07 May 2015

Hakuin Ekaku (1685 - 1768)

 Monkey and Cukoo (55 x 43cm)

This is a wonderful ink wash by one of the really great, great poet/artists of Japan. Superlatives aside, he is for me  inspirational in the sense that his pictures teach me about pictorial form in this Contemporary world. He uses the space of the paper in a very particular way and his pictures seem to defy logic which is an enviable aspect of his originality. A great unified picture plane is evident while at the same time it is built using all of its few elements necessary to complete the poem at hand. 'cows, 'ants, 'spoons', 'cups', 'crows', 'bamboo' 'waves', 'Mount Fuji"...
This mix of elements and ideas in a unified picture plane is for me the "Holy Graal" of painting.

04 May 2015

ciné-échange! (les livres à pattes)

There is a Cinema just a stone's throw from the Gare Saint-Lazare aptly named Cinema Caumartin because it sits on the rue Caumartin. In the lobby, to my surprise, when I went to see a film there a few months back, I discovered several large shelves overflowing with books of all shapes and sizes. The idea is simple: One is encouraged to take a book home but on condition that one replaces it with another one. The idea for this comes from Russia where apparently (so reads the small sign below) when Russians lose personal papers (of any sort I presume) they are called "des papers à pattes" (papers with legs!) and they are not considered lost at all, but are deemed to have a life of their own as they simply go their own way leaving their owners forever perplexed. So in this spirit the Cinema Caumartin offers "Les livres à Pattes!"

pretty cool (très chouette, en fait!)

03 May 2015

Geoffrey Lehmann, Australian poet


                Getting started 

When we first came our house
was two weatherboard rooms
in a bare paddock.

I was just back from a war.
There were no trees
and I chose the name "Spring Forest".

It was dark when we drove up
and lit our pressure lamps and unpacked.
Our children found potatoes sprouting
on the wire mattress of a large iron bed.
What were they doing there?
my daughter kept asking.

We burned ironbark
in the old brick fireplace,
rubbing etherized hands into warmth.

At dawn Sally and Peter were out
calling in the frost, exploring.
A long icicle hung from the tank.
That day five cars passed on the road
and the children ran out every time.

01 May 2015

Jasper lips

A dear friend has sent me a wonderful book entitled "Rendez-vous with Art". It is essentially a dialogue between Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford as they travel through museums, churchs and art galleries around the world.

(Just the early introduction is already  captivating)

Philippe de Montebello pauses in front of a shattered  yellow stone. 'This', he exclaims, 'is one of the greatest works if art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, indeed in the world, of any civilisation!' The object we are looking at is part of a face, the lower section. Of the upper portions - the brow, the nose, the eyes - nothing remains.

'If you told me you'd found the top of the head', he continues, 'I am not sure I would be thrilled because I am so focussed, so absorbed and captivated by the perfection of what is there; that my pleasure - and it is intense pleasure - is marvelling at what my eye sees, not some abstraction that, in a more art historical mode, I might conjure up. It's like a book that you love, and you simply don't want to see the movie. You've already imagined the hero or the heroine in a certain way. In truth, with the yellowed jasper lips, I have never really tried to imagine the missing parts.'

I remember this small fragment in the Met because I prowled the Met every friday afternoon for years when I lived in New York. And, how I miss those excursions!

(More to be revealed)

29 April 2015

Katmandu and the trench

These little souvenirs came from Nepal. The little rat is a tourist copy from the museum in Patan where the original is quite compelling. I fell in love with it and of course, I wanted a smaller replica so I searched high and low for just the right one with that child-like expression. It must be a popular item because this motif is made by so many craftsman in town, alas, many of them quite sterile, but this one had just the right simple feel to it expression. It sits in my bathroom and stares up at me when I brush my teeth. Its the small rat which offers up food to the giant elephant Ganeesh. 

This is a small figurine (terre cuite) which was made by the tribal artists in the hills all over Nepal. I bought several but gave the rest away as gifts. 

This was painted by a young man who made them in his tiny studio off one of the main squares. I cannot remember which temple but it was a large and very popular one with the tourists. He and his wife lived and worked in this tiny studio/apartment with a makeshift kitchen. In the front were his paintings which he made for the tourists. I bought several, and still have a few. Really lovely (and, lively things) which still move me. They were such a kind, modest and unassuming couple. He was (is, I hope) a very talented painter. It was easy to see. He painted lots of different animals with a great animation which appealed to me, and for each one he made a small wooden frame. I think that all 8 were the price of a meal. I have often thought of them since my visit there. Now, I wonder where they are,.. and if they survived the earthquake? They had so little before, now what?

These last few days as the tragedy unfolded  I was digging a trench (mostly by hand) for electricity and water to be moved to a small studio behind my house. The whole time, I couldn't stop thinking about all that digging going on all over Nepal. 

24 April 2015

Hubble telescope

I love the two skulls in this one

21 April 2015

Emerson on Nature

"All men (and women, I will add) are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even to delight. This love of beauty is Taste. Others have the same love in excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in forms. The creation of beauty is Art."

Obviously, a graduate of any Post-Modern education would have a difficult time with this. Even worse for the graduate would be what follows.

"The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity. A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature. For although the works o f nature are innumerable and all is different, the result or the expression of them all is similar an single. Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A leaf, a sunbeam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the mind. What is common to them all, -- that perfectness and harmony, is beauty. The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, --the totality of nature; which the Italians expressed by define beauty 'il più nell uno'. 
Nothing is quite beautiful alone; nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art a nature passed through the alembic of man. Thus art does Nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works."

11 April 2015

Issa (forever)

  not knowing the tree
will be felled- the birds
  build a nest

09 April 2015

Taneda Santōka (1882 -1940)

Taneda Santōka once wrote in his journal:

"Today, I've composed 10 haiku, 
of course they're about as good as broken pieces of tile, 
but they may shine as much as a piece of tile can, and my job is to polish, polish,
polish them until they shine"

leaves fall from the trees-
I keep on walking

no one to meet-
the path worsens

can't do anything else-
I just keep walking

becoming a frog-
and jumping

a bird comes once-
and does not sing

all day in the mountains-
ants are also walking

snow falls on snow-

the sound of drinking saké
is lonely

men and women
alone with their shadows-

when you live alone-
green green are the grasses

03 April 2015

small earth


A new home 
A new roof even
Same old crow!

30 March 2015

Germanwings, white light

The Germanwings crash has really shaken up a lot of people. Myself, I cannot stop thinking about the 'purity' of such a pulverising death. The small ravines of the crash site are littered with confetti made up of the smallest of bits and pieces. But too, are sad clumps of clothing which survived, outliving their owners. 

Would death come as a white light? Or, perhaps like being knocked out before a surgical procedure in hospital? But then, there would be 'no awakening' in the post-op room afterward (as far as we know). Just 8 long (short?) minutes in a kind of dream, a nightmare of space of waiting until the inevitable impact, or hoping for a miracle too. Hollywood could still send Superman, but the News Hour would tell us otherwise.

-This cannot be happening!.. I have class tomorrow, and homework to do...I have a dinner date tonight...-

Most surely, their end would have been painless. Mightn't it be a passage through matter into a white light of nothingness? 

In the meantime, as the Police comb through the grisly task of looking for bits of DNA the rest of us continue breathing in and out this delicious oxygen. The sun warms our cheeks as we look up to ponder airliners traversing the sky above. Are the passengers ordering another cocktail, or watching another film, sleeping? or maybe, just looking down at us sitting on a beach and looking up at them? 

26 March 2015

Onitsura 1661 -1738 (Germanwings)

Above the young barley
see the skylark ascending
oh no! descending!

This is a mountain over which I flew many times when I was hangliding. And, it has swallowed up the lives of a few hanglider pilots, ingloriously spitting them out into the steep dark canyons below.
Better to die that way than free falling ten long minutes in an aircraft. How sad for everyone.


22 March 2015

Villa of Mysteries (restored) ouch!

So, they have restored the infamous Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii. Above, are old photos of several famous scenes painted in Pompeii. Note that they had already been restored at least on several occasions over the years. But these images are what we are left with until now. They have just re-opened the site and are proudly displaying new restorations of those iconic images. Just from the one image (below) it seems to be a great tragedy! The  light is skewed, and all wrong in the detail below exhibiting lighting instead of Light. All the subtly is gone, and  what a great shame because now it is gone forever! But, I am curious to see what they have done to the others before I really get mean.

20 March 2015

Matisse (forever) and terror in Tunis

This is such a marvelous painting which I believe opened so many doors into the latter half of the 20th century. I saw it two years ago in Marseille; a simple, tall French window, the kind one finds anywhere in France. Matisse made so many views from this kind of window, in the south, mostly in Nice. Colorful, and (cheerful), things that make one smile just being in front of them. It's a little like the effect of late Spring when birds and flowering trees reassure us that Life is inherently quite lovely for so many of us. I love the audacity in this picture, the chance he took by just seeing something a little different in this typical window, something he had painted hundreds and hundreds of times already. He then sought to make it in a simple Japanese kind of way, perhaps at dusk even. He brought this picture right up and into our pictorial lives eliminating all distance save for a small bit of architrave at the base. 
And so, what Cezanne began, Matisse takes further. The scraps are picked up by Rothko, Barnett Newman, Diebenkorn and so many others. It took the Americans to fully exploit this idea of flattening out the picture plane. Personally, I am not so sure about the results, but its a large portion of History now, so who cares? 
The other notable quality which moves me in this Matisse is the color. Its perfect, as well as being completely original, almost idiosyncratic. 

So, they have finally attacked visitors in a museum! I half expected it from these primeval neanderthals who hide behind the cloak of religion. 
There is Art, and then there is madness. Sometimes they overlap, but only in the act of creation. 

19 March 2015

Bashō (forever)

More than the dream
The hawk of reality
Heartens me

17 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?

14 March 2015

Issa (forever)

the cow comes
Moo! Moo!
out of the mist

10 March 2015

winter's end (Onitsura 1660-1738)

 why are some long
and some short?

06 March 2015

great books #6 (Anna Karenina)

This a big book in every sense. Its a newer translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, and it is Tolstoy at his very best.

03 March 2015

one haiku (Shöhaku, 1443 -1502)

   after all this time
don't you feel that 
   you are all alone?

02 March 2015

Nonoguchi Ryūho, 1595 -1669 (three lovely haiku)


         while sleeping
the moon in his heart
     is his inner mind

     as my heart travels west
the moon in the sky
     is my boat

     into the washbasin

28 February 2015

children and adults misbehaving (wisdom lesson #1)

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.

19 February 2015

three great Donatellos!

Reading the news these days can be an exercise of despair so when I found these images from a current exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art I found solace of sorts. Humanity's daily struggle with itself is an old theme tackled by the great, and the less great. But these are truly great.