Thinking / feeling my way in

Behind the scenes

"What abstract painting can do better than anything else is [evoke] that sense of recognition that's indefinite yet ecstatic at the same time. It's getting to the emotional underpinning that we all share, that is the substitute for the common or religious belief. I believe abstraction can do that."


Frank Stella said this in 1986, and when I first read it I wasn't sure, yet attracted to its statement at the same time. Relativist, subject centred politics raced around my head, asking but my emotional understanding is not the same as yours, love is a cultural concept, isn't this just more white men speaking for others through abstraction? But there's something in this I believe too, and that gets to the heart of how I've been able to begin this project for Christchurch. I got stuck, and scared. Because I didn't go through the earthquake; I didn't experience it. And so what can I say in response to it, after it? I know a lot of artists feel this sense with Christchurch, an almost 'how dare I'. But if we don't talk to you, then aren't we just leaving you alone? Don't we have to try with the difficult stuff too?

This quote got me because I had just realised that the way I need to approach this is to value my own experiences of grief, of loss, of anger, of joy, hope, recovery. And let them inform what I'm doing. Because although all our experiences are different which make us feel these things, perhaps the feelings, the processes, have something in common. There is a strange similarity and total difference which exist at the same time. We can't escape the process.