Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Painting with Bug Blood, Week V: Abstract Expressionism

To hell with Chinese brush technique. Last week’s landscape inspired my restless creative spirit, and my encounters with colour and form since then have left me in a state of ecstasy.  On Tuesday I decided to take on one of the great artistic movements of the past century. Abstract expressionism turns my crank, both because of its ferocity and because it looks easy. I know the abstract expressionists were mostly angry drunkards because of the movies, but I doublechecked on Wikipedia to be sure, and yup:  Abstract expressionism “has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic.”

I was glad it didn’t say patient, motivated, and reflective, because those qualities don’t come as easily to me. I got up and made breakfast, a banana and a bottle of wine.  I took it out to the patio and tried to attune myself to the swirling energies in my backyard. I got absorbed in the grain of the wood under me for a long time. I got a few looks from my neighbours on their way to work. After I’d finished half of the family-sized bottle of wine I felt ready to express myself.

I had already worked up a fresh pot of bug blood. I listened to my soul, it was quietly gurgling. This was not going to be a painting I could do indoors, and even so I laid down some newspaper. Birds were chirping above me. I saturated my brush and spattered the page with fat drops of blood.

Ready to express myself
It looked good, but it lacked a focal point. I shook the pot (I keep the bug blood in an old cupcake container), then upended the lid onto the page. That was when I knew the composition would be called “Sun.”  I stumbled backward to survey my work.

I am an artist
It had nice motion, but something was missing. I tried mashing a bug directly onto the page, but the results were less exciting than I anticipated. I tried flaying the page with the banana peel, but it only made it look dirty, and I wiped it off with a Kleenex. Reluctantly, I realized that the problem was that I was not drunk enough.

I downed another couple glasses as quickly as possible and went into the bathroom with the lights off. I looked in the mirror and thought about how ugly my life was, about all the people who have wronged me. I thought about everyone who would never understand my work and what I was trying to do with this project.  I thought about age and creeping death. I forced myself to contemplate the fact I would never escape this murderous universe. Then I wept, and yelled inarticulately for a bit, and went back outside.

Emotional honesty
I don’t remember completing the composition, but apparently I had the presence of mind to set up the camera beforehand. The masterstroke appears to be undoing another button on my shirt, wearing sunglasses, and screaming as I hurl the remainder of the pot directly at the page.

Afterward I pinned it to the cupboards, snapped a photo, and was in bed by eleven a.m. Although the experiment took a heavy toll, I think the results speak for themselves:


Check back next week for more bug blood art!

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