Fire & Spate
It was a very productive six months at Behta Pani starting with The Fire Is Now series. We returned to our Himalayan abode to find road and tourism development, which started in 2017 (forcing us to move) was now moving faster with all the distressing, unsustainable human impacts. It is a microcosm of the accelerating impacts of global heating and the climate crisis that even the most adamant deniers ignore to their grandchildren’s peril and the ecocide of the biosphere. I felt a mix of sadness and anger, especially having been one of the early voices, over thirty years ago, raising the alarm through projects with NASA, NOAA, and USGS and my pioneering digital New Media presentations on climate change (see www.paysonrstevens.com). These paintings are the first of a series with fire as the symbol of our impact on the land, shown here with abstracted mountains. Others will hopefully follow later with water, clouds, and forests. Working on relatively large canvases, the paintings allowed me to work through my body energy/anger and sense that Homo destructivus’ behavior is now a form of criminal intent affecting the entire biosphere causing a biodiversity holocaust. Millions of global teenage activists, like Greta Thunberg, have impressively said enough— there is no PlANet B —and are wisely taking to the streets speaking truth to power.
Himat & Raju, invaluable BP staff helping prepare canvas
Strangely, I set the Fire Is Now series aside after rereading some books on Indian yantras and started a different series: Yantra Yatra. These paintings took me back to the ancient Indian yantra geometric shapes: triangles, squares, and circles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yantra). Yatra is the Hindi term for a pilgrimage to a holy place that is both a physical and spiritual journey. Over the course of decades these shapes have appeared in my paintings introducing these spiritual meditative symbols and mystical diagrams. But, I felt compelled to focus specifically on three of the geometric shapes to move deeper into their forms. I allowed the series to take me where it would on this artistic and inner journey. Each of the three shapes has seven paintings associated with it and in seven different colors. The seven colors represent both the visible light spectrum, red to violet, and the seven chakras, or energy centers in the human body that are also part of the ancient Indian mystical tradition. The Yantra Yatra series has a total of 21 paintings-seven for each shape. The paintings were a challenge as they evolved after my initial oil on paper and canvas studies. Though my energy flow forms/style continued the main compositions required a more specific geometric rendering. They demanded their due and it was often was quite challenging working with very small brushes and the fine details. In effect, I had my own yatra that took me out of my comfort zone.
While finishing up the Yantra Yatra series, we had some intense Monsoon storms. On August 18 a huge tempest blasted our valley and it poured buckets all day and night. The next morning our Hirub stream had risen over eight feet and was a raging river: the Hirub in spate. Familiar huge boulders and a tree trunk, the size of small car, which had defined the stream bed has disappeared in the night. As I stood on the bank above watching, I felt possessed by the roar and was sucked into the chaotic flow and energy. I returned to the studio a few hours later and started painting in a fury what became the Silver Series. These paintings, of all different sizes and thematic compositions, included the subsets, Silver Scrolls and Hirub Spate.
Bahli, our wild one, relaxing.
Many Works On Paper were also done for all the series I worked on. As for many years, I work on clay-coated paper, kindly provided by Sergio Lopez of Monarch Litho.
Though I am slowing down and it is harder to stand all day to paint, I felt an almost daily drive to work in the studio this year. I told Kamla it was as if I had become the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, with paintings doubling and tripling before my eyes almost beyond my control. The studio filled with small clay paper studies everywhere waiting for me to bring them to life on canvas. One series led to the next and how I went from wanting to spend the season on the Fire Is Now and ended up with the Hirub Silver Series once again Nature and her EnergyLandscapes capturing me in its flow is a mystery.
With full gratitude, I accept this Gift at 74, and know not whether more paintings will emerge as I age. It is enough they have for so long and did with a passion this year.