Outer shell, inner soul and creative process
Earlier this week, I was participating in a focus group and the facilitator asked me: “why are you using seashells in your abstract paintings? what do they represent in your artistic expression?”
So I had to pause, gear my brain toward my native language, which usually (but not always) helps me “extract” my ideas.
And I sort of articulated, the best I could with my french accent: “The seashell really is the remaining element of a formerliving animal. Leave Him (yes, it is masculine gender in french!) on the beach and He will be vowed to disappear, slowly fragmented, piece by piece, through the effect of the tide. Or pick them up, start collecting them, like I did when I was 7, growing up in Brittany. Et voila! This could become the beginning of another kind of adventure. A creative process with a meaning – the idea of finding them a sanctuary maybe?”
Their outer shell, made of calcium carbonate and very little amount of protein, has been shaped, layer by layer, as the animal was growing.
Such is your painting, growing and evolving, layer by layer, until we, us creative people, feel it a whole!
The animal long gone, the shell remains, gets shaped by the friction with the sand; its colors & sheen altered by salted water. This whole process is a mix of biology, chemistry, physics and …”cerise sur le gâteau” (cherry on the cake) ….organic beauty.
And this is where my inner soul resides.
As I create texture, colors and arrangement of abstracted shapes, I rummage in my collection to select the seashell that will complement it. This is a sort of conversation between the painting, the shell and myself; if they can’t talk to each other, they don’t fit with each other, so I let hem converse until they find their place, until they coexist. Sometimes they can’t, so I rummage again until we find an harmonious composition in term of composition, shapes, colors, values.
My preferred materials are mother-of-pearls ~ abalone ~ mussels, the one that the waves took all the indigo blue out and only the shimmering effect of mother of pearls appears ~ and other you can’t identify anymore, so thin you can see through, another step or another wave and they will break. Trying to recover their inner soul.
This is part of the journey of an artist who happened to be a chemist, and vice versa.
She heard and listened to her inner soul, sorting the many ideas to retain the best. It is a process, which requires time, and effort. So worth it.
It is worth asking ourselves: “why creating the way I do?” Try and tell me what you find out!
Thank you for reading,
Marie Burban Wohlfahrt
First publication | 4/20/2017