22 September 2014

Stefan Zweig on Paris 7

'I wandered through the streets, seeing so much, looking for so much else in my impatience! For the Paris of 1904 was not the only one I wanted to know; my senses and my heart were also in search of the Paris of Henri IV and Louis XIV, of Napolean and the Revolution, of Rétif de la Bretonne and Balzac, Zola and Charles-Louis Philippe, Paris with all its streets, its characters, its incidents. Here, as always in France, I felt how much strength a great literary tradition, with veracity as its ideal, can give back to its people, endowing them with immortality. In fact even before I saw it with my own eyes, I had become intellectually familiar in advance with everything in Paris through the art of the poets, novelists, and political and social historians who described it. It merely came to life when I arrived there. Actually seeing the city was really a case of recognition, the Greek anagnosis that Aristotle praises as the greatest and most mysterious of all artistic pleasures. All the details through books, or even by walking indefatigably around it, only through the best of those who live there. IT is intellectual friendship with its people that gives you insight into the real connections between them and their land; outside observations convey a misleading and over-hasty image.'

20 September 2014

Stefan Zwieg on Paris 6

'All you could hear then was the faint roar of the city, an indistinct and rhythmic sound like waves breaking on a distant shore, you saw statues gleaming in the moonlight, and sometimes in the early hours of the morning the wind carried an aromatic scent of vegetables that way from the nearby food market of Les Halles. The writers and statesmen of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used to live in this historic quarter of the Palias Royal. Opposite stood the building where Balzac and Victor Hugo had so often climbed the hundred steps up to the attic story where the poet I loved so much, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, had lived. There stood the marble memorial at the place where Camille Desmoulins had called on the people to storm the Bastille, there was the covered walkway where the indigent young lieutenant Bonaparte had looked for a patroness among the not very virtuous ladies promenading along. The history of France spoke from every stone here, and what was more, the Bibliothèque Nationale where I spent my mornings was only a street away. Also close where the Musée du Louvre with its pictures and the boulevards with crowds pouring along them. At last I was where I had wanted to be, in a place where the warm heart of France had been steadily for centuries, right in the centre of the city. I remember how André Gide once visited me and amazed by such silence here in the heart of Paris, commented, "We have to ask foreigners to show us the most beautiful places in our own city." And sure enough, I couldn't have found anything more parisian and at the same time more secluded than my romantic studio  room in the very middle of the magic circle of the liveliest city in the world.' 

18 September 2014

Stefan Zweig on Paris 5

'I was a novice drinker, unused to alcohol, but I ordered a glass of absinthe in his honor, not because I liked the taste of the greenish brew at all, but out of a sense that, as a young admirer of the great lyric poet of France, I ought to observe his own ritual in the Latin Quarter. At that time my idea of the right thing to do made me want to live in a fifth floor attic near the Sorbonne, to give me more a faithful idea of the 'real' atmosphere of the Latin Quarter, which I knew from books. At twenty-five, however, I was no longer so naively romantic. The student quarter seemed to me too international, too un-Parisian. Above all, I no longer wanted to choose my permanent place of residence for reasons of literary reminiscence, but in order to work there as well as possible myself. I started looking around at once. The elegant Paris of the Champs Elysées was not at all suitable, still less the quarter around the Café de la Paix, where all the rich visitors from the Balkens congregated and no one spoke French but the waiters. I was more attracted by the quiet district of Sanit Sulpice, surrounded by churches and monasteries, where Rilke and Suarès also like to stay. Most of all I would have liked to take lodgings on the Île Saint-Louis so that I could feel I was linked to both sides of Paris, the Right Bank and the Left Bank. But in my exploration of the city I managed to find something even better in my first week. Wandering around the Galeries du Palais-Royal, I discovered that among the eighteenth-century buildings constructed on the same pattern in that huge square by the duc d'Orléans, nicknamed Philippe Égalité, a single once trance palais had come down in the world, and was now a small and rather primitive hotel. I asked to shown one of the rooms, and was charmed to find that its windows has a view of the garden of the Palais-Royal, which was closed to the public after dark.'

17 September 2014

Jacques Tati at Buckingham Palace!

Well, for levity and mirth's sake we should leave France today and head to England for this marvelous piece of theatrics.

16 September 2014

Stefan Zweig on Paris 4

'At the time when I first knew the city it had not merged so completely into a single entity as it has today, (this being 1941 when written) thanks to the underground railway and motor cars. Most of the traffic in the streets still consisted of omnibuses drawn by heavy horses with steam rising from them. And there was no more comfortable way of discovering Paris than from the impériale, the top deck of those wide omnibuses, or from one of the open cabs which also ambled along at a leisurely pace. At that time it was still quite a journey to go from Montmartre to Montparnasse, and considering the thrifty habits of the petit bourgeoisie of Paris i thought it quite credible that, as legend had it, there were still Parisians on the Right Bank who had never set foot on the Left Bank, children who played in the jar din de Luxembourg and had never been to the Tuileries or Parc Monceau. The Parisian resident or concierge preferred to stay at home in his own part of the city, making his own little Paris inside the great metropolis, and every arrondissement had its own distinct  and even provincial character. So it was quite an important decision for a stranger to choose a place to stay. The Latin Quarter no longer enticed me. On an earlier brief visit, when I was twenty, I had gone straight there from the railway station, and on my very first evening I had sat in the Cafe Vachette, getting them to show me, with all due reverence, the place where Verlaine used to sit and the marble-topped table on which, when he was tipsy, he used to bang angrily with his heavy stick to get a respectful hearing.'

15 September 2014

Stefan Zweig on Paris 3

'Street musicians played in suburban yards, from the windows you heard midinettes at their work; there was laughter in the air somewhere, or the sound of someone calling out in friendly tones. If a coupe of cabbies got into an argument, they would shake hands afterwards, and drink a glass of wine together to wash down a few of the oysters that you could get really cheap. Nothing was stiffly formal. It was easy to meet women and easy to part with them again; there was someone for everyone, every young man had a carefree girlfriend with no prudishness about her. What a carefree life that was! You could live well in Paris, especially when you were young! Even strolling about the city was a pleasure, and also instructive, because everything was open to everyone - you could go into a bookshop and spend a quarter-of-an-hour leafing through the volumes there without any morose muttering from the bookseller. You could visit the little galleries and enjoy looking around the bric-a-brac shops at your leisure, you could go to auction sales at the Hotel Drouot just to watch, and talk to governesses out in the parks. Once you had really begun to stroll it wasn't easy to stop, for the street irresistibly led you on with it, always showing you something new, like the patterns of a kaleidoscope. If you felt tired, you could sit outside on of the ten thousand cafes and write letters on the free notepaper provided, while you listened to the street traders talking up the useless junk that had for sale. The only difficulty was staying at home or going home, particularly when spring came, silvery light shone softly over the Seine, the trees in the boulevards began to put out green leaves, and every young girl wore a bunch of violets that had cost a mere sou. However it didn't have to be spring for you to fee cheerful.'

14 September 2014

Stefan Zweig on Paris 2

'And nowhere could you ever have experienced the artless yet wonderfully wise lightness of life more happily than in Paris, where it was gloriously affirmed in the city's beauty of form, mild climate, wealth and traditions. All of us young people absorbed a part of that lightness, and added our own mite to it. Chinese and Scandinavians, Spaniards and Greeks, Brazilians and Canadians, we all felt at home on the banks of the Seine. We were under no compulsion, we could speak, think, laugh and criticize as we liked, we lived as we pleased, with others or by ourselves, extravagantly or thriftily, luxuriously or in the bohemian style - there was room for every preference and all tastes were catered for. There were sublime restaurants where culinary magic was worked, wines at two or three hundred francs, wickedly expensive cognacs from the days of Marengo and Waterloo; but you could and drink almost as well at any marchand de vin around the corner. In the crowded student restaurants of the Latin Quarter, a few sous would buy you the most delicious little amuse-gueules before and after a juicy steak, with red or white wine and a long stick of delicious white bread. You could dress as you liked; students promenaded along the Boulevard Saint Michel in their chichi berets, while the rapins, the painters sports broad-brimmed hats like giant mushrooms and romantic, black-velvet jackets. Meanwhile workers cheerfully went about on the smartest of boulevards in their blue blouses or their shirtsleeves, along with nursemaids in elaborately pleated Breton caps and vintners in blues aprons. A young couple might start dancing in the street any time, not just on the fourteenth of July, with a policeman smiling at them - the prettiest girls didn't shrink from going into the nearest petit hôtel with a black man - who in Paris minded about such ridiculous bugbears as race, class and origin became later? You walked, talked and slept with whomever you liked, regardless of what anyone else thought. To love Paris properly, you ought really to have known Berlin first, experiencing the natural servility of Germany with its rigid class differences clearly delineated, in which the officer's wife did not talk to the teacher's wife, who in turn did not speak to the merchant's lady, who in turn did not mix with the laborer's wife. In Paris, however, the inheritance of the Revolution was still alive and coursing through the people's veins; the proletarian worker felt himself as much of a free citizen as his employer, a man with equal rights; the café waiter shook hands in a compraderly manner with the general in his gold-leafed uniform; the industrious, respectable, neat and clean wives of the lower middle classes did not look down their noses at prostitutes who happened to live on the same floor in their building, but passed the time of day with them on the stairs, and their children gave the girls flowers. Once I saw a party of Norman farmers come into a smart restaurant - Larue, near the Madelaine after a christening service; they wore the traditional costume of their village, their heavy shoes tramped over the paving like horses' hooves; their hair was so thickly pomaded that you could have smelt it in the kitchen. They were talking at the top of their voices, which grew louder and louder the more they drank, uninhibitedly nudging their stout wives in the ribs. As working farmers they were not diffident about sitting among the well-groomed gentry in frock coats and grand dresses, and even the smooth-shaven waiter did not look down his nose at such rustic guests, as he would have done in Germany or Britain, but served them poliely and punctiliously as he waited on the ministers and excellencies, and the maitre d'hotel even seemed to take particular pleasure in giving a warm welcome to his rather boisterous customers. Paris accommodated everyone side by side; there was no above and below, no visible dividing line between luxurious streets and grubby alley ways; life and cheerfulness reigned everywhere.'

to be continued..

13 September 2014

Zweig on Paris

A Marvelous excerpt from Stefan Zweig writing on Paris of the thirties:

'I know, I know, Paris is not alone in its suffering today. It will be decades before that other Europe can return to what it was before the First World War. A certain gloom has never entirely lifted from the once-bright horizon of the continent since then, and from country to country, from one person to another, bitterness and distrust have lurked in the mutilated body of Europe corroding it like poison. However much progress in society and technology has been made during the quarter of a century between the two world wars, look closely and there is not a single nation in our small Western world that is not immeasurable worse off by comparison with its old natural joie de vivre. You could spend days describing the trustful, cheerfulness of the italians in the old days, even when they were in the direst poverty - how they laughed and sang in their trattorias, joking about their terrible governor, while now they have to march in somber ranks, chins jutting, hearts heavy. Can anyone imagine an Austrian today as free and easy, as goodnatured as he would have once been, devoutly trusting in his imperial ruler and in God, who used to make his life so pleasant? The Russians, the Germans, the Spanish, none of them know how much freedom and joy that heartless, voracious ogre the state has sucked from rom the marrow of their souls. The people of all nations feel only that an alien shadow, broad and heavy, looms over their lives. But we who knew the world of individual liberties in our time can bear witness that a carefree Europe once rejoiced in a kaleidoscope play of variegated colors. We tremble to see how clouded, darkened, enslaved and imprisoned  the world has now become in its suicidal rage.'

to be continued...

16 April 2014 150 X 150cm

12 September 2014

February 12 2014

         150 X 150 cm
This has been on my wall for almost 8 months and I see that it has taken its place.

07 September 2014

Stefan Zweig

'Emerson's axiom that good books are a substitute for the best university still seems to me to be accurate, and I am convinced to this day that one can become an excellent philosopher, historian, literary philologist, lawyer or anything else without ever having gone to university or even grammar school. In ordinary everyday life I have found confirmation again and again, that in practice second-hand booksellers often know more about books than the professors who lecture on them; art dealers know more than academic art historians; and many of the most important ideas and discoveries in all fields  come from outsiders. Practical, salutary as academic may be for those of average talent, it seems to me that creative individuals can dispense with it, and may even be inhibited by the academic approach, in particular at a university like ours in Vienna.'

Though perhaps I wouldn't go as far as this I believe it to be mostly true that certainly, artists are rarely formed in the classroom of the Academic tradition whether it be the  19th century or today's contemporary art schools. 
But, this is a beautifully written book about Zweig's childhood and coming of age as a poet and writer whose love of Art was paramount. Indeed, he describes a Vienna before the last war as a place where Art was revered in every way so much more so than the just the acquisition of riches. This is a wonderful book. 

27 August 2014

Le Havre - Aki Kaurismäki 2011

This is such a wonderful film! Weird and retro as if made in the 1950's but a beautiful story set in a France which maybe exists only in the mind today. It stars Andre Wilms. It reminded me slightly of Jules Dassin's remarkable film Rififi chez les Hommes except that Le Havre is in a remarkable color from another era. And in studied kind of way, it also reminded me of Eric Roemer (but without his ennui terrible) In any event, this is a film noir for the 21st century,... a film for lovers of everything so French,.. For that french bucket list

25 August 2014


Into the bedroom
Out of the closet
The butterfly.

24 August 2014

l'air de rien #191 (Reidunn au Musée de Grenoble)

This is a little film of my dear friend Reidunn, who, at the Museum, gives guided talks when she is not in her studio as an artist working in glass. It was done with great spontaneity; hurried, and alas, the audio is atrocious. But such is my state.

reidunn from cloudsandsea on Vimeo.

22 August 2014


For a dose of L.A....(there are lots of imitators out there but he is the real deal...)

19 August 2014

Kenko, from Essays in Idleness, #8

-If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty. Consider living creatures - none lives so long as man. This May fly waits not for the evening, the summer cicada knows neither spring or autumn. What a wonderfully unhurried feeling it is to live a single year in perfect serenity! If that is not enough for you, you might live a thousand more years and still feel it was but a single night's dream. We cannot live forever in this world; why should we wait for ugliness to overtake us? The longer man lives, the more shame he endures. To die, at the latest, before one reaches forty, is the least unattractive. Once a man passes that age, he desires (with no sense of shame over his appearance) to mingle in the company of others. In his sunset years he dotes on his grandchildren, and prays for long life so that he may see them prosper. His preoccupation with wordily desires grows deeper, and gradually he loses all sensitivity to the beauty of things, a lamentable state of affairs.

14 August 2014

Saul Leiter (encore)

"I like it when one is not certain of what one sees.
We don't know why the photographer (painter) has made such a picture. 
If we look and look, we begin to see and are still left with the pleasure of uncertainty."

"It is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it."

Saul Leiter

These are interesting notions in which I find much truth, at least from my perspective. 

What 'makes' something interesting? Is it surely not Form in a work? How else can we experience something in the visual world if not through our eyes? And what makes Form? And, can we not find it already-made out in the world, man-made and/or natural? Hence the first image above but rotated on its side. Below is a painting made last year which I have grown to like even if I don't have a clue as to its own. Doesn't an artist want to make something to be seen in a new way? Alas, I personally feel that art has been hijacked by those who simply want to present an image which is easily understood, and one which only confirms our understanding of it. (and I include in that not just those who paint pastiches of flower pots and cypress trees but uber-cool contemporary artists who exhibit LED messages in an otherwise clean empty gallery space.


Un poète doit laisser des traces de son passage, non des preuves. Seules les traces font rêver...
René Char

(extrait de la parole den archival)

11 August 2014

A shooter's life (Vivian Maier)

Here is an interesting and well made documentary about the strange and secret life of a woman who worked as a nanny but spent all her time taking pictures of everything.
Her work is good and original but not overwhelmingly extraordinary. Its her life which eclipses her talents as a photographer.
It is also about the young man who discovers her and how he sleuths his way into her strangely weird and exotic world with the help of those who knew her. Somehow it made me think of Looking for Sugarman
Today, more than ever before there are so many remarkably talented young filmmakers exploring all sorts of offbeat stories around the globe. Yes!

09 August 2014


Alas, I should have stopped at this stage of the painting. But, I didn't. I pushed it into the ground, so to speak. I did have the instinct to take this quick photo with the telephone so as to have a souvenir  of what might have been.....as I liked something.
Its a quick study of a friend with whom I will have dinner this evening in Poët Laval before I leave tomorrow for a new life in Australia.
At the time (which is typical of me) I hated the haunted look of her face coming up, and instead of just keeping it and doing another, I ground it into the metaphysical floor of the studio.
A shame, too, because its the first portrait (in oil) I have done in maybe over 15 years.

03 August 2014

Crete (circa 1986)

So, I went to Crete and painted for a few months such long time ago. I made lots of small oil paintings out of my VW camper van. 

31 July 2014

le monde des hommes

I painted this at the height of the Balkens War in July, 1994, when I felt so disgusted with what men were doing to other men in ex-Yugoslavia. Twenty years ago almost to the day, incredible! 
And today it the same kind of hate between Arabs and Jews.
Its a rather crude painting, I admit, but I too, was also at war but with myself at that time as it was two years before I stopped drinking. I was also leaving Nature behind and delving into an invented kind of picture plane.

I made some other very dark pictures at this time. And thus, I find myself limited by what I can take, and what I must leave behind. I could not bring myself to destroy many of these things because although they make little sense to anyone else, there are such a large part of my story.

20 July 2014

the hesitant man (Edgar Oliver)

"I am  a hestitant man. It seems to me that I have spent my life half lost in some rapturous dream I dreamt as a child from which I have never awakened. Perhaps I don't want to wake up. If I woke I would find that I have failed to live."

from Edgar Oliver in his prologue for his one man show at the Axis Theatre in New York.

18 July 2014


This night, last flight
Of the butterfly
Across the road.

13 July 2014


Inside the grey sky
Is a painting 
Of the grey sky.

04 July 2014

Siena (circa 1986, l'été)

I am moving from one country to another, and despite the  unpleasant task of it all one does finds old friends. This from my days out painting in the sweltering Tuscan landscape.

20 June 2014

Foucault and Chomsky

I watched a wonderful documentary on Michel Foucault last night. I confess that I have never read his books nor knew much about his philosophy but I did have a kind of blind idea that somehow he was responsible for much of the thinking behind Contemporary art.
This, of course, gave me the willies and I put him into a place high on the bookshelf where I would probably never have to read him. And yet, to my great surprise, he was portrayed as a fascinating man full of life with an innate intellectual grasp of the difficult lines of thought in Philosophy and the contemporary life of humankind. This is but a teaser with the renowned thinker and philosopher Noam Chomsky. Its a great portrait of the (70's)? 
More to be revealed...