Friday, July 16, 2010

The Studio Gate. An opening to the creative spirit.

Over the years I have built a lot of gates here in the ‘Big Woods’. Some have rotted back into the landscape and my five rail gate between us and a neighbour down in the valley is on its last legs, propped up with sticks after a tree smashed it during a winter windstorm. Gates remind me of Robert Frost`s well known poem about fences - “ good fences make good neighbours”- except in this case good gates really do make good neighbours. Gates, after all, can open, allowing passage back and forth.

When I set out to photograph my property gates all went well until I came to the ones of my studio that open into the trellised courtyard and cobbled path that leads to my studio doors. They are handsome gates sure enough, but by now I am growing tired of gates per se. How about the function of gates to open a path into another space. I write a blog called Dragongate after all, about an entry point into a creative way of viewing the world and my studio is the main place that my creative work takes place. Apart from my mind, that is.

First of all I open the gates part way allowing a glimpse of the studio double doors. Better. I open one of the doors allowing a view through the building to a window at the rear. Better still. I set the camera and then pause, - a recognizably creative moment has arrived. I am recalling two images I took several weeks ago and am beginning to imagine them into a new form. One was of a tulip which had two petals trailing down showing the sexual parts inside, - the pistol and stamens, - and the other was of a pioneer church in the Burgoyne Valley where I had opened the picket gate but the church door was locked preventing me from opening it for the photo. Here was my opportunity to combine and complete a visual thought.

My problem was related to my question about the church, - what if I had opened the door and all that was visible inside was blackness? That was likely after all because the camera was exposing for the correct light outside, but was that really the idea I wished to convey in my photo? No, but then neither was it that this was a closed and locked off place. Here in my studio what did I wish to communicate? A bare space? Just snapping away was obviously not enough or I would be done by now. Here was an opportunity to explore my feelings about this space and its place in my life. Here was an opening and it also involved the tulip.

The thing about creative work is that it is so sexy, fecund and ripe with possibilities. Even the act relies on intuition, sensation, the flow of the moment. And then there is the stereotype of the artist and his nude model. For this photo I really needed a female nude, a Venus, just inside the door. Now, flagging down a passing woman on the street has some obvious and possibly far reaching consequences so I put my camera aside and rolled out a strip of newsprint. I don`t really need a model because I have the perfect image in my head already and I can draw - life sized.

It is not long before I have spray painted in the modulations of the form, mounted it on some foam board and cut the outline. Propped up inside the door, silhouetted against the window light and with the overhead lighting on to break the darkness slightly I am now ready to make my photo. Click! A fair bit of work for one photo, but I seem to have made a leap forward in my photography this morning: thinking it through, working out my image.

Later when I see the image on the computer screen I begin to think that clever me was working along unaware of what was really expressing itself through my busy work this morning. In Jungian terms the nude figure is my anima, the repressed female aspect of my personality, and it is that shadowy force that lies at the heart of all my creativity. Something powerful was using the gate as a two way path and making a self portrait today!

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