31 May 2021

Early Prayers beckon the animal spirit


(circa 2017)

                                                                             (circa 2017)

I stumbled upon these early paintings last week when I opened up an old hard drive. I had thought that much of what I did at the beginning of this series wasn't very good. But I wasn't too fazed because I imagined that eventually I would get somewhere if I persevered, and so I continued. But seeing some of these today surprised me for several reasons. The main one is that I had forgotten just how raw  and  'expressionistic' they were. I had not been working from a motif for several years prior to  this series at Brunswick Heads and I was out of practice. I had forgotten how to see. 

In a sense, I attacked the motif with a very different feeling than I do now, for better or worse. I reacted to the motif more with my gut than my eyes. And because of it, they seem to me now much less picturesque, for lack of a better word. And yet, they too, are still 'seen', which is to say that there was a vision somewhere during the painting process. 

The first picture directly below is probably the best example of what I am trying to express in words. It has 'Nature' in it but it requires a leap of faith at the same time.

It is a graphic interpretation from the gut, and of the gut, as if I were somehow painting what goes on under the surface of the motif. But now, on the other hand, I seem to be painting the very skin of the motif, the sexy light-filled surface of sensuality. 

Thus, the work being done four years later is different, something I regret a little because  I really like these older things despite their flaws. I see in them something primal and a little 'animal', and there is a raw feeling in them which is sometimes lacking in the present work. 

                                                                            (circa 2017)

                                                                             (circa 2018)

                                                                            (circa 2018)

(circa 2018)

                                                                                (circa 2018)

30 May 2021

Sui generis of ubiquity, bUt for the SuPerWorLd

"Some NFT collectors believe that owning early, prominent crypto-tokens will eventually be like owning rare, first-edition books or priceless paintings." NY TIMES  

This new, ripe world of NFT's is a scary place for traditional creators. To be really honest, I try always to keep an open mind when it comes to Art, even if I don't always do a very good job at it for I have strong beliefs like everyone else. bUt this Brave New World of NFT's makes me very nervous indeed.

I have always loved graphic art on every level, from stamps to product designs, to logos and corporate names because everything fascinated me. It is something I would have done when I was young if I had been more focussed. I would have gravitated to the northern countries which are so good at this kind of graphic sensibility: The Dutch, The Finns, The Swedes, The Danes, The Russians! 

I spent a few years playing around with Photoshop before it became easier to use. I learned to make all sorts of things with it because I really enjoyed it. Nowadays, every wiz kid in elementary school plays around with it easily. This is a new world of technical creativity, or creative technique?

There was one thing though that I always found difficult for me; It was that Photoshop and Illustrator both gave me so many interesting choices that I went into shock when I had to commit to a final decision. So very many layers looked so good.

But the thing I love about the Painting process, the way I practice it, is that there is commitment to the sensual resolution of a picture with oil paint. But I will surely be a thing of the past, soon enough I fear. Nothing to do but keep at Painting.

Though I do understand that NFT's are not graphic designs, they do yearn for the same kind of universal imprint accessible to the widest audience. They are creative digital reproductions, after all. Their aim is to please us, to entertain us in the temporary and unreal place of our minds.

Prices for these things are skyrocketing but in crypto-currencies only, so it is hard to value them.

Some enterprising companies are selling virtual plots of land over the whole earth. For about $8000 one can buy a virtual square approximately 500 X 500 anyway. In this brave new world everything is for sale in a make-believe world using make-believe currency. 

Many people seem to be slowly slipping away from reality as if on a large boat, one which I will certainly miss, but can wave to from the dock.

28 May 2021

Help! is on its way! the Brilliant Morse code in 6:40 minutes

Here is a short video which both explains and teaches how to use the universal language of Morse code. By employing three short signals, three long ones, another three short ones in succession, your life could be saved one day.

Remarkably, it can work in all sorts of ways; visually, audibly, or even tactilely through the senses (if one could only touch another person in silence to communicate distress). This is useful obviously if you find yourself at the Opera in Paris one evening, and you notice that Donald Trump has slipped into the seat directly behind you. You will then need to signal to your date this information in complete discretion. 

One could also sing it, blink it, hum it, tap it out with fingers on a surface, make a ballet in the air of it, using fingers like a magician, or pleading for help with hands like a conductor. 

But if you are a smoker, and adept, you could blow smoke rings in the air and cry out for "Help!" at the same time.

26 May 2021

Evening Prayers are sometimes answered

                                                                        20 May 2021

20 May 2021, 30 X 25 cm

                                              20 May 2021, 30 X 25 cm

These are all from last week, a pot pourri of different skies. It was a week of seasonal change when the south winds came through bringing the chill of winter.

20 May 2021, 30 X 25 cm

             20 May 2021, 30 X 25 cm

                                          20 May 2021, 30 X 25 cm

             20 May 2021, 30 X 25 cm

22 May 2021

David Hockney needs an English lesson! Tut! Tut!

I watched this very short BBC video on Hockney talking about Van Gogh.

It was charming in the way that he can certainly be, and he is an artist through and through but at one point he said something which took me by surprise. He described Van Gogh as 'a miserable fellow'. It was shocking because I have never heard anyone say such a thing about dear Vincent. I admit that I thought about it for a long time. Something about it hits a false note. I am sure that Hockney did not mean it in a derogatory way, at all. He obviously adores Van Gogh. But still, I found it false.

I have never thought about Vincent Van Gogh in this way, but truthfully, I don't think anyone ever thinks of him this way, it's just not something one would hear about Van Gogh.

One knows that he had a difficult life, even maybe a miserable life. And too, he did live among misery, unmatched perhaps, when he went to the Borinage region of Belgium and lived amongst the poorest of poor miners whose lives he documented in so many drawings and paintings, notably most famous; The Potato Eaters.

But to hear that he was a miserable man! It is a description which denotes that he was an awful man, a scoundrel, an unkind man worthy of four-lettered adjectives attached to his name. Mostly though, it is a misuse of the English Language for any speaker living on either side of the Atlantic. 

Tut Tut!

20 May 2021

Mt. Fuji by Tokuoka Shinsen on a bed of fog

Mt Fuji, by Tokuoka Shinsen, 1963

Here is a remarkable image which I saw in Japan a few years ago. I bought a postcard of it and ever since it's been on a wall in my kitchen.

What I appreciate about it is the unadulterated simplicity by which it was conceived, an idea that has been presented to us with a minimalism of both style and form. It is a portrait of Mount Fuji, solid and sober, but like in a dream, it sits on a bed of fog. Fujiyama, as it is affectionately known in Japan, also sits back into the painting by some uncanny display of discreet virtuosity. Only in Japan, can this be done, I marvel to myself. The foreground is the natural colour of the paper, and by leaving it at the base of the painting the artist solves the complex problem of distance in this picture with the ease of a gentle mist.

I really love this image as much today as when I first saw it in Japan. It has shaped something inside my unconscious but I haven't yet understood it completely. 

15 May 2021

the i-cloud, the jewel, and the fisherman

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 May, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Three studies from the other night, a very hazy sky, quite beautiful, but I couldn't get a handle on it. I was a bit distracted by a Spanish woman who had come up to talk and watch. She's lovely woman, a lively, creative gal who loved what I was doing but it created an enormous distraction for me. I have so little time there during those moments when the sky opens everything up like when a soprano hits a a peak in the final act.

Many people come by so I am used to now, though I am still generally camera-shy. Over these past few years I even agreed to allowing photos and videos to be taken. And though I don't catch most of them, there are many who sneak photos and videos when they think I don't see them. Anyway, I am a big hit with most of the kids who come up unabashedly and want to know just what the heck I am doing there on that dune.

Well, I struggled the other night, but it was still so lovely to be working there. I do accept everything, even all those pictures I consider to be failures, dissecting them mentally, then discarding them later in my sleep.

But this evening, alone and ready to pack up, I thought to myself: one more for the road! This became the third study of the evening, the one with three yellow clouds. 

I feel so lucky because I thought it was a bit of a mess when I packed up in the dark. But the next morning when I retrieved it from the boot of the car I liked it immediately. It's always a mystery to me how what comes up in a session is almost never ever intended. Wished for, most certainly, but never could it really be anticipated. In my case, it's because I work so fast, like lightning. My creative process seems to be downloaded every millisecond from the i-cloud above. From where else would it arrive? It was certainly not in my possession when I set out to paint.

I chalk it up to the magic of painting out in Nature.

The first two studies proved to be just 'so so', somewhat uncertain. And that uncertainly  led me blindly to the third and final study which was the jewel of the evening. It was the prize which the fisherman had waited for with patience.

11 May 2021

Winter skies! Blushing without shame!

Winter skies creep into the twilight here on the north coast of New South Wales. I awakened this morning with the feeling that I have a lot to look forward to. This season beckons those giant, delicious red winter skies which linger over the purple sea, Mmmm.

The image came to me today of myself as a fly-fisherman, who, at the start of the season, makes a coffee in the early morning with a new jolt of joy in my heart, knowing that I shall be fly fishing for the next month or two. 

I actually tried fly-fishing once many years ago when visiting a friend in Alaska. Very cool exercise, perhaps not unlike T'ai Chi, but with the addition of a meal afterward. I caught a King Salmon to everyone's surprise. We should have eaten it that night, but I wanted to bring it back to France to offer my friends Anne and Sam Bjorklund of Beaurecueil, who fed me for several bachelor years after I had arrived in France when I was still young and skinny. 

The fish was frozen for a few days, then packed up in a container of ice to survive the 18 hour trip to Aix. Sadly, when I arrived we put it again in a freezer for another few weeks before the planned dinner. When it thawed out it looked pretty miserable, full of worms, so I quickly went off to pick up some fresh fish at the supermarket! 

I can be so stubborn! It was a foolish decision but I really liked the idea of bringing Anne Bjorklund a freshly caught King Salmon from a  cold river in Alaska all the way to Provence in the July heat. We lost the fish, and sadly, two weeks ago, I learned that we lost Anne who died peacefully in her sleep in Memphis Tennessee.  

Just for fun, I post several older paintings done back in 2019 or 2020, I believe. They reveal the incredibly diverse variations (and possibilities) that can be done here on a beach in Australia at the dusk hour.

06 May 2021

Tea Tree invading the sea and the sky


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 May, 2021 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 May, 2021 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 2 May, 2021 oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

A trio of small studies from the other night that I felt lucky to pull off because the sky was so difficult and confusing. I had waited until the melodrama of the sunset (behind me) had dimmed and a soft embalmer of colour appeared in front of me. It is a marvellous moment when it happens because it is never sure to happen. 

When it does, it's great, yet often it won't. And when it won't, an awful darkness descends over the lifeless sea and into my spirit.

When clouds do shut the light off I always feel a bit lost. Then on the deserted beach when the twilight clouds gather like a pack of wolves and eat all the light that remains, it is time to wing it by working from memory. This can often be a good thing though, but in a different way. It's like falling off the trail on a long hike, it requires a bit of luck, some quick thinking, and a firm resolve to get back on track before nightfall.

Anyway, the ocean had a red tint to it because it had been raining hard for several days beforehand, and the deep orange-coloured Tea Tree lake behind the beach had overflowed into the river, then into the sea

Tomorrow is another day.

03 May 2021

The curious case of Katherine Bradford

I didn't know of Katherine Bradford, but then I am not in the loop, and besides, there are so many painters out there I am amazed I know about any at all.

I used to be subscribed to videos shot of shows around New York by James Kalm who renders a great service to those of us outside by posting regularly. In his earlier days he was often chased out of galleries not because they were fearful of images being sent out to the world (why would they?) No, they chased out guys like him because they could, because they are snobs and they have to maintain that frosty, snobby facade to protect their cool. 

His videos were quite wonky (which he always admitted light-heartedly) and they could make you sea sick watching them BUT, he was in on the game which I liked. He is a painter himself, and came into Manhattan from Red Hook to dodge security at the big shows in SOHO and Chelsea.

In any event, he interviewed Katherine Bradford at one point a few years back, and I saw some of it. From just from that interview I was immediately attracted to her sensibility with paint and form.

This past week Hyperallergic (an online art review) did a small blurb about a new show of hers in New York. Here are some images from that but also others I culled from Google which pleased me.


And though generally speaking, artists dislike being told that their work resembles others, even great heroes of the past, I cannot abide by that etiquette so I will say that I find that there is a bit of Milton Avery and Philip Guston lodged inside her colourful chromosomes. It is a great compliment I think because both are original and distinctive painters who actually understood the long history of Art; Painting, notably. I like her pictorial imagination as much as I like her wild colour harmonies. I also find these pictures to be remarkably unified. Ms. Bradford expresses what she needs to express, but nothing more. This is a quality I like in a painter (in a writer too).

Her ideas, of which in each picture there are plenty, never seem to be corrupted by her own painting technique which kills (through vanity) so many other painters over the long haul of art history. But her technique is so hidden that I hesitate to use this term. So let's say, the paint never seems to smother the quixotic  ideas assembled on her own personal stage. The unity of the painting always seems paramount, and we are so grateful.

I know it is a hard pathway into that space between figuration and 'abstraction'. Many painters fall on their backsides attempting it. She appears completely at ease in this, in the same way that most children do. There is an unabashed kookiness in so many of them, (and not a faux-kookiness which seems so à la mode these days). 

I see in her work a desire to create a cogent language out of this ‘kooky’ originality by using her Painting sensibility to create a bridge out to others. Too many painters don’t seem to care about that. 

But of course, they are contrived nonetheless because that's what paintings essentially are. Pictures are contrived distortions to convey a reality. Whether they work to convincingly convey reality is obviously not just up to the beholder but also to the painter’s competence over his craft. And reality these days seems to be a pretty contested fact.

Art criticism then comes into play in order to throw this conveyance upside down. Suffice to say, for myself, the ultimate pleasure I receive from a picture is how much or not, I enjoy seeing it. If I own it and can see it every time I go from the bathroom to the kitchen I will spend a lot of time with it, and this will alter my feelings about it. But maybe I will just see it once a year in a museum, then how will that experience also temper my enjoyment? How does a picture (or work of art) stand up against time? Doesn’t it need a language, which however arcane, sufficient enough to speak to another generation? 

I also like the strong graphic bones with which she attacks her drawings for each picture. They have the bite of a pit bull. For instance, I love the woman below in the yellow bathing suit diving into the ambiguous-looking coloured water. It's a discreet and multi-coloured grey which binds the entire surface together as if it were a giant jigsaw puzzle. 

And it's a bit kitsch! But it also portrays a woman, as if on her last day on earth, she takes her very last dive. 

The colour harmonies in this kitschy picture work so well. It is this sophistication of colour which separates an image like this from a painting hanging on the wall of a motel room outside of Carson City, Nevada. 

I like these works because they are weird and quirky, and they express a primal quality which is unusual, unusual to succeed that is. I am thinking of the Grand Dame of Primal in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'. I like weird and quirky, and primal. I wish in fact I could be more primal, in my own work. 

Often, I am  attracted to things which I don't always understand, things intelligent, and things strong, but if original and they possess sufficient form, then I am all in. Obviously though, this has created enormous problems in my choices in women. (!)

I was asked by someone who reads this blog, why I don't delve into Art criticism in depth regarding many of the images of which I speak. I replied that I understand that people do not have much time, especially for a blog like this, so generally I try to keep it short. The purpose of this Blog has been, after all, to just throw ideas out to the world, both pictorial and cerebral. But over 11 years, it’s actually been an opportunity to learn how to write. And because it's my own content, of course, I post a lot of my own work, because I can.

'Brevity is the Soul of Wit' so they say.


01 May 2021

May 1st! Muguet and Dr Gachet


I have always loved this version of Dr Gachet because within this sonorous composition there is a glass with a small bouquet of Muguet in it. It is a detail revealing such warmth and understanding for France, the country which received him near the end of his difficult life. This was painted just a few months before his death on 27th of July, 1890. There is so much to be said, but another time.

And, I have also always loved May day in France ever since my girlfriend at the time offered a bouquet of muguet (lilies of the valley) to me one morning after I had first moved there. It was sweet and special, especially since I had never received a bouquet of flowers from anyone before, much less a young beautiful French girl whom I liked. 

The muguet bouquet is small, modest, and without any pretension suggesting the transactional as other bouquets might do when offered. It has no other demand than to be held in the palm of one's hand like a small squirrel and offered up to someone else. I think children like it for this very quality. 

Being the 1st of May, it is a holiday celebrating the workers. All of Europe shuts down for it. But the Lily of the Valley's tradition was earlier than the Russian Revolution. Instead of paraphrasing something from Wikipedia, I'll leave to them to explain. It was new to me.

-In France, lily of the valley (or muguet in French) has been given as a gift for centuries. Legend has it that the custom started on May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX received a sprig of the tiny flower as a token of good luck.

The King liked the idea so much that he decided to start a tradition. From that day forward on the first of May, he presented a bouquet of lilies of the valley to each of the ladies of his court. And thus began in France the Fête du Muguet, otherwise known as May Day.-

And, a last tidbit for the restless on this worker's day off I enclosed this short story below which I didn't know about either.