30 March

liner notes

To add to the inspiration I find in poetry, literature and song lyrics, I've recently been rediscovering liner notes - a treasure trove of beautiful writing I had almost forgotten about.  Most of the music I buy these days is digital, and it occurred to me that I was missing very much the experience of listening to a new album while reading the thoughts of the songwriter from the CD booklet or album sleeve.

Fortunately, these thoughts can be often found online.  Glenn Richards of Augie March wrote eloquent notes to accompany the poetic, melodramatic lyrics of his latest album. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on finding your own, hard to express feelings echoed in another's writing:

"It shouldn’t have surprised me, my favourite writers become my favourite because in a seemingly tossed off sentence they will communicate in simple, elegant terms one or another of the big "feelings" I’ve had hovering over me in my waking hours and mocking my honey-slow reasoning. Incapable as I so often am or afraid even to try to reach up and grasp in the aether for a solid - it’s not just that it requires an intellectual flex I can’t make but there’s that songwriterly fear that if you tangle too directly with the nebulous and look to strip it back to what is almost always just a common idea you also strip it of its mystical song birthing power."

I  discovered the music and writing of Joe Henry via a very interesting On Being conversation.  He has some wonderful music, but I've been appreciating his liner notes even more. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about the recurring themes in my work, and he helped me realise that it was ok to continue to use my own faithful imagery; to have a thread that connects individual pieces, just as a great album may be "...singularly of a piece: ranging, though all cut from a single bolt of coarse cloth."
(Joe Henry, from his Invisible Hour liner notes

Which leads me to this painting.  It could have been included in my last blog post, as it is most certainly cut from the same cloth.  That persistent breeze is passing through again.  I posted it, nearly finished, on my Facebook page recently, and asked for help to come up with a name.  Its companion piece had the unwieldy title of I have set sail on a fast mountain, from a favourite W.S. Merwin poem, but naming this one I have set sail on a fast mountain II just seemed silly. 

My dear friend Ngaire suggested Still I Rise, and as soon as I read the Maya Angelou poem she shared, I realised it was the perfect title.  I spend time living in each small landscape as I am painting it, and this one had felt like a joyous place... a celebration of the human spirit. 
May we all keep rising, just like the moons and the suns.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Still I Rise, gouache on cotton rag paper, 73cm x 53cm framed

Still I Rise will be hanging in the Southern Downs Regional Artists Exhibition at Warwick Art Gallery, from 2 April - 3 May, 2015.