It is nearly dark, a new moon barely risen. Perhaps a storm is coming; perhaps it has just passed. Lights along the shore suggest the presence of humans. What are those faint grayish shapes in the darkness of the trees? It’s nearly too dark to see. Houses, perhaps? Something else?
Like many artists, I feel frustrated by the surfaces of things. So I slow down, breathe deeply, pay attention to what I see. I draw and paint as realistically as I can because I feel that if the image is not realistic, people won’t believe it. But if the surfaces are too believable, it becomes difficult to suggest anything behind them—deeper strata of meaning, perhaps. How to paint an image that is a kind of door that opens into another, deeper world we sense is present, but that we can’t see? How, as Thomas Moore writes, to reveal the “inner realm of things without depriving them of their concreteness”?
A sense of the imminent power of Darkness is what I wanted in this painting. Rilke says it well in Das Stundenbuch: A Book For the Hours of Prayer, (translated by Robert Bly):
You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything:
Shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!—
powers and people—
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
Perhaps someday I’ll be able to paint an image that opens the door. Meanwhile . . .