June landscape

June 2012- Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 70cm

Although this is a painting of a Basque landscape, what I’ve been thinking recently is how certain elements can trigger our emotional responses. So that in a sense, how we see or interprete anything, (in this case a landscape ) is really a question of how our memories from years of experiences are constantly being recalled, reinterpreted & built upon. In a way, the more universal element of what I’m trying to express is really about my love of the exuberance of June. And that streches back in time  & place. The emotion becomes to a certain extent both timeless & without place. Or at least the real “place” or “sense of place” is in the brain.

So for you, the viewer that looks at this image, your “place” will of course be unique. An image becomes I suppose, a sort of shared space, where there can be an infinite overlap of responses because of our shared  human experience.

At the moment I’m reading Antonio Damasio’s book “The feeling of what happens – body, emotion and the making of consciousness” so I suppose that’s partly why I am thinking along these lines. Ive read  another very interesting book by him- the title is something to do with Spinoza , but I can’t remember it exactly & I’ve lent the book to someone! I’d  recommend them both anyway.

In a similar light to do with emotion  I’ve been thinking about my response to the Hockney exhibition. I can’t possibly express in words how wonderful it is; His paintings of the Yorkshire Wolds just totally capture the whole essence of the place. Or at least they trigger in me an enormous sense of emotion. Although I personally discovered the Wolds as a student cycling through on my bicycle, so I can relate the paintings to my own experience,  I think that is a minor aspect for me. Because obviously as paintings they are far more than just pictures of a place – they are totally universal & you don’t need to have ever visited the place that inspired Hockney in order to be transported by them. The paintings are I think  not just about Yorkshire , but about Hockney’s entire life really – they are after all HIS unique response . It’s interesting the way he goes backwards & forwards revisiting certain approaches in his work, but also extending those approaches. Which seems to me to be not unlike how our memories work. And if we get that uplifting feeling from them, it’s that he is a genius at engaging our  emotion.

I have been twice already to the exhibition, which is on in the Guggenheim, Bilbao. Luckily  for me, David Hockney is not so well known (at least he hasn’t been until now!) in Spain or in France as he is in the UK. Which meant you could really appreciate the paintings without too many people getting in the way!

I still don’t understand though, why so many people walk round with those headphones on telling them what to think. Okay, I can understand sometimes wanting to find out more information, but can’t that be done before or after actually looking at the work. How can you possibly fully engage with art whilst listening to a load of commentary? Wouldn’t it be a bit like, for example, listening to Bach & simultaneously reading a complicated essay on how that piece of music had been composed? The information might  be perfectly interesting at a certain level, but you wouldn’t be transported by the music under those circumstances!

And…oh dear now I’m just too lazy to translate this lot into French or Spanish – though I would really be interested to know other peoples’ responses to the  Hockney exhibition.


6 thoughts on “June landscape

  1. I’m transported to Dartmoor by this painting – it’s the foxgloves and ferns, the overlapping landscapes and the incredibly vibrant greens. A few weeks ago, in the one single week of exuberant English summer weather, the Cornish hedgerows were full of campion – I wish I had stopped the car to photograph them, and now it’s the same with foxgloves. I needn’t worry about stopping the car after this painting though. It’s all there!

  2. I’ve only ever visited Dartmoor once & it was a very long time ago, but I can imagine how there would be foxgloves there because of the type of landscape. For me they can conjour up the Yorkshire moors, Cornwall and even our tiny garden where my mother grew them when I was a child. And finally of course I associate them with the wilder areas of where I live now.

  3. Lovely post, Sonya. I’ve been so busy lately, and it’s lovely to grab some moments and catch up with your blog. Your June painting is so beautiful – and a wonderful antidote to rushed busyness – its scene holds both the essence of calm and energy, combined in a way that totally arrests the eye, mind, memory and association. I love its exuberance of green – and that beautiful, elegant foxglove, with the horizon full of mysterious promise beyond.

    I agree – that element of memory and association is so at work in such moments. That timeless sense of place is carried with us, and images evoke so much that is bound up with our own experiences and familiar places.

    I’ve only seen the Hockney exhibition on TV, but even at such a remove, I was totally spellbound by it. That universal, timeless, human response is so evoked by the depth and authenticity and accuracy of observation in his work. He creates such a deep sense of recognition – to see his work is to feel that jolt of consciousness and noticing and truth.


  4. Hello Melanie
    that was a lovely response – I’m sorry it’s taken me until now to get around to replying. Like you, I seem to have been occupied – & that’s despite being on holiday from teaching. Finding the moments to paint can get quite tricky too – we have our boys on holiday & my studio is also the kitchen & people always seem to be wanting to have breakfast just when I was getting into what I was doing! I am trying not to get too irritated though because you have to try to enjoy all the different stages & moments of life you go through (that’s what I tell myself anyway). Which is why I’m always trying to find the balance – & as soon as you think you have it you have to readjust! But that’s what life is about for everyone I suppose & it’d probably be very boring (or at least not human) if it wasn’t.

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