I am a newcomer to painting, the ‘baby’ among a group of accomplished painters. As little as three years ago I would have called myself a writer, channelling the complexities of my inner and outer world into words and sentences. Then, one day, standing in front of a small painting at the Art Gallery, awed and emotional to the point of tears, a small clear voice in my head let me know that words are not the only way to communicate.
‘Start painting’ it said sweetly, ‘time to learn another language.’
The painting that triggered all this – a figure standing near the edge of a pond, the dark water alive with flashes of light – wouldn’t let me go. How can a little square of canvas stir up so much emotion? How did the artist do it?
I was curious, and by the time I got home the decision to paint and learn that other language was made. Other voices kicked in, of course, mean ones and mocking ones. ‘You’re dreaming…what would you know about art?’ said one.
‘Painting is difficult…what if you’re not good at it?’ taunted another.
Happily, the small clear voice won. Brush and paint, limitless colour, intuition and playfulness have sidelined the serious business of sentences and paragraphs. Yet, I am aware of parallels. Painting, like writing, documents times and places, evokes moods and feelings, but unlike the written word it leaves broader margins for interpretation. It continues to fascinate me how a shadowy figure, a patch of blue, or a misty horizon can render a painting ambiguous enough to let both painter and viewer see it differently, allowing each the freedom to dream a different dream.
On the practical side, my skill in handling different media is slowly developing, and stacks of paintings bearing my signature are accumulating at an alarming rate. The mocking voice ‘that I might not be good at it’ rarely enters my head now. It is not important.
What has remained is my humble belief in the power of painting, anyone’s painting. A friend, recently returned from an overseas trip, unknowingly confirmed this for me. She told me of her near ‘Stendhal moment’ in front of one of the paintings at a small gallery in Florence. I had not heard of such a moment and found this explanation:
Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion, and even hallucination when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.
My ‘experiences of great personal significance’ do not make me dizzy or confused but rather the opposite. To be face to face with the sublime is more likely to transport me into spaces of sharpened awareness, alert, serene, exuberantly and wholly alive. It has happened while viewing art, but is more likely to come my way in solitude, under open skies and far horizons, and especially near the sea. I am drawn to the sea and it is not surprising that water dominates many of my paintings.
See examples of Jutta’s work