That Alice Girl - Original Post

Perhaps those of you who have been following my works in progress on social media have spotted something in the series I'm currently working on ... how the character in first one painting and then another, seems to keep on reappearing?

The thing is that wasn't how the paintings were originally envisioned and I've had to spend some time coming to terms with the whole thing really. 

Perhaps it would have been easier if I hadn't been especially inspired to paint this particular image (left) as a tribute to a dear friend, Croatian Naive painter Katarina Krvarić: who happens to be a more symmetrically bobbed brunette without green eyes. However, when it came time to choose the paint palette on the day I started her hair, my creative intuition dictated I choose yellows and golds. Go figure. I would have thought I was the one in charge of my painting. Only the more I paint, and especially the more I paint figures, the less control I realise I have. 

Instead I have had to accept the fact that my creative process is a process in which, to facilitate the best results and the greatest creative satisfaction, I must follow my subconscious instinct rather than lead with my conscious mind. 

So what I have now is a series that I suspect you will assume to be a series of self portraits. Only that makes me squirm in my chair as I would find painting a straight forward self portrait an exercise in self obsession too far. I am far more interested in the universal, the international and the diversity of difference. Honestly, if you'd asked me six months ago what are your plans for painting figures I would have said - all colours, all walks, all ages, celebrate 'the other'! 

So I've had to ask myself, what's been going on and who exactly have I been painting?

Which brings me to this painting. The original idea came to me as "A Storm in a Teacup" ... evolved into "Alice and the Emerald City", and more recently has become associated with "The Immigrant's Dream." A far more political response to recent news cycles than I ever would have predicted. Honestly though, three titles for a painting is a bit too much even for me - but for now let it be known that the title is as much in flux as the work itself until the last brush stroke applied and the gallery list printed.

In the meantime, for the record, I am an immigrant myself and I'm definitely in favour of dreams!

But, why did Alice come to me? After all, it is Dorothy who searches for the Emerald City and I'm well up on the differences between Lewis Carroll and Frank L Baum. 

Is it perhaps because it was Alice who went through the Looking Glass? That was very neat of my subconscious: after all I do paint on glass ... on the reverse of, or through, the glass to be precise. And I do love a Wonderland - especially one in which I can ignore the rules of perspective, forget the laws of  physiology and allow my imagination to paint the world out of season and stories out of time. 

But I'm not illustrating Alice in Wonderland, am I? No, that's clear enough. Because the series that started me off was never about a Girl chasing a White Rabbit, but about a Girl journeying with a Bear "Seeking Harmony."

We'll leave the bear to the side for now. However this girl is (and was conceived of as) an allegory: a fairy tale figure to walk the viewer through a visual landscape. Someone who is curious, adventurous, innocent in one way, wise in another - someone much like my seven year old daughter, but even more like my own seven year old self. 

Which makes me think: have I, and more interestingly, how have I ended up inadvertently painting myself when my eyes were open the entire time?

And then it comes to me. 

Like a writer advised to 'write about what they know' - each of my subconscious, instinctive decisions has been working towards painting the world through my own experience. Through my memories, my thoughts, my meditations and along my own spiraling lines. So that while I never set out to paint myself in any literal way, the very best guide for my imagined world must ever be some version of my seven year old self: the girl who sensed magic and reality blurring their lines, dancing in that midnight garden when dreams can be more real than the 'real' world around. 

So yes, I continue to want my paintings to speak to a universal wonder and my figures to dance in all the colours of the rainbow - but I do not know what your dreams look like nor do I feel comfortable painting someone else's skin: that experience is too intimate to feel right for me just now. So I invite you into my world and offer you a guide perfect to the occasion: she's non-judgmental, open to wonder and curious about the world surrounding. She isn't really me, but the bit of her that is me represents the very best of an innocent, inquiring time. 

You can call her Alice if you like.

I do. 

After all, she's gone through the looking glass and is waiting on the other side ...

And another thing: 

In pondering "Alice" I have stumbled across the following website. I have avoided reading it while I've been trying to understand myself, but the very fact that it exists has kept me company in my ponderings.

An edited version of this blog post was prepared for my “Through a Looking Glass” exhibition in 2015. You can read it here.

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