27 November 2022

Tedeski Trucks and the melody of the Tahitian sea.


I am just crazy about this song. I only heard of this group a few months ago though they are HUGE on the Rhythm and Blues circuit in America and have had big following for years.

Once in while I hear a song that cracks me up open like a summer melon but it is generally as rare as seeing two moons in the night sky. I bring this up because I began watching interviews with Derick Trucks and Susan Tedeski, who are married to one another with children and started the band many years back. 

As is so often the case when I approach the vast world of music; Classical, Jazz, Country, etc, etc... I marvel with envy at the communal  life-style of a musician in today's world. They appear to share an intimate life together while touring in tight living quarters through thick and thin, and their collaborations bring forth a collective creativity. Their work it seems, is almost always linked up with other human beings obviously because music is mostly, almost always a communal experience. 

And this fact that inevitably hits home for me is that visual artists (in the plastic arts) work like hermit crabs, alone with their solitary feelings, their anxieties, fears, panic attacks and basically, just all the neurotic plumbing that creates a personally individual creative vision, remote from the cacophony of a jam session.

Of course there are the musical loners like Satie, holed up in his apartment surrounded by his silent umbrellas, but this is rare. Music is about joining together the feelings of the human experience through humans themselves. 

I can really only speak as a painter, but I do know that this solitary class of craftspeople melts into so many other creative professions too,,, I think of potters, poets and authors, etc, etc,,, just off the top of head. 

Any solitary creative experience is often a lonely one and one must accept that or slowly go crazy. And of course there is the penalty of the family around such an artist. 

I am reminded of all the difficult characters in the Painting World. Half of them died from drink or drugs, many others lived in poverty and died alone, while still others left their families flying high but then low like Icarus. Paul Gaugin, who easily comes to mind, gave up any semblance of a normal Bourgeois life to live in far-off Tahiti. 

The list is long, but nowadays this contemporary life has tamed somewhat the quirky, solitary, misfit artists because after all, WI-FI keeps all sorts of connections going without actually having to spend time getting anywhere, or without having to even be in the same room with another human soul. 

But anyway, I really just wanted to say that I love a great melody, and they are not freely  given out from God easily. They must be earned just like a painter must earn his or her own use of light. 

Like in the Painting World, where there is so much crumby, cheap Painting, the POP music has churned out so much junk too, that one becomes inured it. 

So this melody from Midnight in Harlem really gets me but but it may do the same for others I understand.



21 November 2022

Dreams; prescient, and otherwise


These are small gouache studies done under the dry summer dome of the Drôme. It's funny to see them ten years later where I'm living now next to the sea here in Australia and also actively engaged in paintings done from the actual sea. 

In Montbrison in 2012, I was staying that summer in a small cottage above a shaded garden where I went early to work before the day heated up. I set up an old round iron table under the shadow of a large Tilleul tree (Linden family). Next to me was a tiny brook which ran all summer keeping the space green and the numerous frogs happy. 

I had begun fooling around with gouache in Japan a few months earlier while traveling there. I was really in an excited travel-mode having never been to Japan before. I had packed up and moved from the Belvédère in Dieulefit where I had lived for about twelve years. It was a monstrous move especially because I had no real idea where I was going to live afterward. All I knew was that it was time to move on and make an unknown change in my life. I would be leaving a small village where I had made many friends and acquaintances. I also knew that I wanted to make a voyage far from France that would turn me upside down before taking the next step in life. I had thought to go back to India on a drawing trip but the visa procurement was too complicated for my complicated mind in the middle of the complicated move. Fortunately, my painter friend Giulia Archer who lived in Truinas, a hamlet not far away, allowed me to put everything in her large barn for the interim period. I knew I wanted to go somewhere, to be somewhere in a new place where I could levitate upside down in a lost state in order to mark the transition from the comforts of life in Dieulefit to elsewhere unknown. 

Then it came to me that I would go to Japan. My brother had gone years earlier with his wife and extolled its crazy and beautiful virtues, so I went without hesitation. Of course I loved it like most visitors do who spend enough time on this extraordinary island. (What's not to like as we say in the Bronx?) But I loved it so much I went back again the next year, and if I could afford it I would even return every year. But anyway, that was already ten years ago and since then I have settled here in Australia next to the sea in Northern New South Wales where a thoughtful Muse so serendipitously placed me to focus on the act of Painting.

But for some strange reason after my return from Japan after I had settled into a small cottage life back in Montbrison, only a stone's throw from Dieulefit, and with a head full of uncertainty, I began to make these gouaches in the early mornings. I wasn't consciously thinking of the sea, and I certainly could not have imagined then that I would soon be living next to the Pacific Ocean with the ability to work from it each night. I simply began to make these things out of experimentation, for the uncertain fun of it.

A few were left in an unfinished state and I don't consider any of them great by any means but they do interest me mostly because of their prescient quality. They were speaking to me from the dry heat of Provence about future work, of a future life of which I could not have envisioned though only dreamed of maybe. But I certainly had the sea on my mind for I had prowled around Brittany several times thinking of settling there but nothing came of it. Then, of course the weather had never encouraged this dreamy state. But another surprise for me is that even after living in the remarkable south of France, and bathed in its colours for so many years, could I have possibly imagined I would be blinded by such light as I have found here in Australia.  




































 
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 4 June 2020 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 17 April 2020 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 9 July 2022 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 13 April 2022 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 3 April 2022 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm



17 November 2022

Painting as redemption?

 


Evening Poët Laval, oil on canvas board,  25 X 20 cm

With so many different artistic and contextual mediums, does this contemporary world even need Painting any more? 

OK,,, unseriously,,, who doesn't like a bit of rhetoric? But the question is a good one, one that creeps into my mind continually these days but only after waking in in the morning when I feel heavy with dread. Actually, I try to remain focussed on own love for, and belief in the act of Painting as a way of human redemption because it's my daily reprieve from insanity. I would otherwise be falling into rabbit holes of doubt in each of my extremities because honestly, as most of us know these daze, it's a pretty wild world of distractions out there.

What do I mean by 'a belief in the act of Painting as a way of redemption?'. 

That means that both the painter and viewer can have their minds changed from the experience of a work of art. It's what one can expect from theatre, architecture and music, books and dance, etc, etc,, so why can't we expect the same from painting?

I am certainly changed by the experience of painting, both creating and viewing certain things but then, I'm in the game. The real question is how to touch others.

I put up this very small picture simply because it intrigued me, and because I was the author. I made it four years ago almost exactly. I had seen the small hills across from Poet Laval at dusk while driving down the back way to Dieulefit one night. I stopped and made two studies. The darkening gloom of a red November sky was enticing. Below it, an enormous field of burnt umber. A farmer on his tractor arrived after I had set up in a corner to do some last work. I moved everything to make room for him. He stopped and said hello. In France farmers aren't too shocked by seeing painter in a field at dusk as they would be in Australia. It turned out that he was the husband of the lovely German woman who works in the Post office in Dieulefit and for whom I had always harboured a small crush. And he was a nice as her!

A few years earlier I had lost my fountain pen in the Post and asked her to contact me if it ever turned up. Eight months later, here in Australia, I received a small packet from France with the pen inside and a small note. I was quite surprised but pleased. I sent her a box of chocolates via Amazon. I stopped in on one of my last days there after meeting her husband to say goodbye. There are many acquaintances I cherish from my life in France which I've never really found here in Australia though folks are awfully kind too.

And now this picture reminds me of that dear memory. But I like it too because it is so very Expressionist, and it reminds me of Philip Guston who I like very much. Though he mostly painted so much 'Non-Objective' work, I think if he had worked from a 'motif' he might have done something similar to this small picture, and perhaps he might have even liked it. But I say this somewhat cautiously to the grey clouds overhead. 



10 November 2022

wearing out current fashions

 


Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 5 November 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm


Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 5 November 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm


Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 5 November 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I recently came across these three studies, all of which were done in November 2019. I was surprised, and even though they were uploaded without any thought I can see now they are in the right order of when they were painted.

On top is the one with a lemon yellow sky and a squiggle of pink clouds over the horizon line. Hovering over that is a pale band of Prussian Blue while below it, like a cellar, is the deep purple sea, and all this beckons the first moments of magnificence when day seeps into night. 

The second one shows the pink band expanding higher up into the sky as the deepening purple sea turns darker and more menacing.

The third one reveals the aftermath when the sea has returned back to blue-green and the sky mellows out into a gentle latticework of muted hues left over like smoke when a match has gone out. 

I can imagine that they may seem too simple, too understated, less interesting, and maybe too boring for viewers, but hey! They please me, and that's what matters most. And its not because I made them, it's because I thing they work. They are believable, and that is really what it's all about whether one paints in allegory, metaphor, or the photo-realism so fashionable in many epochs, sadly. 

Do they live enough beyond the moment? Do they live beyond the morrow? Will they surprise me next week?, or next year? Critically speaking, this is what concerns me the most. Do paintings have enough truth in them to live on beyond the current fashions of the moment? 

I myself, may find them uninteresting (or heaven forbid) boring next year, but if they still possess some truth, they will live on, no matter how much my taste changes over time. If they work truthfully, they will always be immune to current fashions. I was tying to figure out which one I preferred the most, but weirdly, I like them all equally.


05 November 2022

Pan Am, and the light of dusk DownUnder

 


Pan Am, Myocum, N.S.W. 21 October 2022, oil on plywood, 
140 X 100 cm

Two different paintings, both of which are part of a series entitled Pan Am that I began this past year. This one above, is from October 21st, it's a little smaller than the one below. Unfortunately, neither of them photographs well, I think mostly because they are too large to be seen in such a small window space here on social media. The one below, (pictured with the piano) reveals its true scale while below it, is a detail from it which reveals its colour harmony and a sense of the light in it, for the light, is the most important part of these things. 

That it sits above the piano is too, another side of these pictures, for these are also linked to music and I should say that for me, they are musical, but more about this another time.

I set out to make playful images, images which would only please me first and foremost. Sadly, I don't live in an oversized loft big enough to hang them on large white walls everywhere at once. But hey!...... It's certainly more satisfying to be someone who creates these things in a small space than one who lives in a large space collecting them for a glamorous home. But hey! Thank the muses for wealthy folks who collect art out of love or for other reasons.


Pan Am, Myocum N.S.W. 8 August 2022, oil on plywood, 240 X 120 cm



(detail from above) 


But anyway, this series makes me very happy because I am really obsessed with it, prolifically so, as I see so many images to make from it. It is fertile ground, and like a farmer around here in New South Wales might boast, "there's a whole lotta of good field to plant here".

I am working on several others, even larger ones in the studio (300 X 150 cm), which also please me. There is nothing quite like seeing a big project take form in one's imagination just when one feels big enough to tackle them with a confident optimism. I am too often prone to watching large and wild ideas form like giant clouds in my mind only to then see them dissipate for lack of will.

I think also that this special pleasure comes from the fact that I have struggled for twenty years in search of pathway into a 'Non-Objective Form' and have felt like I've failed so very much, over and over again in this quest. But now, I do see a glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and I seem to have found a way into something, something of great value for me alone, and this strengthens my willpower. 

And to any success with this large project I am embarking upon, I owe all to the very small paintings made from the motif over the past five years. This was my pathway from the beach to the studio, and the mystery in this is rich with irony.

It's not easy to explain, but these little Evening Prayers have led me to a surprising crossroads where the images have teetered closer and closer to a 'Non-Objective' form of imagery. I won't say more abstract because they were abstract already at the beach.

Moreover, it's perhaps something that the author can see more easily than the viewers themselves. But nonetheless, the light of both the sea and the sky (at dusk) in these small studies were the catalyst which steered me to this new place back in the studio.

Is it really possible to render the light of both the twilight sea and sky into a 'Non-Objective' form, one quite removed from the actual feeling experienced both sensorially and empirically in front of the motif? To clarify, can one create something in the studio, far  away from the visual feeling originally felt at the beach? 
  
These two below (two, among too many, and done one year ago) seemed to reveal to me something yet to come, something on this pathway to a possible future.  
 

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 10 September 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 9 September 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm


02 November 2022

tarte au citron


                                                                           IMU
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 26 October 2022, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

                                                                                 TYG
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 26 October 2022, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm
 

Here are two studies from the other night. After almost a month of not working at the beach motif I was nervous and feeling somewhat ambivalent about even going. But as is always the case, whenever I show up, something happens to change my mind for the better.

I liked these two pictures so I left them in a curious of state of suspension as if unfinished (though they are certainly not). They are fully realised but in an abbreviated state only, yet finished nonetheless. I wonder if this can make sense to others.

When I arrived, the sea was a pale and glassy Prussian Blue/Citron Yellow colour which quickly began to fade into the greyish hue of the second study. 

Like freshly made Tarte au Citron's, these are delicious and sensual colours for me, and if I were at a pastry shop in Paris I would leave with two of them and scarf them both down while walking the streets. And with barely a hint of shame, most tourists will do the same when the strawberries arrive in May and June. This happens all over France.

So I wanted to leave these two studies as fresh and appetising as possible, like straight from the pastry shop. Did I say what was needed to be said with such abbreviated sensuality? Can I get away with that?, Is it enough? I suppose the pictures themselves are proof that I was intuitively satisfied with them at the end of the session.

Time will tell, as it always will. 



28 October 2022

ants and termites know better than us

 



(This is a reposting from 2015 of a wonderful documentary of David Attenborough I saw in France)



7 March 2015

life in the undergrowth...


Sliding into my sofa earlier than usual I watched this remarkable BBC show presented by David Attenborough. Of course, I had seen   small pieces of his things over the years; his comfortable, easy-going voice isn't hard to miss if one watches the BBC from time to time. 

What really knocked my socks off this evening was a show about certain types of ants and certain termites which live just inches under our feet. The footage from these shows reveal just how marvelous photographic technology has truly become. Inside their nests one can witness the frenetic movement of these tiny creatures which seem to be guided by some very mysterious force. Millions of legs and claws move like giant rivers through the undergrowth and work in complete harmony. How do they know these things? What intelligence guides them? 

The segment on the termites of South Africa showed us tall, thin, sail-like mounds dotting the landscape as far as the eye could see.  They appeared like sailboats all running the same sea. Attenborough explained that they were all, in fact, oriented on a north/south axis and built using magnetic fields by these particular termites. The large sail-like sides are exposed to morning sun which heat the colony deep inside after a cold desert night. As the sun drifts overhead into the scorching mid-day, the sail-like home provided little surface overhead so as to keep the colony cool during the daytime heat.
Another type of termite builds large mountainous homes, the walls of which are porous allowing wind to pass through them  which circulates the stale air deep down inside, pulling it up to expel it on the other porous side.  All this remarkable wisdom utilized by some of our tiniest neighbors here on earth. Its a world of eat and be eaten for sure, (devour and brutalize really), but its a world of the mysterious and collective wisdom which somehow seems to elude us humans beings. What happened in Evolution that we have missed something so special?
Or, am I just too naive?


27 October 2022

Marina deBris, an ocean of motion



Photo credit JANIE BARRETT


I am rarely convinced by many outdoor public sculpture events so it was a nice surprise to see this piece by Marina DeBris entitled, A Drop in the Ocean, in Sydney's Sculpture by the Sea 2022. Her large piece is weird, for sure in an uncompromising way, almost strange enough for me to really appreciate. I like weird work, it means there is something there. It is a statement, or rendering, if you will, of the human imprint upon our planet, and in a beguiling sort of way, it possesses that "je ne sais quoi"... as les Francais say, (or en Anglais, just, W.T.F)

 

I think the best way to visit an outdoor Sculpture Festival, (or maybe any Contemporary Art Exhibit) would be to accompany a child, up to say about 15 years old. Anything older, and they would be watching their phones or looking at the opposite sex, but under that age is perfect,... curious perfect. Kids ask all the right questions without worry, or complication, which around Contemporary Art can indeed be complicated. The pragmatic side of a young, inquisitive child is a remarkable thing, often poetic too. But I really like kids (who doesn't?) kids usually get me, because I'm a kid too. Adults are mostly the problem in this world, not the kids. But hey! Let's not stray too far off track! 

 

Back to the piece, it is rather curious-looking and not so unpleasant possibly because of its contextual relationship to the sea just meters away. How would it look sitting in the Simpson desert for instance? Does it really represent a drop, (as inferred in the title of the proverbial drop of water in the ocean?) or, does it also mimic the form of fishing nets full of all that is scarfed up from the deep sea and lifted with cranes onto the oversized fishing trawlers? But I like both metaphors around this work, and do we not also accept all the plastic wreckage in it because we are so inured to it from our many walks on the beach?

 

Australians are beachcombers, surfers and swimmers, sunset walkers, fishermen and fisherwomen who revere the sea and the sanctity of water. They respect it, fear it, and they are polite to it. One almost never sees a cigarette butt on its beaches. Almost never have I have seen a plastic bottle floating in the sea though this might be just foolishly anecdotal on my part as I tend to see the glass half-full. Australians take all this ecology business very seriously but saying that, plastic trash is still the ubiquitous enemy in all seas both here and abroad.  

 

Finally I wonder if one might imagine this sculpture as a uniquely Australian art work as it might reference an idea of European immigration, which until but six or seven decades ago, was facilitated principally over the seas to settle this extraordinary continent. And, how might it reference The Indigenous First People here since time immemorial? These are very questions for seeing Art in the 21st century.

 

Thankfully this piece has universal appeal and will likely speak not only to the dry world out yonder but to the interior of this beautiful land and its First People too.

 

23 October 2022

Anna Karenina at dusk


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 26 April 2019, oil on canvas board 25 X 20 cm


An interesting thing I've noticed recently is that when I put up 'older' paintings (2017-2018) for instance, on Instagram or Facebook, viewers react almost like they've never seen them before. But to be fair, back then, even just three years ago, I didn't have a lot of viewers.

But what is interesting for me, is that these little studies still 'hold up', that is to say, they still look fresh to me, and to others too. This is a good sign and it speaks well for one's work although these are by no means great,,,, good maybe,,, and interesting at the very least, but not great, just decent enough to stand up against Time. They are too small to be considered great (if indeed, they are even any good at all) because, it seems to me that only more substantial sized works of art can truly be considered 'great'. There are exceptions when one thinks of poetry perhaps, or even some short stories. But still,,, Tolstoy's superb novella, The Forged Coupon, will always be eclipsed by his grandly great and epic novel Anna Karenina.  

But anyway, during these years 2017-2019, I was still coming out of my 'Expressionist' period for lack of a better term, which essentially meant spending most of my time in the studio where the use of my eyes was memory-based as opposed to being out in front of a motif in the wilds of Nature. And at this time I was also only beginning to 're-learn' how 'to see' again, 'to respond' again to this changing colour wheel of a motif at dusk.

But in any event, I still like the 'hybrid nature' of these studies for they seem to reveal a confusion in this Painter's mind by the fluctuations of past memory to the present sensations.

What some viewers don't always get is that these things are often crudely put together, they are rapid and spontaneous collisions of pigment under the colourful constraints of a changing set of elements. This is where the collective memory of everything I've loved in Painting now fuses with what goes on out in the twilight sky. If these studies fail it is because they slip off the knife-edge separating 'realism' and 'fantasy'.


                                                                        16 July 2018


4 August 2018


2 September 2018


2 September 2018


\
5 September 2018


5 September 2018


5 September 2018


10 September 2018


                                                                      27 December 2018


                                                                            23 March 2018


14 October 2022

Fuwa-Fuwa, and a smart start to art






And now for something different! Anyone who has ever visited Japan will smile at these colourful sandwiches made from assorted fruit and burrowed into a thick creamy mix with yoghurt between two slices of milk bread. One finds them all over Japan in various guises depending upon the seasons. Called Fuwa-Fuwa, (fluffy like a cloud) they are as beautiful to look at as they are yummy to eat.

And so the NYT recently did an article about a small place on the lower East Side called Izakaya that makes them for lucky New Yorkers living downtown, and there, the chef, and co-owner from Sapporo, uses Mascarpone instead of yogurt to make them even creamier. I confess that it isn't so often that I imagine myself meandering around New York but when I read about a place like this I want to immediately fly up there from Australia and parachute into the kitchen.

This photo above, which I clipped as a screenshot from the NYT, has been sitting on my desktop for a month or so, poised for me like an errant, exotic and bright-coloured stamp on a collector's desk. It seems to wait and wait for SOMETHING to happen to it, indeed, ANYTHING but to be stuck on the desktop. My desktop is the purgatory of colourful things, assembled in this nether world of flat space, timeless, awaiting me to do something about it, to take some form of action. Anything!

So, indeed, SOMETHING has happened to this image of a Fuwa-Fuwa, resembling a postage stamp. In fact, it's still happening, at least until I finish this painting which I began last week. By then, I can indeed say that something has happened, and it will be smartly relegated to the past tense as a finished painting. Whew.....!

It's another large one and crazier than anything I have attempted. I wouldn't normally post an unfinished painting except that this is so viscerally connected to the image of the Fuwa-Fuwa above. But I had not even associated this painting to it until I began writing this post today. But, as usual, one's Painting Mind always initiates a visual surprise when one is plugged into Painting Memory, 24/7. And in this case it comes out as a kind of weird circus of colourful circles. The mind works in mysterious ways. Go figure!

More to be revealed.   





 

13 October 2022

Pan Am and Stravinsky, a contextual conundrum


Pan Am,  September 18, 2022 Myocum N.S.W. oil on plywood, 240 X 120 cm

Here is a new curiosity done a few weeks back that I propped up in a corner of the studio because I wasn't sure if it was finished (or was I not happy with it?). But after a while I quietly realised it was both OK and finished. Regretfully, it does not photograph well because the scale reduces it to almost nothing to look at.

I suppose it has as much in it for me to be happy about as it has for me to regret, for perfectionism runs too deeply within me for it to be otherwise. And yet, I am happy that I have decided not to go back in to 'make it better, more perfect'. This is progress, not perfection as they say.

Yes, (and though it is unfashionable) I am after an expression of Joy and Wonder in these things even if I don't consider myself joyful or full of wonder though I might show these things to the world. But then, Art is about invention, imagination, the possibility of success, maybe even rising to a place above one's talents despite all odds. And doesn't the same go for us in our daily lives, this marching through life as such terribly fragile and imperfect human beings?

I guess this series Pan Am is really about the invention of joy. They make me think so much of Stravinsky's entire oeuvre. But I wouldn't make reference to that in the title because then viewers would be looking for it in the work. That can be an awful contextual conundrum for an author.

What actually does pre-occupy my painterly intuition is to create pictures as full of as many relationships as I can pictorially utilise in a work. And this aspect of painting is crucial, it's almost the whole point, it seems to me. To create a whole, a unity of expression, as fully realised as one possibly can, this is the raison d'etre of Painting, indeed, of  all Art.

And though this image may look loud in a certain rambunctious and colourful way on first view, it sinks back into discreet corner like a Labrador after a big run outdoors.