Brancaster Chronicle No. 88: Anne Smart Paintings

“Deep Down In” 122cm x 122cm oil on canvas

Artist’s Statement

Space and surface have been a priority

Yes they always are ..along with everything else but I’ve been concentrating/emphasising/experimenting.

So much has been written So many words that seem so definitive .

“ I can’t stop now I’m in the middle of something” I keep saying to myself., and I know that’s not unusual for anyone. But in my own terms, working with abstract painting, its the “in the middle bit” that hits me. I need to visually belong in those middles.

So I am reacting against two known “techniques” of achieving a continuous surface.

An 18th century ,and earlier, concept of welding together the surface with the use of connected brushwork, and, in more modern times, the use of unconnected brushwork where the power of the marks and their relationships to each other, is capable, through the amalgamation of form, to achieve a resolution. Both of these seem to me to organise the space too much. The first one is obviously representational, and that would be why, and the second could be abstract, “could be” being significant.

My thoughts and work have taken me to look again at levels and layers within a prescribed canvas support. Those levels and layers being primarily about dimensional varieties in areas of paint and ,of course, the colour of paint. Trying not to be seduced, and therefore stopped in my tracks, by the luminosity, breathless brilliance and perpetuity of the still life watercolours we all know and the huge ‘veils’ on canvas we know as well, I am attempting to work with the oil paint. of which I am most knowledgeable , and use my own ‘made up’ glazing techniques to change, and sometimes reverse, the way paint ,as it builds up its surface, can alter, heighten, expand, contract, and own the space it defines as soon as marks hit the canvas.

I am succeeding in allowing colours to ‘work’ on top of other colours and hold their positions, making multiple positions in the same spot. I have had fleeting glimpses of making ‘auras’ around precise moments and trailing them and carrying them through other colours across minute areas and areas which take up larger percentages of the whole.I hope to be able to understand and achieve this more.

The glazes shorten drying time and these actions ,of which there are too many to remember, can be repeated over and over and over without having to hang around for too long.

Could I make this space be abstract in the way I want.

Can i present it in a straightforward ,ordinary way?

Not being overtly anything, not ironic, not sarcastic, not intransigent, not influenced, not logical, not gestural, not pompous, not not not not ….

Just there, or not there, but accountable.

So what’s at the back could be at the front, or take a shift sideways ,that is, if and when it is realised.

Who would know and does it matter? however little attention or prolonged concentration you gave to it , there is a chance you could be “..in the middle of something” .

None of the ‘techniques’ I use are repeatable. I just have to have all the ‘stuff’ to hand in

my studio.This then helps my body to keep my eye free to wander around inside space that is not organised but held and let go, held and let go, held and let go, by my painting movements.

The passages of paint that happen are not forever but need to relate, in moments as a whole. On their own they are restless. Sometimes I get lucky and they rest or settle.

There is no inspiration here. Just an ache.

Whilst for me its totally visual, it is not only a visual.

I had a hint of understanding recently in words .

When I read the poem “Mid-Air” by Caroline Bird, I really believed all my own air to be sucked from me as I become consumed by the space she made.

Here are just a few random passages….

“Step in and it hardens

around you…..”

“Our mouths midway

across the same

Inhalation..”

“A note almost sung ..’

From “The Air Year “ by Caroline Bird.

What I need to know is ,can I make a space, an abstract painted space which I can and can’t see, that will, from what appears to be from nowhere ,’tune in’ to that overwhelming ache?

 

Paintings No 1 and No 2 are a pair
Painting No 3 is a one man band
Painting No 4 is a joining
Painting No 5 and No 6 are a pair

In Chronological order
All painted 2020-2021

 

”Back Down up” 122cm x 122cm oil on canvas

 

“Thirst for Jarvis” 102cm x 102cm oil on canvas

 

“Sixty Nine“ 204cm x 102cm oil on canvas

 

“Drapery Cravings” 122cm x 122cm oil on canvas

 

“Drapery Landings” 122cm x 122cm oil on canvas

 

31 comments
  1. harleysculpture said:

    So rich!! These are extraordinary paintings -the depth and complexity is astonishing! There is an overall-ness which reveals itself slowly, parts come in and out of focus. ‘Drapery Cravings’ has what appears to be ‘under’ drawing but this is still available, I tried expanding the image but i couldn’t get ‘in’ enough, these really need to be seen up close. There is a softness to them as well as dynamism

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  2. noelajamesbewry said:

    Hi Anne, I love the textural, fluid, pulsing, linear elements as well as the sumptuous colours. There is a tremendous amount of movement all the way across the canvas in concentrated passages which encourages the vision to swirl round and across, up and down.
    There is an illusion of depth which adds complexity and richness to the experience of looking at these paintings, a richness which I know for sure, would be greatly increased in the real world.
    I especially like the moodiness of ‘Drapery Cravings’ , so much to see and contemplate with these works, I could imagine sitting in front of them and getting completely absorbed. Fantastic!

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  3. Hilde Skilton said:

    When l look into these paintings l can feel what you write about and feel very much in the middle of the space. This changes when viewing the entirety of some of the paintings ; surface tension and movement become more apparent. ‘ 69 ‘ has more continuity between detail and whole. With ‘ Drapery Cravings’ being in the middle is maintained in whole …close and at a distance…maybe …image needs to be clearer…here too the colour is adding to this experience. All round great work Anne.

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  4. smart said:

    From Anne

    Alex Noela Hilde
    I feel the need to thank you all for looking at my work and your very generous and quick responses
    Special thank you to Hilde for mentioning that you related the writing to the paintings

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tim scott said:

    Anne – Perhaps you will not be averse to a couple of comments, not so much on.’quality’ as on ‘mechanics’ or ‘facture’.?

    What I see in your paintings is ‘intensity’; an intensity of what I (as a sculptor) would call the ‘physicality’ of painting space)..
    There is, vibrating within an inch or so of the surface of the whole canvas ‘base’ energised space by colour, rhythm and movement.(visible even in photos).
    What I start to feel worried by is the artificial ‘boundary’ of the four sides of the frame edges. Why do they stop there and not six inches further in or a couple of feet further out ?
    Rothko saw this and left ‘edge spaces’; Morris Louis left acres of blank canvas.. I am sure you have a good reason for your decisions, it is a common problem in much painting that one sees (not to speak of sculpture !).

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  6. noelajamesbewry said:

    It is great how ‘edges’ have come up again in Tim’s comment.
    I feel the edges work in these paintings because they subtly contain the action without being too overpowering or obvious.
    There does not seem to be a sense that the canvas could be part of a larger whole.
    There is a containment which emphasises the richness of the surface.

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  7. smart said:

    From Anne

    Thank you Noela

    Tim

    A really pertinent question. A really important question for all Abstract artists working today.
    Personally I believe in sticking to a chosen area…boundaries set out. .a square dimension of around 3foot or 4foot for me at the moment
    Setting down this boundary from the onset is important because any hope of “freedom’ will need discipline.
    Thank you for acknowledging the intensity.
    Back to you question…I am not convinced by the ideas and solutions of Rothko or Louis…every square centimetre of my painting is aiming to be active in it’s “all-overness”. That is to do with the edges as much as with any aspect of the work ,not just the geography.
    If “worry” is occurring you could ignore/deny the edge…in both sculpture and painting…it seems to me that to continue with a heavy reliance on relational activities is not a solution either as that would not be abstract.
    Thanks for bringing it up ..as I say in the PS above I am `’experimenting” and hoping for change.

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  8. tim scott said:

    Anne – I was not, of course, suggesting that you actually emulate either Rothko or Lewis in any way literally. After all the problem has been around for a long time: Where do Monet’s Orangerie Water Lillies end ?
    It is a fact that the hard edges of a ‘frame’ create a ‘window’ effect which,is the antithesis of what is desired with ‘overallness’.and one can easily see that they are a pictorial obstacle.that needs to be overcome.
    I quite agree that ”relational activities” is not the answer.
    Of course one should pursue the format that one is most comfortable with until another altrnative shows its head..

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  9. harleysculpture said:

    Sculpture animates and holds the surrounding space to a greater or lesser extent. with painting, the viewer is constrained by the ‘frame/edge’ and a good painting will reach out and encompass the space beyond. perhaps paint sometimes needs to be held in, needing the edge to fully articulate the canvas. These are intensely rich paintings which look to me as though they need a whole wall each to fully pulse and expand into the surround

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  10. smart said:

    From Anne

    Thats a great thought Alex…and very complementary…
    However all thinking people on this subject will or will not have issues/ideas
    I hope there are no rules.

    Tim

    “It is a fact that the hard edges of a “frame’ create a “window” effect……..”
    Why?…it may be such in the painters work you mention…and of course many figurative works positively thrive on the billowing curtain look….My current thinking is that it is not the literal organisation of the space of my abstract painting but the organisation of the space in my own thinking. Attempting, with precision and accuracy, to alter, by my own effort the constraints of the edges.
    Crucial with these paintings, the action either starts at the edge and heads inwards ,upwards or downwards ,and all in between, and all working hard in various ways within the outer limit.
    Most importantly, nothing leaves the painting. If something leaves the painting, as it were ,possibly this is your “worry” , the mark and its colour cease to exist and exert no further energy ..other than that of being cut off from view.
    I do not want that.That kind of drama holds no interest. All should be played out in plain sight.

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  11. tim scott said:

    Anne – To answer your question “why?”, I have to suppose that, optically, a square / rectangle placed on a vertical wall , invariably sends this message to the brain.
    I tend to agree with Alex that in your case they could happily occupy a far larger wall area.should you be so inclined.

    My point (as illustrated by the examples I mentioned) was that the ‘resolution of the edge’ took on a form quite visually distinct from the main body of the work; (obviously a decision that should be felt as pictorially necessary if adopted)..

    Perhaps your: “Crucial to these paintings, the action either…” could be stated more boldly ?

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  12. tim scott said:

    By that I mean: “…the action either starts at the edge and heads inwards, upwards or downwards, and all in between…”
    could be made more visible ?

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  13. Two anecdotes. The first regarding the poetic from the great writer Milan Kundera, who tells of a story by poet called Josef Kainar. A young boy is accompanying his blind grandmother down the street and every so often he cries “watch out grandma there’s a root!”. His grandmother jumps in the air, thinking they’re on a forest trail. A passerby says: “son, you shouldn’t do that to your grandmother”. The boy replies:” She’s my grandma, I’ll treat her any way I want” Kainar explains – this is how he feels about his poetry.

    The second: over 25 years ago I was having a lunchtime pint at the bar in a pub in Covent garden minding my own business, when I got dragged into a heated discussion by two fellas standing next to me. They turned out to be Engineering students. (As the son of a mechanical engineer, it turned into a more interesting discussion than any of us had envisaged). They were debating the definition in mechanical terms of a “corner”: “is it a meeting of two forces” or “a change of direction”?

    The edges of painting are huge forces (should you acknowledge them), hence Matisse’s famous “the first line is the fifth” (still a remarkable – if simple – statement). Cubism couldn’t reconcile this and oval paintings ensued. Indeed, Picasso only really got hold of it in the latter years of his life (my own theory being that was due to his lino print-making; as he was physically holding the actual corners in his hands as he cut). When there is an all-overness, this diffuses the forces across the surface and negates the potential role of the corners.

    The paintings here don’t necessarily feel part of an expanding whole but possibly suggest they ‘could’ go on. The result of this is to impede the scale, somewhat, for me. I find Anne’s paintings refined and yes I can see that airy quality that the poem connects with. They are quite beautiful panels when viewed up close, too. I can vouch for that. In “Deep Down In”, the glazing seems a little more overdone, the yellowing of areas seems to make it a bit more bubbly (but of course that’s the screen again so who knows?). There are soft pulsing haloes emerging everywhere. I really like the richness of “Drapery Cravings” which takes things to extremes and I enjoy the thin loops which flick about. “Thirst for Jarvis” great attack.. are the rounds too dominant? It seems to buckle in lower left of centre. The diptych…yes, of course, (just makes it, but it’s very strong). Probably me, but the vertical joins (in all diptychs) make me wince just a touch…I’ll get over it. Thanks for sharing these lovely paintings, Anne.

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  14. smart said:

    From Anne

    Morning Tim !
    I have no answers…of course! …a big driver for me is…. how can it be that these visual messages which are sent to the brain are always presumed to be seen the same.?…or even..is it possible to change them ?

    In abstract painting, as I see it, HOW you put down the paint on to the canvas should transmit information,
    Detail ,wholeness, physicality, sensuality, reflectivity, continuity etc…. of course everything.
    How this is all put together is crucial.
    Again ,for me, I look to achieve this without giving a polite nod towards any literal relations. I also look to achieve this without deploying any sort of pattern, repeat or grid which may subliminally “hold it all together”
    And not make form…I try to use colour to identify….identify one group from another.some sort of indeterminate forms often emerge though.
    In writing here of the beginnings of any hopes I may have ,I am aware of the importance of really coming clean, and I mean through the work of us all, and exposing the intensity of intention.
    Visual intensity is King of Abstract painting for me. My hope is that I can make it without any sense of the literal.
    Literal, if move over to semantics, seems to be the go to attitude of interpretation of some sort of change of direction.

    Tim… when you ask if the actions from the edges in my painting could be made more visible ?…..It would be churlish to say I’ve already tried that …I admit to making sort of weird columns at the sides and significant stronger markings, at the bottom in a crazy attempt to make them more visible ..I stopped doing that …but it needs more work ..there is no answer yet..
    You make a brilliant point and I will re visit that.

    Emyr.

    Thank you.
    Anecdotes/metaphors always always welcome

    Would you say that in general painting seeking an all over wholeness is going to have difficulties in being aware of its own scale ? What do you mean by …”impede the scale” ~“““““/

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  15. smart said:

    From Anne

    Also Emyr….
    Negating the potential role of the corners is not only a hazard for the “all over” painting…. I think!
    The potential for those is massively overlooked in many abstract paintings…and very often completely taken for granted.!
    I suppose it depends on the intensity of the whole painting …however it may be described.

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  16. smart said:

    From Anne

    Emyr

    ….and…. re your engineers…how strong is your intention to change direction?….

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    • The anecdotes addressed two points – the first was a seeming suggestion of the lyrical which I don’t see as best suited to abstract painting (through an atmosphere of space). Since abstract expressionism, abstract painting has adopted the painting as an arena or a field of activity. For me this negates the actuality of the painting and subordinates the work into a vehicle for more nebulous phenomena such as feelings and evocations, for example. It seems that by embracing this there could never be anything disruptive going on or raise conflicts to a higher degree to be able to resolve (surely increasing the potency of the work?); it must all flow. It is no surprise therefore to see colour in overall painting being evened out into blanket like spreads with emerging and merging senses of form. This feels like the optimum state of the approach. Although it can look seductive the attention becomes compelled to deal with ever more micro passages. (Milton Resnick changed direction at the end of the fifties to do this).
      The edges are abrupt things in painting – second anecdote. If you have a work 1 metre high, as an abstract painter this is one of your concrete elements that can be responded to. A figurative painter can ignore this as the whole conceit is a fictive illusion of known reality – a trapped world in a rectangle. In such a world the best painters have produced huge tensions and torsions to fight the regularity of the shape, modern figurative artists often use colour areas, quirky reductionist methods, but the space is still: top = sky, bottom land, orientate yourself against this gravity when you look. All over painting also accepts the “pictorial” potential of a painting but takes away the subject matter, yet the principle of the kind of space remains – it’s the same space, contained in the rectangle. Its why so many abstract artists like landscape – the horizontal axis etc as this is a go to connection with great figurative art.
      Another thing post ab-ex is the trope of the accident, or a mark that doesn’t look like someone made it – it happened organically, it grew there. You can work frantically, throw things, drip and pour, get into an agitated state, whatever – these are simply methods used to “outflank” yourself. Is it a zen thing? Frank Stella once wrote that every artist knows their best work is on the floor or walls as a residue of the actual painting. Olitski even made “portraits” of this in his drawing board works.
      A edge is a force, a corner doesn’t have to just be regarded as the literal 90 degree join, as it is also a force. When putting paint on anywhere near the edge will magnify the conflict of such forces. Most post ab-ex painters did “something” when they ‘got’ there. Picasso avoided the edges in the main. Seeing a Matisse still life with cropped forms at the edge set his teeth on edge. (as he was trained by his father – a conventional painter, that acceptance of the pictorial seemed endemic). I was amused to hear Hockney state – “the edges are the most important area” (this was last year….really David?, you don’t say, amazing!).
      The anecdotes are not flippancy. These issues preoccupy me. This is another way of working. I like them a lot, but, no in answer to your question (?) I have not considered a change of direction. I have enough problems to work on as it is. My favourite here after more looking, I think, is Thirst for Jarvis, as it seems to have the most unruly potential and suggests some exciting “directions”.

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      • smart said:

        From Anne

        Emyr

        With a nod to Tim’s radio references “Flippin’ heck Emyr you seem to have chosen to “come out’ as a reaction to my work and bring with you many of your own problems and interpretations, which I can’t think can all apply to me.
        I ‘came out ‘ ages ago ..and it’s good.
        I try not to think’ ah..that’s a problem’ ,,,,I look for alternatives..that could be problematic.
        “All-over” painting is a very crude and cruel attempt to describe an ambition. I do not know what “All over” means but I am trying to work to what non-relational means ….
        I like looking at your painting.
        Weirdly, I do sense a connection with my own…. But then I often identify with opposites
        Opposites attract especially if intention is visible …even if its only a feeling !
        Who would not agree with many of your quips from the great artist / thinkers you quote.?..and you are on steady ground when you quote them..I think you fall over a bit though when you assume that since Ab Ex “abstract painting has adopted the painting as an arena or a field of activity”….the “vehicle” you imagine driving around pumping out “feelings and evocations’ is definitely on the forecourt but I for one am not signing up . It is wrong to assume, that “coming-out” on feeling is going to be an idiosyncratic confessional outpouring , especially if it contained any explicit preferences !!… no thanks !!…
        I could apply your description of “Thirst for Jarvis” ……”unruly potential” and…”suggests some exciting “directions” “…to all of your paintings and drawings…what does that mean?
        I said of your paintings this year …”Emyr does transfer that elusive characteristic [ honesty ] to his work”…I hope I could apply that to my own work ….what does that mean ?

        Cheers
        Anne

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        • Painting is relational: that’s the point about having 4 edges. Not to acknowledge this is an acceptance of the “pictorial”. I often find Monet a pictorial artist but – ironically – Renoir, less so- make of that what you will. I thought it was just how I see things, but maybe it’s become an issue.

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  17. tim scott said:

    I defer to you painters on painterly matters.
    A corner is 90 degrees.
    90 degrees is exactly half way to getting back to where you started.(180 degrees) in linear direction.
    Therefore a corner (90 degrees) is the maximum possible way of getting away, in linear direction, from the direction you started in.

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  18. smart said:

    From Anne

    Flippin’ heck Tim that is a revelation.

    Seeming to be out of my depth appears to be a cause for concern/guidance.
    One thing I can be sure of …I am very cheerfully waving and learning much about not drowning!
    Best wishes.

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  19. The photos whet your appetite to see these in the flesh. The ones that intrigue the most, at least at the moment, are ‘Sixty-Nine’, with its interesting clusters and really unusual colour combinations and ‘Deep Down In’ where a dualism of soft and strong relations is broken with light sporadic touches. I like the way the top right light area highlights the pinky central area below it and leads through the other light areas. But these don’t dominate or intrude and create a really positive tension with the rest of the work.

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  20. tim scott said:

    Anne – I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “flippin’ heck” since the days of the Clitheroe Kid of my radio childhood !

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  21. John Bunker said:

    These pixelated chimaeras make me really want to be with these paintings- be with their reality as objects first. I’ve been patiently reading about edges and corners and the non-relational, but I want to get relational- me with them. I want to see their edges, yes, but I want to see how those edges actually come off the wall. How would they physically make me feel? I want to smell the paint, I want to wrestle with their materiality in the moment of first encounter. I’m wanting to feel the full force of them as material things. Their ‘thingness’ is what I crave. Thank you for reminding me how much I’ve missed real painting Anne. Beautiful work.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Dear Anne,

    I feel a strong sense of the macro to micro (and back again) when I look at your really brilliant paintings. In some sense you “burrow”, you travel downwards, getting to know where you are, better, exploring feelings or aches that you know more deeply. I sense the microscopic. Each and every tiny area is relaying information to the surface. But, then you soar as well, and in another sense the work is constellatory, galaxy forming.
    What you have written has helped me to get a good footing. (I hope).
    With regard to your “ache”, is it possible it is something to do with a preconsciousness? That the image is already formed within and the ache is the struggle to get it out?

    Liked by 2 people

  23. smart said:

    From Anne

    Steven …your question emphasises the personal..or is it now called the “human” ? to my mind I thought we were all human !…somehow, recently building up in the background, in this abstract world we live in ,we got scared of being personal , being ourselves?…The few “personal” references you read in my PS are just some thoughts in that moment. ..related to stuff I was reading and listening to around that moment…the so called “ache” is me daring to say that is what I feel….I got brave because it is nothing special………
    What is special is your response.
    Thank you.. thank you …as everyone does … I need a personal response.

    John.
    Your response
    Thank you… thank you too..its personal..and I like it.

    Emyr.
    Monet/ Renoir …no issue
    Yourself absolutely no issues .

    A big thanks to everyone for comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. When you see these paintings in the same physical environment you may well experience a rich, sumptuous, and multi-layered experience as you move towards and away, across, down and all ways through, the canvas, the work, its world. This is a rare experience with paintings!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. tim scott said:

    Anne – A further thought on edges:
    It is often remarked that ‘overall/all over’ painting suggests infinity, an endless spatial extension.
    If you placed two paintings side by side (of the same format you use) there would be a visual conflict between the edges; the right hand edge of the left hand painting and the left hand edge of the right hand painting.
    Even moving the two panels slightly apart would still create a visual disturbance until each one clearly occupied its ‘own’ surrounding space.
    Do you think that this visual conflict could provide a clue to rethinking the harsh frame ending of the edge talked about earlier ?

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  26. smart said:

    From Anne

    Tim

    There are lots of problems in my paintings. The future of my painting does not lie with a dominant edge.
    My non-relational approach is emerging and re-emerging and disturbing any sense of stiffness and rigidity in the painting.
    I am trying to make abstract painting
    One of the reasons I work on square formats is the immediate negation of the look of a landscape or portrait. The non-relational material in the paintings ,aiming to stay on the move, continuously acknowledges the edge but does not cross it In other words the movements within the work use the edge to make new directions. In their returning ,at the edge they may gain energy in some instances .They always help to maintain momentum.
    But this is not a singular activity .These are multiple forces seemingly in transit at different times.
    I hope the consequences of these reverberations are felt in time across the whole canvas.
    The edge is the consequence of what happens in the painting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • noelajamesbewry said:

      This is so well explained, seeing the edges as making new directions and maintaining momentum is spot on , thank you Anne!

      Like

  27. timscott said:

    That is very clear Anne – I totally agree with your last sentence

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