“Time isn’t circular…It’s like a palimpsest. And memories are sometimes in the future”.
Kate Atkinson, Life After Life, 2013, p.589
If it was easy to express in words the ideas that interest me, then a novelist I would be. But, it is a painter that I am. Through the material interactions of paint, the play between chaos and control, I seek to allow a story to emerge.
This story is influenced by many things, but essentially it is a journey into the unknown. The map of what we call reality is an ever-shifting mosaic of ideas. It is a tussle between fact and fiction. Through a variety of means, from fairytales and fables through to cosmology, physics, religion and philosophy, the world over we seek connection and understanding. We construct stories, theories and tales to afford some kind of explanation for where we find ourselves and why. “If there is one common denominator across the entire history of human culture, it is the insatiable hunger to know the unknowable – that is, to know everything, and to know it with certainty. Yet what we see of the world is only a sliver of what’s ‘out there’” (1). It is the impossibility of ever truly knowing that interests me, and the journey that evolves along our chosen path and search.
About eighteen months ago I came upon a pile of New Scientist magazines, discarded by the side of the road. It was a serendipitous find, treasure that I trawled through over that summer, feeding my long held interest in quantum theory and cosmology. Scientific theories describing parallel universes, multiple dimensions, and explanations for the structure of reality at the scale of both the infinitely small and infinitely vast provided inspiration for the painting to come. At the core of these theories is the understanding that everything builds on what came before; that everything is connected to everything else; and that despite our greatest compulsions for control and certainty, much of the universe — to which the human heart and mind belong — remains reigned over by chance and uncertainty (2).
The element of chance is incorporated into the works through the process of creating the painted landscape. Paint and other fluid mediums are washed, poured and dripped onto the canvas with intent, yet the outcome is not always certain. This uncertainty allows for the discovery of a space that was not yet known. Employing ‘unnatural’ saturated colour, a ‘hyper’ real space; a space of dreams, coloured memories and future possibilities evolves and is populated by a band of characters sourced from vintage photographs. These figures are taken out of context and transported into this alternate reality of my own creation.
The Faraway Nearby is a voyage into a space inspired by the world and yet parallel to it. An open and ambiguous environment that shifts between the past and present, the real and the imagined. “The narrative is not linear, rather it follows a line of thought, and lines of thought only run in straight lines when we force them to do so. Our minds are more like a maze than a motorway, and for me, the pleasure is all in the connections, the not obvious connections, the twists and turns, double-backs, sudden full-stops, unlikely entrances and exits” (3).
Kathryn Cowen, 2015
(1) Marcelo Gleiser, The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning, Basic Books, 2014
(3) Jeanette Winterson, http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/book/the-stone-gods/