The Colour of Distance

I didn’t actively choose this colour palette. It chose me.

Hard Season – painting on panel

A Payne’s gray monochrome palette met me where I was, and took me back to the basics. Liberated from colour choices, the shades, tones and tints highlight the ebbs and flows of my mental agonies, diluted paint reflect my tears, and mixed media and impasto speak to the layers of grief. I found strength in the range and power of my brushwork. I found the will to continue in the flow and movement of the paint. I found meaning in the ability to see, to feel, and to make art. I painted my way through despair; I painted through tubs of paint, through tears – lots of tears.

I began to think that the crying would never stop.

“There is a kind of crying I hope you have not experienced, and it is not just crying about something terrible that has happened, but a crying for all of the terrible things that have happened, not just to you but to everyone you know and to everyone you don’t know and even the people you don’t want to know” (Lemony Snicket).

Life of tears – painting on panel

In time, after painting many panels that captured the blue of my amorphous grief, solace gradually found its way into my heart.  “Not meant to be an answer,” as David Whyte says, solace is “a celebration of the beautiful coming and going, appearance and disappearance of which we have always been a part.”

I was finally able to look at the distance/s in my life and also those within me and see the beautiful blue. Rebecca Solnit poetically explains this scientific phenomenon as the blue light that got lost. With a shorter wavelength, the “light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us” and scatters.

And that is how I began to paint the “beauty of that blue that can never be possessed.” (Solnit)

Echoing the essence of Rumi’s poem, the Song of the Reed, John O’Donohue’s words remind me that ‘my longing, this longing for the unattainable distance, is “a reverberation of my invisible heritage.’ To hold this eternal longing in the same breath as my ‘broadening circles of belonging’ is the ongoing task of being human. Mary Oliver beautifully suggests that it is an ongoing task:

Oh, to love what is lovely and will not last!

What a task

to ask

of anything, or anyone,

yet it is ours,

and not by the century or the year,

but by the hours.

Mary Oliver

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