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Passing the Cemetery in a Train 28 Years Later

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throw yellow roses on your coffin, long, smooth, polished sheen               maple, insignia of the country we have come to throw yellow roses on your coffin you, dead inside you, body dissolving throw long-stemmed roses, fresh, soft perfect petals, sun bright on your coffin as it slides into the fires              as if death              were a passion of the flame
_
In memory of my father,
Dr. D. Richard Clews, 1922-1984

Written in Toronto, May 25, 2012




image thanks to Corrie Barklimore on Flickr


Understanding deep-rooted conflicts in other countries

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One of the best ways to understand the deep-rooted conflicts in another country that has descended into near or full civil war is to talk to someone from that country. This morning I had a long talk with the cashier at my local drug store, who has been in Canada since 1989, and has not been back to Syria since 1991, but whose three brothers and their families still live in Syria.

News reports focus on the fighting, the atrocities, the declarations by each warring faction. She described, rather, a situation that has been building for a decade, and it certainly helped me to better understand what Syria is dealing with now. She and her three sisters left Syria in the late-80s since they are Christian and their parents deemed Canada safer. The remaining family lives in the north, away from the areas of worst conflict. She is extremely worried for her brothers - the airports have been closed, and the phone lines have been cut so she hasn't spoken to any of her family there in the past…

Wrung Wrist

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I saw a surgeon this morning. What he recommends, and he explained it very well, is to surgically remove the scaphoid bone in my left wrist, and to take some bone from elsewhere in my body to fuse the other four bones there so they, uh, don't fall into the chasm. The gap would fill with scar tissue. This operation would not give me more mobility than I have now in that hand, but the pain would be gone. Basically, the fracture in the scaphoid bone was not detected and did not heal properly, and has not only pushed all the other bones out of alignment but with two torn tendons and a huge reduction in cartilage, things are grinding painfully against each other. SLAC wrist is what he called it. I did this drawing some weeks ago - it's of the palm side of the wrist - and just pencilled in the scaphoid bone. Likely, I will get it done. Two months in a cast; three months of physiotherapy. Why am I sharing? Because I'm going kind of crazy at the moment.


other notes: I am right-han…
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Still, I work on this little drawing. Charcoal on primed canvas sheet, 18" x 22". I am considering writing a text into it, the lines perhaps radiating out like sunbeams from the centre of the left-hand side. The last lines would be written across the bottom. And then I was thinking of drawing roses in charcoal between the figures and lightly colouring them pink, but ....

What do you think? I suppose it seems somewhat interesting, but you'd need to see it finished to comment. I understand. This is also a place for me to formulate ideas. The text is a very old one of mine - turned into prose poetry here - the result of a number of years of intense academic work on a multi-disciplinary thesis on light that I didn't complete due to my father's death and having to take over his businesses, and then starting a family, you know how it is.

The text:

Dazzling darkness. The black light of the midnight sun. Ambiguity, contradiction, dynamic fusion of opposites. That particula…

Green Energy Yoga

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Since earlier this month, when I woke with a sore back, I have done a spinal flex yoga set every single morning without fail. My back is, of course, much better. It has also helped to boost my energy.

Today I felt like moving on to a more rigorous set. But I have a badly injured left wrist. This occurred last November, and it took me a long time to seek medical help. When I did, the news was not good. An untreated broken bone that didn't heal properly and pushed all the other bones out of alignment, two utterly torn tendons, multiple tears in the ligaments, an inflamed major nerve, edema in the bone marrow, and so on. If I go by the dire results of the MRI, what my family doctor says, and then what the specialist rehabilitation doctor said, my poor wrist is irreversibly damaged. My doctor actually recommended I apply for ODSP since the range of work I can now do is severely limited. Next week I have an appointment with a surgeon. I have, as you can imagine, been quite depressed by…

The Women Who are Looking Off Frame (again)

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No idea where this is going, or if it's already there. (A little iPhone4 photo not even in natural light - will post something better later when I've set that figure on the upper right.)

Thinking the light in Close Encounters. Off frame. We imagine it. Something visionary lights the women.

But also Penelope waiting for Odysseus. Though women never do that anymore. A movie by Antonioni, L'avventura (1960), the woman who disappears on the island of rock and who is never found again and whose wealthy family & friends don't seem to really care ...that woman, in all her guises, is still there, watching.

And nipples, yes. The milk of .....

...women in caves; women on black blankets, small white women with skinny arms if not waiting, then looking...

But what are they looking at? And why does one of them shy away?

18" x 24" charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

Women Looking Off Frame

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In process, not sure where it's going. A dervish in me wants to fill the space between them with pink flower wallpaper. Oh, dear. I quite like them inverted. The figure on the left is a life drawing from the T(oronto) S(chool) of A(rt) drop-in painting sessions; the figure on the right from that on-line life drawing site. Don't ask why when I have a 23" iMac, but I draw from my iPhone screen in Chrome where not only the browser bar is visible, but the drawing site doesn't allow a fullscreen photo either (so the figure is really tiny).


Women Looking Off Frame, 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", 56cm x 40.5cm, charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.


Women Looking Off Frame (inverted), 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", 56cm x 40.5cm, charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.


And you may recall that I used the figure on the left, inverted, in a new rendition of this poem painting a few months ago.




When I closed my eyes...

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When I closed my eyes and lay back on the small, soft down pillow, I fell though it, and the sheen of white sheets, the mattress, hard foam and wood, plunging into hardwood floor, down into the dank earth, until I was falling in deep space far past the planets or our solar system or even our galaxy.

Sometimes I sleep when I nap; sometimes I don't.

Harmonies that Resist Anxiety

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Cherry Blossoms in Storms, 2012, Brenda Clews, 22" x 16", 56cm x 40.5cm, charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet. Figures from a lifedrawing site, 10 min poses on my iPhone 4, didn't have my proper glasses, but it's ok.

Where I'm at today. Fighting off, well stuff of all sorts - the kind that tries to silence you - doing yoga and meditating.

Originally I called it Harmony in Chaos, but... gladiolus in travail.

Blake Man briefly became The Homeless Man, but now he's PRIMAL MAN

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Primal Man, Brenda Clews, 2012, 24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, charcoal, acrylic ink, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.
Now that I understand how important 'Optimism' is (I listened to a PODCAST), I understand I must shelve this drawing's original meaning...

Bye, bye the desperations in what I originally wrote:

I want it to be quite painful to look at, to get at feeling this... vulnerability, desperation, a hostile world internally and externally, loss ...perhaps a veteran suffering from PTSD, perhaps this is his nightmare. ...And yet. there is blue sky, patches of green grass in the dry yellow. While he seems almost praying or acknowledging the difficulties of the forces about him in a bowed position, and even insurmountably crawling forward, he also connects deeply to the ground on 'all fours.' In my sense of it, he draws energy for existence itself from the earth.
He is homeless; he has nothing, shorn of all trappings; he is still human. He maintains his dignit…

Blake Man, in-process

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It was a difficult day - but not in any way you would imagine (I mean it, so don't even try to guess). I drew in the midst of it, thinking vulnerable man, but there is a part of me that wants to paint explosions around him, so war man perhaps. Although I was thinking a lot of William Blake's etchings, and of a primal man, Blake's Albion or something, only he is on all fours, crawling. Does that make him a 'sub' to a 'dom,' then? Some kind of bondage image? Or can he be skinless and vulnerable, crawling while bombs explode about him? Greenery, I see that too. Can he just be a poetic image that I have imagined?

Hopefully tomorrow will allow time to paint. The paint will tell the story that is emerging, give it a direction it does not have at present.


Blake Man, Brenda Clews, 2012, 24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, charcoal on 90lb archival paper.

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass

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It's not that I am deliberately moving into 'drip paintings,' no, that's not it. I've always inclined towards a wet-on-wet style, only now the paper or canvas is upright rather than on the floor, and so the paint does not pool in lakes but runs in one direction: down.

This figure is a strange amalgam of women who do not own themselves. Painting it, I thought of a distressed street woman that I see on Bloor St  who is quite anorexic and clearly an addict, and who I sometimes see sitting on the grass in parks in the area with her alcoholic boyfriend, and then, I guess somewhat contrastingly, I thought of the buxom models of artists who sometimes bear the children of the painters (think Picasso and his women, or Klimt, who apparently always had a few naked models lounging around in his studio and apparently fathered a dozen or so children), of the sensuality of a Fragonard and the cutting of razor sharp blue paint as it slides in rivulets down the prepared paper.

She …

Yoga for Your Back

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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 …

Lyrical Poetry & Madness

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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 narrativ…

Insomnia

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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 ne…

Those Strange Anatomical Terrains: The Underlayers of Our Bodies

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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 …

Butter Breeds Content

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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 bar…

The Portable Studio

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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!'


Canada Day 2012

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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).


Spring God gets more paint

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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.