So I bought the canvas for my painting of Mary – I went for the biggest I could find 1.0m x 1.5m, it only just fit in my car. I always feel this is such an exciting moment, seeing a vast empty space buzzing with potential. Here it is:
The blank canvas contains all possible images if one has the skill to reveal them; the empty space full of infinite creativity. It reminds me of the recent advances in science where physicists have discovered that even a perfect vacuum* – devoid even of a single atom – actual bubbles with energy, matter flitting in and out of existence in the space of unimaginably small fractions of time. So the fabric of reality seethes with creative energy (see the all-knowing Wikipedia for an introduction to this fascinating area of human knowledge).
I know, however, that if I look at the blank canvas for too long the excitement will turn to fear – choices have to be made. How do I decide which image should be mined from all the latent images on its surface? And do I have the skill to retrieve it?
Seen from another perspective, though, the image is already in me. And I am far from being an empty space – my mind writhes and pulses with all manner of images and experiences. One of them will reach towards the canvas.
At the interface between the seething mind and the latent canvas is the conscious ‘I’. I have to make the decision to pick up a paintbrush, to choose one colour over another, to make that mark on the canvas instead of the other. Hence, it’s through the physical things of this world, muscle and bone working together with canvas, linseed oil, pigment and brushes that the unseen becomes seen.
Because of my limitations as a human being this will be far from the perfect image I see in my minds eye – but perhaps it will be all the more beautiful for it.
* what a lovely word with its double ‘u’