Tuesday, July 31, 2012


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 particular blend of bright darkness, of illuminated shadows, of the effluviated traces of consciousness irradiating the unconscious. Light defined not by its opposite but with its opposite. Where the extremes of the spectrum meet. The single and plural moment of the continuum in its static flux. Intermeshed. Distinct. A flowing gold in the blackness. Edges and surfaces and depths. A sounding of light. Identity in combination.

Visionary light.

Conscious life in the universe exists to bring the universe to consciousness of itself. Collapse this post



___

 brendaclews.com

Friday, July 27, 2012

Green Energy Yoga

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 spectre of what an injury like this can do.

I mention this not to garner sympathy but to offer some background to the 'warehouse of worry' I often lie awake with and which sometimes sends me spinning into hours of tears and deep anxiety during the day.

Yoga can't fix anything, but it can give an hour or two of respite from the stresses we all and in our own ways deal with in our lives. Perhaps that hour or so can spread out to other parts of a life and help to make it all easier. Let's not make mega claims, though. Yoga is do-able exercise that is quiet, contained and easy, and any type of exercise is good.

Spinal Flex is my favourite set, and I intend to keep doing it a few mornings a week. My second favourite Kundalini Yoga set is the Opportunity and Green Energy Set. It is a fairly advanced set, yes, but the ending of it, with the gratitude and generosity, and the green energy (yes, it so fits with my Green Fire project), wow. Think the energy of Nature, heart, healing. The Opportunity and Green Energy Set exercises your body in unique ways, and opens you to an emotional generosity. It is a prosperity set, and so I paired it with a wild little meditation I found tucked away in my numerous xeroxed binders (a whole shelf load of papers) of kriyas and meditations. It is called, Meditation For Prosperity, Fulfillment and Success.

Because I can't use my left wrist in any supportive way, I had to come up with another way to do the 2nd exercise in the kriya, the 'body drops.' I could have skipped that exercise, or tried it in a one-handed bandito style. But my small milking stool (the one I put a fan on when I do yoga) with a couch cushion on it is exactly the right height for my elbow. The Rehab doctor said carrying groceries in a bag hanging from my left elbow was fine, so, ergo, lifting myself from my elbow is also fine. My wrist rested throughout the exercise. I had a little trouble holding my left toe with my left hand in the 5th exercise, the 'Kundalini Lotus,' but managed by using the two fingers furthest from the injured area in the lightest way I could. I had to be careful during the 10th exercises, 'Cosmic Connections,' and hold my left wrist very lightly in position. I managed carefully to do the whole yoga set, and honestly, my wrist is hurting far more with the slow typing of this entry, which I have to take frequent stops from, than it did during the yoga.

The basic rule with yoga is if it hurts, stop. Never push yourself if it hurts. Listen to your body. Pain is there for a reason, and respect the limits it places on your capabilities. Tomorrow you can always push a tiny bit more and thus begin to increase what you are physically capable of.

Other than making minor adjustments to some of the exercises to ease any potential stress on my wrist, I found the set invigorating, and by the end of the workout, simply delightful - truly uplifting and joyful.

And the best? Having done this set 12 hours ago, I'm still feeling the wonderful vibes.




Opportunity and Green Energy Set



Meditation For Prosperity, Fulfillment and Success



Because I think I should always add this when I post yoga sets.

Note: Scans of these yoga kriyas and meditations have been uploaded to an unlisted album in Picasa and cannot be found by public search engines, but only if you have the link (which is available from this blog). I have begun this album so that I can easily access yoga sets and meditations I am working on.

If you find these sets and meditations intriguing and try them and like them, I urge you to find a Kundalini yoga class in your area to properly learn how to do them, as well as how to tune in, the Bhandas, or body locks, the different types of breath work, and so very much more. 


brendaclews.com

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Women Who are Looking Off Frame (again)

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.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Women Looking Off Frame

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.




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Sunday, July 22, 2012

When I closed my eyes...

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.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Harmonies that Resist Anxiety

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.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

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




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 dignity.

Hello another, more 'positive' meaning. Primal Man, meaning I leave it up to you, the viewer, to figure it out if you are at all so inclined.

I'm not sure about the tree above his head - though I had planned this evergreen tree from the moment I conceived him, and it's exactly as I imagined it would be in paint, a bit crude and child-like, not too neat, a little Emily Carr but not too much, sharing with the colour of the Canadian Mounties, no less.

Okay, never mind what I say. Since when is the artist the best person to talk about a painting?

See yesterday's sketch for an earlier description of what was in my mind with this painting.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blake Man, in-process

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.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass

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 Rests on Pillows in the Grass, 2012, Brenda Clews24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.


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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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