Language of the Sea & Love Will Have the Final Word

For nearly a decade, I have lived part of each year in Catalunya. The rich Catalan literary heritage and stunning landscape of mountains and sea have come to deeply and profoundly influence my work.

These paintings are directly inspired by the poetry of Joan Margarit. A practicing architect as well as poet, Margarit is considered one of Catalunya's greatest living poets. Much of his work deals with love, profound loss, self-doubt, and confronting the worst that life can throw at us. He writes with melancholy and candor, lovingly and hauntingly about memory, loss, and regret. He uses his experiences of growing up in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil war and the harshness of life in Barcelona under Franco, as well as the death of his beloved daughter, weaving Catalunya's cityscapes and the landscape of mountains and sea as metaphor for love and pain. Reading his work creates a visceral reaction in me. These paintings are a way for me to walk in his steps – to be "in the poem" – the images he conjures, places I too know and feel a deep, soulful connection to. Many of the titles in this series come directly from excerpts of the poems.

I hand prepare wood panels by sanding and applying traditional gesso and typically use two or three colors at most in these works. Working to capture shadow and light, I paint in thin washes. Multiple layers are reduced, wiped away, and then painted over, layer by layer, again and again. With thin washes of paint, the wood grain eventually seeps through, becoming an integral part of the final work and a metaphor for the Catalan earth, where Margarit walks so thoughtfully and tenderly through his poems. The final results evoke ethereal, dreamy emotional landscapes – each work a small meditation, a visual poem.  

© Cynthia Grow 2019

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