Sunday, December 30, 2007
A canoe glides along beside an ocean shore. The bow paddler pauses in his rhythm and nods towards a distant headland."There, at the base of that cliff. Bear!" Later, closer,"Rock! Now a rock."If these are indigenous peoples in the canoe, this would not be a natural mistake in perception ("For a minute it looked like a bear but my imagination was playing tricks on me") but rather that the perception never changed, the thing observed did: it transformed from bear to rock.
This way of experiencing the world as transformational is, or was, the norm among many peoples around the world. Not hard to understand intellectually, but difficult for those of us raised in a different world view to blend with our own. They are wildly divergent ways of understanding the world but create an interesting tension when they occur together.
Only after finishing and living with this ink painting for a while, did I see the face in the rocky cliff in the foreground. Its one of those figure ground images: either you see the rock or the face, it flickers back and forth. At first I resented this intrusion into a painting of a favourite family camping spot on Portland Island. It was not in my plan. Then I thought about this transforming image and realized how much I rely on being open to the unbidden, the unexpected. If I take control and paint this out I will be negating the greater truth that`s trying to speak through this painting. Even in a landscape so closely associated in my mind with intimate family memories, there still resonate other older perceptions and ways of seeing. There is a depth here to which I need to pay attention.