17 January 2021

the transvestite ball at dusk


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 January, 2021, oil on canvas board,25 X 25 cm

This small study came at the tail end of a session of three pictures the other night. The first two, slightly bigger were OK but it was this one which excited me. I had been ready to pack up when I saw a fleeting image  for this small painting while watching the last of the light over the horizon. I grabbed a small board and made this. It's not that it is even so good but that I really saw some new colour nuances which I wanted to explore. 

Weird things happen at dusk. Colours switch around and can fool you easily. You might be preparing a colour on the palette when suddenly you look back up at the motif and see that it's a different colour altogether. Then you prepare something anew only to see another colour has replaced the first one.

"....that is not this, that is this, that is that...."

Everything is a dance of peachy purple, poppy red yellow, pale yellow grey, everything swirling around in the after-burn of the twilight sky like it's a chorus line of French gals doing the Can-Can on the stage above. I am in the front row looking up, and suddenly, I envision a mad transvestite ball where dancing couples are waltzing above me in a great big hall.

Watching them, I know they are the opposites of what they are, yet when I blink, I see that they are more like they are really not than how they really are. Pretty confusing stuff, and then I am reminded of New York.

I have been to a few drag bars there many years ago, and it's pretty confounding. We both watched spellbound at the nocturnal scene. My friend who took me a few times always advised,

"watch their hands, it's the only tell".

Once, a magnificent black 'woman' in a gold gown stepped out onto a small stage at one point and belted out a lip-synced version of Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger. She brought the house down and blew our minds. I think we were on mushrooms.

And this too, is the mysterious world of Painting where things are fluid, ever transforming themselves, and are never quite what they seem. And when they seem what they are, it isn't always for long.

13 January 2021

dragons and live serpents crawling upon walls

I don’t want to make boring paintings which hug a wall, attaching to it like a stuffed elk head in a hunting lodge. 

I don't always like to paint anecdotal pictures either but I admit that these two are anecdotal in a weird sort of way though it may seem obscure to many, even myself.

I am not looking for reassurance when I paint, nor do I look for that when viewing pictures either in my home or elsewhere. To seek confirmation, to pursue a verification of my own ideas seems to be a misuse of the moment. And to see Art as a relic, something old, something dead in a glass case in a museum is also a misuse of time. But I can understand why so many people do when looking at Art. Museums are full of things both dead and alive, and too, its visitors are both dead and alive. In the end, it usually comes down to how much imagination we bring to the experience.

A relic of the past is an affirmation that life was, and to some degree is still today somewhat recognisable (even if young people all have tattoos). We want the familiar but to want this familiar is too often to simply want the same, same old. And the same old in Art is boring and dishonest.

After Matisse, why would anyone desire to paint in the manner of  Rembrandt? What is the point? But don't get me wrong I love the OLD too, I love Chardin because I like the OLD but well painted and truthful OLD.  

Ultimately though, I want the NEW, but I don't want the NEW to be badly painted. Museums are too full of bad paintings. I want the NEW to be a grandsons of Monet,  Cezanne, or Morandi even. Is that asking too much?

I want to paint pictures which cling to the walls of my home, creeping around like dragons and serpents with smokey breath. I need to be shaken up. I want paintings to force me to gently tippy-toe around them naked, or in underwear on the way to the kitchen looking for a sweet during the night. I want to risk being bitten otherwise none of it is very interesting. But at the same time I do want to make pictures which will please me to live with in my solitary castle.

Enfin, I want to be eternally surprised. I need for paintings to ask me questions instead of always throwing answers at me with a clunky heavy certitude. 

Why can't artists learn to ask questions to which most answers seem reasonably incomprehensible?

10 January 2021

The whole darn sky, for sale!


This is a study from sometime last year which I wisely stopped myself from finishing. It's most rare that I show this restraint because normally, if I like the start on a painting I will often just grab a quick shot of it whilst still on the easel as proof that miracles still can happen. Then I continue working on it, transforming it into something which it never would have imagined becoming. This one spoke to me and told me to put it aside. 

But, one cannot hold onto all great beginnings, after all. If we did, we might never get beyond the first kiss, the first few delicious dates... and then, we would certainly never move onward to marriage and children would we? 

No, like a painting, we must jump in further, making mistakes along the way with a secret hope that they are repairable, until they aren't. And then comes divorce, and tears, and recriminations from all sides.... but I digress.... I am really trying to just discuss a painting, after all. But you see how things are related? What can start out so beautifully, can equally turn ugly, full of messiness and regrets, the end then, depends on whose point of view. This is a story of Loving and Painting all bound together. 

The start of this painting, though not great, had a germ of pictorial genius in it which I had wanted to keep. 

There was something of it which reminded me of  Japan, and this Nippon fascination, once bitten and smitten, becomes a life-long infection. 

But in it too, there is something truly American, as in  the heyday of large minimalist Painting back in the 1960's when life seemed simpler, more expansive, more happy and optimistic (but only if you were white though).

And come to think of it, this image reveals that voraciously oversized American appetite, the one which can never be satiated, the one which screams for MORE Park sausages mom! 

Finally, this small start of a study, is reminding me of an oversized billboard out on a deserted stretch near a beach somewhere. It brightly advertises the sale of the whole darn, big blue sky! 

09 January 2021

a hint of hope and the angry paintbrush


A rather gloomy-looking sky engulfed me last week as I set up for a session. I was not looking forward to it. It has been raining so much these past weeks that I have not been able to find any convenient skies to enjoy working from. This study was on its way to being a real wreck which would have made me a wreck for the evening.

Then, remarkably, when I was just about to smear and smudge it over with an angry paintbrush I found my way back in to it with a hint of hope. I had nothing to lose, after all, but in those moments one forgets this fact too easily. And I knew that it would put me in a bad mood for the entire drive home in the car. But once there, I would make a cup of tea, sit at the piano, and within no time at all I would again become my usual optimistic self once again. ! Ha Ha... but it's true, mostly.

In any event, I managed to re-arrange the whole graphic drawing for this small study, then thought to myself: well, not great, not even good, but at least I didn't destroy it and leave the beach with a resentment. I put it in the back of the car and went home. It rained for several days afterward and I forgot to remove it which I normally do on the following mornings. Anyway, when I did finally retrieve it days later I was pleasantly surprised with it. I put in a frame and thought,,,, hmm...

And that is a small sketch of the angry paintbrush and the hint of hope which almost got away.

06 January 2021

Evening Prayers, iterations at dusk




These three studies were done on the 26th December, 2020 at Brunswick Heads, N.S.W. They were painted in quick succession starting with the top study, the middle one, then the last.

It isn't rare that I make 3, or even 4 studies, one after the other. A few times I have made 5 and 6, albeit quicker than usual. But generally I make 2 or 3 on most days weather permitting. 

As I paint facing the sea on the east coast, I can only work when the setting sun is behind me unobstructed, in the west. Without it there is little, if any luminosity in the sky, but in the east, in front of me anything goes because I know that with, or without clouds, the sky will be lit up with colour. Of course, one could paint under cloud-cover, rain even, but for this motif to function I need this geographical set-up. 

I am open to all sorts of light. When working in a lush landscape I often prefer a pale, soft grey cashmere sky though it really depends upon the colours in the landscape. Sometimes when working in a forest, one needs the strong sun to pierce the canopy, pasting red rubies on the oak trees in the late afternoon. But there are no rules, thankfully, and this is what makes the Painting experience so unique. It is deeply personal.

So these pictures came one after the other, and all that was required of me was to follow the colours as they descended down through the chromatic steps until reaching a dark dusk. I rarely stay longer because after the 'spectacular bloom', the local colours recompose before the evening catches hold and the Prussian blue sky and the deep azure sea return to the colours of the boring tropical scenery of postcards. 

And anyway, few painters have descended into the realm of darkness, though Whistler quickly comes to mind. He worked in London where the foggy rain has been know to eat up small dogs with opacity. This is difficult Painting.

04 January 2021

Stefan Zweig looks up at Montaigne's tower window for light


Two exceptional writers are conjoined in this small book on Montaigne which Zweig never completely finished before he committed suicide in 1942. 

Both humanists who loved books and whose curiosity led them to investigate life through what they found out about in reality, empirically through themselves. 

Separated by several centuries they both died within a year of one another at the ages of 59 (Montaigne) and (Zweig) 60 years of age.

'For him books are not like men who impose themselves and burden him with their chatter, and of whom is hard to be rid. When you don't call for them they stay put; you can just pick up this one or that, according to your whim: (Zweig)

"Books are my kingdom. And here I seek to reign an absolute lord." (Montaigne)

Books offer him their opinion and he respond with his own. They express their thoughts, and to him arouse further thoughts.  They do not disturb him when he is silent; They only speak when he questions them. Here is his realm. They await his delectation.' (Zweig)

I confess that for the past 6 months I have been struggling through Les Essaies in the original old French, but only because of the old French. It feels like I am a soldier reading my way through a mine field on my belly, and like a good soldier, I persist. 

Zweig is a wonderful writer, so readable, and so clever. I am making my way through all his small novels and short stories. I can highly recommend his The World of Yesterday, a memoir of his flight from Austria before Hitler took over.

02 January 2021

Ian Fairweather, the invisible artist of Shalimar and the Drunken Buddha


The Drunken Buddha, circa 1960, polymer oil based house paint, (approx) 140 X 100 cm

For anyone unfamiliar with Ian Fairweather's work, he was born in Britain in 1891, and after many peregrinations throughout Asia he ended up in Brisbane Australia. It's a stone's throw from where I am currently settled. I will not say too much about him, but Google will inform anyone interested in this extraordinary painter. 

For an 'abstract' painter, I find him infinitely more interesting than the infamous Jackson Pollack who is still considered the reference for 'Abstraction Expressionist Painting', at least in America. Fairweather's outline follows a similar path to Pollack's. They both worked from Nature early on in their careers but eventually subject matter became personalised, increasingly.

I like these two paintings so very much. That is to say, they speak to me in a familiar yet foreign language, one which I do speak but might not completely understand due to a regional dialect which is a little confounding..

It is a shame that Fairweather is not better know outside of Australia. That is a problem with being so far from the Art capitals in America and Europe. At least it certainly was in the 50's when Australia was indeed a cultural backwater. Perhaps that may have changed enough today so that someone of Fairweather's stature might achieve a greater recognition, at least beyond the beaches. Not sure about that, myself, Australia is still very parochial in many ways.

But Fairweather would not have become the painter he became if he had not lived his last years in the isolated Queensland of the 50's and 60's, when Australia was a very different country than today. 

Shalimar, 1962, polymer oil-based house paint, (approx) 250 X 150 cm

31 December 2020

2021, somewhere else, confetti flies


This was posted exactly 10 years ago, and so I thought it appropriate to re-post again. It was made near the very beginning of this Blog which over the years has miraculously survived somehow.

It was also at a period when I was writing Haiku like a mad monk. I was alive to everything, all interactions, large and small, each day, and into the evening while I slept. Everything had a meaning,  connected by a spider web of  ideas and relationships both real and unreal. I was like a creature on the hunt for poetic protein, prowling the visual world through the muck of mundane and into the sublime.

My mind was a large bedroom into which butterflies flooded in and out all day long through the tall French windows. I wish I could find my way back into that space again. Maybe soon... maybe next year, maybe tomorrow.

30 December 2020

'the greater the doubt, the greater the artist', maybe, hopefully

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 21 December, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I was speaking to an old friend yesterday, a long conversation via Messenger which has now become my go-to mode of communication.

She has been at work as an artist for about 40 years. In my mind she has always been a tireless worker, always at it, day and night, and yet a rich successful career has eluded her. 

"...you know Christopher, I have been working for 40 years now and it seems to me that I still don't know what I am doing!"

I laughed because I had heard this from her many times before. I told her that artists, writers, musicians, etc, etc, who cannot admit this sort of thing are probably not very good at all. An artist who never questions him/herself, who knows nothing of the gnawing doubt deep inside one's skin would surely make very insipid Art. But to work through it all is the key to a happy daily routine, in most cases, anyway. Moreover, Art doesn't generally come out of technical schools, it comes out of recess period between classes.

I often think this to myself:

'the greater the doubt, the greater the artist'.

But then, I quickly think that maybe this is dangerous ground, I should not be making such broad pronouncements. But I have read of great painters who have claimed that in their twilight years they have only  just begun to understand Painting even as their teeth and hair are falling out. Delacroix comes to mind.

Doubt can be a healthy thing in all things, even brain surgeons have loads of it except when they are deep at work inside the brain of human cosmos. The thing for me is that when I am working doubt usually disappears, and this is always the proof that the routine is everything.

29 December 2020

Halloween, tricks or treats of painting


                Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 31 October, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

A magnificent sky for Halloween almost two months ago which I struggled with like a fisherman with a tough catch. I lost it several times but reeled it back in each time to my surprise. 

28 December 2020

Leica magic and the Trump escalator


I recently met a guy from Melbourne, who with his wife,  spent his holiday in America a few years back. They were in New York the week that Trump rode down the now infamous escalator ride at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for President. He and his wife  had been shopping in midtown, when on a whim they popped into Trump Tower.

Just a few minutes in the lobby of Trump Tower this great-looking couple were quickly approached by a woman who asked them if they wanted to make a few bucks, $50, to be precise for an hour's work. They agreed immediately, and were taken to the second floor landing, then into a large empty retail space hidden from view with brown paper over the windows. There were about a hundred other people there waiting around, some lucky to have chairs. They had no idea what was going on. At a small table another woman, a bright blonde, sized them up quickly and handed them two tee shirts from large boxes behind. 

"...these are all a little bigger, just put them over your shirts"

She said. The white tee shirts emblazoned with 'TRUMP Make America Great Againwritten in red. They had only a faint clue who he was as a reality television star. 

A big muscular guy in a black suit handed them both a $50 note from a roll in his pocket and told them told them to go over to move and indicated to the other side of the room where they were to wait before being called.

After about an hour of waiting around uncomfortably  the bright blonde moved to the center of the room threw up her hand and yelled out for everyone to listen up. She then explained was expected of all of them, and in a few moments they were all trotted out 'to mingle'.

Some people were given signs with 'Trump for President!' scrawled with different coloured magic markers. Others, wearing tee-shirts, were instructed to go down to the lobby, the rest were told to stay on the first floor to cheer as Trump rode down the escalator. The couple were given a place (as were others along the balustrade, on the landing.)  

They had been instructed to cheer, clap and shout loudly as rode downwards.

"Trump! Trump! Trump!"  

The guy told me it was funny but also really weird because Trump was in fact, really weird. He went right by them without looking, focussed on the lobby below, then began waving casually to nothing in particular, just space. It was a ragtag-looking crowd as if they were all extras (they were) of some old Italian B film where the actors were yelling out their lines not in sync with the film.

And so that was it. It went by "like a dream" he kept saying. Ivanka introduced her father, then Trump gave his speech. 

About an hour later, they were in front of painting by Jackson Pollock at MOMA and still laughing about the whole thing. Lucky them, I thought. A story for their grandkids. And, they kept the tee-shirts as souvenirs.

26 December 2020

scattered rose petals after a storm


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 April, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This is an old painting from April 2020 which I just saw on my cluttered desktop but suddenly 'saw again' which is a very nice thing for a painter. It means that the painting still lives, it still succeeds, at least for me anyway. And I am the most important person to please in this small cottage of a life I live. But hey! It's a great cottage.

It's not a picture that will knock your socks off but it is a decent replication of my session on that small dune up here on the North Coast of New South Wales in Australia. It is what I saw and felt, even without knowing what I saw or how I felt, but it's the painting afterward which tells me what I was seeing and feeling.

This is the marvellous thing about Painting from a motif over and over again. Perhaps like an actor on stage doing his/her 986th performance, the character has developed a life of its own even beyond the actor. As I wrote recently about Keith Jarrett; he said that he had no idea what he was going to play before he went on stage to perform solo, in Cologne, Paris, Antibes, etc, etc,,, When one listens to those recordings it is confounding to understand this.

But a painting, perhaps like a recording, is after, all a souvenir of 'an event', an experience empirically lived. This is something that has become clearer to me in recent years. On a simple level it is about making a picture which if good enough, can outlive its creator. On a deeper level it is not about that at all. It is really about  having the painting experience in front of an ever-changing Nature which the painter is simply graced to witness, and work from.

In my own case, I work lightning fast, partly because I am anxious by nature, but also because 'my motif' is the 'hour of the wolf', the twitching hour of dusk between day and night. It is when the colours are at their zenith which suits my nature.

I don't pretend that these pictures are great, high points of the zeitgeist today, but they are 'souvenirs' of a moment when I lived and worked there in front of the sea and the sky during a painting session. It isn't much in the grand scheme of things but it is a painter's work. I have learned from so many different types of craftsman  about this, not just painters, writers, and musicians.

This is just my small story, but like all stories, it leaves its own colourful traces like scattered rose petals after a storm.

24 December 2020

Trump's wall; beauty and revulsion in one last gasp.

Having just read in the Times that Trump's wall is being constructed with a feverish speed to get as much of it done as possible, one presumes before his ejection from office in a mere 28 days, I couldn't help but think of an eminent American sculptor who faced a firestorm of a very different nature, contextually speaking.

I wondered if photos of Trump's wall cutting through a virgin landscape in the American Southwest wouldn't give Richard Serra a frisson of sorts?

I have already written in these pages about his Tilted Arc which was conceived for Foley Square in downtown Manhattan back in the early 1980's. It was finally removed, dismantled, and put into storage after a much rancorous debate, equally as bitter as Trump's wall. Then, it pitted the working class against the elite and monied Art world of the city. 

"Holding the site hostage" is how one journalist put it.

Foley Square with Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, 1980's

To be fair, Serra simply created a large public sculpture for a very large open space in downtown New York. The fault was clearly with the United States General Services Administrations which commissioned the piece on the recommendations by The National Endowment for the Arts 'panel of art experts'. There doesn't seem to have been a report which might have looked at the ramifications of this placement. Too much hubris, perhaps?

At the time, I was in New York, and I took a strong stand against it not because I found it ugly (on the contrary) but because I found it was inappropriate for the space. Why carve up one of the most precious commodities in New York: open space? Though I was bothered by the discourse at the time (which hasn't changed much, in fact) I hated that ideas like 'beauty' and 'ugliness’ were dredged up out of the closet and used to malign one group against another in this community fight. It seemed to trivialise and debase a discourse which was, and is always, a real and important consideration about what is public art.

Sadly, it allowed an 'art elite' to savage the 'proletariats' who simply didn't want the sculpture there. It was an ugly fight, and for me, this was a political one not an aesthetic one, or it should have been.

When everyone seems to look so closely at beauty, by using it as a standard of measurement for judging Art, inversely, eyesight falters, and suddenly, everyone needs a new pair of eyeglasses.

That I can find beauty in rusted steel is not a paradox but an integral part of the mystery of Art. But by putting a wall of steel in a public space like this corrupted the  sculpture in a strange way. In a practical and civic sense, it felt to me at the time like it bordered on Architectural Fascism. This is a tough thing to say being a lover of Art, but I still feel that way, maybe even more so, as no doubt, it would have quickly become home to graffiti artists.

This leads us to Trump's war on immigrants and his own Moby Dick of a rusting steel wall which cuts North America in two. Most people on both sides of the wall detest it in every way. This is about politics, not Art, after all. But 'land artists' out West, will they see a great graphic beauty beyond the abhorrent ideas behind it?  A  conundrum for Art lovers: is our taste dictated, or confirmed by ideology?

Imagine a fluid Trump Wall in another, gentler age: Christo's Running Fence in Marin County California, 1976. 

To see Trump's Wall for what it is (as a national barrier to keep foreigners out) is politics, and far outside the realm of Art which is surely to bring people together.

Do we  see a wall of steel scarring the natural landscape or do we see something artistic? Is an artist ever free from the straight-jacket of politics, and should he/she ever be?

What would both Christo and is wife Jeanne-Claude think of Trump's Wall? And Richard Serra?

Too many questions, Happy Christmas everyone!

Foley Square 1985 with the sculpture

21 December 2020

through the window pane, the Irish wolfhound stares back


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 8 December, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This was done as indicated by the date on the 8th of December. It was an unusual sea, flat, very light, and sliver blue. The kind of sea I hate to paint. It looks so smooth it makes me think of a glass slipper, for some reason. But I like that certain weather conditions push me away from convenience. I know that Degas once said that if Painting was really hard, it wouldn't be fun. 

Ha! Painting is Difficult enough without added complexities. Degas had almost too much skill it seems to me. In fact, he should just shut up! 

Though I recognise his greatness, I find myself repelled by much of his work with the exception of some of his early portraits, mono-types, drawings, and lots, actually.

It's an emotional thing. One can love a vastly inferior work of Art and at the same time detest a great one. But one needs to be clear about one's understanding in these critical matters. Indeed, one needs to be critical, whilst at the same time ones needs to hear the beating of one's own heart in front of a picture. Tricky, but then again it's my vocation. Plainly, I can love awful things for certain reasons and dislike great things for other uncertain reasons. 
In Degas, I dislike his cold superiority, for instance. He's is just too talented!! In his perfected and oft-times, antiseptic approach to expression, a deathly white light pervades his dancers (in gouache) like a marble crypt.

But of course, he was a draughtsman sans pareil as they say in France. Mais quand même! !

I am not a gollum against greatness, obviously. And I could equally find wretched things to say about some of Cézanne's work. His perfection performed with great patience can be maddening too, especially knowing that he truly did warp speed Painting into the 20th century though one wouldn't know that after Andy Warhol.

However, an example of a great draughtsman who I do adore is Toulouse Lautrec. I love his sloppiness; his assuredness, his carefree belief in his talents which allowed him to achieve anything he wished in oil, gouaches, pen and ink. His work is decidedly imperfect by nature.

Imagine looking into a room through a window from the outside. In the room is a large Irish wolfhound staring back at you. Degas' technique is a clean, clear window pane, allowing the dog's moist mouth to glisten like a Vélazquez. But through Lautrec's filthy glass the dog appears almost out of focus, as smudged and hazy as the filthy window pane. But the wolfhound in the room behind each window is still the same dog staring back at you.

This is just taste, thankfully. What I like doesn't have anything to do with you, nor you with me. What does count in this is the acquisition of a good eye which is not the same thing as good taste. One is intuition, the other is prejudice. 

18 December 2020

Bosnian war, they cut off noses don't they?


They cut off noses in Bosnia-Herzegovina, don't they?, August, 1995 oil on canvas, 80 X 50 cm

Many years ago I made a small series of paintings in which I tried to express some of the horror I felt when reading about the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. These pictures are so dark that I never even put them on my walls almost because somehow, I was too shy about showing this side of myself to anyone. It suddenly seemed too personal, not something I wished for anyone to see. It was a modesty, an embarrassment, but mostly though, just shame which the French call la pudeur.

Back in 1995, though I was in a different place and I just wanted to see if I could render such darkness in certain formal terms. I didn't want to indulge in wild black, nihilist abstractions which could mean little but reveal my own solipsistic demons. I did not want to create an image exploiting the theme of war out of some dubious politically-correct motive, that is to say, making an incoherent image to randomly slap a sexy war-torn cliché of a title on it. I absolutely did not want to sentimentalise it with too much frothy formality, a technically proficient realism one sees in museums from previous wars to glorify patriotic heroism (but I would not have been technically capable of this, anyway).

Of course I am analysing all of this 25 years later. I was thinking of none of this at that time. I just wanted to express an idea simply, without fanfare, without anything which could derail the immediacy of a pictorial idea.

I didn't fuss about how to do it, I painted it quickly with an idea which came from a clipping in the newspaper about the Serbs cutting off Muslim noses. At the same time, it made me think about all the rhinos and elephants of Africa whose tusks have been removed with a chain saw. 

For me, Painting is always using metaphor, but only an accurate metaphor for both the surface of the picture and its content. If the metaphor is apt, then it can hopefully become real enough in plastic terms to convey emotion.

As I was packing up to leave my large house in Dieulefit during this brief period I received lots of friends who came by to bid me adieu, and who were a little incredulous that I was actually leaving. Amongst them was an old friend who brought her new beau who was a therapist living in nearby in Poët-Célard.
We were in the studio where I was packing things up in quiet desperation, as one does when moving. I had put about 4 or 5 of these dark things around the empty studio walls when they showed up. The 'beau', whose name I have forgotten, was very interested in them. We looked at them together and after about 5 minutes we noticed that he was silently weeping, discreetly. And for the first time in my life I witnessed something one rarely seen as a painter; someone was actually weeping over my own work, and in my presence. Then consequently, I became moved by his tears, and all I could do was remain quiet, very awkwardly quiet. 

He confessed that it had never before happened to him,  this overt show of emotion in front of a painting. He was a therapist trained to a certain degree in stoicism, empathic yes, but stoic nonetheless. And, like for most of us, music, films, dance, books, and theatre demand an emotional response, but rarely in front of a painted image, (though I've heard of those who shed tears for Rothko). And, the painter should ask: why wouldn't it be that way for Painting too? Oui!    

Then, afterwards over tea in the garden, he more fully expressed what had happened for him. I became so moved by all his movement that I told him to pick out a painting for himself to take home as a souvenir of our meeting. He picked out a small landscape done many years earlier from Le Tholonet. 

After they left I remember thinking that the reason I feel such difficulty showing these things is that they are really all about my own childhood. They are about all the pain I had sealed away in my crypt of pride for so much of life. Why would I show that off to anyone? La pudeur, de rigeur!

I painted these dark things while at the Châteaunoir in my studio in the blazing summer heat. On one of the walls I had pinned up newspaper clippings about the war, one of which, a young Muslim child who was kissing the tombstone of his father killed by the Serbs. It was the visual inspiration for all the paintings done that summer.

15 December 2020

RED Inc where dreams are made in paint

My friend  (and ex-wife) Cheryl Bailey invited me to the annual art exhibition for disabled clients at RED inc, an organisation in Mullumbimby where she works. She is a painter herself but became an art therapist a few years ago, and she has really found her calling in working with these clients. I call them clients, but I should call them artists and painters first. And creative types with obsessional natures are all a bit disabled to one degree or another aren't they? 

The opening began at 18h so I wanted to get there on time to see it, then leave to go paint on the beach somewhat quickly thereafter. I am very glad to have gotten to the reception early this year as I missed last year's show altogether and I deeply regretted it after seeing pictures my brother had bought there. My other regret is that I didn't have enough time to meet all of the painters, though I did meet a few who painted the pictures I bought. 

RED inc is a series of two spaces, a small house in front, but behind, a very large shed where Cheryl and others run the program. It was full of pictures for sale, chocker-block as they say in Australia. I ran through it somewhat rapidly and immediately fell in love with so many things that I was super grateful to be early and on time just for once. Everything was available for sale, and I think it sold out later on. The paintings were very, very inexpensive so I went a little wild and bought all these paintings below.

There is something in each of these pictures that I would wish to steal and hide away in a secret part of me for later use in my own work. They say that to copy or imitate is the highest form of flattery, so though I wouldn't exactly copy them, I would worship their dynamic originality, their audaciously bold conviction. And like so many people around here who use crystals to straighten out their spiritual ways, I, too, would hope to be infected by their quiet imperfect-perfection.

Who could not fall in love with the pinkness of this happy pig at the top? His/Her serious black eyes seem to say to us: 

"Please don't eat me."

What can be said of the image below, a graphic solution to dystopia? or for that matter, above? with the Disney characters floating discreetly within?

And this image below? Isn't it a kind of austere national flag? But with the flourish of painterly indecision floating existentially overhead? A cloud, yes, but also a sign which says about this country that they welcome poets and painters, transgenders too. It says that this nation welcomes all other outcasts who normally don't fit in elsewhere.

And this simple landscape below, probably invented in a studio, but it's a place seen often by the painter, again, and again, and used empirically in this picture. I love the large white overpainting which takes place over the whole lower third. It says, maybe,
"I didn't like the way the bottom looked as a green tropical foreground so I painted it white." 

And this is an expressive coup de genie, I think. This,  a very painterly solution to dealing with what doesn't yet work in the painter's mind of his/her picture. This artist chose to just simply paint it out with a large glacier-like slab of snow white. A clever solution worthy of an Italian surrealist. Fantastic!