31 December 2009


In a very cold Paris on the 1st of January.

30 December 2009


I managed to get everything done today. This is a new size, an open plate, rather japanese in feel. It suits the drawing.

Weather, unduly warm. Outside, cutting back roses and butterfly bushes. To Valreas in the late afternoon, the days are feeling longer just so subtly. Exquisite landscape! If only I had my wits about me to begin working outdoors again! The hills are a magnificent violet, interlaced cool and warm, blue greys and warm yellows like in a persian rug,... Corot and Pissarro everywhere!

In the New Yorker was an article by Peter Schjeldahl concerning the retrospective at MOMA for Gabriel Orozco, of whom I knew little. He is tough on it in a delicate way. I have noticed a hardening of the Critic's arteries of late. This is a good thing as  artists have had a free pass for all too long in my opinion. Why does one often feel like the victim of a Corporate sell in so many of these shows? It reminds me of the theme of Venice Biennale few years back: 

Think with your Heart, Feel with your Mind


It smells of Madison Avenue,,, an ad for Mercedes or Jaguar. To top it off the artistic philosophy of Gabriel Orozco seems to be summed up in the following remark:

"People forget that I want to disappoint!"

Isn't that just another post-modern slogan from Madison Avenue? 

What DOES he really mean by this ?? 
and actually, 
What happened to the notion of surprise anyway?

29 December 2009


Finally, to the poterie studio where I have put off too much work before I leave for Australia on friday. Yikes! But I'll get it done.

Its easy work but I need to be inspired and I can easily burn out after three hours

I end up feeling like these teddy bears look, dazed and confused. 

27 December 2009


                                             40 X 50 cm 2008

I have been reading about writers the past week, notably, a book entitled The Agony and the Ego. In it are portraits drawn up by two dozen writers themselves. I have read it several times before but always go back to it when I am looking for inspiration. The following from Lorrie Moore which I found most interesting:

What constitutes tragedy and what constitutes comedy may be a fuzzy matter. The comedienne Joan Rivers has said that there isn't any suffering that's one's own that isn't also potentially very funny. Delmore Schwartz claimed that the only way anyone could understand Hamlet was to assume right from the start that all the characters were roaring drunk. I often think of an acquaintance of mine who is also a writer and whom I ran into once in a bookstore. We exchanged hellos, and when I asked her what she was working on these days, she said, "Well, I was working on a long comic novel, but then in the middle of the summer my husband had a terrible accident with an electric saw and lost three of his fingers. It left us so sad and shaken that when I returned to writing, my comic novel kept getting droopier, darker and sadder and depressing. So I scrapped it, and started writing a novel about a man who loses three fingers in an accident with a saw, and that,' she said, 'that's turning out to be really funny.'

26 December 2009


                                                50 X 40 cm 1995
The Christmas season can be unsettling. I have felt, like so many other adults, a sense of anxious deja vu, but each year I remember and recognize it for what it is. I was invited to my friends at Le Parol. The dear couple and their grown up sons (Les Baches from Lyon) welcomed me for a leisurely lunch of salmon and salad, quite civilized really. We began speaking of number of different things which eventually led us to books and films which is where most conversations usually take people around a dinner table. I had just watched The Reader which the mother Marie had read, and which Bazille, the eldest son had also seen. She loved the book while he didn't appreciate the film very much. As I had liked it, on the other hand, I was curious why it had displeased him so. I think he felt that the character was ill-defined but nonetheless, it guided our conversation over to the delicate landscape where good and evil co-exist in human lives. I don't remember how, but I began speaking of my own "mean streak" which I hide deep within me and which comes out periodically. When it does I am always shocked, but at the same time quite amazed (étonné). I am also amazed at my own ability to broach such intimate subjects, but then this is somewhat new, my lack of pudeur, as it were. I confessed (to my even greater surprise as the French are distinctly reserved) that I assassinate my friends in the most discrete manner which afterwards leaves me disgusted with myself. I finished my Christmas confession by saying that it is a behavior which I urgently need to change. Gossip is a dreadful habit of the tongue.

And so this was Christmas.

24 December 2009


Town was crowded. At the Boulangerie, a line had formed and snaked out into the street. The weather is warm, oddly so, after such Cold of the proceeding weeks. It took 5 minutes to get through the door where the line of wearied shoppers continued up to the caisse. At the head of the line, an older woman with a cane was being waited on by Anne, the owner. This is the time of year when everyone has ordered their special treats, most notably the famous Bûches de Noel, essentially, a long tube of sweetened butter. Dieters beware! (attention: ce qui soit au regime!)
In front of me was Claude Martin whose brother runs the movie theatre, and, like brother Pierre, he was born with an impish sense of humor. "Alors Nini... tu nous embête! Dépêche-toi!" to which she turned around each time raising her cane with a menacing air of mock anger. This went on for 10 minutes. I am always amazed at the sudden intimacy between people under such normally austere situations. "Nini!...Qu'est-ce-que tu nous fais la!!!"...... the exquisitely brief nicknames bandied about in a small town.

I picked up 5 large loaves to take to Grenoble this afternoon for dinner with Reidunn and her family. She is preparing a dîner pour douze personnes. A Norwegian Christmas Eve in Grenoble pour les fêtes, en fait.

This night, I dreamt that I was working two jobs, cleaning the pots and pans in two different restaurant kitchens! la Plongeur, quoi!

23 December 2009


In Aix there is the carousal at the Rotunde. Before Christmas children everywhere are full of cheerful expectation, even the horses.

22 December 2009

Francois de Asis

A long day in Aix. I am filming the painter Francois De Asis in his studio in town over the course of the year. Here is a small sample. He is such a remarkable man that I would need to write a book to even begin to describe what he is about. As I am not a writer, I have decided to visit him every so often and simply turn on the camera. John and Michele Gasparach accompanied me on this trip. These sessions last about three or four hours.I simply shoot while he speaks about a number of things relating to Art and Life. He has a lot to say, but also, more importantly, the logic to back his convictions. I already have about 15 hours and hope that we can continue. More about him soon.

Aix was quiet, I think that the economic crisis has softened everyone's enthusiasm over this holiday period. The Cours Mirabeau which is normally a bustling carnival was almost empty. It was raining though, quite hard (il tombait les cords) which didn't even manage to bring out the umbrella (parapluie) salespeople.
I drove home late.

21 December 2009

solstice and santa

Yesterday, sat in a market (marché) all day like a sad dog where the crowd was rather thick, in every sense of the word... a Christmas crowd parsimonious, and even indifferent. It was a long grind and I realized that my time would better be spent looking for small stores for these ceramic pieces which I make. But on the other hand, it is also humbling, and this is always a good thing.

In town this morning I witnessed these Santas who had arrived from Die and swept through the small streets here.

Early this morning the white marbled sky seemed to extend all the way down into the snowy fields in the valley below. Helas, now, the warmer wind from the south has almost erased any trace winter.

20 December 2009


Mistral has brought chilly nights, inky black and full of stars. This morning, pair of baby boars (sanglier) were foraging voraciously in the fields next to the house. Impossible (inutile) to distract them from their feeding frenzy. They were sitting ducks for a passing hunter. If I were carnivore, Christmas dinner would have been a rich one this year.

It was Melanie's birthday today, she is now 38. I called to wish her a bonne anniversaire. Poor thing, I think she gets lonely in Paris.

I moved this painting downstairs the other day.

150 X 150 cm

19 December 2009

Cy Twombly!

It snowed all yesterday. I was supposed to go to Aix but because of the icy (verglas) roads I stayed in and watched the birds (mésanges) jump in and out of the pile of sunflower seeds outside the window. Funny little creatures making small Cy Twombly drawings in the snow.

This afternoon I shall brave my studio which is glacial.

18 December 2009

skating on thin ice

Snow this morning, everywhere a white rug! (tapis) Apropos, I was just speaking with my Dutch friend Joyce about the snow, ice and other winter things when she  asked me out of the blue if I had ever ice-skated (patiné sur glace)? I replied that I used to play ice-hockey when in school. "Oh really" she said "why am I not surprised, you seem to do everything". I laughed, and suddenly remembered a story of me going to visit an old girlfriend (copine) in Amsterdam which I then recounted to her over the telephone. 
"It was winter, (I began) and we had planned to go ice-skating. She wanted to present me to one of her dearest friends at an outside rink. She had asked me well in advance did I know how to ice-skate? I assured her this was no problemo. Ha Ha. On the day in question, I cannot remember why, but we had been quarreling when we arrived at the rink and watched the Dutch skate swimmingly around the large oval. A devious inspiration manifested in my childish brain. I nudged my girlfriend over to me to indicate that there was a small problem. She looked at me as if expecting a complaint of a blister on my foot, or something equally as inane but I lowered my head appropriately to discretely inform her that I had lied, that in fact,... I did not know how to skate after all! Naturally (naturellement), she became annoyed with me, I could tell she was angry at the deception. "How could you lie to me?" she cried out loud.... it was the lie which upset her more than the fact that I would now embarrass her in front her old friend acting like a spastic. Shaking her head, she took off to begin circling the oval while I lumbered around the sides making myself ridiculous, Charlie Chaplin being in my mind. She looked over from time to time with exasperation as I fumbled around making a fool (imbecile) of myself. This went on for about ten minutes until I decided that I had gotten my revenge as silly as it was..... Poor girl, I wasn't an easy boyfriend. When I think about it now, I realize that to be in a couple, is to be in a state of war always. Usually though, its operating at the most subtle of layers (niveaux). 

Hell, Its no wonder I'm a bachelor.

17 December 2009

The Wire

Snow and cold these days. My studio is freezing (glacial). I have just finished watching The Wire which I found compelling on every level. I went through all 5 seasons in a month and I am so sorry that I reached the end. This is a great portrait of America.


I came across this beauty a while ago. Its Japanese from the 17th century. I forget from where. Its a portrait of a bonsai tree. There are times at twilight, when the gentle mountains around here look just like this.

15 December 2009


Ouch! Its cold! The winter has raised his snout! The French are besides themselves!
When it goes below zero they freak out! But they are right in that they worry about their homeless on their sidewalks and under their bridges everywhere within the borders (l'hexagone). There is a side to France which makes one grateful for their very existence, their inherent belief (self-righteously or not) in solidarity (Solidarité Française). Its an idea so integral to the French idea of Citizenship. The French believe that an economy should serve their society while America believes that society serves its economy. For an American, the idea of solidarité in regards to our fellow citizens is an almost foreign concept. We are still cowboys who believe in pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, as it were. Perhaps this will change quite soon though. Our social infrastructure seems to be falling apart, there are fewer bridges for our homeless.

14 December 2009


                     Its raining inside,
          Small puddles of sadness,
          Forming rivers.

13 December 2009


This morning, I awakened to a soft snow outside. A curious sight which has the ability to take me right smack back into a memory from childhood. I wonder why?  
It flurried sparely till about midday, then dissipated. Its cold in France, they have opened the shelters everywhere for those unfortunates who brave the streets year round.

Last night to see Jacques and Pierre perform Tchekov in a small salle des fetes in Puygiron. A wonderful spectacle! They did brilliantly and I only regret not bringing my video camera for it.

11 December 2009


There are days when making a painting seems impossible. It is furtive (furtif) and just out of reach. I have days and days of this and it makes me want to jump into the nearby river. My only solace is reading about writers who also speak of the seemingly impossible task (une tâche) of making something work. I need to read about their long and difficult days, their tortured nights, when alone, they tackle their craft (metier). The river is freezing these nights.

10 December 2009

Cole Porter!

I had to run to town this afternoon rather late. The sky was a magnificent blood red orange painted on the clouds as far as the eye could see. I was suffering from low self-esteem (la merde quoi) due to difficulties with trying to finish some paintings which are behaving like a classroom full of three year olds. If I were in New York I would go to the Met on such a day when confusion reigns in my mind,.... when I hardly seem to be alive. Instead, because I live in the country, I went to the local hardware store to pick up sunflowers seeds, for the birds! ha ha! Afterwards, to pick up a few things at a shop, and still feeling quite sorry for myself, I began looking into the shop windows (les vitrines). Suddenly, I saw a big dog staring out at me from out of an apartment on street level. I went over to say hello to this remarkable looking creature which began smiling as I approached. Then just as curiously, I noticed that just above and beyond the dog's thick ears, something strangely familiar. On the far wall was a poster from a show of mine two years ago. It was framed. It was such a pleasant surprise that all my dark feelings simply evaporated on the spot, just like the afternoon clouds! 

My God! I seemed to exist after all.

As Cole Porter wrote: It was just one of those things, actually.

08 December 2009


A drive through Bouvières and over the backside to Nyons in the late afternoon. Basically, I needed to get out of the house so I decided to go to see Bunuel's Simon in the Desert, a wild but short film done in the early sixties. The drive was exquisite and reminds me of how ruggedly beautiful it is here in the Drôme. At times, desolate and forlorn, but suddenly, an old stone farm appears, its blue smoke rising from it to soften the landscape.

Wasn't it Pissaro who made this so French?

07 December 2009


Europe is obsessed with Climate change (Le réchauffement climatique) although unfortunately I am not sure that America is, really. I almost get the feeling that its too worried about its own numerous problems. French News, on the other hand (en revenche), is revved up with stories which focus on this planetary issue and keep it on the dinner plate each night. Of course its a good thing.

As Copenhagen Conference convenes, the world feels to be an even closer knit neighborhood than ever before. And yet, its business as usual for the same hot spots which flare up with killings and bombs.

I am by nature a worrisome (inquiet) person and sometimes, I don't know which anxious issue will disrupt my thinking for the day. Meanwhile, according to this report, one of the many worries of our meat-eating-diet comes down to a cow's burp! (le rot) Apparently its one of the worst of the natural emissions of co2 on the planet because its methane.

So, today is perhaps a good one to worry the burp. And, tomorrow is another day.

06 December 2009


Again, from the Chaissac exposition I find the above very interesting. There is a curious stability to it despite its obvious naif conception, also an indescribable frankness. It possesses a beautiful and subdued color harmony: the colors of winter, just outside of my window, in fact.

05 December 2009

Chaissac et Chanel

Yesterday to Grenoble where I stayed the night at Reidunn and Jacques. A small dinner party which was fun. Present were Nicholas and Sophie, both artists who work in glass from the Vercors1, also came Nancy, a neighbor in La Tronche2, a British women wearing a very strong scent of Chanel's perfume 'Coco". Towards the end of dinner, Nancy asked for something to put around her shoulders as it was slightly nippy3 in the kitchen. Nicholas quickly gave her his pullover which she put on as we prepared for desert. About midnight, everyone eventually faded and went home.

Today, to a show at the Musée de Grenoble devoted to the work of Gaston Chaissac. The photo above of him by Robert Doisneau is a beauty. What a handsome and gentle looking soul! Reidunn works there giving guided tours when she is not blowing glass herself in the Vercors. On this morning, she had volunteered to give a guided tour for a group of friend's children, including those of Nicholas and Sophie. In all there were about ten kids4. She did wonderfully which didn't surprise any of us. For about an hour she walked us through a colorful show of paintings and sculpture. Meanwhile, Nicholas was wearing the pullover which he had lent last night, freshly imbued with the scent of her perfume. Wherever he went, in front of every painting and sculpture hung the aroma of Nancy like an invisible cloud.
Below, a tiny film.

1. region north of Provence
2. a neighborhood of Grenoble
3. frisqué
4. les mômes

04 December 2009


This is a bit crazy. Jacques who runs the quincaillerie (local hardware store) here in town, is passionate about the theatre. He spends all his time outside of the shop rehearsing for plays. In the ten years I have known him he has participated in two or three pieces each year. (un passioné quoi)

I have helped him out from time to time with decorations. He asked me to make him a kind of backpack with a chair attached to it for his character in a piece by Tchekhov Le Tragédien malgré lui.

I went a little crazy but it suits the character.

03 December 2009


15 X 20 cm, Tombo pen on japanese paper

So, Obama escalates the Afghan invasion! What a strange surprise! Its a military catastrophe in the making to save a gas and oil pipeline. Its certainly understandable, but is it not an endless1 swamp of quicksand?

Is it not unlike our so called 'War on Drugs' which has us fighting the coca farmers "over there" because our own culture is addicted to the drug on our own shores?

And now, instead of looking at our own energy consumption, are we now waging war "over there" in order to prolong our own fatal addiction to oil over here?

History will be the judge. On our own soil meanwhile, and not at all (disconnected), society is dying and could use all that 'war' money and manpower to help fix us. The signs of decay and death are visible everywhere, they are like graffiti tags on walls all over America.

Three years ago I was on a trip to Morocco. On these trips I generally stay for two or three weeks drawing most of the day, and nights. I usually come home with six or seven hundred drawings. But of course, I work fast, sometimes in a minute I get what I am after. The drawing above is a good example. I vaguely remember my surprise as it appeared on the paper, but it was upon sifting through the work at home that I was given a pleasant shock. While simply drawing in the streets somewhere in Essaouira, Death was passing by and without thinking, I just drew it. I marvel at the smile.

My dear friend Carlo, a buddhist not surprisingly, bought it when I showed all of the drawings later that year.

1 l'engrenage

02 December 2009

three beautiful minutes

On the eve of the Copenhagen summit I propose a visit to Robert Bresson's film of 1977 'Le Diable, Probablement'1 a prescient film whose theme is the destruction of the planet.

A celebrated 'masterpiece' very much in spirit with many of the films of Truffraut. Personally, I found it almost unwatchable, but it is not the camera work or even the story which prevents me from entering, its the absence of real acting. It is painfully wooden, a film of ideas, and lots of Style which one either loves or hates I suppose.

But After saying all that, its still a film beautifully shot and edited. I offer this rich clip which includes all of the following:

a 707, Ecology, a Murder, a Romance, a Kiss2, a Sports car, an Elevator, a Parting (with love declaration on the sidewalk)...

All in three beautiful minutes!

Ah! ... Zee French!!

1 The Devil, probably
2 un baiser

01 December 2009


I have two brothers, with one of whom, I am very close, the other, I haven't seen or spoken to for 32 years. He is the eldest. Four years ago, we heard that he had had a fall1 and was in a coma. They were ready to pull the plug after three weeks explaining that he was a vegetable. My younger brother and I were on the other side of the world when all this was happening and we followed the events with strange emotion. Not having been in touch with him for so long we were suddenly alive with old feelings. Meanwhile2, his wife had decided to pull the plug and we prepared for his death, but remarkably, he breathed on his own. He has since come back from the brink3, as it were, and seems to be functioning somewhat well. For us, it was a surreal time. We had, for so long been estranged, it seemed suddenly that we were grabbed from behind, as if by God, reminding us both of where we had come from, and to where we will eventually go.

I spoke to my younger brother yesterday and he told me that our elder brother has had seizure. It had been preceded by several days of his not "thinking straight" and confusion. Apparently, he was checked out at the hospital and is home again. Its probably a bad sign but who knows? How much time do any of have? Again, I found myself under the ephemeral memories of childhood4. They appear uncontrollably, like a gentle snowfall against a black night. I had no idea that the sky was so full.

1 une chute
2 cependant
3 le bord
4 l'enfance