Saturday, August 6, 2011

But What Does It Mean?
Untitled Glass Art by Teresa Young
I've often been asked that question by people viewing my artwork, and it's a reasonable question which doesn't really have a reasonable answer...  Art is such a subjective thing, it really depends on the point of view of the person looking at the artwork, and it's even more subjective when you are dealing with abstracted or surrealistic images!
This conundrum is probably responsible for the unsatisfying answers people get from artists, and me in particular when they ask that question.  I can tell you what it means to me at that moment in time, but I can't tell you what it means to you.  The artwork could be hitting you on an emotional, visceral level, which could mean you either hate it, or really like it, and I wouldn't necessarily be able to figure out why it appeals to you. (Or doesn't for that matter!)
Fauvist Fantasy by Teresa Young.
I've had eighty year old grandmother's love my artwork, so much for traditional likes and dislikes. And I can never predict who will. It seems to have a pretty broad appeal though, so I take that as a good sign.
Now that I've expressed my opinion on art and how subjective it is, and how anything I say probably doesn't apply to you, the viewer anyway, I'm going to go ahead and tell you with some of my pieces what they mean to me...  Which is really just a snapshot in time anyway, depending on my mood, the meaning could change for me as I see something different in an existing painting.  Art is just like that, it's somewhat dynamic, which I think is part of it's appeal!
Sunken Treasure by Teresa Young
Take Fauvist Fantasy above, I was experimenting with glass paints and the creative urge took me in a very red, red, and blue direction. I was feeling very happy and enjoyed the beauty of the world around me that day, and I think that carnival feeling came out in the artwork. It's merely an emotional celebration of painting in itself, and how it makes me happy to do it.
Sunken Treasure on the other hand, goes back to when I used to scuba dive in my late teens and how I really loved the feeling when I was under the water below thirty or forty feet. When I took my scuba ticket there was this little octopus less than a foot across that swam near me, I played with it under that water until is squirt ink and swam away! 
The ocean has always seemed magical and like another world, sort of a treasure trove of beauty that most of us never get to see. I felt honoured to have been able to experience that beauty, and it really came out in this painting!
Emergence by Teresa Young
This is sort of fun, I'm going to do another!
Emergence is pretty obvious, if you had happened to know where my life was in 1998 when I painted it. 

I was in the process of divorcing and the feelings of learning to be independent and forging my own identity again were really at the forefront of my psyche. I like the way the woman is pushing up through a semi-formless muck to emerge into the light!

I was living on the west coast of Canada at the time, and that's why you can see a mountain range in the background. The really interesting thing about paintings is that they are often like the written word. They can have layers of meaning, like metaphor in stories, that I am often not aware of.
Figure Frog by Teresa Young
What I mean by that is the parallel in Emergence about is that on the surface it has a clear meaning, 'divorcing woman finding her identity', but it has a second meaning for me as an artist as well. I was in the process of developing my style, moving away from realism and into abstraction, using surrealism as a sort of intermediate step.

Sunken Treasure was also a 'crossover' piece for me in that it started out as a realistic piece that flowed into abstraction over time.
Cat's Emotions by Teresa Young
Figure Frog came about in the same timeframe, I think I sort of felt like I was leap-frogging ahead into the future. It's pretty nice to realize how bright everything can look to you when you are starting on a new path!  I think that why some of my pieces from the late nineties make me nostalgic.
Later on, my art started to change, as everything alive does, it evolves over time, which is why I can say I never paint that same thing twice!  I used to be a realistic painter, and did portraits in my youth, but I don't think I could settle down to realism again. It's like being nailed into a rigid box for me, I couldn't do it!
Carnival by Teresa Young
Cat's Emotions, another crossover piece, is actually a surreal watercolour painting with ink drawn into it. You have to get close to realize it's not realistic. I was expressing how much I loved cats and identified with them as a source of love and connection. Cats are pretty independent as well, so I think I admire that in them as well.
Escape by Teresa Young
Carnival is one of my favourite acrylic paintings. It feels like a roller coast ride of greens and blues to me. I see waves of light and joyous feeling, which is probably why the title of the piece...
The Wheels Art Turning
Escape, on the other hand, even though it doesn't seem like it, is an expression of frustration in the life I was living in the mid 2000's. 2003 or 4?  I was stuck in a corporate job with lots of responsibility and no voice. I was pretty close to starting a downward trend that ended up with me leaving the job I held for over a decade to start over in a new location. Like a lot of people in the IT industry, I was dissatisfied with the pressure and anxiety I experience.
Queen of Thorns
I felt like I really, really wanted to escape. The painting expressed that desire for me. And probably, it also expressed hope for a more serene existence somewhere out 'there'! That meaning applies to a lot of the artwork I did between 2002 and 2009, actually.  The Wheels Art Turning was about the feeling of being trapped and powerless in my job. I actually felt like no one was listening to me, and it sure came out in that painting!
 Queen of Thorns, I painted after I put in my resignation and just a few days before I left. I sort of felt like I was letting a few people down, leaving the job and it's responsibilities behind. But I also felt that it was something I needed to do for my personal growth and well being. So I was being a queen, and pretty prickly about the decision!
Pushing For The Sky
Undercurrents was about moving on and the undercurrents and emotional overtones that are never expressed out loud. We sort of swim through these currents and never truly acknowledge what is really going on out there in the 'real' world.  I was trying to show the undercurrents of our everyday world with this rather large painting.
Pushing For The Sky is from this year, very recent, and it's about growth, life and moving forward.  Reaching for the sky, not trying to be too trite here!
I think I'm back in a 'trying to find my footing' or identity cycle again. I'm not sure we ever really find out who we are, because like the artwork we produce, we are constantly changing. And sometimes, we go through similar cycles in our life as we learn out life's lessons...