Margaret Adams BFA

I feel a comfort with wax; I think this comes from old associations, my Grandmother’s furniture and floors, my Mother cleaning the house the smell of beeswax lingering in the warm sun. There is comfort there. These were the times when I felt safe and protected. Memories are stirred with the smell, some become conscious, others not. It seems that the ones that do not become conscious are the ones that become part of my work.


Before I am willing to let go of a painting the work has to come together, be harmonious and have a felt sense, The felt sense can be a reminder of something conscious but more often than not it is a feeling of familiarity, an unconscious memory or feeling that is nudged into being. The memory or feeling can be slow in coming, lately I realised a painting I did earlier this year had its roots in a childhood event. In my memory the image I was seeing transposed itself into the painting. This fits into Julian Schnabel’s description of his work he said:

I want my life to be embedded in my work, crushed into my painting, like a pressed car. If it is not, my work is just some stuff.


 I like excavating through the different layers of wax then building back up. Wax is so forgiving, it allows me to change direction and easily correct mistakes. The actual process, although difficult to control, becomes easier with practice. Earlier my works were heavy with wax, many drippings and layers; lately they have become more pared down minimizing the line and colour, scraped back. Simple shapes, simple elements.  I like the results of both methods and often alternate between the two. It is essential to me that colours are harmonious, complimentary colours help to unify the visual elements of the composition. My colours are often neutral, subdued, not loud, absorbing the light rather than reflecting it. I have a hard time using discordant colours although I have learned to overcome those prejudices occasionally.


 Scratched marks, circles, squares and grids form a language in my work. Motherwell wrote in " The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell" that children, universally, draw circles, ovals, squares, triangles and crosses; even children who have never been exposed to images from the western world. So I feel that I am in good company. Water, whether it is a lake, pond or ocean, also reoccurs in my as they do in life. A flash of colour, a mark or horizontal line will reference a body of water. This mark, no matter how large or small, can become the portal to the image.

Adding materials into the wax gives depth and focal areas to the pieces. For now I want to let go of found materials; I find they give too much definition too early - they sometimes get in the way of the image resolving itself. 


I need to show up, to be in the studio with regular hours. Too few hours and I loose the impetus, to many and I am depleted. I show up every day, whether I want to or not – spending my time organizing or looking at other artists work if I feel unsure about painting. Sometimes I just paint, putting brush to board and letting the image evolve; pieces sometimes come together out of the blue. If I only went into the studio when I knew what I wanted to do there would not be time for this to happen. I heard another artist say that he likes to do all his thinking before he goes into the studio and stops thinking once inside. I found this helpful. So I plan work ahead as much as I can, colours, composition, size etc… and then let go and let it happen. I try to stay somewhat conscious – sometimes I cross over that line and, like driving, don’t know how I got there; sometimes this is a good thing. I try to stay aware of my process, seeing how I get off track has helped me create better work.


The paintings have to feel complete to me. They must be harmonious, balanced and give me a pleasurable feeling. I have a sense of satisfaction. Where they came from? I don’t know yet, but I do know I like them and they represent me and my life in some enigmatic way.


I feel excited about my work – I have only scraped the surface and have only just begun to explore the possibilities with this medium even though I have been painting with wax for over 14 years.

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