Saturday, June 28, 2008

My husband and I spent eight months in Sharjah, The United Arab Emirates last year. I thoroughly enjoyed living in a different culture, meeting people who lived their lives in a way so very foreign to me. I was fascinated talking to women who were one of four wives, we had many questions for each other! As an artist, I struggled to find suitable subjects to paint, high-rise buildings sprung up like mushrooms on the flat desert sand, so close together, they blocked out the light. Almost nothing growing, just the odd palm tree encrusted with sand grew limply in the 44 degrees and 95% humidity. Frequent dust storms and humidity obliterated the sky for weeks. I felt trapped in air-conditioned rooms where a sensory deprivation set in - no music, nothing visually inspiring and nothing to smell or hear. I realised that I need to have a connection with what I am painting; because everything was so strange and alien to me, I couldn't find a subject to paint. I have painted in an abstract manner before, but I did not understand really what I was doing.

I started painting in a purely intuitive manner. I had no external inspiration and so was forced to look within myself for some sort of subject matter. I lay the outstretched canvas on the floor, squeezed out some acrylic paint and just played around with it on the canvas. My spirits were lifted just by splattering on the paint and moving it around in a sensory manner. The strange thing is, I didn't really believe that what I was doing was valid in any way. I wasn't painting with an end in sight, somehow it didn't matter, I was simply diverting my mind by doing something that I love. I continued to work on two pieces over the next few weeks and I would spend time just gazing at the paintings and images would appear. As I progressed, images would come and go - this process amazed and delighted me. I began to wonder if others would be able to respond in some way to my "doodling". The paintings, "Meditation" and "The Dance" are the two works completed in Sharjah. They have sent me on a new and exciting journey.


Carol said...

I can think of nothing worse! but what an experience. Your "doodling" is incredible!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dianne, I'm looking forward to checking out your blog every week. Keep up the good work.
Love, Ann

Carolyn said...

Hi there mum, I love you "doodling"

Anonymous said...

Hi Dianne, Love your work. Great blog.

mrs. tioli said...

When you said that you were, "forced to look within myself for some sort of subject matter", I think you came up with a good definition for intuitive painting.

In a more recent post regarding plein air painting, you said that the images you gather outside are material for later paintings. This is the part that I hadn't practiced consciously.

I've looked at shadow patterns or leaves interlaced and wanted to pull someone over, anyone, and say, "See? That's what an abstract painting is like. Get it?"

But it is me that hasn't gotten it yet... I would like to add the work that you do: gathering images and forms from "real" visual information to draw on later. I would also like to work on storing the kudos and encouragement to be drawn on internally.

Kim said...


Thank you so much for directing me to this post. While I cannot begin to understand living in this culture, I do understand about living in environments where you are "trapped" indoors. In my own mind, I also can imagine the frustration you must have felt in trying to comprehend woman's place in this UAE society AND the frustration in the extreme changes to the environment. I am guessing you were glad to return to SA. In retrospect, the experience has really made an impact on your art (that, too, I completely identify with). I love both "Meditation" and "The Dance" and can see why they sold.

We just never know what experience might make changes in our lives. It is lovely to be conversing with someone who reflects on these experiences and finds the best parts.

I feel as though I have found another kindred spirit in you, Dianne. Thank you so much for sharing.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Dear Kim, I really value your kind words - yes, I think we are kindred spirits - there is a linking of like-minds, I so identify with everything you write. Your comments are so inciteful and caring, I sense you really think before you write and then the words just flow. You have done wonders for my self-confidence and I thank you for that.