I recently sold a painting – Harvested Rice Field in Snow – and have been thinking about where this
painting came from.
It’s not something I’d ever thought through. It’s only now that I realise that it took three years for this painting – these marks – to evolve.
Between February 2020 and the end of 2022, the experience of walking past harvested rice fields in winter in Northern Japan sunk into me, sunk below a conscious remembering.
Let me explain what I mean.
In February 2020, my husband, Toshi, and I visited Akita prefecture in North Western Japan, the home of the famous Akita dog.
One day we walked through a snow-covered landscape of harvested rice fields and took some photos. I’ve always loved the aesthetics of a harvested field. A harvested field is a scratchy mark on a flat surface.
I’m not interested in representing the lines in the field with two-point perspective – like a fence or train tracks or telegraph poles receding into the distance to a single point. I don’t even notice perspective in this way. To my eye (and mind), a field is flat. It is, actually, a big, flat square. The lines are parallel. That is what I know. That is what I feel. That is what I draw. A canvas is flat too. Let’s not pretend that it isn’t. To be honest, for me, perspective is a lie.
And the marks? For some reason, I love scratchy marks. There’s something satisfying about applying a sharp implement to a hard surface – the feel of it, the sound of it, the experience of it – scritch, scratch.
So almost two years after I saw these fields, at the end of 2021, I did some drawings. The first was quite photographic. It wasn’t satisfying, so I did another. It was better, but somehow it wasn’t right, but I was stuck, so I abandoned the idea. I forgot about it.
In the second half of this year – 2022 – I started making a work on canvas, where I scratched regular marks into thick, white, oil paint with an etching tool I’ve had since my first year at art school in 1981. It’s a familiar friend. I completed the painting in one hit – in one breath – while the paint was still all of the same sticky consistency. I was happy at the end. It just seemed right. Where did it come from? What was it about? I didn’t know. It felt whole, complete and alive. That was enough.
When I decided to display the finished work a few weeks ago, it needed a title. It was only then that I realised what I’d made – a harvested rice field in a snowy landscape. The idea I’d forgotten a year before, perhaps because I had ‘forgotten’ it, had emerged as something new and complete.
Not a pale, representational reflection of something else in the world, but something original; and also something that contains all the ideas about painting, abstraction, and the gesture, that I have talked about here and in my previous post.
As such, Harvested Rice Field in Snow is both a distillation and a single, complete, original thing.
It is art.
Thank you for reading.