Structure and Story.

“Monk” – ©Vivianne LaRiviere, 2018 Acrylic, 36” x 24”

As I draw near to the end of my thesis writing, with hopefully but a few months to go, in a most recent writing session I made mention of an article that dealt with “texture and structure”1 when dealing with how to write up a phenomenological approach for  qualitative research. In others words…phenomenon. And though this may sound all very heady and academic, the exercise inspired me. Arising was a different set of words, asking me how we might consider looking at the narrative of a painting: through surface and story.

As we glance over quickly the surface of a painting we are sometimes initially struck, by either colour or shape, or both. We may be mesmerized by depth, or perception, or simply an order of things we cannot yet grasp, but find appealing nonetheless. Or we may be downright confused by shapes and figures we find unimaginable, disorganized or sultry. We sometimes do not comprehend that there may also be a story trying to unfold; and you the viewer become part of the narrative, as you enter into dialogue – whether that be with the artist, or simply yourself.

Every artist has a different approach to their art, as unique as the individual themselves. Needless to say, there is a beginning point, a brave first stroke, and an ending period; or perhaps a lingering comma, or question mark. For myself, my paintings can often start with an ‘I don’t know where to begin, but I know I have to paint’ type of feeling. In these intuitive moments it is about laying aside my judgment, my cautiousness, and allow the energy to come through – for undoubtedly there is often something for me to see, to learn, to question, and to wonder about.

The development of a canvas for me, could be a part of my own story that needs unfolding or processing, or a culmination of the abstract ideas, and tensions of others, I have been carrying around for a while, and need to let go of. As an abstract artist, it rarely is about a still life, or an exercise outwardly based. I flounder horribly with those! Still mostly self-taught, my floundering renders itself as a spiritual practice that grounds me, often times exhausts me and yet grants me a sound modicum of joy.

And then there is the story – the chapters that are indicative of the paragraphs of time that move us beyond surface noise and colour. These occasions may be hard to come by or understand. And not that this is important. More so, I would hope that silence is the concerning effort. For the more we stand still and reflect with a piece of art, the more is revealed, the more we connect with our own memories, desires, foibles, and at times even charisma.

The story may ask us to revisit the surface, and yet we bring with us a knowing of what was not there for us before. And so the surface speaks again, but with a different tonality, a different hint of light, or shadows cast against a backdrop we didn’t see the first time. The longer we linger, the more characters may surface, and who are they, for the artist? And for you? What doors open, or close? Or continue to revolve?

Art is an eternal thing, some indescribable mystery that lingers throughout our history books, evoking and stoking the strongest of passions, and frailties of the human condition. When we hold the tension between ‘surface and story’ we may be cast into an illuminative process of vulnerability, transparency and beckoned to summon our courage for reasons unbeknownst to us but a few moments ago. We may be asked to address rooms in our houses that we haven’t walked through for decades. We may be questioned about where we need light, and honesty. We may be asked to speak to values and principles that we had left dormant for years. Or we may simply find a piece colourful enough to match our new sofa. Oh….did I say anything about archetypes?

Regardless of how we may engage with art, the important thing is to engage. With art. Make decisions as to where your eyes and your heart ask you to linger, and for what reasons. What does the surface tell you? And where is the story? What is the story? Be curious. Practice your curiosity. Go for a walk, or a run, or a crawl along the surface of colour, and texture, and depth, and lines, and spaces…and see if you fall into a story.

See if you fall in love, or not. See if you breathe deeply or remain like a shallow, unlit flint on a winter’s night. All are sparks for the imagination. All can change your mind about a multitude of things. All can shift your perception, and your judgment. These are all but a few of the multitude of reasons to support artists. Art can play an important role in the development of your own identity and character, as it serves to help you hold the tension between your own surface and story.

I hope to see some of you at my upcoming show @ Hudson Gallery Plus, 448 Main Rd. the weekend of April 20th, as part of the Gallery’s pop-up initiatives. I invite you into conversation, , and what happens as you come face-to-face with the surface and stories of many of the paintings that will be on display. See you soon! Thank you, many blessings and peace for your journey, Vivianne

1Marcia Stanley, Stanley Wertz, Marcianna Nosek, Susan McNiesh and Elizabeth, Marlow, The Complete First Person Narrative: Texture, Structure, and Meaning in Writing Phenomenological Descriptions, March, April, 2011, Citation: Int J Qualitative Stud Health Well-being, 2011; : 5882 – DOI: 10.3402/qhw.v6i2.5882, retrieved February 22, 2018,

By | 2018-04-10T19:46:22-04:00 April 10th, 2018|Blog|0 Comments

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