DATE WITH AN ANGEL
I’ve often thought about reviving some of the elements in my 2000 Dragons scroll, done 15 years ago. The freedom, sweep, and spontaneity of that work radically changed my outlook and approach to art. This past week I did a large painting for the first time in several years. It’s in a horizontal (“landscape”) format, which I rarely use, 51 x 96”. Preparing a silver acrylic ground on Tyvek (the same synthetic paper used in the big scroll), I took off in the upper left with Japanese ink. Whirlwind forms set the basic structure and I spontaneously began integrating abstracted variants of tiger stripes. These are the basis of a series of small paintings done earlier this year. As this piece developed I just let the ink “do the talking”, shattering shapes, fusing references of clouds, wind, stripes, and pure motion.
Small sections developed day by day with no overall plan…initially I intended to cover the whole field—but reaching the halfway point I began to reconsider.
A few months ago, to change pace from a series of “Tiger Rug” inspired works, I busted out some very rapid, totally spontaneous small pieces. Began with an “empty mind” and heavy felt marker, all featured two “subjects” facing off, as it were, or “in dialogue.” When my friend, New York painter Thomas Woodruff, saw them, he said “They’re an Annunciation”—referring to the classic Western art theme of the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary to tell her she would have a son, Jesus.
Two days before I started the painting (Sept. 22nd) I awoke at 2:30. A memory of a mid-1950s pop song “I’ve Got a Date With an Angel” popped into my head. So a week later, when the notion of introducing a figure swam into view, I realized I could use an enigmatic shape from my first felt marker “Automatic.” Titled Jerry Lee Meets de Chirico, it features a wild, flailing figure silently confronted by a cloaked form. Somehow the figure reminded me of enigmatic statuary in de Chirico’s work, or the hooded forms in Böcklin’s mysterious paintings. The wild figure exudes the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis.
On October 1st I copied the cloaked figure on the empty half of the field, with rain erupting toward it from the turbulent sky. Ascending bulbous clouds contain tiger stripes that also echo stylized Asian rock paintings. A gestural form on the lower right edge of the storm reminds me of a wind-up 8mm Japanese camera I had in 1959…maybe being held in a dragon claw. This all came out spontaneously, but I thought, well, the event is being documented.
I make this kind of work to surprise myself, drawing consciously and unconsciously on all that I’ve seen and made. I’m grateful to have reached this “journey into the unknown” stage where any narrative is imbedded in the work itself and open to interpretation.
Don Ed Hardy