17 August 2019

Dieulefit pottery painted at the Châteaunoir

This small painting seems to have disappeared in the rubble of all my things strewn everywhere and nowhere. A shame because someone wanted to buy it. It represents a small chapter recently in which I was painting random things on random tablecloths but at specific moments each day. These were small things which brought me big pleasures. I feel too far away from this ritual to attempt it again, but who knows. I am looking around for some new visual projects to slide into. In the meantime I keep at this twilight sea and clouds. From yesterday evening; Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 17 August, 2019

16 August 2019

Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky (reprint)

23 September 2016

Igor Stravinsky on Eric Satie 

He was certainly the oddest person I have ever known, but the most rare and consistently witty person, too. I had a great liking for him and he appreciated my friendliness, I think, and liked me in return. With his piece-nez, umbrella, and galoshes he looked a perfect schoolmaster, but he looked just as much like one without theses accoutrements. He spoke very softly, hardly opening his mouth, but he delivered each word in an inimitable, precise way. His handwriting recalls his speech to me: it is exact, drawn. His manuscripts were like him also, which is to say as the French say 'fin'. No one ever saw him wash, he had a horror of soap. Instead he was forever rubbing his fingers with pumice. He was always very poor, poor by conviction, I think. He lived in a poor section and his neighborhood seemed to appreciate his coming among them: He was greatly respected by them. His apartment was also very poor. It did not have a bed but only a hammock. In winter Satie would fill bottles of hot water and put them flat in a row underneath his hammock. It looked like some strange kind of Marimba I 
remember once when someone had promised him somme money he replied:
"Monsieur, what you have said did not fall a deaf". His sarcasm depended on French classic  usages. The first time I heard Socrate, at a séance where he played it for a few of us, he turned around at the end and said in perfect bourgeosie: "Voila, messieurs, dames."

Because I have been learning the Gymnodpédies and Gnossiennes I could not resit putting this old post up again.

14 August 2019


11 June 2012


For a better view
The cat jumps
Onto the table.

13 August 2019

Velázquez, and the souvenir of youth

I know it's not fashionable in this Contemporary world of Art to go on about feelings, and such, but I do anyway, because I can.

Post-Modernist education, instead of just looking at a painting, would have us all locked in heady thought and drunk on anthropological Kool-Aid. The context of it has become more important than the picture itself. But Art has braved several thousand years of kingdoms, academies, popes, and political manipulations. A genuine artistic act an original vision and one which has always defied the political,  religious, and scientific prejudices of each Zeitgeist from the very beginnings of humankind. But not without great difficulties because in every age Humankind is either too greedy or foolish, or a bit of both. 

At this moment in time we are at the mercy of an effete 'Post-Modernist' educational system more potent than the French Salon in the late 19th century. They would teach young minds to think instead of feel, and herein is the silliness. We can discuss works but we cannot no longer make them. It is easier to critique  a work of art than make one in this aftermath of such a conformist education. And isn't this the greatest irony?

I am reminded of all this when I come across a portrait of a young girl by Velásquez. It is a magnificent picture, as alive today as it was when painted back in the 17th Century. She has perhaps grown up? Maybe not, possibly she died in a riding accident, or was married off to an old Marquis somewhere in the Spanish countryside. Maybe she lived to the old age of 60? But the fact is; she is now gone but here today reminding us that this moment here, now, is all we have. 

I think too, of my Evening Prayers as souvenirs. If, and when they work, (which is not always) they too, become reminders of the what the sea looked like at dusk. 

And like the portrait, this evening has also now gone. But like waves, these evenings will keep coming no matter who is there to witness them.

Maybe, we have to hit a certain age to appreciate this simple fact. Maybe too, this is the reason that so many older people walk the beach at dusk.

12 August 2019

cemetery reprint from February 2103 , just because...


                       White cemetery

                      My bathroom sink

                    Where ants come to die.

11 August 2019

picasso, and others

Picasso, in my opinion, made a lot of truly awful paintings. (Yikes! Will be lynched?) But, I also feel that he made some real gems in the most inventive way perhaps not seen since the Cycladic art of the Greek islands 3000 years ago. And this was his greatness. 

In this picture there is unity of both colour harmony, and drawing in very the 19th century French Romantic tradition. It has a weirdly plastic yet flat feeling about it. This paradox gives it a mystery, and a timeless quality. There is nothing conventional in it, no conformity, thank god. I believe that it is a portrait of Dora Maar.

And, above all I feel great humanity in it.

One day (if I were a curator, for instance)
I would make a whole show of full-sized portraits, imagine a room with this picture (above) next to Dr Gachet, next Mme Cézanne, next to a Titian, next to a Goya, next to a Modigliani, next to a Sargent, next to a Matisse, etc, etc...The most important question for a painter is this:

What do they all share, if they share anything at all?

09 August 2019

stolen work by the Nazis, Van Gogh!

I stumbled upon this organisation (The monumentsmenfoundation.org) last week through an obituary in the NY Times about Harry Ettlinger, a remarkable man who led an interesting life before, during, and after  World War Two. I had no idea that there were  so many really great things still unaccounted
for. I was astounded to see a Cézanne in this list below which I had never seen before. But also, so many other truly great things, most notably a Van Gogh portrait of himself on the road to Tarascon! And I wonder if he had perhaps made a copy or two; different versions? It seems strange for such an iconic image to be packed away somewhere on a dirty secret of a wall for a select audience of thieves. (this would make a great story or film) And how did they get such a vivid and colourful photo of it in 1945? What's the story around this strange anecdotal detail? Would they all be discretely hung in Palazzos or in bank vaults in Switzerland? Maybe covered in grime and stored in an attic somewhere, or (really, really covered in lots of grime) and hanging in a run-down and dingy antique shop somewhere in La Creuse region of France? 

08 August 2019

Massimo Campigli and Gio Ponti

Last November, I was at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris where there was a marvellous exhibition centered upon the life and work of Gio Ponti, a Milanese architect who pretty much shaped Italy's post-war landscape. He was immensely talented in so many different areas; furniture design, kitchen ware, sculpture, watercolour, gouache and drawing. And of course hundreds of buildings. I was floored by the entire output. 

But, amongst everything I saw and liked, I was especially moved by a family portrait painted by Massimo Campigli which was behind glass. Campigli was a quirky kind of painter in that he seemed to specialise in primitive, naif portraits (as I note from Google search)
I had never heard of him but he obviously had a certain success in the post war era. At least, his output was large.

But the portrait of the Ponti family moved me very, very much. I wish I could have made better photos of it. What was it? Certainly it comes down to the Humanity which I found in all the expressions. Curiously, I sent the first image of the wife and child to a painter friend who dismissed it out of hand because he felt that the mouth was all wrong. I was surprised that I didn't receive a more engaging response. But anyway, what I believe he missed is the aforementioned sense of humanity. It's a quality which transcends the lack of technique, the clunkiness of a work and renders it original despite all its imperfections. This is a strange family portrait for a few reasons but it is this strangeness which makes it an original. And Baudelaire said one of the most important things about originality. He said that on first sight an original work usually appears ugly. This always made me think of the shock which so many people would have felt when seeing Van Gogh in his time.

I studied with Léo Marchutz, and as an painter himself, and as critic, he often spoke of this humanity in spite of any of its flaws while looking at a work of art. He showed me that this humanity goes back thousands of years and has revealed itself so often.

I am forever grateful for this quality of observance which he so kindly and patiently bequeathed to me as a young student in Aix.

There are lots of things to say about this portrait but again, it is in these expressions upon each face; as parents, as children, all somewhat separated from one another (excepting the mother and small child) through which I entered into this humanity.

07 August 2019

looking at Philip Guston

I have long looked at these two drawings as they face one another in a large book about him which I pick up from time to time to see how a painter from his generation looks today barely 60 years on. 

I have always marvelled at the top one but felt disappointed by the one underneath it.


It makes me curious about my own thinking and my own sense of craft. 

I imagine they are both 'drawn from a motif', that is to say, from a still-life but that seems irrelevant to my point. Whether done from imagination, memory, or motif, it's all the same to me; a drawing either succeeds or it fails, mostly,... sort of.

Ruthless I am! Yes... but hey; an experience of art should be intoxicating. So if one wants to get drunk, why not pick the best wine?

The drawing above opens itself to the page. There is a luminosity which pours through its entire surface and which creates different spaces. Its light moves but does not seem to stop. In fact, it feels quite Japanese in this regard. I like it very much because it appears to be breathing each time I visit with it. Most importantly, it surprises, and this, for me, is an essential part of why I  crave the artistic experience as a maker or spectator.

The drawing below, the longer I look at it, never seems to get moving; it feels clogged up somewhere; suffocating, unable to open up to the page upon which it was born. 

But it isn't a bad drawing, it's just one which does not possess that spontaneous clarity which I find in the drawing above it. It is more of a declaration about itself than a question, and I like questions.

04 August 2019

a reprint from 2013, but I find it so relevant

04 June 2013


I just arrived back in France from England, and while driving south I was listening to France Inter; a discussion between Francois Busnel and the writer Antoine Compagnon concerning Proust and Montaigne. Compagnon said that literature must principally evoke a sense of the 'surprise'. He added that a reader must never read the preface before jumping into the book. 

"One should not lose out on the pleasure of reading by too much pedagogy". 
("..il ne faut surtout pas, surtout pas supprimer ce plaisir par trop de pédagogie"...)

I bring all this up because recently in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanawaza, Japan (but it could be almost any Contemporary venue today) I moved through an exhibition while reading the fact-sheet which I was given to explain the works and the artists exhibiting. There are, these days, certain code phrases which let one know that one is in a Contemporary Museum space:
"...the artist engages our sensibilities.."
"...he has created a world that calls our attention to ..."
"A continuing investigation of life and death is the theme informing all facts of..."
"...we remain confused by...."
"These works which compel us to question our 
visual understanding of the world and everyday 
awareness, engender a mysterious world of a 
different dimension...."

I am often surprised to discover that I am 'supposed to feel this', and I am 'supposed think that', that I was supposed to 'question thisand 'be confrontedby that. I have barely the freedom to have my own experience in front of a work of art as I am assaulted by what the curators and artists have already programmed me to experience. No doubt they do not trust that we, (the public), can be trusted to 'get it' without being armed to the teeth with all sorts of information and philosophical questions. But isn't it all a bit maddening? I mean: where is the poetry, after all?

Thus, how refreshing it was to hear a writer proclaim that surprise, an element so duly overlooked, it would seem, is a crucial necessity for entry into the world of literature, for this writer, (and reader). In other words: what is the point of our imagination if we cannot be present for our own experience in front of a work of art, even at the great, and delicious risk of getting lost in it?

So the questions begs: If one agrees with this premise, then; why the disconnect between the 'Visual Arts' and 'literature', and, how come the Visual Arts have been hijacked by intellectuals and anthropologists

03 August 2019


This is a painting I made in France back in 2013. I was painting a series of large pictures about the sea which were completely invented from my imagination while landlocked in Dieulefit for the summer, and about 200 kms from the coast.

I must have been thinking of all the awful things I was reading about and seeing concerning the condition of our oceans. When I went to swim off the beaches in Marseille I was so appalled and ashamed that it was so poluted with human junk. At the same time I felt grateful that I had made the move to a small coastal town in Australia. The French coastline is filthy, full of cigarette butts. and plastic bags and cups. The beaches and calanques too were littered with ever imaginable refuse from our plastic life. What are we going to do about it?

31 July 2019

Point of No Return

CreditInGestalt/Michael Ehritt; Lutz Fleischer

Love this painting, unusually light-hearted for German painting.

from the New York Times  
  • July 24, 2019

The show, running through Nov. 3 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, is just a few hundred yards from the church where activists began regularly gathering in 1989 to push for change in the stifling, authoritarian East Germany, officially known as the German Democratic Republic, or G.D.R.

The exhibition, “Point of No Return,” is billed as the biggest so far of East German art, featuring 300 works by more than 100 artists, including dissidents who defied the communist regime and established figures who taught in its institutions.

Credit                             Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Paul Kaiser, one of the curators of “Point of No Return,” said that “30 years after the fall of the wall, the process of categorizing East German art within the Pan-German context is still conflict-ridden and incomplete.” The exhibition was “a further step in synthesizing the history of East German art into German art history,” he added, and in countering its “politicization and devaluation.”