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Notes from my painting studio..
Welcome to my site
Click here for some notes on what's been happening in the studio this one year
2020 has been an exceedingly busy year for me, with quite a lot of painting sales and commissioned work. I love working on commissions, developing works that grow from peoples personal stories and things close to their hearts generally.
Also Sona Babajanyan and I created Plexus Gallery at the end of last year and are continuing to develop this innovative commercial gallery, representing some of Brisbane's finest independent visual artists. Here's some photos and information about Plexus
My dear friend Pat Hoffie, wrote this about the sleep series
'..that you have but slumber'd here,
while these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
no more yielding but a dream.'
(Puck, in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Sleeping figures, wrapped around a dream. The subjects of these paintings seem caught between the very skeins of the paint; wrapped within the gauzy sheets of the image's layers.
If they are, in part, portraits, they are also evocations of states-of-being. Captured in repose, they dream in the shadowy spaces of half-realms, suspended between the between the here and the not-here.
The dreaming subjects in these paintings have entered this state of being willingly. In delivering themselves into the hands of the artist's other-role as a masseur, they allow themselves to be lulled into sleep - suspended into a kind of temporary trance, they become the willing subjects of the artist's other-role as a painter.
The images are evocative, then, in two ways, for they are experienced and realized by the artist as both the solid flesh of physical bodies and as the numinous ineffable nature of a sleeping spirit. There is a sense of hypnosis at play; and with it a nod towards the role of artist as a creator of visual imagery capable of mediating between our conscious and sub-conscious awareness.
The growing public interest in the sub-conscious that emerged in the late 18th century was influenced by the experiments of Franz Mesmer, a German doctor who described the 'invisible force' (lebensmagntismus) that all animate beings possess. Mesmer believed that the capacity for harnessing that force could generate a range of physical effects, amongst the more positive of which was a kind of healing. Since that time, practices of 'mesmerism', experiments with somnambulism and treatises on vitalism were continued in hundreds of volumes of documented experience up until the 1920s, when such practices were dropped to the side in the enthusiasm for more rational approaches to understanding unconscious states. Up to that point, the proponents of such far-reaching experiments were variously referred to as hypnotists, animal-magnifiers, mesmerists and vitalists. And although these practices ultimately failed to be recognized by Western medicine, their efficacy in generating positive results to a range of ailments that include pain, depression, anxiety disorders, addictions and psychogenic illnesses are still recognized by many traditional practitioners.
Visual artists share, along with the mutable practices of the mesmerists, work sites that traverse the shifting grounds between material and spirit, and practices that call attention to the shifting, uncertain territories between conscious and unconscious states of awareness. Throughout art history, artists have painted dreamers; from the biblical dreamers of Marc Chagall to Henri Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy (1897) to Picasso La Reve (1932) and right up to the present, the subject matter of dreamers reminds us that even precious flesh is capable of melting and dissolving into a dream. Billy Shannon's ongoing experimentation with dreamers and their dreams continues the theme in this new series of paintings.
And here's a great article about my 'Sleep series' by Carol Shwarzman in the arts blog, Polycentrica
Here is a PDF version of that article, in case the link breaks
Enjoy the studio site!
Billy Shannon, painter
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