Hope

By Timothy Hawkesworth
February 2003

At the heart of painting there is a kind of affirmation; it returns us to hope. When form appears in the paint, when the color starts to sing, it’s already on the side of hope.

It’s not just a theory. Our body starts to shift; it starts to feel a little more alive. It’s a fact. It brings the life force up in us. We secrete the paint onto our nervous system. This is true for both the painter and the viewer. As we work – as we get extended by the experience of a painting - as it starts to pull things from deep inside us - we actually experience hope. In this, hope is different from optimism. Optimism tells us everything is going to turn out all right. Hope tells us there are things worth working towards. Hope has one foot in the transcendental; it has one foot over the horizon.

Painting also addresses our frailty. Although our experience of a painting is in the present it also touches our mortality. As our eye follows the immediacy of Rembrandt’s handling of the paint we are also aware that he is long gone. As a painting washes over us, extending us, it also shows up the transient nature of our lives. This duality between the intimacy of the immediate experience of a painting, and our inevitable annihilation, gives poignancy to the act of painting. This may be part of its lasting power; it is an act of affirmation and an act of hope in the face of our predicament.