughts.

1.  "To contemplate silence in art is more difficult and more interesting than contemplating the noise of a rock".
2.  "I challenge myself to work in silence so that I can better hear what the work is saying.  This would be like an explosion of silence".
3.  "I am noticing the noise of active shapes versus the peace of quiet ones, active versus restive."

Rocks can be very noisy.  They tell you, if you are interested in hearing, how they were formed, what they are made of, how long they've been, well, lying around.  Listening to a painting, instead of drowning it out with my own thoughts or with outside noise, is important and instructive.  The painting has a lot to say.  However, I think the last point I noted down was the most important.  I never noticed before how some paintings have a lot of "noise" and some are very quiet.  I became aware of that very recently.

Some artists paint quietly naturally.  Katherine Chang Liu and Elaine Daily-Birnbaum are two whose works immediately come to mind.  Most artists paint in the mid-noise level.  I looked at my works from the past couple of years and I see some I would call "noisy" and some I would call "quiet".  Noisy paintings have a lot going on.  They are jittery, have lots of shapes, colors, lots to look at.  Quiet paintings have large quiet spaces.   I admire quiet paintings.  I admire simple shapes and the use of sparing color.  I don't paint that way.  Why?  Because I'm a noisy active person.  I think the larger lesson in my study of silence was that absence of noise does not change or influence who I am. The person I am will always come out in my work.

The paintings included in this post are "Wings" (21" X 14" acrylic on paper) and "Universal Languages" (21" X 14" acrylic on paper) as some of my quieter work.  "Breaking Up" (29" X 21" acrylic on paper) is an example of my "noisy" work.