Visualising the Fanfare

fanfare 2.JPG

Last night, we went to the Christmas Sydney Town Hall Concert. It was a family event organised by my wife Heather; a wonderful gift for our extended family. I sat next to my 8-year-old grandson, Tom, and invited him to anticipate the ‘fanfares’ that came at regular intervals in the concert. The ‘fanfare’ to me is a loud crescendo of orchestra and organ, working together to lift the whole work to another level, and to attract my attention so that I know that something special is happening. I enjoy the way the fanfare calls my attention to something special, and it invites me in to pay close attention.

This morning, I have come into the studio, and with lots of energy have used smaller brushes very freely, energetically, and gesturally, building on a structure made with my freehand scribble that grows from the discipline of decades of looking and drawing to the point that all that drawing influences, shapes, and forms the scribbles that I make. And, in the midst of my frenetic activity on plywood boards, a thought emerged in my head – that what I was painting, and the manner of my painting, was, ‘fanfare’. 

fanfare 1.JPG

I want to use colour, line, subtle layering, and gestural mark-making to announce the mystery for which I have no adequate name. Our culture for millennia has used the word, or sound, ‘God’ to give name to the mystery and centuries of scholars have worked to ‘grasp’ that mystery. Simpler minds (not meant as a derogatory comment in any way), have personified the mystery to make it easier to grasp and to talk about … even to relate to. 

In the concert, the fanfare was used five times, each to announce a special carol or notable verses or stanzas within the carols; each announcing the arrival of someone special (Jesus, Emmanuel, King of Kings, Son of God). In my paintings today, I want to create works that somehow evoke the crescendo of the whole organ and orchestra, working together, calling us to notice that which is special. For me, what is special is that we humans can be aware of the mystery, and then have a willingness to be open to, and, to be willing to be addressed by, (the voice of) that mystery. In so doing, my hope is that the viewers might be enabled to live into the fullness of their being.

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DOUG PURNELL IS A PASTORAL THEOLOGIAN WHO IN HIS RETIREMENT IS FOCUSING ON A COMMITMENT TO A FULL-TIME STUDIO PRACTICE OF PAINTING THAT EXPLORES THE NATURE OF ABSTRACTION AND MARK MAKING. HE WAS FOR 17 YEARS THE DIRECTOR OF THE BLAKE PRIZE FOR RELIGIOUS ART. HE LIVES AND PAINTS ON GADIGAL LAND.

One thought on “Visualising the Fanfare

  1. Thank you, Doug, for sharing your wonderful insight into sacred mystery through art making beyond representation. Your writing resonates with my arts practice, too, as I grapple with passion in the realm of mark making and abstraction.

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