Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Company of Painters

The Company of Painters
(for Dee Vadnais)

I’d like to write a book of poems called In the Company of Painters.
I’d make poems from Dee’s words (Gather your whites)
and the names of colours (Blue Phtalo, Venetian Red, Burnt Sienna)
Van Gogh’s letters to Theo (Don’t scatter your darks)
and Cezanne’s enigmas (Let your colours answer each to the other).

I would be sure to put Picasso’s line in it: Each of us is a colony entire.
His explanation for his changeable style, his virtuosity.

And I could make statements about the appearance of the world, like
as we were sailing to the Isla Coronados today,
we passed through bands of pigment-dyed current,
as if vats of orange-hued cobalt red had been dumped into the sea.
Algae dying, in living colour.

We watched Dee paint today in Caleta San Juanico. We sat on a stony beach, settled in the shade of several large rocks. She sketches the bones of the scene in pencil, then, with a large brush, erases, emphasizes, lays a wash, keeping clear significant swathes of white. Then she lays down a few patches of light. Transparent colours: raw sienna marks the sky, the hills; she drags her brush in verticals, drawing out reflections. She works back and forth, side to side, darkening by degrees; each stroke develops shadows. She is mindful of diagonals, the conversations rhyming back and forth across the page. Demarcation comes last, often as scant suggestion: lines supply atmosphere, weight, more definition.
You have to be wary of what you think you know about how things should look, she says.

Here’s what I learn:
Whether painting or writing, landscape is less what you see then space of suggestion or apperception, malleable ground to knock up against.

Paint, words, landscape: they are all raw elements. You tug at them, pull what is hidden into view; manufacture novel reality.

Now I see:
she paints the way I write poetry: pirouetting with possibility.

Karin Cope
3 March 2009
Enroute between Caleta San Juanico and Isla Coronados, Mexico, BCS

Watercolour by Dee Vadnais, San Juanico, Mexico

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