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  • Guy Martyr

The Artist Who Took Up Painting As A Hobby

Jacanda was preternaturally successful: the ideas had seemed to flow non-stop since art college, and the interest had been there. Eight years later she was at some kind of pinnacle: exhibitions all round the world, competition winner, newsworthy. Her art was angry now, now aggressive, now sweet, beguiling, always alluring; a bit like her. The concepts were high, the execution was brash, expensive, done by others mostly.

But success took its toll: above all Jacanda was tired. She was married by now, to a gallery curator, also successful in his realm. They had a young child. Things couldn’t go on at the hectic pace for ever.

Long had been Jacanda’s inkling to try painting: its luxuriant pace, the aesthetic pleasure of its paraphernalia, the simplicity of the idea, the directness of technique, let alone the sheer beauty of the result . . .

Of course, her art had nothing to do with any of this: hers was up-to-the-minute, large, full, enveloping all dimensions, proud with technology; it was removed from hand processes, removed from skill; it occupied strata of sophistication demanding in varying degrees suspension of reason and application of considerable amounts of concentration-energy on the part of those engaging with it. The outpouring of energy was what took its toll on Jacanda: after years of wringing herself dry day-in day-out, month-in month-out, she was drained, dried. It was all so harsh. Nowhere did a sense of basic human happiness, or enjoyment, or laughter, or love suffuse her work; or ease, simplicity, nature. Her art was a B52 making crazy vapour trails in the bright blue heaven, when she felt she needed a slow ride on an old bicycle, or a walk.

So she fell into painting: bought all the stuff, began to daub - faint memories of her foundation course, or was it A levels? when she actually painted, ha! She found it actually quite hard, but enjoyable; pleasant; somehow relaxing. She joined a painting class run at the local library: mostly old ladies doing pictures of flowers, and picturesque views on trips out, which Jacanda quite took to.

“What are you doing?” demanded her husband, Mack, putting together the finishing touches of ‘IDENTITY 2003’. “You haven’t been in your studio for ages!”

“We’ll have to keep this quiet” fretted her dealer, in the throes of negotiating a big show in Stockholm.

“I see what you’re getting at . . . I think” doubted her best friend, Roz.

Jacanda, heavily-laden with easel, canvas, rucksack of painting materials, traipses the river bank in search of a view; somewhat burdened, smiling inwardly, and a bit outwardly, in anticipation. Once in position she prepares her palette with colours squeezed from tubes. She drinks the smell of the oil, enjoys the visual appeal of the pasty paint mixed into hues against the palette’s mahogany sheen, smiles at the viscous glint of the turpentine resting in the dipper. The process is almost hypnotic: she notices not the tourists and Londoners walking or running past, or driving incessantly by, or standing and staring. She is lost in concentration, in achieving the immediate task, the correct colour mix, the balance between depiction and the expressive value of free paint-qualities. She is oblivious too to her professional cares, the angst of her ‘real work’, full of pressure and competitiveness and attenuated, high-minded, conceptual trust, like possibly empty faith, of such little doing-value, like a job she just didn’t like.

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