Here is a shibori (tied knot dyeing) pattern known as yokobiki kanoko, square ring dots. I became intrigued by the possibilities of this repeated motif. (Well – whatever helps you make it through the night, right?)
I begin on the top left hand side of a canvas 110 x 175 cm with white motifs measuring about 9 mm – square edges, round centres – on an indigo ground. By the time I have progressed through a few rows I start to wonder about leaving some squares blank. (This move always feels like a dramatic possibility in the early stages of a painting and generally coincides with the realization that what has been begun will take a very long time to complete.)
The body itself militates against a perfectly even result. The hand and the sight are both somehow biased, not responsive to the intention of perfection. Gradually, in spite of my best attempts to keep it even, the pattern shifts and, as the shift develops, the shift becomes a pattern in itself.
Thoughts arise. As I repeat the motifs I realize that they have become to me like little organisms, like a culture on a petrie dish, or a community of zooplankton. Which leads to the use of the word culture in a human context and thus to the human form, limbs outstretched, reaching but not touching.
The forces that create the shift in the work become like the forces that operate between people, in pairings, communities, societies: considerations of personal space, of likeness and dissimilarity, of external forces that affect the whole interaction almost imperceptibly at first, then later in easily observable ways. More colours enter the work, and gradually congregate and begin to influence one another. The image begins to develop flaws that demand solutions.
The surface is covered now, except for the sharp contrast of the indigo blanks; and now I realize, as I very often do towards the end, that the whole surface needs to be covered for the work to be complete. So I fill the blanks.
The painting takes more than three months to complete. It contains over 13,000 little “square ring dots”. It has given me, without my having sought it, hundreds of hours of contemplation of the complex interactions between living organisms – attraction and repulsion, association and separation, union and isolation. This is one of the great privileges of making art.