Power Off, oils on wood, 35x35cm by Caitlyn Rooke

Art and Endings

Understanding figurative art through the lens of transience.

I find an ancient appeal in the way that space relates to time within figurative art. Time being the context in which it is painted; the work being an indelible stain of a life, the one and only available to us. And when we search these created stains for the malleable history within, we may resurface with an ancient humanity, a humanity which understood everything because it could not imagine all that we still do not know. This bygone humanity lives again when we feed it our imagination and as we live its consequences and create new ones.

And space being the visual patterns and forms within a work of art. These distances collapse and expand as they illuminate and carry us out of the moment, when our minds are not awake to the passing of time, but only to the work of art. In this state of forgetfulness we may even catch a glimpse of our own shifting perspectives and the distance it reveals between us, the artist, and each other. In this improvisation of time and space between humans, we have the capacity to be aware of the inner richness within each other and ourselves.

When we perceive work this way, there are many endings in sight, our own, that of the artist, that of the object itself, and many others besides. The space and time we take up is tethered to the idea of ending. Our view of endings (and beginnings too) changes how we see ourselves, each other , objects, the planet. In light of this and on a personal level, it is no small wonder that choosing unbelief in an eternal God was a painful choice for me. In giving up an eternal God, I also gave up the belief in my own and others’ eternal spirits. It was an acceptance of ending, and it came with a vertigo like that of an untethered kite, and eventually led to the acceptance that my transient choices matter, not because they will affect eternal souls, but because they are all that I have, and they will have the rippling consequences of a finite action.

As an artist, I have found that there is little to be gained in forcing these ideas into the subject matter. Time and space happen and I exist in their inertia. As I paint, each brush stroke, like the falling down of a domino, settles within the context of what is beneath and above it, the layers of paint, the air that falls between it and me, all of the paintings made before it, with it, and after it.