02 January 2023

Let them eat cake in Painting Purgatory!


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 17 July 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This rather tasty-looking study I recently saw in the photo library and liked immediately. I certainly don't remember it at all which doesn't surprise me because I probably didn't think it was very interesting at the time. It feels like the memory of a dream.

But today this drizzly first day of the New Year 2023, I see a delicious design as if made by a pastry chef in Copenhagen. But it's not a clean or polished design, and this gives it charm (or not, depending upon your sensibilities). But it has this fresh shaggy feeling of spontaneous whimsy that despite its plasticity (in the historical, and painterly terms) it presents like a flat rough draft from some colourful planet where people communicate through design only.

I like this flat quality, its been something I have been after for years now. Though 'flat' evokes Matisse, I really mean Cezanne, who seemed to compress his large and complicated pictures like he had run them through a press somewhere in Painting Purgatory. And in a rather convoluted and strange way he revisits all those strangely flat landscapes of the early Renaissance around Florence and Siena but even Giotto too, much earlier near Venice.

I do understand that this is not a picture for the general public, though maybe some clever kids under the age of five might really see it. It's not even a picture for the Art Elite because it has traces of Nature in it. "Mais Non! tut! tut!,,, No Nature s'il vous plait!" This is a just painting for myself.

Its sensual colour harmony is simple. Placed like ribbons, a yellow band and a pink one, are both sandwiched between the pale blue sky above and the deep blue-black of the sea below. At the very base of the picture, like an entrance way or a discreet door mat, is a band of blue green to help offset the warmth and to welcome the eye into the picture plane.

The horizon is clunky! Yes,,,, I know,, Ha Ha,,, viewers wishing for a clean line will be disappointed! Alas,,,,,, and it's rough too, it might feel like it was torn from a page out of one's own dream when they had awakened too quickly. 

But, in the end, aren't all paintings rather dream-like in nature? After all, they exist for each of us individually, and only for such a small moment in our minds. Our reactions to them is also deeply personal and we interpret them according to our own emotional history. They come to us seemingly out of the blue, only to be replaced by other incoming images. What do we remember about the experience of seeing a painting? And what do we retain of our own experiences anyway? Isn't it all dream?

It maybe does seem at first more real for the creators who labour and fret over them while wondering if they are any good in the first place. But then, soon, their creations are replaced by other creations, over and over again, as the cycle of work continues. But in the end, even these artefacts will become dreams, and the artist will hardly ever remember making them in the first place. 

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