27 January 2022

Lee Godie, Cézanne's niece!

Overlooked No More: Lee

Godie, Eccentric Chicago Street

Artist

A self-described Impressionist, she hawked her art on Michigan Avenue in the 1970s and ’80s and lived mostly outdoors. But her work is in museums.


If you can access this article on the NY Times

for a wonderful story. Enjoy!

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/obituaries/lee-godie-overlooked.html?referringSource=articleShare







 

26 January 2022

Marcus Aurelius comes to Australia!

 


Above is a repost from 2, April 2012. I noticed in the Stats file that someone had accessed it recently so I was curious to see it. I retrieved it from the archives in Google Blogger and I liked it, especially accompanied by the drawings, both recto and verso. They were made in a small sketch pad I used to use often from one of the ubiquitous Muji stores in Paris. Their thin paper, slightly yellowed and inexpensively bound in a small softcover book  have a good feel and I used to buy them by the dozen.

What surprised me, upon re-reading it is that during those weeks I was in the middle of big move out of the Belvedere in Dieulefit. I had sold it and had to be out on by 12th of April 2012, so like everyone who has ever moved house I was losing lots of weight by the day, and also I felt quite frazzled. There was one day in particular when I looked out from the top floor of this big house and almost jumped out the window because I had thought of all that I still needed to do, and I didn't believe I could get it done. But I did, of course, mostly alone. Even years later when I imagined that my current problems and tasks were overwhelming me, I would still remember that moment on the top floor and remind myself that if I could make that move, I could do anything. Ha Ha,,,, 

But it did become a marker for me, in a funny kind of way, for a while anyway. Since then of course, almost ten years later, there have been other 'overwhelming tasks' which have sort of replaced that one. But as we all know, this is what life is all about when moving on from problems and 'dramas' which feel way too complicated in the moment. We forget that fact too readily because mostly, they are just perceived that way by a fragile mindset in the very moment.

About this time I had been reading Marcus Aurelius's Meditations each morning with coffee. And for about a year or so I created another account called Meditations by Marcus Aurelius in which I noted his wisdom down as entrees and accompanied them with photos or drawings of my own content. It was a fun habit and not too time consuming but also allowing me to read and transcribe his delicious thoughts about life. What amazed me when I came across this entry is that even despite my frazzled 'mindset' during my move, I still kept these two blogs up, indeed, it must have become a kind of life buoy for me. 

Now ten years on, I marvel at how his musings and metaphors, his original viewpoints, and his friendly wisdom have continued to shape my own desire to behave more like a thoughtful man. I have absorbed his words and metaphors no doubt though maybe not his wisdom, but his deliberate stance for the Good, edging always closer towards more human light, has been his great gift to me, and certainly to so many others over 2000 years. 

24 January 2022

the tiny hand of God



This lovely small thing has just been auctioned off in New York. It belonged to the descendants a family whose forbearers had commissioned Auguste Rodin to make this marble sculpture to mark the gravesite of their young child. 

When one needs money, you can blame the family for selling it? But there was a small kerfuffle of cultural diplomacy shuffling about beforehand to see if it could remain in Pennsylvania where I believe it had been for 150 years. (And, nobody shuffles quite like museum directors when it comes to works of art from family estates) Alas, it was sold to a private collector (who can blame him or her?) And, what a work to admire with friends over a bottle of cognac!

An exquisite work, unpretentious and without any flash of flair which Rodin sometimes indulged in (and why not?) for he was one of the greatest of the all the greats! One can see him taking great care to sculpt such a small, modest commission. Carved deftly out of white marble but posed in such way that its light seems to still radiate outwards as if polishing the space surrounding it.


19 January 2022

A cynic's take on the the Challenger explosion and the myths of marriage


MCJ
150 X 150 cm

Here is a curiosity that was in the works back in France around 2013 in the studio at Poet Laval. I think it's still in France somewhere in one of my stashes. At the time I would have presumed it to be too indulgent in an easy expressive kind of way. But last week when I found it while going through i-photo I saw something I liked. It strikes me now as a metaphor for those sweet associations of roses but also the inchoate suffering revealed by their dripping death. OK, I know, I know, I have a dark way of seeing the end of everything, but hey...

I often wondered how a love story would look (in a film or book) if one was introduced to the couple in the first scene but at their last meeting when the couple were enduring one another for coffee, tea, or something stronger. In other words we see the penultimate end of the relationship before the author flashes us back through time to the lovey-dovey first dates, the kisses and and caresses, all the lurking promises.

So, this painting sort of opens up this bit of literary manoeuvring for me. I see that it's a painting about endings. I am a cynic for sure but let's admit it, don't most relationships and marriages end up like the Challenger rocket?

16 January 2022

Churchill assassinated by fire

 

1911

I saw these two paintings a few years ago in Sydney at the NSW Gallery and snapped some hasty photos with an old i-phone. I am ashamed of the poor quality because in fact my photos taken in museums are usually well made and measured. The top one above is by the Welsh painter, Augustus John (1878 - 1961). I do not believe he came to Australia so I am not sure how his pictures ended up here. I liked this painting immediately because of its spontaneity and almost sloppy execution which can reveal in this case a real artistic intuition though it isn't the rule by any means. It's called Welsh Mountains appropriately enough, and was painted in 1911.

This one below was painted by Graham Sutherland (1903 -1980) and (surprise), was also titled Welsh Mountains. It was done between 1937 - 38 so the panel told me. What I find interesting is that just roughly 27 years separates the two pictures and yet what a great difference in evolution. The John painting evokes an Impressionist sensibility while this one below represents the Surrealist movement sweeping through France and Britain between the two wars. This Sutherland,( below, is pretty wild and it begs the questions to me whether or not he painted outdoors or in the studio. I imagine it was done in his studio but this is just a guess. After asking "Grandpa" as I have  come  to affectionately call Google) I realise that he probably did it, as well as many others in his studio, from watercolour sketches done on site. 

He was also portrait painter in the somewhat realist manner, which are very different from this landscape. And he was indeed commissioned to paint Churchill's portrait by the Parliament at the time, and was subsequently presented to him on his 80th birthday. Alas, he and his wife hated it so much that they destroyed 26 years later. Rumour has it that it ended up in the fireplace. But anyway, that's the way it sometimes goes in life, always up in smoke.


                                                                     1937-38

and the now assassinated portrait 


06 January 2022

Mexico, magic and surprise

 


I love this image! The photo is a bit wonky from the sun flare on the upper right corner but one gets the picture as they say. If I remember, it was from the Living section in the Times and focused on homes around the world. This woman's home is somewhere in Mexico, and the reason I love it so much is that it reveals the playful nature of its citizens. I love her for ascending her open turquoise stairway in a rich golden yellow dress. And I love the thick deep Madder Lake stripes which climb the walls as if for no reason at all except to surprise.

How is it possible that I have never been to Mexico?? Truth be told, I actually thought of going there to buy a mess of a villa in Marida 9 years ago when I sold out of France. But as fate would have it, I decided to settle here in Australia, a safe and unadventurous decision. But big part of me was really up for a wild and wacky adventure in a land I knew nothing about.  It was just my cup of tea to explore another country and culture for my last chapter in life. But anyway, I am reasonably happy here, and this is already a lot when I look around the world today. Australia is a wonderful place to live and I feel privileged to be here.

And yet I think Mexico will be on my next country to visit list and looking at this photo is to see a painting. It is a joyous-looking home and gift for the eyes, a real surprise! 


04 January 2022

Richard Serra and Pierre Soulages, dark cousins



L'enfance, oil on canvas, 1997 150 X 150 cm


This is a painting I made back in 1997 when I was in my small studio at the Châteaunoir, eons ago before I left Aix for the Drôme. I am not sure what I could say about it except that I was certainly trying to address dark issues from my own early life which we now refer to as Family of Origin problems, Hmmmm. 

These days, the contemporary method for expressing angst and existential discontent appears to make a beeline straight to the pigment generically known as Black. Most painters (because most of the original ones are quite neurotic) will at some point in their lives make a tour through the dark landscape inside themselves. The less original, but no less crazy, just paint the surface black or bitumen à la Pierre Soulages, or even Richard Serra. For painters, it does seem to be the contemporary go-to solution, though sadly it offers little inspiration in the long run because these paintings will live on, seemingly paralysed in a state of mourning, crucified, as it were on empty walls in lonely wings of great museums all over the world. And adramatic and satisfying as it may seem in the very moment of 'self-expressive execution', it's still a cliché and it is unsuccessful in the long run. It is a cheap fix as my auto mechanic would say.

And one could say I am being pretentious, presumptuous to rip and riff through such heavy weights in the Art world, but hey! These things have to be articulated even if few want to hear it. Being critical in this art world today is a lot like being a dentist where one can use sharp, precise tools to cause pain. Ha Ha. But I speak as a painter who loves colour after all, and Painting is about the totality of colour in the natural world.

Pierre Soulages, 163 X 181 cm 2004

Richard Serra, 1978 from installation at SFMOMA

These things I have posted by them are deliberate adventures into their dark headspace and I really don't even know how I would begin discussing them if I were to have the unfortunate task of having to write reviews of each.

I have seen both of these artist's works up close over the years in various museums around the world, yet I can never shake the feeling that this is all shallow work, and moreover, even they, capable and well educated as they both are, should know better, are better than this work. They should know better than play us all for fools (at least Soulages should, because he comes from a great Painting tradition in France).

Because of this shallow trick of indulging in so much ubiquitous black, I am never allowed access to an enduring emotion from their work. (OK Black is bleak, I get it,,,,) City sophisticates in Paris and New York express more existential disdain by simply wearing black, morning, noon and night.   

So for the artist the question comes down to just how does one express this terrible darkness and angst which most stoic souls spend all their lives trying to hide? What is the creative solution without the systematic cliché?

Going to the pigment black, to keep it simple, is basically just a cliché, a hollow one, incapable of expressing the horror at so much cruelty and suffering in the world. (I am trying not be redundant) but personally, I cannot feel this work by either of these two artists for this very reason. Their abstractions, though so heavy, they still don't possess enough weight, and they certainly don't expand any more understanding of their own personal plights. Nothing opens up or goes out from their work, it's a closed circuit at the edge of a black hole sucking in everything around them.

Yet despite these condemnations, I will say that I have also seen Soulages in a bright light, and also with great success. I went to the tiny town of Conques, where years ago, I found his stained glass designs for the magnificent church there to be both imaginative and appropriate to the space. This small church in Conques is such an extraordinary example of Romanesque Art that failing this task would be a cruel fate for any contemporary artist. His response to this unique church was secular and sober. It's  austerity compliments both our own age but that of 12th century France too. And what if his large paintings opened up his own airy inner light by exposing it to the world?








Soulages exhibits the black existential fact that Life (for so many French intellectuals) is something heavy, something which weighs down our soul as we go about our daily lives.


There is no joie-de vivre here. And yet curiously, the French in so many ways, do live a light-hearted life full of mirth and epicurean joy. This is also a problem I have with Soulage's work. Creatively speaking, he employs a one dimensional and predictable solution to this cultural paradox which is way too complex for his efforts. And b.t.w, where is the necessary irony in this work that seems so obviously lacking to the rest of us modern and secular souls? 

Richard Serra's work, on the other hand, often exhibits a muscular American force, the cultural equivalent to the doctrine of American Manifest Destiny which has pro-pulsed American might forcibly outward and onto to the world at large whether it was even desired or not (though to be fair in the 19th century, it probably was).

Symbolically speaking, with these large black drawings he seems to declare his own personal disgust with the American dream, and yet his own oversized steel sculptures appear to be the artistic extension of that same expansive American doctrine, one which his black drawings privately disdain. So it's conflictual; it's a paradox, an American one, not a nuanced French one. His dark pessimism in these drawings is also an unveiled desire to push that blackness outward to an unsuspecting world.






But getting back to my almost insignificant painting, I had wanted to relate an anecdotal idea in a visual way, a pictorial, poetic and sensual way, perhaps inviting someone else into it as a question, not an answer. 

A few years back, a friend made a comment about my work after a recent trip to Paris where museums are infinitely more important than stadiums. She had spent a few days wandering museums and galleries looking at everything. Upon her return she said to me, 

"What I like about your paintings is that they feel like surprises, questions in fact, not responses..... they are like you in fact, always full of questions!" She went on,

"Everything I see these days feels to me so oversized, so heavy, and so full of answers. There are way too many affirmations, commenting on such and such, opinions and declarations about life!,,,, everyone wants to hit you over the head with ideas and statements!"

"It drives me crazy!.... (ça me rend folle!!)"

I have always appreciated this observation because deeply inside, I have always felt the same way. I like that quality in other art I see and feel and intuitively I was trying to express that same idea in these "non-objective" paintings I was doing at the time. 

So I guess my biggest criticism with Soulages and Serra is that their work acts too often like walls which keep us all out. In French they say about someone with a big personality, and often slightly pejorative (and its usually about men) "Il a une grande gueule" (he's a bigmouth) And their work, like so much these days, certainly possesses 'une gueule'. Maybe that it is the nature of the Art world today, where to get ahead, to get anywhere, to be seen, to be heard, one needs 'une grand geuele'...
 
And even if they would never admit it, (this is after all about self-expression) they may as well have a sign outside that says "Keep Out", and this is a problem for me because the whole nature of Art concerns the opposite; it is an invitation out to the world at large. 


31 December 2021

the past and present, the known and unknown

                                                                           SLA

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 21 December 2021, oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm
                                                                                    LGG
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 26 December 2021, oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm


For the calendar changeover I thought it appropriate to post two pictures representing that of the past year 2021, but also one of the new one, 2022. 

Though they are done just days apart, the top one represents for me, an image, conceptually speaking, created from the the past, one which   seems to feel like something we have all seen before. It relies upon an experience (and knowledge) already understood even if I still like it for what it is.

The bottom one done just days later, feels like a painting born in the future, an image only half-understood in my hand, but forming already in my intuition for some time now. The direction will only become clearer if I continue to take risks in this visual and graphic language of light and space.

Happy New Year everyone, and thank you for stepping into these small pages from time to time. It is greatly appreciated.


 

23 December 2021

Vincent Van gogh meets an unknown British painter (?)



I wish I could remember just where I picked this up because I was immediately impressed upon first seeing it. It's funny how one can spot a good painting in a flash because it always comes together despite any clunky flaws and wonky technique. In this image above, I like the subtle drawing which hides its discrete sophistication but also because it is intelligently organised in a pictorial way. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Naif, yes, and this reminds me so much of our continuing admiration for Vincent Van Gogh, particularly, as his painting showed up on my telephone yesterday. And wouldn't he be flabbergasted by something as spooky as that???

For me there is a kind of primitive 'plasticity' in both these images reminding me of the landscape elements in Giotto. And here, they have been subordinated to a graphic unity of the whole image. In both pictures each of the elements are barely recognisable as objects in themselves. What I mean to say is that they both possess an almost flagrant disregard for the anatomy of the parts of the paintings. The small trees, the bushes, windows, stairs, the wall of stones, the horse, the human figures (the woman with the large bosoms on the left!) etc, etc. They seem to break every rule in 19th century painting. If by chance, they were books for instance, it might be as if the writers had misspelt and badly punctuated entire stories which were otherwise quite brilliant. 

But the genius of this is that everything works together like a well oiled engine. We are immediately taken into the whole feeling of each of these two paintings. Everything in them is in service to the picture as a whole. There is no proud display of virtuosity or technical arrogance displayed in their details. In both the light is evenly disbursed, avoiding  the dreaded local lighting which, unless one is Vermeer, is virtually impossible to achieve.
 
As I like to say about Art: 2 + 2 always = 5,
and now there is nothing more to add, just enjoy Christmas.




20 December 2021

REDinc! and the wonders of expression








the church


the faucet

This is the second year I have gone to see the annual Christmas exhibition which the staff at REDinc. puts together each year. These wonderful pictures are artworks by people of all ages who spend time at REDinc, an organisation originally up by parents to give their own children with disabilities a place to explore art in various workshops. For the past two years I end up buying more art work than I have room to hang in my home. But I kind of fall in love with these things, and it is rare I like many paintings I see everywhere. Thankfully, they are very moderately priced.

I have not posted the sizes but most of the them are quite small, around about 30 X 25 cm, the wonderful black dog is about 40 X 40, and the two striped pictures below are about 50 X 40 cm.

Cheryl Bailey, who runs one of the programs gave me a tour and introduced me to a few 'clients' as they are called. But when I walked into the first room and saw the black dog on a wall I just cracked, and I had to have it. The rest of them I picked off one by one as I walked around the large shed. But the black Chihuahua, spoke to me, I loved it immediately, and isn't this what Art is all about?

The Faucet and the Church (as I have named them) were done by a young plumbing apprentice. These two small paintings are, I believe more original than most things I see (online) in galleries anywhere in the world, and that is not hyperbole (which of course I hate). But in each little painting the colour harmonies are exquisite, especially the one which I have called the Church. It reminds me of something that Paul Klee might have made, or possibly may have wished to paint at least. There is a muted harmony of great sophistication and a remarkable clarity of design.  And I haven't a clue what it really represents except a kind of sophisticated icon, but the important thing is that he had a clue what it means.  

The stripes below are by a fellow named Hunter whom I have met several times at the tennis club on Tuesday nights where his father and me play doubles. He is a friendly young man who adores pizza and watching television while his father plays tennis. A real sweetheart, and he was so very stoked that I bought on just one, but two of his paintings.  







18 December 2021

Letting the batter walk

                       LCM

 
Poët Laval, oil on canvas, 5 Figure, circa November 15? 2018

This morning while looking again at this study I posted a few weeks back I began reflecting upon something that I often feel when working outdoors from a motif in Nature. 

This feeling comes over me that sometimes these paintings are almost pulled out of me, yanked from my will power, from my hands like some force out in the wild landscape resisting my hold over the picture. It is if while driving a car, a ghost suddenly grabs the steering wheel out of my hands.

As writers will often lament when their own characters go AWOL or off-script, so too, do painters when their pictures go out of control.

                       LJA

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 December 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

And this is the curious nature for all creative endeavours. Any task that requires both rigorous discipline but equally spontaneous action is vulnerable. How does a creator know when he or she is really at the helm of their own work or just in the way, and impeding it? Or is this the realm of the Gods?

The painting (just above) is from the other night and I post it because actually, it went where I wanted it to go. I saw it in the sky upon arriving at my spot on the dune and I quickly set up to paint it because in a way, I didn't want any problems. "No backtalk! Do exactly as I say!........... Or else!!!"

Of course I didn't have a 'or else', but I wasn't going to let the canvas board know that. Because I had missed so many evenings due to the rain I felt out of sorts, like a beginner, like I didn't know what I was doing there with an easel and backpack full of materials, and  I was feeling like a fraud which is an awful feeling. So consequently, I didn't want any trouble, and certainly I wasn't looking for trouble!

But it was an 'easy' sky, not at all complicated, one without too much confusion logistically speaking, so I was able to make four studies, one after the other in quick succession. I was not particularly happy with them at the time, but indeed I was happy to be painting with the 'possibility of success' circling around in my mind like a butterfly. And that possibility is essentially what keeps me going; This 'possibility of success', and I know it's like that for most others too.

Here are the others in the order of when they came out of the oven. They are what I would call 'careful pictures', no problem paintings, like what they say about reliable cars: 
"Boring, but they run reasonably well"

Like I said, I wanted some easy wins, some success for the night. In baseball jargon, I was the pitcher who let the batter walk but I was also the batter who just wanted to get on 1st base without striking out.

                       ALA
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 December 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm
                                 ELL
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 December 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm
                                  LSE
Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 December 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm



10 December 2021

Sidney Nolan at Heidi, Vanessa Bell at Charleston




I saw this small gem on my first visit to 'Heidi', the former home of Sunday and John Reed on the outskirts of Melbourne. It is a renovated dairy farm by this powerhouse couple of bohemia in the 1940's. They could easily remind one of another powerhouse couple; Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant who renovated 'Charleston, a farmhouse in Sussex, UK. Charleston was home to the Bloomsbury set, a whole host of various bohemian figures on the edge London society back in the early 1920's. And though both Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were practicing artists, the Reeds of 'Heidi' were not. They were wealthy, ardent patrons of art around Melbourne after the Second World War. They are still considered the most important benefactors of Modern Art here in Australia though they died in 1981, just ten days apart of one another. 

So Charleston and Heidi, both as a consequence, are full of artwork and are now run as art centers. Heidi however, has many shows during the year of different artists whereas Charleston is a private charitable Trust which maintains the house and gardens uniquely for the Bloomsbury set. 

                                                  self portrait by Vanessa Bell

I have been to Charleston several times over the years as I often went through Sussex. I have been to Heidi twice and it was on my first trip there that I discovered Sidney Nolan, the much venerated Australian artist. Inevitably, being bohemians, there was lots of gossip about the goings at Heidi especially since Melburnians were so very conservative back in the day. In fact, most artists not only fled Melbourne but Australia altogether. 

Sidney Nolan painted his very famous Ned Kelly series there at Heidi. It is an impressive series that I saw in Canberra years. It is so weirdly original, an iconic and memorable Australian motif of a thief no less! 

Over the years I have come to appreciate his creative life. I like so many of these Australian painters who came out of a 'White' Australia in the early part of the 20th century. He like a few others eventually left for London and the continent. He lived the rest of his life there. Apparently when he died in 1992 and his estate owed a fortune in taxes because he had always believed that artists shouldn't have to pay tax! Gotta love him for this alone! 

But it is easy to understand just how isolated these artists were from Modern Art. Australia was very far away, and it stills looms far away in the imaginations of Americans and Europeans. I know because my friends are still amazed that I would slip away from the northern hemisphere.



His work was varied and I cannot say that I relate too to well much of it but he was an artist who dedicated his life to his love of art, and for that too, I love him. 

Yet despite my lack of real enthusiasm for his much of his work, I am really crazy about this small fragment done on wood of the docks at St Kilda back in the 1940's. It is so small, so almost insignificant that I wonder if anyone pays any attention to it, but it holds magic for me. Its calligraphic power is at the heart of Modern Art. It is really seen, and comes from vision, something the Japanese would really appreciate in its direct response to Nature. Nolan found a simple and graphic solution to the motif of the docks. Moreover, the drawing is concise, precise; and its vision is practical. 

addendum; I realise that I already posted about this small work back in 2013! I discovered this by accident when looking for a clean photo of it online. I saw it on Google at L'air de rien and dated back in 2013 when I had taken a photo of it at Heidi, Ha Ha. 

07 December 2021

recent studies under the watchful eyes of la Nina

 

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 3 December, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Here on the East Coast of Australia we are in the capricious hands of 'La Nina' who throws us into a humid cycle of steady rain and wild thunderstorms. All this is somewhat more agreeable than hot summers with the risk of fires.

It has rained so much that I haven't been to work at the beach for weeks until the other night. I felt like a beginner, and this is always good for a painter. But I quickly made a palette and jumped into the sky. 

I brought these two home but for some reason, I wasn't really happy with them. They seemed to me, a little too 19th century, but hey! I was grateful to be out painting again under the perilous protection of a twilight sky. 

I put them up on other social media and my friends seemed to like them, particularly the one at the top which I painted first. So for me, many of these studies are often like wild, untamed beasts; until they are brought home, fed, and nurtured with care, one cannot be sure just what they will turn out to be.  
 
Meanwhile, I have been in my studio a lot and made some progress on some other large and hairy beasts which I will write about very soon. 

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 3 December, 2021, oil on canvas board,  30 X 25 cm



04 December 2021

Henry Moore the Masseur, facts and feelings

 

 Reclining Figure, plaster, 1951

This sculpture which I saw in the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain, three years ago simply took my breath away. I confess that I had always had a somewhat lukewarm feeling for his large undulating and sensual bronzes of mostly women. I was never sure how to approach them (but frankly, I have a problem approaching women anyway) I think it was the 'Big Bronziness' of his larger works which made me a little nervous.

I admit that I have never spent a great deal of time looking at his works because I haven't yet fallen in love with any. Generally, I think one needs to fall in love with a work of art in order to generate the necessary curiosity for an artist and their oeuvre. And because I am not a professor, facts will always be subservient to feelings. And since I am a painter (with no apologies) I am only after these feelings that I, alone, can digest for myself. 

So in a sense, I wonder if one needs to fall in love with the work in order to fall in love with the artist? Or, like in so many novels, fall in love with the artist to see their work?

So this large work, Reclining Figure, 1951 made in plaster, I really adore. Being in the tactile material of carved and pressed plaster might somehow be the key because large sculptures made of casted-bronze (by anyone, in fact) seem to inhibit any intimacy with the concept of a work. That is just me, apparently.

Just looking at the head alone (far below) one thinks of Picasso, then of course the body reenforces this idea. Picasso was making things like this one done in 1929 long before Moore made Reclining Figure. This was an age when reality was being questioned in every corner of the industrialised world, from science and medicine, to physics and philosophy, to music and architecture. The visual world of art was also on the front line in these 20th century adventures of human thought.




During the WWII Henry Moore was among a group of several artists who were free to create anything they wished that related to British wartime activities which included anything not made being made by photographic means.

Among other things, he explored caves and tunnels, something he loved doing in his childhood, and he consequently made lots of drawings of people in shelters during the German bombing raids, many of which became ideas for sculptures later on.

Henry drew everyday in later life when he was housebound and going blind according to his daughter, Mary Moore. She described the drawings as "somewhat fantasy, internalised drawings, and things from memory".

My very favourite anecdote about Henry Moore was that when he was a small child he often gave back massages to his mother. So, it makes perfect sense he would become either a sculptor or chiropractor. 

Here, Henry Moore recounts to an interviewer  how he envisions sculpture fitting into the British landscape.

“Looking back I can now see that this was a crucial and potently formative experience, from which so much of my fundamental attitude to sculpture emanates,” he recalled later. “The sense of scale, the feeling for stone, the need to think of sculpture as something essentially monumental: something to be placed out of doors, and, so far as possible, in a way that best reveals its inherent monumentality.”

So though this was never intended for the outdoors Reclining Figure lives comfortably inside a large space in Tate Britain in London.


        Reclining Figure, detail, plaster, 1951


01 December 2021

Narcissus



I cannot find another reason to post this lovely portrait than one out of love for beauty. It came from the NYT a few months ago, I snagged it off the screen then put it on my desktop.

I look at it with curiosity because I begin to see all the relationships that this designer had  going on in this dress. First of all, it is just so visually striking in every regard that it appears, like all greatness, to possess a unity of proportion, texture, colour, design, and purpose. It is at the very height of its craft and a metaphor for so much more with its delicate ruffled sleeves, and those rich yellow polka dots spread out over the chest like wild daisies. Everything speaks of the flower, fragile, tactile, handle with care! The drop from the waist whispers of something chaste, innocent and young.  

But without a doubt, it also evokes the Colonial aesthetic of America's antebellum past, light and darkness, enterprising but fraudulent, inventive and inhuman. This dress reminds me of the black slaves themselves, who served their white masters with far more dignity than their masters deserved. And because slaves had nothing but hand-me-downs from their owners, they resorted to invention by creating much out of so little. American slaves, in the face of such indignities, rose up to make the best of their tragic situation. This dress possesses so much of that spirit. As they say about life when in difficulty "When you get lemons, make lemonade". 

These days white Americans don't realise that Black Americans gave so much more than they ever took from America. It reminds me, as a white man, that some of its richest cultural legacies come from the Afro-American experience. And I could certainly go on and on about this but I promised a faithful reader to try to keep these ideas brief.

But I haven't said anything about the simple, unadorned beauty of this model, especially because she compliments the dress. Her shy pose is also a hint to the past, slightly subservient, gently awaiting instructions, fragile like a flower blooming too early in Spring.

I have no idea who designed and created this as I didn't save the article sadly. Was it a man or woman, or someone in between? (as one must acknowledge these days) Was it a person of colour or white, Asian perhaps, or some beautiful mix of the two, or three even? Of course this only matters for context in the worlds of fashion, economics and socio-political spheres. But for me, as a painter, it is just sensuous  and, dare I say simply "beautiful". Yes, when I see the craft of beauty like this, it gifts me a feeling of some optimism for a future in this world, one all too often ruled by the ignoble and crass.

All this, and more, has the designer revealed to me in this dress. So, to celebrate this first day of December, here is something to remind of us of Springtime which is but a few months aways in reality.