Coming up with good titles for paintings is quite hard. Sometimes I do feel like "Untitled" is truthfully the most appropriate option, and yet more often it feels like a bit of a cop out. Sometimes a painting is untitled for quite a while before an inspired caption floats into mind, lurking around the corners of the studio like a baby that can't leave the hospital until it been given its proper name. A good title should be clever but not pretentious, allusive but not overly obscure, and it should point the viewer in the right direction without being too didactic. In an ideal world, of course. Anyway, one of the main functions of this blog, I hope, will be to track the progress of all the various paintings I'm currently working on. They may take 6 months or a year, or, god help me, longer to finish, but this way I can both be in the studio, and out of it, sharing the work without feeling the pressure to have things already finished already. I don't tend to paint well under time pressure, but more on that later.
Here's a painting that I'm currently working on:
It is reasonably far along, and, dare I say it? I'm enjoying myself. Incidentally, I used my husband Dave's hands as models for this, as he has such lovely ones. My own paws are tiny, and not nearly as elegant.
Anyway, the other day its title came to me: "Indirection." I had been marinating several other options for a while, among which the most likely contenders were "Compass," "Pinwheel," and "Four Winds," but they never really seemed quite . . . quite. I like "Indirection" for several reasons, the first being it's one word. Short, simple, and seemingly to the point (pun . . . intended?) but with some nice potential complications.
A picture of hands pointing the four cardinal directions seems to be a fairly straightforward and direct image, and yet indirection means the opposite: lack of straightforwardness, lack of direction. Saying one thing, meaning another. Pointing to one thing, yet indicating something else. Appearing one way, being yet another. An antonym . . . of sorts.
But I like another potential reading of indirection: as a direction inwards. A journey not to the four corners of the map, but to the center. A direction that is in my experience generally meandering. Complicated time and again with detours and setbacks. In fact, I'm beginning to think it can only be achieved indirectly: if you aim yourself too squarely at the goal, you will be deflected. The path to the center is a spiraling one.
I think of this painting as a place where these two meanings of indirection can come together. The hands point decisively north, south, east, west, and yet the title suggests that this is a kind of dissimulation, to misdirect you outwards when in fact, the real destination is inside yourself. And that will always be an indirect and subtle voyage.
(It turns out that computer programmers have their own particular definition of indirection . . . . but I've decided that they can keep it. My painting has enough meaning already, thank you.)