by Holly Friesen
I paint because I have to. It is like the air I breathe, completely necessary to my brief existence here on earth. I paint to understand. Often my mind is far behind understanding what is appearing on the canvas. There is a body of wisdom that takes over when I hold a brush in my hand. When I trust this inner wisdom, sometimes I am able to let go and dance with the paint. I paint to survive. My deeply felt connection with the earth is my inspiration and the more I listen to the stories within the rocks, trees, rivers, and sky, the more I need to paint. I paint because I have to.
I like to work as large scale as possible because this allows greater movement and physicality with the painting. I often collage spiral patterned Washi (handmade Japanese paper) into my work. For me this adds a random and surprising element that says, “look deeper, there is more going on here than meets the eye.” The spiral is a fascinating, ancient image and a primal symbol in the history of humankind.
My favorite way to paint is to choose from a rather eclectic music mix and allow the sounds to draw me out of my head and into my body. As my mind stops chattering, colors and shapes become a visceral language and I respond intuitively following my own breath, heartbeat, and movement from within.
My work revolves around earth-honoring images that reflect and instill connection to local bio-regions. These images internalize a reverence for the earth and shift the intent from harming the world to living in a mutually life-enhancing manner.
After 30 years of painting from close observation of the forests, rocks and rivers, I feel I am no longer observing the natural world around me but rather, in a reversal of roles, the natural world seems to be observing me. Direct and spontaneous brushstrokes become intuitive movements that follow breath and echo emotional responses to this living, breathing vitality. Through a dynamic energetic exchange I feel as though I am being held within an intelligent, sentient field that expresses itself through colors, shapes and movement. I am both humbled and awed by this process.
I particularly enjoy the physicality of painting, the intuitive mark making, the hands-on application of collage and sometimes the direct carving into the panel board. They bring me even closer to the work. I enter an unconscious wilderness through my hands and body; a primal, non-verbal process that is rich with metaphor & images. Often as I work vivid dream images arise and replace my rational, thinking brain with sensations and feelings that are experienced physically in my body.
I learn what I need to know by painting. The more I paint the less separation there is between inner and outer ecologies which results in a linking of perceptions with the natural world where attempts to define or control are useless. For me, painting is like deep prayer awakening a reverence for the earth’s inner landscape; the image is in you and you are in the image. Painting is my breath, beauty my compass, and the earth my body.