painting

Day 17 – Growth

In fact, I really didn’t plan on posting today but sometimes when an idea takes you it should be noted. Huge progress was made on the first portrait and as it crept closer to midnight, a daily deadline I imposed on myself to avoid sleepless nights and unproductive mornings, a thought came to me that I hadn’t quite imagined possible before.

This woman is beautiful. Not in the ‘You can tell she was pretty when she was alive’ kind of beautiful but truly, in this moment, captivating. And then I realised that I had felt this way about many of the 25. Trust me, many, if not most, of the faces would never ‘grace’ the pages of Vogue or Elle but regardless they stirred something more palpable and more visceral in me than I have ever really felt.

Having only ever lost a few people I cannot say that I have spent longer then perhaps two minutes looking at the face of death. Well, look how that has changed. You always here about artists trying to find the beauty in death and trying to capture how death could possibly be conveyed as beautiful. This is absurd. There is no beauty in the one thing we all have in common, there is no beauty in a terrifying totality that ends stories and cracks the earth beneath those left behind. I simply won’t accept this.

However, when I speak about the beauty of these deathly faces I am acknowledging the beauty of life. Because unlike the airbrushed faces we see on our screens and in our magazines these women in death somehow express more life. Confusing, I know but bear with me. When I began this project I contended that they’re stories were locked in others minds when, in reality, they’re locked in these faces.

In each freckle, wrinkle, bag, tattoo, scar, clipped nail lies the key to a memory, the life that has been lost. To wear our lives, to have our life written on our body, if that’s not beauty I don’t know what is. So when I said that the Mariska Hargitay portrait altered my perception of beauty it was no lie, but this, one portrait of 25, has irrevocably transformed it. Then why obsess day in and day out about youth when age, when storytelling, when depth is where beauty resides.

I know that all of you will just have to take my word for it but hopefully, some day in the near future you will see what I see.

©S.E Honan

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Day 13/14/15 – Surrender

Of course painting is the mission here so that’s what I’ve been concentrating on over the last few days. And now, considering the lack of visual stimulation thus far here I’ve decided to take a small intermission from Blink. to share with you all the painting that really helped me come to this point.

It’s strange how television that isn’t even on the critical level of, let’s say, Breaking Bad or The Wire can inspire something powerful from a place of crippling fragility and insecurity. Around December I began binge watching Law & Order: SVU as I became bed bound for around six weeks and Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson reignited a resilience and strength I was all but sure no longer existed in me. This character is perhaps one of the only truly independent, autonomous females in television. She is neither the ball-busting man hater nor the wilting violet waiting to be rescued. She is a fine example of what it is to be a true woman and unfortunately, this breed is rare on our screens.

In reality, Hargitay is no less inspiring. She created the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organisation which advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse along with campaigning to reduce, if not end, this kind of violence and works with End The Backlog which aims to eradicate the terrifying number of untested rape kits across the US.

Her earth-splitting beauty was secondary to me, though impossible to ignore. Therefore when I decided I had to paint a portrait of her, instead of choosing a glamourous shot of her looking the conventional idea of beautiful I decided to take a still from the opening episode of SVU Season 15. Here, she has been kidnapped and tortured for four days by a serial rapist referred to as “The Beast.” In the still I chose she has just broken free of her restraints and incapacitated her assailant.

This, for me, was Hargitay at her most beautiful. She was raw, burnt, beaten and fatigued but her face, her eyes, her mouth emanated such intense yet subdued power, a power that stemmed from the most vulnerable of situations that in a way I was a little awe-struck.

It’s the longest I’ve ever spent on a painting, just a little over four weeks of 10 hour days (I have no idea where that time went) but I came out of it with a new perspective on art, beauty and myself. It’s an extremely personal piece that will forever hold a part of my life and as dramatic as it sounds, I’m not sure exactly where I’d be without it.

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Day 10 – Bottom

Toying with the idea of whether or not to disclose this was tricky. But I think it is important and will continue to be important that I continue to display both to you and myself that the struggles I predicted were not away in the air somewhere but painfully real and disturbingly physical.

Last night, as I flicked once more through the case files I was reminded of one of the ages of a face I had found so compelling. She was estimated at between 13 and 19 years old. She died in 1979. Immediately, I scrawled the word ‘ANGER’ next to the summary I had written on her file. Later, I returned and wrote the poem you can see below. However, instead of immediately typing it up as I had planned, I switched off the light and lay in the black.

Sleep would not visit, thoughts squirmed and swirled throughout my mind as the one-eyed kitten chased my shaking feet, breath escaped me in laboured, frantic pants and my very core curled into an inconceivable knot as the tumbleweed of deathly thoughts soared in mass and weight inside my unbearably tight skull. Who would this kitten outlive? Will I wake up if I fall asleep? What is nothing? The kitten has to leave or she will be forever a reminder of those who died before her. I’m going to die. Will I die first?

This continued for maybe an hour. My hands shook so much that I couldn’t even correctly type “How to stop a panic attack” into Google. Eventually, my body which had been functioning on perhaps an average of six hours sleep for the past month gave out and allowed me to slip into the warm embrace of non-thought.

It has not discouraged me in the slightest, my mortal weaknesses are nothing, are ash, in comparison to what these women and  girls went through. If anything, I am more determined, yet equally wary. Most of all I have never been more convinced that your support will be the most important part of this entire project.

Yes, I will need your donations to go ahead but true support, true collective vision will only come by the simplicity of clicking ‘Share.’ Comment, Like and Follow if you believe in Blink. and everything it stands for because the truth? The truth is not only is it not possible to do this alone but I really don’t want to. Share, share, share through social media and in person because any of you reading this cannot tell me that the thought of being truly lost, as these people are, does not terrify you as much as I was last night. But it simply won’t be worth it if this does not reach people, reach right into their centre, as it has mine and hopefully, as it has yours too.

Day 9 – Maddened

Swirls, Rushes and Streams,
Grit, Sludging it’s way
Through the innermost workings.

Skin, so young, so scarred
by the wounds of time
Lost and Unkissed
In the womb of time.

Torn hands and Broken fingers
Weighted, Drowning by the instrument
Unheld and Unhealed.

The so-called glimmering eyes
Fogged and Veiled
for the funeral
Graced in every blink.

Outward symptoms of the inner skull,
The Riddled Body,
Each and Every shivering cell
In conflict,
Uncompromising and Unsoothed

©S.E Honan 2014.

Day 4 – Transitions

In case any of you were wondering about yesterdays post, on the first official day of this project by 8pm I felt a sort of illness I had never quite experienced so I took pen to paper and within half an hour was able to accurately diagnose the feeling in my body. In writing I found the name that had evaded me. Today has very much been about getting into solid work. No more doodles, the blog is set, so is the twitter  ( https://twitter.com/Blinkx4L ) and now I have to prepare for the painting.

Studying the faces of 25 elegant, engaging, lost women has taken it’s toll. Working solidly on canvases or paper for 10, 12, 14 hours at a time is not unusual for me but this is something far different. I was only able to complete 4 sketches today and I felt drained.

I’m still shocked at how connected I feel to those I do not know. I can already feel the dangerous grasps of desensitization sinking in and although it would make my task far easier if I could objectify them as simple subjects I know it would abolish the purpose of Blink. Somehow, someway I must maintain and, in fact, embrace the squirming discomfort I felt upon viewing each of their beautiful faces for the first time.

What confuses and disturbs me most of all is how easily I have been able to transition back into normal life after working. At first it wasn’t easy, in fact it was nearly impossible, I became a woman obsessed but these transitions are becoming smoother. Of course, this is the human way. When faced with our own mortality through the loss of others we become disillusioned, questioning of our purpose and sometimes apathetic. But then this very human, very odd gene kicks in to make us forget, helps us ‘move on’ and numbs us to the undeniable, paralyzing fear of death.

Constant awareness of our own persistent proximity to death would undoubtedly force us into an impossible prison of fear. It would cripple us, preventing us from life and yes, in some ways kill us. I guess this is just another quirk of nature, an evolutionary response to the inability to live with the deadly thought of death clinging to our collective back like some sort of fatal parasite. We’re all a blink a way, it can’t be every blink, but it could be any blink. So all we can do is hope, hope is the gene that sheds the terror and keeps the monsters away at night and as long as hope prevails we can live each blink like there will never be a final one.