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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson

SCRATCHING THE SURFACE

Updated: Feb 5, 2023



It is always nice to have one's words endorsed, even in retrospect!


In previous articles, I have written of my firm and independent beliefs about what Abstract Art is. “When we look at an abstract painting, the object of our gaze is reality itself” (Haydn Dickenson, interviewed by Beata Piechocka, 2020).


The early Theosophist-Abstractionists held similar beliefs, seeing mystical significance in certain abstract mark-making. For them, abstract pictures represented a truer and purer reality than representational ones which sought to imitate a 'real' world that they considered an illusion anyway.


Yes, this is a lot to get one's head around!


The 'retrospective endorsement', mentioned at the start of this article is something that I recently read; a comment by the artist Georg Baselitz (b 1938) who states that “Reality is the painting; it is certainly not in the painting”.


Beginning this week's blog post with a reference to earlier articles is not entirely irrelevant. I was struck once again today, on completing a large meditational painting, of the truth of my notion that one's life, one's existence, one's psyche can be conveyed by an abstract picture in a more refined and concentrated way than it can by a representational one.




BERKANA - Haydn Dickenson 2023


Art is a deeply personal form of self-expression. David Bowie was of the belief that one must be, to an extent, dysfunctional to become an artist of any type. It does indeed seem mildly perverse, at times, to expose one's soul and mind to the world at large.


I tried, in the past, to circumvent this state of affairs by producing a lot of paintings entitled 'Untitled'. I wanted my abstraction to remain pure, untainted by allusion.


I understand however that the public wants a 'handle' on a painting. I appreciate that abstract art can be intimidating, along the lines of 'I don't understand it'.


There is something about the expression 'inspired by' that makes me cringe a little, reminding me of that (to me) strange question that I have often been asked – 'what were you thinking about when you painted it?' I accept though, albeit with a gentle sigh of acquiescence, that some referential substance can be of assistance in approaching what might seem to be a challenging, obscure, even disconcerting visual confrontation.


One of my missions in writing this blog is to encourage people to become 'friendly' with abstract painting. Perhaps it does not do to establish oneself as too aloof, too impenetrable; Art after all is an expression of humanity.



Humans are complex and multi-faceted beings. In contrast to the eagle traversing the sky, or the wild animal calmly grazing the hillside, our complexity can lead to torment. Creative outpouring in all genres and types may communicate joy and positivity, but it can also reflect sorrow and catastrophe. We know of the existential challenges faced by Mark Rothko, Sylvia Plath, Terence Judd, John Ogdon and so many more across diverse fields of cultural genius.


For me, the creation of Art allows and encourages elements of one's subconscious to rise to the surface. In common with many people, elements from my past have the capacity to cause anguish and to present psychological and existential hurdles on a daily basis. I have written before of the need for extremes in the creative mind of an artist and, difficult though the extremes can be, I stand by this claim.


Thus, painting often seems to offer an opportunity to 'scratch through the surface', to delve into deeper realms, even to confront problems. I often, literally, 'scratch back' in a painting, revealing multiple layers beneath the exterior. BERKANA, the large painting pictured above, is an example of this.


Berkana is the Norse/Germanic Rune symbol associated with, among other things, birth, rebirth, healing and growth. I have this Rune tattooed on my left wrist and it feels particularly important to me this year, at a time when I am making some important decisions about my future.


Berkana also refers to the Birch or Poplar tree; the Birch is one of my favourite trees. A Birch forest seems to make an appearance in this week's unfolding of my new painting, BERKANA. The numinous element in the way this canvas was channelled through me feels powerful indeed.




Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023

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