25 September 2020
22 September 2020
Auschwitz, Summer 1994, Châteaunoir, oil on canvas, 150 X 150 cm
17 September 2020
This was an experiment from the other night. I had gone out with an idea in my head (dangerous!), and without looking at the motif in front of me. I was trying to prepare a sky to receive some olive coloured clouds which I had seen the the other night. Alas, they dissipated before twilight had even set in. I was left with a delicious sky, like a sticky date but without the sticky date sauce.
But I like it anyway, and I was lucky to have exercised an unusual intuition to leave it be! So, I packed up early because the sky had died, dried up of any its usual vibrancy.
I was also distracted by an acquaintance, an eccentric fellow who sleeps on the beach each night not far from where I work. He had come by to say hello, and then proceeded to discuss UFO's with a another person who had also stopped by. This gentle soul sees UFO's each night and loves to tell anyone he can just how incredible they are. And each day I hear about how fast they move until they "stop on a dime" to hover over the horizon at leisure, only to zip overhead "glowing". They then return to repeat the same patterns all over again. As the weeks go by the UFO"s seem to get bigger, and go faster. I like this fellow very much so I just smile and feign a vague sort of interest. There are lots of curious souls who inhabit small corners of life around here.
As I move through this contemporary life, I discover that it's often hard to discern the bonafide inmates from the regulars (regulars??). But I also wonder to myself if there really is a doctor in the house?
At the end of the day; is painting this mysterious sky any different than watching for UFO's each night? Imagination is everything, apparently.
16 September 2020
13 September 2020
11 September 2020
09 September 2020
06 September 2020
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 28 August, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm
Two more studies from last week which again lend themselves to my increasingly apparent interest in a more formal structure for these somewhat sketchy paintings.
I like them both. Upon seeing them together I seem to be asking myself whether or not it is possible to transform something as inherently wild as the sea and sky into an image more fixed, more solid.
Thinking of light as something solid is a curious thing to imagine much less paint with oils, come to think of it. To paint clouds, the sea...? yes, but just light itself?
I seem to have fallen into a form of abstraction which allows for me to think of Light (colour) as a material substance. They almost appear to look like silk scarves draped across the the sky.
I don't know how far I can push this motif which now goes on for over 3 years but as long as new answers come I keep on working there.
31 August 2020
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 16 August, 2020, oil on canvas board, 20 X 25 cm
Here is small picture from 2 weeks ago which surprised me. It was the last one of three done that night . There is something in the light which I have been after since I first began doing these studies. It's as if it was done during one long exhaled breath.
Everything natural, unadulterated, simple, and perhaps so unpretentious that it would be invisible if hung on a wall. And unlike so many pictures in a gallery which hustle the public like hookers, this one hides in its own bashful bliss. It does not shout at the world looking for praise nor attention, but hovers quietly hiding... "unshaded in forgetfulness divine" to quote Keats in Ode to Sleep.
29 August 2020
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 28 August, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm
Here is a painting from last night. A magnificent sky which bloomed quickly and obliged me to work fast. Unfortunately, one cannot see nor feel the thick paint at the top of the painting due to the i-phone which misses pale tones, notably yellows. But it's thick as if I am a pastry chef.
I was happy with it. As I have been writing about the formal aspects which are developing in this series, it has affected how I begin working. Of course, it would, and unlike writing music or a writing short story, beginning a picture is a perilous adventure because mistakes in these paintings are more complex to repair. I see them as studies; quickly done with revealing all the spontaneous decisions then left to the mercy of Time.
27 August 2020
In the recently published correspondence between Albert Camus and one of his lovers, the actress Maria Casarès, we learn that on the day before his death in a car accident, Camus posted letters to three separate women arranging rendezvous.
I love this anecdote especially because it is so politically incorrect in this age of ours. I like that it reveals the chaotic nature of the human heart and the unpredictable emotions of an artist.
I love that he wrote love letters. But the French are great writers of love, and everything else.
In one letter to his lover Maria Casarès he enclosed a twig of thyme which which reminds me that Rilke once received in a letter from his wife a sprig of heather from Scotland that he contemplated for weeks afterward.
I know that much fond feeling floods the internet, but have I forgotten the emotion just to feel the paper which one's lover has folded in thirds as it comes out of the envelope? And what of the quirky or clean penmanship? Or the stamps licked by one's lover too? The blue ink or black? What about the intoxication one submits to unwillingly for a letter which one has awaited long days or weeks even.
These are a few things which have evaporated for most of us due to our speedy needs.
The love letter, this antique vehicle, is not dissimilar to another relic of old France which has it that the best part of sex is climbing the stairs to the bedroom.
His letters were published in Paris not long ago. I almost want to read them but wouldn't it be better to write them myself?
Forsake the rose
and blush thyself!
26 August 2020
25 August 2020
A friend wrote me to say that my recent rants about Post-Modernism seemed "a bit cheecky" as she put it as nicely as she could.
"You have made loads of paintings which might be defined as Post-Modernist, aren't you playing the fool with all these ideas of yours?"
Of course, she is right because I am interested in so much of everything, and I'm flooded with ideas most of the time. But generally I like to stick to Painting, and the question always comes down to whether or not there is a coherent way of expression which suits a particular medium of Painting.
As I haven't replied to her email but if I did, I would tell her that lots of ideas fly into my head all the time, they mostly fly straight in through one ear and out the other. But others can take up residence inside me like swallows in a draughty barn. They can hang around for months, and years. Some even die in there but it's all good, as they say in Australia.
I would say that I like all sorts of Painting, and am curious about how they work, (when they do), and curious how they don't, (when they don't).
Simca is from a series of large paintings done in France. I was experimenting to see if I could create non-objective-looking pictures, but they had to be images which possessed meaning, however obscure.
I would explain that I had seen an exhibition one wintry day in Paris about 15 years ago at the Dina Vierny Foundation. It was devoted to the Russian artists at the time of the revolution. There was of course, Malevich for whom I haven't a great fascination, but so also many other graphic artists like Rodchenko and Lyubov Popova for whom I do, and I was thunderstruck that afternoon where I spent the day. I had never seen so much refined humour in such serious work. I thought about it for months afterwards but it would be a few years before I would begin thinking of a new direction for my own painting after what I had seen.
One thing I was sure of was that it would not be too serious in nature because I am not a serious man. I am more Tati than Tatlin, but I understood that much of this work from Russia had an immense influence on everyone everywhere else around the world. It was a creative wave riding atop the revolutionary tide, for at the beginning, at least, the artists were believers in the possibility of a whole new society, however short-lived. This yielded to other movements like in Paris around the same time, but where Russian artists were springs of hope, Dada was a cloud of cynicism. (Sacré Bleu! Zeez French!)
But, anyway, I had an idea which has hung from the rafters inside me since then. I still work on these pictures but sadly, they live like orphans in my studio until finished. If my dear old friend doesn't get an email from me she can read this post instead.
23 August 2020
The thing about Post-Modernist painting, if I can ask such a thing, is that one has to come up with something better than what Nature has already offered up as a visual language.
21 August 2020
18 August 2020
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,`12 August 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm
16 August 2020
14 August 2020
I am not sure which painting (or painter) Mallarmé was thinking of when he made the following observation, (to paraphrase)
"to paint not the object but the effect it produces might be the essence Modern Painting."
I am always looking at Turner's watercolours which have probably been the biggest inspiration for this series done in Australia.
With lighting speed I chase after these 'effects' of Nature at the end of the day and before nightfall.
I am more Expressionist than Impressionist. I have already re-iterated this many times over the last few years in these pages. But, I say it again because after both French Impressionism and American Expressionism came a tsunami of copiers, ('followers of', to be less harsh). But still, like after every great new innovation in the Arts, what follows is almost always an imitation of the real thing. Painters develop strong techniques (effects) to compensate for a lack of vision based in personal memory.
I am not an adherent of American Expressionism but I am an adherent of speed, of painting quickly, without hesitation, without monkey mind, and mostly without the cursed 'attention to 'nice painting effects'; the plague of the Painting world. I attack a motif like a scorpion once I have seen something in it with my eyes. From then on, I break down the pillars of my own thought and constraint, and the messiness left at the end of the short session is the picture. These studies rarely take more than 10 or 15 minutes.
My attention is always focussed upon the canvas board and the unified pictorial image which does not rely on the tricks of the trade in the Painting world at large. And yet, on occasion I can fall into propping up a picture using any means necessary to bring off a painting.
This same thing happens in the world of Jazz. Followers still imitate the great innovators (with great technique) but turning so much of contemporary Jazz music into pablum. Another time to explore this idea which will upset most people.
11 August 2020
When I was a small boy I often visited my father who lived in a hotel in New York. I went mostly on weekends and he would always take me to Brooks Brothers for a tie, or shirt, or a pair of shoes. Though usually it was a tie.
Looking back on those forays I suppose that he may have been trying to make up for his sudden absence in my life, and perhaps he made other forays to other shops with his other children.
But for me, it was the ground floor of Brooks Brothers with two large entrances at both Madison Avenue and 44th street to the south which fascinated me. It seemed to be a bright place where the morning sun flooded over the wood floors. The Salespersons were plentiful, and they were constantly hovering around clients. It was good service and they were very kind to young boys like myself. At the center of the floor, as I remember it, were long display cases made of polished wood which extended out into the large room. In them all were narrow slots which housed the ties. Hundreds of colourful ties were lined up for inspection each in their own wooden coffins. I loved roaming these cases and it was certainly then that I became hooked on stripes. Every colour combination, every stripe size. There were more colour combinations than I had ever seen before and I was fascinated. I became an addict for life, and imagined wearing ties for the rest of my life.
And this striped obsession has remained with me since then. I fell into picking up silk samples from India, Turkey, France, Italy, Morocco, and just about everywhere I travelled. I didn't need more than a meter of it. It wasn't to use as bedcovers or for some other utilitarian purpose, it was simply to have in my possession a visual bit of sensual beauty like a man who needs a beautiful woman on his arm at all times. Many have now been lost or been given away but a few still remain to hang over chairs and hooks as faded reminders. Still in glory to themselves they exist.
This all reminds me of an LSD trip to the Nat'l Sand Dune Park in Colorado way back at the end of my freshman year in University. It was miles from anything, an enormous pile of sand at the end of a long valley Southwest of Denver. I was with some college friends and we climbed to the top of it during a June afternoon. We took acid but we forgot to bring water. (This was 1971, after all) At one point, the entire sand dune appeared to be made of millions upon millions of striped snakes. Picking up a handful of sand then suddenly watching hundreds of brightly coloured snakes slip through our fingers as if in an Oasis in Arabia proved to be a big hit for us. I don't remember much else.