note from the editor: The author, David Brydges, is the artistic director of poeARTry North, an annual competition of painting and poetry. "Spring Pulse Poetry Festival is Northern Ontario’s first poetry/arts festival, which partnered in 2008 with Tyna Silver and Temiskaming Palette& Brush Club to solicit paintings/poems under the title “Poetic Visions.”We then created a competition/award ceremony during the festival to reward the best paintings and poems. The artists were colouring their words well. Its success spread and artists outside the local art club wished to participate. Since 2014 PoeARTry North has been open to all Northern Ontario Art Association members and non-members. Our vision is to expand in 2018 to all Ontario painter/poets. In 2020 make it a Canadian competition with invitation for painter/poets to submit to an eventual 2022 biannual international event."
Writing Down the Coloured Bones
The Art of Writing on Art
"Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it”.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Poems are the literary skeletons for inspirational flesh to hold upright the paintings’ body of expression. Both share a common heartbeat alive with juices from the muses. Group of Seven artist J. E. H. Macdonald writes, “A poem is a perfect moment of time with a heightened sense of heart and pulsation in it. A picture is a perfected enclosure of space seen with heightened vision.” The two genres engage and interrelate on canvas and paper the dual direction of where this creative pulse will finally rest in form and feeling. One spirit envelopes the process, giving coherence to what finally becomes a finish work of art.
A technical simplicity is demanded to capture with precise order aflame perceptions sparking from mysteries source. Illustrated in the book, On the Art of Writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch states a useful metaphor for painting. "You gather as you read that economy of words with 'concrete nouns and active verbs' is what gives writing clarity and merit." He continues, “If you think of this in terms of painting and drawing you see that economy of line and colour holds just as important a part in art”.
One danger is the painting overpowering the poem. Or the poem overpowering a painting. I co-judged one competition and sensed one of the strongest poems didn’t have a technically accurate painting to match its poetic backbone. Another time one of the strongest paintings had an inferior poem that just didn’t move the judges to reward a twofold vigour. Proportion is of upmost necessity in defining an award winning painting/poem.
Every movement and stroke is coordinated to craft a well -formed picture. There is adventure in continual creation beyond just a painting. Rich rewards await the artist who keeps fueling the original fire, enabling another avenue of expression to impress itself. Revealing multiple details and cross- meanings to the paintings' first formed dimension. A twin light burning extra hours of illumined gifts adding balance and delight.
When the urge to be poetic arrives, it is an intuitive dance that the artist brings to interplay. Words are not the first medium of comfort for some artists. One artist who won a painting/poetry competition said: “I now know what you writers struggle with when composing.” He spent three months crafting his very short almost haiku-style winning poem. It perfectly mirrored word for word a parallel connection to his visual story painting.
Words tied with equal precision are ribbons of reverie complementing the paintings formative visuals. Once completed a certain tension diffuses enabling the artist a more vibrant vista. When you saw the painting you heard the poem and vice versa; when you read the poem you saw the painting. Simonides the Greek poet said, “Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech.”
Imagery, the great equalizer, is deeply conversant and at home in both realms. Using different senses causes an appreciation of its fused merging. Each must divide “space to be” in order to reorder its route back to wholeness. You the reader and observer is drawn into an emotional dialogue. Felt connections quietly harmonize the eye and ear. Our frame of reference has shifted and reshaped itself into a more enlarged spatial canvas of aesthetic possibilities. Retraining to view/read with singularity and perceptual purpose a blending of mutual beauty. As William Blake says, “The eye altering, alters all.”
At a painting/poetry competition award ceremony two years ago we had the people’s choice award. The general public is encouraged to be the judge and vote for their favourite. At the end of the night with ballots counted the winner is announced. That year the art loving public along with artists picked the painting /poem that won first place in this blind judging competition.
A kinship of knowing had warmed everyone. The artist had done their job in conveying a cohesive brilliance. How a painting paired with a poem can unite the spirit of truth transcending its division of discipline. With an elegant intercession both are silent testaments hanging on the galleries walls. Pleasure extends to the audiences unique viewing perspective.
The abundant journey favours all with rich rewards. A natural return to the complexion of creation. Art and writing co-existing in the same body of being. It’s muse voice says “write down my coloured bones so I can double the gifts”.
David C. Brydges
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