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 wasn't really difficult, 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. 

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