Watching Mount St. Helens melt like wax and spit immeasurable quantities of rock, ice, heat, and ash fifteen miles skyward leaves me without thought or words, simply hanging in astonishment and wonder. No matter how many times I watch that vintage clip, I cannot come to terms with what occurs before me. The gravity of that occurrence seems too great to ever stand up under; one could spend a whole life studying the event and never come to terms with it. Like the skeletons of innumerable trees still dotting those hills, I am left shattered and stumped every time it blows over me.
|First in a series of ‘Blowdowns’; sumi ink on paper; 2012.|
In grappling with this event, I could think of no medium more appropriate than Sumi ink. Sumi ink, developed in China centuries ago, has a long and unbroken history in landscape painting; a medium that allows the artist not to re-present nature, but approximate its soul and character. I find a philosophical connection with that ideal, privileging image experience over space or perspective in my work. I must admit, however, that though I find this history applicable and believe it will impact the work going forward, this is not what led me to the medium. Instead, I became attracted to the medium because of its eerie physicality. Quite simply, Sumi ink is ash, traditionally of pine branches, in a state of liquid suspension. Thus my disbelief and awe in the cataclysm of 1980 finds resonance in the indeterminacy of the medium itself; pine trees incinerated, rock breaking forth in tide.
Sumi ink is a point of departure; a human journey into the realm of things I can never understand in their entirety.