Behind these windowpanes that look out onto the rooftop world of birds, there has been a blizzard of tiny brush strokes, despite the warm and early spring outdoors.
Miniature strokes, best calculated in fictitious units of measurement, have traced their way over a tiny wooden board and then over each other until layers of paint stood on layers of paint which stood on layers of paint.
Some days I painted feathers all day long, and then went to bed only to continue painting them in my dreams.
I only have a small table-top easel that I carried home from Istanbul a few years ago, rather than a big, fine one that adjusts to different heights, so sometimes it becomes painful to paint. But even when straining in low corners, back bent, shoulders locked, and lip bitten, I took pleasure in the making of this. Though, of course, it is very nice to step back, straighten my spine, and see it finished.
I have always liked sparrows, enjoyed watching little groups of them hopping about and taking dust baths only an arm's length away. One of my earliest memories is of sitting outside on a sunny morning watching them while I waited for someone to take me to school. It must have been when I was only about three because I was at my grandparents' house.
I have read somewhere or other that for medieval artists, sparrows symbolized the baser, coarser aspects of human existence. Because their little flocks lived in such close proximity to people, they were seen as a mirror of society and used as a tool for criticism of lewd behaviour. I'm no longer sure where I read that, but I do tend to feel a bit more for them than that. In Japan, someone once told me than they carry the souls of the dead to the other world.
I did try to give each one of these birds painted here a sense of individuality and purpose, a little glimmer of something different in each face in the group. A choice, maybe.
Another thing I tried to accomplish was to move the viewer's eyes through the painting, snaking back and forth across it all the way down to the bottom, to where the line of sparrows ends, so that each bird would be examined in turn as the eyes travelled past them.
Perhaps this post has repeated that sort of snaking motion through the painting. So, at the end of this side-stepping procession of words and images, let me put together these details and share the whole painting...
|Feathers, oil on wood, 24.5 x 30 cm|