The Mortality of the Work

I have belatedly found out that three of my pictures were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. When contemplating disaster, studio fires or things like that, I always thought I could handle it fine, because the important thing is the energy that makes the work, and can make more, so was surprised at the shock I felt. It’s because each piece comes out of a lived time that will never return. The pouring method is mortality itself, and though I can explain that theoretically it’s something else to feel it, and know it. As it happens, this piece was a memento mori or homage to an abstract artist I once knew, Jack Shadbolt, very important in my home town. But it wouldn’t matter much to me if it didn’t also advance the Island series, which is to say what brought the moment alive was a formal opening or breakthrough, a small enlightenment. Each picture has been a step forward, and they are not interchangeable, or repeatable. Shadbolt used a lot of ribbon like shapes, and this was the first piece in which I made islands that were more like drawn lines than blobs, thinking about his twisted, floating ribbons. The thickness of the pale blue shapes changes like a calligraphy stroke. And the red blocks in the middle, which make live negatives, and could have been broken off the same whole, though the bits that would make sense of that are missing, is a lovable conundrum, to me at least. Ah well, it was but is no more. But if poured paint is a dramatization of mortality, what makes it art is the energy of life.

Robert Linsley, Headstone Island 1999

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