The physical size of the painting and its vertical orientation, the energy of the paint handling confirms its frontality, the painting itself faces you. Each mark on the surface is evidence of the painter’s being there, of her physical presence, her touch and reach. The longer one looks, the more one becomes conscious of the layering of brushmarks, a focusing of attention over time.
The posture of the figures in these paintings suggest an origin in the deities represented in Asian sculpture. Yet these are not images of sculpture of stone, wood or bronze. If , for the most part, they are represented as still, they seem to breathe. In this respect their life is shared with the elements of the spaces they inhabit – air, water, mist, rain, fire. Light at once dissolves the solidity of rocks, mountains, the human body and gives solidity to clouds, water, reflections. There is no horizon, the painted surface pushes urgently forward, but there is the possibility of an infinitely deep space, in the unknown depths of the caves, pools or sky within and around the central figure.
These figures are in fact embodiments of states of mind, of human emotions. The turbulence and physicality of the painting process and the sheer size of the paintings brings them near, into a shared space with the onlooker. But they do not intimidate or overwhelm, they direct one beyond emotion and intellect to a place ofsilence and stability, an awareness of consciousness itself.
–William Tucker, August 2010
Most of the images in these paintings derive from sculptures and from postures of classical Indian dance, which itself came from ancient sculptures and reliefs.
Drawn to Asian archetypes as direct personifications of internal energy and states of mind, I have chosen to focus on the single figure. Not associating it with a particular culture, age or story so much as allowing those aspects to be indeterminate, in order to recreate it's essence while coming through personal experience.
They are life or over life-sized because the act of painting them becomes a literal making and envisioning. As an external figure, it looms above me, so large that I am hardly able to know the effect of an individual mark when making it. I imagine it before me full of immense power and grace.
These figures are the focus, but not separate, from all that emanates from and dissolves them. Nature moves within and without them. Their solidity is questionable, optional and relative. Nature, the “ground”, represents the normal "horizontal" consciousness, which moves through sequential time; past, present and future. Whereas, the figure is the "vertical" stopping of time, laying bare the non-dual core.
The painting takes on a life of its own as the vision
unfolds. There is no way “I” can control, or create, anything - the best is to allow the process a life of its own. In that, there is exhilarating freedom, expansion, and joy.
Kamini Avril January 2013
From the Caves
After visiting the early Buddhist caves at Ajanta and Ellora, India
(c.300 BCE - 800 CE), last summer, I knew my work would be influenced
by the experience. Somehow, quietly, through the backdoor of memory,
the images and overall environment had a profound effect.
I marvel at the rich inventiveness and skill of the sculptors, who must
have shared spiritual beliefs, or been spiritual seekers themselves.
Meditating in the monsoon season, protected in the caves, with oil lamps
illuminating the images, how might the art have impacted their understanding
and how might their contemplative practice have influenced their artwork?
The work in these caves is not only an example of the interface of art and
spirituality, but of the unity of the time-bound natural world with the unchanging
eternal. In fact, the world of matter was considered with respect, as a crucial
vehicle for divine expression. The all pervasive Atman would not be perceived
if not for nature. However, to mistake finite form for the limitless would be to
misunderstand the point of life.
The images I choose most often depict a figure, deity or devotee, in deepest
essence the same, in the ecstatic bliss of oneness. This “bhava”, roughly translated
as emotion, mirrors the creative experience.
Most of these paintings and drawings are based on a mixture of Buddhist
and Hindu iconography. I represent them with “poetic license”, and enjoy when
unexpected and new images emerge.
The form and subject provide a crucial focal point - a way to start creative
momentum; the connection with a vast flowing energy.
Another aspect of the carvings that has influenced my work, is the relationship
between definition and expression, with respect to painting, between recognition
of form with painterly expression. In the caves, figures move freely in and
out of recognition, either partially “destroyed” by humans or nature, or by intention
left unfinished. Within this both constructed and organic ancient atmosphere,
the untouched rock shares a vitality with the figures that emerge from it, infusing
the whole experience with the energy being depicted.
The story of a fresco
The lime: limestone cut away, crushed and heated, becomes “quicklime”. When water is added to this powder and stirred, this is “slaking”. Boiling and steaming, the putty is stored wet, the longer the better. It is extremely caustic. Even the fumes will dry the nose, eyes and mouth.
The mortar: clean washed river sand is added in to the lime putty. Some marble dust can also be added.Classically, there were at least three coats, the first being the 1/4 lime to sand and the final being lime and sand in equal proportions. This coat, the intonaco, is spread thin and is painted upon while still wet, but firm to the touch.
The painting: ground earth pigments are mixed with water and sometimes a bit of the lime. Many newer pigments are not compatible with lime. The paint is applied while the surface is wet. Many conditions, such as humidity and the
thickness of the mortar will determine the length of time it will receive paint.
It can vary from 6 to 30 hrs.
The return to stone: when the fresco dries (usually several days), the lime in it becomes very bright white. The colors fuse with the lime and become part of the rock. Earth becomes stone and liquified limestone reverts to being rock. The record of human hand, mind and heart are solidified. Perception, response, invention and expression which flow unceasingly in human time come to a standstill. The colors and marks cannot be washed off and actually slightly intensify with age.
The small frescos here are explorations with the material; effects of light, varying opacity, and color. Most also reflect my ongoing search for an image that reveals and invents itself through the making, whether directly from observation or not.
I continue to try firsthand age old techniques, but I also like to see what can happen when using the medium in alternative ways.
Avril’s paintings over the course of her career have demonstrated an energy in perception and execution, an ambition to recapture the spirit of her admired masters --Rembrandt, Delacroix, Monet -- and a love and respect for oil paint and what can be communicated only through that medium. During much of the 1980s and 90s she made large painterly abstractions; she then went through a period of carefully observed realist portraiture; and in the last few years she has been working from observed subjects re-imagined in the studio with gestural freedom. But her work in every phase has been characterized by a dramatic frontality, an evident desire to bring the spectator into the presence of the subject. All her paintings seem to me portraits in this respect, whatever the apparent subject, but in the last few years especially she has found a way to combine an intense experience of nature -- the hydrangea bush for example -- with an equally intense physical reenactment of that experience in paint. The re-imagined subject is typically centered on the canvas; the energy and joy in paint bring it into a shared human center with the viewer.
William Tucker 2013