Dear Friends from around the world,

There’s so much I could share about my recent visit to the US! It will take a while to fully integrate those intense couple of weeks, and I have some exciting developments I’d like to share in my next newsletter. For now, I’ll focus on this art highlight for you.

Changing my thinking to be more supportive of well-being has been essential as an artist, and also had the benefit of deepening my skills as a mentor and coach. To this end, I attended a retreat offered in Colorado, and it was extraordinary. Although a short visit this time, I was determined to finally visit The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.

Way beyond my expectations, I’d not seen anything like it. Several Rothko paintings were part of ‘Seeking Stillness’ at the MFA is Boston in 2017, and prior to that, I saw ‘Rothko: The Late Works’ at Tate Modern, in 2008. Nothing compares to this one work comprised of 3 enormous triptychs and 5 single canvases that almost eclipse the octagonal walls of the chapel.

Between 1964 to 1967, Rothko worked on this commission, producing the paintings after and while continuing to collaborate on the non-denominational chapel’s design with architect Phillip Johnson. For the Chapel’s visionary founders – John & Dominique de Menil – their mission for the chapel was to unite spirituality and social change, for which they believed art is essential. The integrated package known as The Rothko Chapel has now been doing its’ work for fifty years, with over 100,000 visitors each year.

When I first heard about The Rothko Chapel, there was an immediate sense of resonance; a sense of my kind of place made by my kind of artist. Rothko’s paintings have intrigued and soothed me in their myriad variations from the multiforms to monochromes over many years. He continues to inspire me on my path to being a painter who makes work for sacred/contemplative spaces.

The Chapel entry is opposite the street frontage on Sul Ross Street, Houston. The searing heat of the day persisted until late into the evening. I was very grateful to enter the foyer and be enveloped by the cool darkness. Standing there alone for a few moments, I thanked him, Rothko. and walked in.

The paintings were an immediate surprise. Astonishingly large, later, I discovered they’d entered the building via the roof, fourteen of them, considered one work of art. Where to look?! With three guards watching your every move, one is not alone, however, in looking meditation all else falls away eventually. A magnetic presence, the triptych opposite the main entry, is around seven metres wide and perhaps five metres high. The middle panel is layered with thousands of visible marks. The more I look, a lavender cast appears within the grey centre and a reddish cast to the inside corner of the left canvas. The central panel seems to be bursting with light…

The subtleties are not visible in photographs due to the huge scale of the works, and This photo will give you a sense of the space and how the paintings occupy it. Here’s a draft of thoughts that came to me while looking. No need to think too much about them, just notice if any images come to mind as I intend to share a sense of experiencing Rothko’s paintings:

1. I paint the light

That belongs

To everyone. Even if it appears darkly.

Especially as it appears darkly.

2. Both and.

Light dark

Colour non colour

Material ephemerality

Brushy marks and dissolution

layer

After layer

After layer

Merging partly and fully

Arrested in becoming

and complete.

 

3. Triptychs – arms wide open

Giant imminent enfoldings

Or emphatic centre with sentinels

Rothko.

Thank you.

4. Marks dissolve and fall

Falling

Deeper

deeper

Desiring to plum

The depths

Of plum

And darker, deeper

Yearning the peace of

The Final Black

But

Painting made of Life

could not

Be Life’s absence.

5. Rather

Descent and rising

happen at the same time

exactly

Spiritus Sanctus

In flight

Inherent

Innate.

How do I know?

We all know, given we stop

for long enough

wait listen.

 

6. Third triptych from the left –

Pieces of eternity encased

The central panel has slipped

the moment extended

some thing in process

Compositionally anchored

By two blocks

Or two wings

7. Back wall

stops the world

Alone, it is clearly enough

A message.

Oval of absorbed/reflected light hovers

two-thirds the way up

The one with the most

Red-violet

Fenced field of red-violet tenderness

Encompasses one’s heart

when seated.

 

8. Held by a fine square container

With rare and wiggly pockets of arterial intensity

Know this glowing corner

Of … love, really.

Resonates through

heart’s large room

Open front and back.

9. The marks have melted

At the boundary of centre and casing

The boundary, appearing definite,

moves. How so?

Multiple layers overlap slightly;

A mutable boundary; territories nudge each other

Resolute iterations

I AM here

and I AM here too

Life force

Soul force

More like a lake.

 

10. Head stretches back

Take

A deep breath of inspiration

Another of sublimity

And rest.

11. Note the lower boundary

Between dark centre and red-violet container

might be the half hour before dawn

Very first light ever so

Slightly brightening ever so

Gently illuminates the horizon

Reaches the beholder

Offers

This new day.

 

12. The centre at around 12:30pm

brims with light

A diver coming up to the surface at night?

No

The space is too tense

Like compressed air

Wanting

TO BE somewhere and

This IS the place.

13. I don’t know the time

Do the many hours of making soak

up more hours like a sponge?

Is time sucked into

The Paintings’

Timelessness

With lost thoughts and prayers

returning to the essential fabric –

Light emptiness?

Or clay?

14. Note the range of violets –

Blue-violet

Violet

Red-violet

rough gems

Near zones of meeting

touched down

Touching.

15. Float on through

One’s eyes

One’s being caressed by illuminated

dark feathers

Another chapter starts now.

16. The field

Offers a portion of what might be possible;

For you

a piece of household-scale geometry

Indifferent and steadfast

Arms.

One size fits all.

17. Constriction in my chest

Little cords holding down, holding back

Give way

Plummy earths ground

And

A cloudy field carries

One

I am here

in painted space

Touching space.

Thank you, Rothko.

Mark.

 

If you’ve read this far, thank you!

With gratitude for the power of art!

Suzanne