Drawn From Life

Saied Dai’s Article for ‘The Jackdaw’ Magazine, March/April 2010

It seems to me that observation is fundamental to all visual thinking, if one does not observe, one is not aware – there is no content.

Drawing is a means by which one can come into contact with the nature of visual relationships and their underlying patterns and structures. That is why drawing underpins everything that I do, regardless of whether it is from direct observation or from imagination.

The two are effectively the same, for all observation is founded upon what has been absorbed and understood, rather than just what is seen.

For me, Drawing remains the benchmark of visual intelligence. The life room is a place where life can be changed and it certainly changed mine. It impressed upon me the elegant union of Science and Art. It showed me that drawing comes from seeing and that seeing depends on knowing. It made evident that real freedom is the outcome of precision.

An Artist cannot ‘take’ life as it comes. He has to select what has significance for him and to impose form on what he selects. The exceptionally gifted will make poetry out of what others cast aside, and thus open our eyes to unimaginable possibilities.

I have a passionate curiosity. I go out into the world and observe. I draw ideas from life, things that take hold of me. They can be anything or come from anywhere, so it is important to be awake.

I ‘chew’ over an idea for a long time, seeking out the possibility of crystallizing it into a memorable image.

Each painting is created as a self-contained world and is very much concerned with the evocation of an atmosphere, a mood or a theme and all the elements of drawing, tone, colour and composition are at the service of that.

I strive for timeless values and prize stillness – silence is much more difficult to create than noise, and more profound.

Even if the content of a painting is drawn from something fleeting – the aim is to fix it for all time, so that it becomes permanent, monumental and archetypal.

Without resorting to any form of novelty, gimmickry or process, the necessity of drawing and architecturally organising becomes of paramount importance.

A mood is really the living heart of a work and is the curious condition whereby all the elements somehow manage to add up to more than the sum of their parts. This cannot be simply manufactured, but tentatively through the measurable, one may perhaps arrive at that which is immeasurable. One must not just be accurate to life, but accurate to Art.

There is always the spectre of worry over the problem of self-deception and the never ending difficulty of seeing what has been made for what it is – rather than with soft hope imagine that the work is somehow more.

The ultimate question is whether a piece of work has any mystery, an intangible quality, in short – a magic? When this occurs, it is as mysterious to the artist as it is to the onlooker and thereby most precious.

One cannot live with anything that has no mystery.