Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Painting and Me

    I basically ignored painting for a long time, for two reasons. One, that I had encountered very little of the real thing, real painting and painters, and two: that I looked at what paintings I did run across for the wrong thing, action instead of being. The items of a scene are in act, but we miss the point if we look for them to be in action; the adventure in painting is that the matter at hand is lifted out of its merely temporal story line, it is, from a purified intellect, that most exciting vision, that of the angelic, that is, a view from beyond time.
    I loved stories, as should be clear by now, from the bottom of the bottom of my heart; I had no objection to the quietest and stillest scenes in movies; I loved the sketches and engravings, in story books and also the water colours that showed up in some. For years, I'm sure, had anyone asked me, I would have said that illustrations were the highest kind of art, just as I would have said that sound track violins and horns were the best kind of classical music. But a painting by itself was a hard pill to swallow, unless it was a landscape or a pretty girl, and both of these had to conform to my standards of exciting landscapes and feminine beauty.
   Painting has to put us in touch with our own inner kingdom, or it has nothing real to say to us. But this means that there be an inner kingdom, and for painting to work that kingdom must contain the province of silence, of stillness, of the sense of being.
    Sechelt Inlet had a lot to do with changing this predicament, although the outward effects, that of my establishing a permanent relationship with the art, would not take place for some years. From my father's first announcement that he was buying the place we were excited, but the all important spiritual depth, the more important result, came with the first encounter. Our isolated little bay, three water miles from my grandmother's, was a retreat or it was nothing.
   The best thing about Sechelt Inlet was not the fishing but the silence. The fishing was good, because we could usually catch a cod on one kind or another, but the silence was very, very deep and it taught me something.
    I think I noticed it when I went up there for the first time, to sleep in a tent for three weeks and help my new grandfather build his house, when I was nine, the summer that the War ended.
    Thanks to the watchful and loving eye of God, all our instants are eternal; the temporality of the moment disappears in the ocean of infinity. Yet our consciousness is not always aware of this dissolution of points of time; some extra element of grace is needed if our awareness of a particular point on man's clock vanishing into eternity can mean anything to us; we need even the further use of time to destroy time, we have to wait on the passing of time before our eyes before that gap in the ranks of the changing moments appears and we perceive through it a glimpse of a stillness that can only be called divine.
    It is not that our eyes lose their sight, or our ears refuse to hear, nor that our sense of smell fails us, indeed, their operations are heightened, infused with a spark of divinity, granted for a moment a power of command over all they behold as a flood of grace and perhaps a flash of glory tells us that not only is the moment eternal, but that we are sharing it now as we will comprehend it as without change.
    This quality suffuses the greatest acts of our memory, sometimes in recollection, sometimes in the moment of perception. One of my earliest adolescent encounters with this whispering of the Holy Spirit took place on Sechelt Inlet in the summer following my first year of high school, a metaphysical intuition was presented clearly for itself. To be precise, I did not know the expression intuition of being but I knew something of the philosopher's operation.

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