Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Yoga for Your Back

A sore back? This often happens to us. Our spines are very complex structures that have to support us, bend flexibly, and be the pillar for the wrap of capillaries, veins, arteries, nerves that weave to and connect every part of us. A few days ago I carried too much home on my shoulder, and the next day my shoulder blade was very sore (note: remember not to do that again!), and perhaps it spread because now my lower back is sore.

When this happens, out comes the yoga mat. And on goes the calming piano music. And I begin flexing my back, rhythmically, in an orderly fashion if you follow the chakras. I'll be good and do this every morning until my back is fine again. I did this set early every morning for about five years, from 1994-1999, and sporadically since then (though it should be regularly).

Sharing the original post that I put up in 2006. It's one of my most popular posts if I go by Google Stats. This particular set of exercises is very helpful to maintain a healthy and flexible back.


    

Kundalini Yoga: Guidelines for Sadhana (Pomona, California: Kundalini Research Institute, 1974), p.45-6. For another layout of this set, see Basic Spinal Series, and scroll to the end to read a description of Mul Bhand (root lock) and Maha Bhand (great lock).

Note: This set is in an unlisted album at Picasa and only findable with the link.



(think I should always add this when I post yoga sets)

brendaclews.com

Monday, July 09, 2012

Lyrical Poetry & Madness

Is the lyrical world - of poetry, of song - a world of such danger that those who draw their inspiration from it court madness?

I listened to a TVO poscast, Nick Mount on Sylvia Plath's Ariel, where he makes this point so strongly that I was left wondering if that's what it is.

When you put Nick Mount who says we all become lyrical poets when we fall in love (towards the end of the talk) with Julia Kristeva's Tales of Love who says we all become poets who burst our stories when we fall in love then... well, you'd see where my mind is tonight.

For Mount, the lyrical poem/song has an inherent danger (of madness, break-down, suicide) to the creator of it since it requires a 'leaving of time' to be. For Kristeva, the language of the poets, the lyricisms of the semiotic, are part of the story of love itself, which is only possible outside of the narratives we live our lives through.

Are our narratives, and perhaps all narratives, stories of time, then?

Does narrative have a deep connection to conventional time in ways that lyrical poetry and perhaps falling-in-love itself does not?

You can see why I rarely write discursively in my blog. How do I explain these thoughts without giving you the backgrounds of the books I have read, the talks I have listened to? There is so much more than these few thoughts, too, on this question.

I wonder if it's permissible to write a few cryptic things as best I can rather than nothing because whatever it is I am thinking about today is too complex to relate fully?


brendaclews.com

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Insomnia

Tell it with split tongues
and lightning flicker
in bleary, bloodshot eyes.

The black flood of night.

Remember the never-healing wound
of the fisher king,
I know it well.

Clots like rocks in the flowing black river
of the volcano within.

I want my words to rise like incantations.

On the fumes rising above the tripod
where the Oracle of Delphi sits knowing,
knowing she knows...

I almost don't care about you who are reading this.

It's a life and death struggle within myself.

It's very private.

Pulling the curtain back slightly, I hear
no birdsong at this dark hour,
no glimmering dawn.

In the void, I throw the antidote in.

Incantations

that would undo the spell if it were a spell.

Probably it isn't a spell,

probably it's
reality.

Words to split the earth apart,
change the dismal landscape,
re-orient the black 
burning spots.


_
pieced together from words spoken into a voice memo during a sleepless night,
final draft written July 8, 2012 in Toronto

In case of misunderstanding, I need to say that this poem is not bleak but very positive.


brendaclews.com

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Those Strange Anatomical Terrains: The Underlayers of Our Bodies


Lateral Head 2012, Brenda Clews, each page: 27.9cm x 21.6cm, 11" x 8.5"; graphite, charcoal, Waterman sepia ink on Fierro paper.


I did a Fine Arts degree at York University in the 1970s, during the height of Conceptual Art. My painting teacher for 3 years, who I liked very much but who had a very different aesthetic to my 'natural' one, painted very large shit brown canvases and made rooms out of white sheets.  He was very 'in.' I was encouraged to make 'ugly' paintings that had no colour and no recognizable form. This era was a celebration of highly controlled abstract art (think of the critic Clement Greenberg and his group of artists, of Newman, Still, Frankenthaler, Bush [Pollock was passé already], of Colour Field (memory of how we were force fed this still makes me shudder) and of art in general in disintegration (a Modernism on the crux of Post-Modernism).

After finishing that degree, I did not paint for many years, only interrupting my hiatus when I was pregnant in 1987 (when I did the Birth Painting series knowing I was violating every single tenant taught by my teachers at York U in the 70s).

In 2004, I began to draw and paint again. It remains an uphill battle. Always looking over my shoulder are my old art teachers, who never taught us anything about the body itself. While we did have models to paint, we did not study anatomy, bone structure, muscles, anything of any use. It was about what you could say about your drawings or paintings that counted. The more indistinct and abstract your art, the better. So I learnt to be clever in the stories I wove about what I was doing. Dialoguing about my art was perhaps somewhat of a charade, though. I was never a Conceptual artist at heart.

Give me sensuality, rich colour, bodies that are embodied. When we painted with colour and with any sense of the body of the original model, be this a person or a landscape, we did it at home and never brought those paintings in to the university.

Of course, times have changed. It is not like this anymore.

Because of the era I studied in, though, there remain holes in my art education. Holes, like anatomy. But, hey, it's never too late, as they say. While I certainly know general anatomy, I was recently given some iPhone apps that are superlative guides to those strange anatomical terrains, the underlayers of our bodies.

Here are two of my 'muscle' drawings, which I am itching to paint. I deliberately did them in a throw-away sketch book so they would remain quick sketches - if they re-appear painted, ah well. The paper they are drawn on is good paper at least.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Butter Breeds Content


Speaking of 'super kitten'...

Sunlight shining in the window, catching my latest painting with a luminescence the iPhone4 couldn't quite capture, but it did my kitten who at that moment leapt to the window sill to chase a tiny fly.

See her shadow.

Spring God, 24" x 30", 61cm x 76.2cm, oils on canvas.



And here are my two furry babies! Keesha, my Springer Spaniel who will turn 13 on August 25th, and Songa, my 3 month old kitten of Russian Black, Siamese and Tabby lineage. Aren't they sweet!

Shall I tell you about the butter solution to cat and dog problems?

A friend told me about a friend who had a dog and a kitten. She slathered the kitten in butter and the dog would lick it off. After about a week of this daily buttering, the dog and cat were sleeping together.

Our little kitten, all 6oz of her, arrived as a hissing, clawing ball of frightened bravado. She had a special technique where she could aim projectile spit straight into the eye of the dog. My dog barked at her, but would turn her head when close; she wouldn't look at her due to the 'hiss-spit.'

Enter butter. On my finger.

I wasn't into a fully buttered kitten, only a dab or two. So I tried it, and had to hold the little kitten in my hands offering the spots of butter to the dog at the dog's mouth level. It was quite strange to be doing this on the floor of my kitchen.

The first buttering went well. Songa purred like a little tractor when she was being licked by Keesha. Soon afterwards, they were stopping to touch noses on their way through the small apartment.

Then Songa began purring underneath Keesha when she was waiting on the stairs for her treat after having gone out for a whizz.

After only a few days of tiny dabs of butter, I found them sleeping together. And I took the photograph you see here with my handy iPhone.

The other morning the kitten spent quite a long time washing the dog - underneath where her teats are.

After the dab and lick today, and after Songa had torn the place apart, you know, tearing up the hemp room divider via the Chinese satin cloth slung over it, running across the antique silk sari that is draped over another room divider, attacking my iPhone cord, the usual, when she tired, she slipped over to sleep close to Keesha, and curled herself enwrapped in the dogs paws. Her trust of the dog is entirely the opposite to when she arrived. Butter breeds content.

Among my favourite books to read my children when they were little were the stories of Krishna, the Butter Thief in a small book of Hindu tales for children.

It always delighted me because I, too, am a butter freak. All my life people have laughingly asked if I was having a little bread with my butter, the latter being spread so thickly it seems it should be illegal.

And see, now I can say, butter is good for many things, including creating bonds between dogs and cats.


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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Portable Studio



My current 'shared-room' studio. I can have it dismantled in 10 minutes flat. The palette is upright because my 3 month old kitten is, well, '...is it a bird? a plane? no, it's super kitten!'


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Monday, July 02, 2012

Canada Day 2012

When I first came to Canada, it didn't even have its own flag. I remember the flag competition, and that the maple leaf chosen wasn't my favourite of the designs.

The drawing I did today is somewhere between skinless vulnerability and the goalie's hockey mask. Ambiguities and paradoxes abound.

Canada Day 2012, Brenda Clews, 27.9cm x 21.6cm, 11" x 8.5", graphite, charcoal, red Bombay India ink on Fierro paper.







An interesting graphic of stats in Canada compiled by a design team in a free newspaper, 24H, that I was given exiting a subway a few days ago.

I clipped this to a table-top easel and have been staring at it for a few days, and now it seems part of the sketch (with its overly largish maple leaf considering the height of the borders).


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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Spring God gets more paint

Today I worked on this painting. While I can't say for certain, likely it is finished.

He's on my bedroom wall, where the light hits the paint just right, and finally I like this painting. So that's a relief. :) He has more substance now, and looks like he could stand up and shake the rain clouds loose.

Spring God, 24" x 30", 61cm x 76.2cm, oils on stretched canvas.



Below, earlier versions. I began this painting on March 30th, 2012, at a Toronto School of Art friday night drop-in non-instructional life painting session. The model was working on a B.A. in English Literature at York University, I recall. The one to the far right is what I did that night.


                        


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Poems written in Pamphlets

Considering making a videopoem of my last poem: *Can I Be Fired Or Laid Off Without Notice?*

While it's an explicit reference to our mortality, and I hope that's pretty obvious, I actually wrote the poem in a pamphlet put out by CLEO (Canadian Legal Education Ontario) entitled, 'Have you been fired or laid off?' on workers' rights.

I didn't have any paper, and so grabbed something at hand and wrote inbetween the paragraphs.

As you can see in my photo, with my bluetooth keyboard for my iPhone, and Songa, my adorable kitten. When I got the pamphlet to take a photo for you, she just *had* to get in on the action. :)

Anyway, I would perform the poem with a green screen of things like bread lines, perhaps headlines referring to the worsening 'recessions' since 2008, and especially the crises in Europe.

All of which, to my simple mentality, is due to the interest payments on debts.

I refuse to own any credit cards due to that interest payment issue. Nor do I have any loans, etc. While I live on the edge financially, I live without debt.

If the ridiculous interest payments could be deleted, and any payments from indebted countries, like Greece, Spain, etc., and innumerable third world countries, made on the actual loans themselves, the crisis would be over.

Why do we live like this when we are eating our own flesh, so to speak. Yes, yes, Shakespeare and _The Merchant of Venice_, but it's the greed of Capitalism itself that has installed itself in the hearts of the financially powerful.

I could froth all day. +Lena Levin and I had a long discussion (on G+) about credit cards recently, and I'm sure that fed into my poem.

Which you can find here:http://brendaclews.blogspot.ca/2012/06/can-you-be-fired-or-laid-off-without.html?m=1



--
Sent from my iPhone

Monday, June 25, 2012

Can You Be Fired or Laid Off Without Notice?

Cling to the thin breast
of stars grazing your hair;
starlight shines vacant 
in your eyes.

On this globe revolving in mad
abundance, careening
off-course

in our dreams

where spiders feed us silk
from their mandibles;
and the strawberries are sour

studded with green eyes
watching from red lanterns.

What light to see by is this?

Scattered unripe fruit, the world
overtaken by insects.

Push the shopping cart through
the storm of shredded light.

Let breaking branches scratch
your face. The wind is your voice.

Night spins hallucinating
a starry nest.

We are broken illuminations
falling.

Dust of starlight.

Caught in a web
spun in silk fire fibres.

Pull your hair
from your dirty face.
Wipe off stardust, like grime.

Magic is a spider eye
in a world of compound debt.

Survival, man, woman,

is the song
to spin singing

on dangling
thread.



brendaclews.com

Monday, June 18, 2012

Solar Eclipse



Solar Eclipse, 2012, Brenda Clews, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas. 

I just took the photo in bright sun and the upper left corner is too shiny, bright (someday I will get a better camera to take photos of these paintings I promise). Overall, the colours are quite good. If you've been following these posts, you might notice that I've corrected the arm - the model had it over a pillow but I didn't paint it that way so it seemed too large - I've shortened it so that it is now in better proportion and also painted in more indication of the hand. Later on I may add a few more colours to the bottom of her sarong, which seems to enclose her as a fitted cocoon-like sleeping bag somehow, to make it more 'landscape,' or that a nightscape river is flowing through her. 

The whole painting is Surreal, figures in a psychic landscape of the dreaming imagination.

A painting with a textual history, meaning a history of texture. It was another painting before. On my wall for half a year, and I couldn't look at it anymore. (See album of earlier painting here: (https://picasaweb.google.com/103243515693467499824/MidnightSunWindOverGrass?authuser=0&feat=directlink) Deciding not to sand the canvas, or even prime it, I began painting over the original painting on Saturday afternoon. 

At this point, I do like it. So it may be done, not sure. Back up on the wall it goes. The true test is how liveable is it?



brendaclews.com

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Solar Eclipse



Solar Eclipse, 2012, Brenda Clews, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas. 

A painting with a textual history, meaning a history of texture. It was another painting before. On my wall for half a year, and I couldn't look at it anymore. (See album of earlier painting here: (https://picasaweb.google.com/103243515693467499824/MidnightSunWindOverGrass?authuser=0&feat=directlink) Deciding not to sand the canvas, or even prime it, I began painting over the original painting yesterday afternoon. 

At this point, I do like it. So it may be done, not sure. Back up on the wall it goes. The true test is how liveable is it?


brendaclews.com

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Midnight Sun (a new figurative painting)


Midnight Sun, in-process, 2012, Brenda Clews, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas.

A painting with a textual history, meaning a history of texture. It was another painting before. On my wall for half a year, and I couldn't look at it anymore. Deciding not to sand the canvas, or even prime it, I began painting over the original painting this afternoon (see the album of what is underneath here: Midnight Sun). It may be done, not sure. The true test is, how liveable is it?

(The colours are pretty good, but the main figure has pink in her body and that is not appearing.)


brendaclews.com

Friday, June 15, 2012

Origami and the pets (34sec)


direct link: Kitten Plays with Origami

My niece is always busy with her hands. As she chats, she makes origami birds, and even balls like the one you see here.

Not having any 'real' cat toys, only string and such, I tossed one of Freya's origami balls on the floor and it was an instant hit!

However, the video clip, which I had grabbed my iPhone to record for my niece, was not to be about the origami ball after all.

It reminds me, rather, of days of management - like being a mother of young children again. The kitten is adorable, and fast, I think my older dog (who's mostly deaf) doesn't know what to make of her. Is she a squirrel to chase?

That's sort of what's happening today. But Keesha wouldn't harm her - Songa would be more likely to cause damage with her sharp little claws and the way she can aim a hiss spit right into the eye.

She sleeps on my pillow at night purring and first I thought, I'll give this 2 weeks, then, no, a month, but now I'm thinking give it a year. They might end up the best of friends.

(At the end, you'll see a tiny yellow origami bird lying on the floor, what I originally gave to Songa to play with, which also was made by my niece.)

Video taken with my iPhone 4, and edited in the iMovie app.




brendaclews.com

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Deer Trapped in a Backyard in the Annex in Toronto


direct link: A Deer Trapped in a Backayrd in the Annex in Toronto

A frightened, lost deer leapt over a fence into a neighbour's back yard around 6am yesterday. A fellow walking his dog saw the deer leap (you can hear his voice in the video, which was taken near sunset).

The deer was there all day, and may be hiding under a bush in the downpour of the evening.

Animal Control said to leave the deer, that it will find its way out the way it came in.

My neighbours are quite alarmed, but waiting to see what happens, and what to do next.

We live in the Annex in Toronto, a downtown neighbourhood.

The deer is scared, as I realized when I was taking this video, and so hid myself from her, but he or she is also simply magical.

A magical visitor.
_____

It poured heavily last night, and I worried about whether the deer had any shelter, how it was doing. In the morning, it appeared to be gone from my neighbour's backyard, though I haven't seen them to ask what happened.

James Kalin on G+ said it was probably a juvenile male with rudimentary horns.

An elegant animal, and an extremely unusual sight in the density of an inner city.





brendaclews.com

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Morning Pages: Starlings

what remains after the starlings have flown?

leaves shaking to stillness
where they held
caucus

____
Every day, with my morning coffee, I shall try to write a few lines in my 'writing' Moleskine. I have not made this task more difficult by insisting on an image as well. :)

After reading the news, and the issues that come up in Toronto City Hall's Council, which we are hearing far more about due to our strange and contrary mayor, and sitting by an open window, I wrote this little poem.

brendaclews.com

Friday, June 08, 2012

As if Death Were a Passion



As if Death Were a Passion, Brenda Clews, 2012, 12" x 16", graphite and acrylic on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.


outline the skeleton
in red
make the lines of the bones
red

alizarin crimson, cadmium red
flame red, poppy bright

ok, blood too

the passion of death

as if death
were a passion


_________

It's taken many weeks for me to watch this great little instructional video on how to draw a skeleton. I've never taken anatomy, so I fully appreciate teaching tools like this (thank you Kenny Mencher!). I'll have to get myself a wee skeleton at a Medical Supply store at some point. :)

I meant to take a photo before I started working it. Ah well. It's not perfectly drawn because I don't want that.

The instructional video is here: http://kenney-mencher.blogspot.ca/2011/11/video-drawing-skeleton-front-view.html?m=1 (if, like me, you'll probably watch it later do bookmark it since it's an unlisted video you won't be able to find it on YouTube without the link)

I took the photo with my iPhone 4 using Camera+ and then a Clarity filter - later I'll blog it without the filter. It's just kind of neat with the tones the filter gives it.






brendaclews.com

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Celestial Dancer V put out on the street and taken!

I've been clearing out a lot of stuff the last few weeks, many bags of clothes to the drop-box, lots simply to garbage. This painting was one of the first I did with water-soluble oil paints in 2004. I did it on a canvas board - dumb, the cardboard warps, impossible to frame ever - and I didn't really like it. I drew it from an image of Nijinski in a dark body stocking, so always felt, though I love the richness of black skin, that this painting was a bit misleading even though it was grouped with my Celestial Dancer series and called it Celestial Dancer V.

Last weekend cleaning up my art supplies, I came across it wedged behind my desk, where it's been stored for years. I pulled it out, not sure what to do with it. The thought of standing on it to crack it in half for the garbage was too much at that moment.

On impulse, I took it outside and put it against the fence on the sidewalk. When I looked 5 minutes later, it was gone.

I hope whoever found it either likes it and has hung it on wall that needed 'something,' or has painted over it.

I'm so delighted that I did this that I'm considering what else I can put out! :)



When I looked for a photo of the painting on an external hard drive where the contents of my old computer are stored, I found it, not only easily because labelled, but that I had, as usual, taken images all along the way. And I even found the original image I drew! How wild is that. I have not, as yet, been able to re-locate the Nijinski on-line to see which ballet he was leaping about in a dark body stocking in! He had a slick of glitter on his costume that I did not add to my painting. :) This piece was done in my studio in Vancouver - as you'll see in the final image (they work backwards). I also used a wet-on-wet technique and so lost some of the detail in one of the arms that clearly turned into a lake of paint that dissolved out and in the detail of the hands.










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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Two Lamps and a Pot of Orchids

This is a sketch to toss. Part of my enterprise this year: to go backward to go forward. To return to before I got sidetracked and see where a more natural route would take me.


Two Lamps and a Pot of Orchids, Brenda Clews, 2012, 13" x 10", acrylic on archival paper.


The charcoal sketch.


brendaclews.com

Friday, June 01, 2012

Retreat to Beautiful Objects


direct link: Retreat to Beautiful Objects

When I retreated to my world of beautiful objects.

She was a dream, not the mask but how I composed her in Tangled Garden.

A vegetative force, Nature, birth, life, death, decay, mulch, compost. Beautiful and frightening. Strange dreams, the unknowable body itself. Life consuming life to live, plant or animal. Cells fuse to make new life, new connections, new hybrids. Wood/trees; metal/circuitry; bone/grafts; skin/love. Teeming presence.

I come from a jungle, the nature I write of is not pastoral, pretty. A fibrous network of vast connections. Natural processes. We are Nature looking at herself through her own eyes. This slip of consciousness viewing the universe for a knowing moment, soon to be lost. How can we forget the hungry ghosts, the floral opera singing in us?

An ecology of consciousness. An understanding of the parasitical and angelic. Leave the savageries. Our worlds of beautiful objects call us to retreat.

_________________________________________________________




What I wrote at YouTube:

...to celebrate the unexpected popularity of my long videopoem, Tangled Garden, http://youtu.be/OG37qWh4rTM, a slow art film of a triptych of earth poems, Surreal, mythopoetic, a rhizoma of images, metaphors, explorations, philosophies (with English subtitles). I had originally thought to paint a Tangled Garden painting to give away when the video reached 1500 views (my daughter's claimed the painting, so some other celebratory gift), and began making a video of the process of the painting.

There's lots of aspects here - from the drawing and painting itself to photos of the making of the papier-mache mask, to a dance in the woods which inspired the figures in the painting. The fishnet gloves - don't you adore them! - will now be featured in any future art videos. I just love them!

The writing came out of a dream I was having during a nap when I was considering what to say in the video. It's more of a piece about the poetic process in the poems in Tangled Garden, what sort of consciousness is holding sway. I woke up laughing. I felt a bit strange laughing all by myself in a dark room late at night for the recording for sure!

Prefer the video without the subtitles, but they're there for the hearing impaired, those who like to read along, and for YouTube automatic translation into one of 25 languages if the viewer is not fully conversant in English.

Music is Pierre-Marie Cœdès' 'Whirling Thoughts,' from his album, "Insomnia": http://www.jamendo.com/en/list/a94667/insomnia (with his permission). It is a great album, do go and listen.





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