I love painting. I love the way it is so suggestive of the world and yet is something else. I love the light it can conjure, the energy and sense of touch it conveys. I love the sense of skin in an oil painting. It is tactile, messy, complex, mysterious…a wonderful antidote to disembodied contemporary life.
Moving through a series I work on more than one painting at a time. The paintings evolve slowly and intuitively. I have a starting point, perhaps a memory of a certain quality of light, and then go where it leads me. I like to make the marks legible and discreet, to give the viewer a sense of process, of actions,almost the way a musician uses an instrument to build a rhythmic foundation). The process moves towards a certain unity, ideally a sense of inevitability.
I’m looking for emotional range, for allusions to the world and human experience. I welcome metaphor. The reductive, minimalist attitude of the 1970s was the context in which I was educated but, as Robert Irwin says, “Restriction can be a discipline to break habits, but it need not be a final state and it’s no state of grace.” Making paintings that are colorful, energetic, emotional, that freely refer to landscape and the body might seem almost “transgressive” now, but I have developed a sense of freedom and fearlessness, and a real sense of urgency about doing the work.
The title fullflood refers to a poem by Denise Levertov in which a friend urges her to work well as her “river is in full flood”. Metaphors. My belief is that metaphor is essential, that often the most obscure or muted work is coded in some way. The core human realities, presence or absence, life and death, grief and joy, physicality, sexuality—we look for echoes of our experience in the world around us. Water, as a fundamental element, holds endless possibilities.
The core of the work is in quietude. I believe that a painting can redirect our attention, can create a sense of presence in the world. Here, of course, is the link to Lucretius, and his poetic treatise On the Nature of Things. That sense of energetic unity is a touchstone for a more grounded reality, of connection and consolation. I approach painting as a lover of the world. I ultimately feel it’s a more powerful stance than polemic—engaging the imagination, memory, and senses helps us to value what we have. And of course, that is what is essential now.
Donna Brookman 2012