25 March 2023

Darn! some daze, it's nothing but questions!


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 22 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Here are some recent studies which prompted a few thoughts for me to contemplate. 

Firstly, I was thinking that from the very earliest brushstrokes, when beginning a picture, one problem is already present. This problem, like for any novelist or filmmaker, is about how to move coherently towards the solution to end each picture. But indeed, this solution is already linked, inchoate, to every particular individual part in the making of the picture. 

Secondly, how do I paint an image which is so personal and so specific and well-defined, yet not too myopic or solipsistically personal for others to feel and perhaps appreciate?

Because Painting can be such an immediate and emotionally charged art form, it often evokes unique and visceral feelings for different kinds of people. Indeed the world of Art often feels like a wild and untamed Pacific Ocean of creative juice to me. So, how do we, as painters, transcend our own bubble of experience, rendering it poetically communicable to others? Or do we just say,
"There it is, tough shit if you don't get"

So thus, how do we as painters (like great novelists), create a 'fictional world', one within this constraint, and one that can be  cleverly exploited to fully express what we need to express, not just to ourselves, but to others as well?

And if so, how do painters visually communicate? Are we communicating an idea or a feeling? And which is better? Are they the same, or not? There are always so many questions! Too many, really,,, enough to make one crazy when one is just sitting around looking at butterflies and not working..... but questions persist.

If a picture doesn't work for a viewer, is it because the painter fails or because the viewer does? And if it's the painter's fault, is it because it's a poorly-made picture due to his/her technique, or is it just a poor idea?  

But what indeed is a poor idea? Is it one that communicates only a 'photocopy' of the original motif (or idea?) either in one's own imagination, or taken out from Nature? But these are different sources and they can create different problems. 

But if the viewer is at fault, (is this even possible?) is it because they plausibly do not do not have the knowledge or experience to understand a painting? In this case, one could certainly imagine a violinmaker explaining to an amateur the virtues of his newest creation. 

But pushing this question further (as an obsessional naturally would) ask if an idea, for instance, is born from a visual memory or a conceptual rumination? Is an idea born from an experience of using one's eyes out on a motif with the aid of one's memory? Is this what one might would call a visual memory or is this what one might call direct contact with Nature? Is this plain-air painting? (I really detest this expression though I am not sure exactly why).

Ouch, too many questions this week!

But anyway, these three are from January. I liked them then, and still do over a month later. I remember these two below quite well and I see that I was pursuing my persistent obsession of making a flat image from this three dimensional motif out in Nature. On some days this idea is stronger than others because some skies naturally lend themselves more to this idea while others hold onto their more anecdotal elements and render them more 'traditional'.

The one at the top I also like because of the drip of paint inadvertently confusing what could be called the 'drawing', adding another question to the whole darn thing!

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

         Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

27 February 2023

Fractal secrets shared in front of the hearth

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,17 December 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,17 December 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,17 December 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Three studies that were all made on the same evening, one right after the other. And now looking at them a few years later on I see three step sisters ready for the grand ball. But then my imagination is both eccentric and historic. Anyway, I came across them recently in a file and I liked them immediately as a trio because as a painter, it's the delicacy of these clouds that excite me. 

There is a certain kind of cloud that appears in a particular sort of pale sky, usually with a bit of humidity in the air that evokes all the lacework done by millions of women all over Europe throughout the centuries; rich and poor women, the sisters and nieces, the hired hands and the dilettantes too, all of them sitting around the hearth and sharing of secrets.  

And these small shredded clouds, like secrets themselves, are fragments that dissolve into thin air during the tumid moments before dusk swallows them up like a giant whale in a fairy tale. On the beach it's a marvellous light, and a gentle one, unassuming too, one where ancient secrets speak to weird painters and drunk poets, small dogs and wild children romp deliriously into twilight.

And these are the types of clouds which take me to Painting. For a long time I have thinking about how pieces (or planes, if you wish) of a whole painting are fastened together one to another. I know I have spoken about this before but not in a while. 

A scientist from Scotland whom I met at in Comps, near Dieulefit one summer evening years ago, urged me to read about the Chaos theory and suggested I read a great book aptly titled 'Chaos' by a NYT science editor which I ordered and quickly devoured. It's all about fractal connections (and disconnections) but measurements too, and it traces the history of this new thinking which sprung from a few eccentric scientists working on the Atomic bomb in Los Alamos in the late 1960's (L.S.D. was also involved). But anyway, I have always been frustrated at how mathematics rounded everything off to the nearest .0. It drove me crazy. Even as a small boy looking at the sky I understood empirically so, that infinity was ever-present all around us and that nothing could be nicely reduced down to an even and perfect equation. Like many children I used to watch clouds endlessly as they swirled across the sky, appearing and disappearing, cartwheeling and somersaulting into one another like in a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. Clouds, like everything also in the plant world, was one of the easiest ways to witness the fractal behaviours in the Universe. And so, for me, when painting certain cloud shapes in the sky, the fractal connections manifest immediately.

The importance of how planes (and shapes) connect to one another is an essential element in Painting. But also in all Art, Architecture, Music, and, as a girlfriend once advised, in love affairs too. Every painter has to deal with this whether he knows it or not. And moreover I should say; whether he or she is conscious of it, or not, for I can see that lots of artists do not seem to place an importance upon it. And yet, they are still constrained by its importance nonetheless, for the successful unity of a painting is always still grounded in how the sum of its parts click into each other like Lego creating an energetic whole.

Of course the subject matter in Painting is extremely varied and uniquely different. And it is made up of so many physical qualities of materials that also deserve different treatment; the skin, bark, stone, wood, glass, flora, hair (human and otherwise), and the air itself, the most popular element that holds so many pictures in its light grip. In a unified painting, all these diverse materials desire to be connected to one another with great subtlety. Painters of every Age in history had to learn the delicate craft of bridging these often disperate elements on a picture plane. 

In the popular genre of landscape painting these various bits of fractal foliage equally work to attach different elements of a picture together one to the other; the fields to the trees, the hills into soft mountains, the chimney smoke into the air overhead. In landscape their tactile logic is terrestrial. 

But these studies are mostly concerned with painting the sky which is ephemeral. In the end, it is basically just coloured air and gaseous clouds that require a deft but patient hand.

Whether one looks at an 18th century marine-scape from Holland or an abstract 20th century work by de Kooning, the unity, or lack there of, is cemented by the manner in which each brushstroke of paint, both literally and figuratively, attach to one another. 

The really, really great painters do this extremely well, whereas all the others seem to limp along awkwardly in uneven circles. 

So I hope that these three studies above, whether limping, or in a 'Gavotte', reveal a tiny fractal system at work in some fashion or other, successful or otherwise. 

18 February 2023

Five paintings, the air but not the wind

Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas boards, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

These are all from one evening about three weeks ago. For some reason I decided to try a mini series on small boards, I think because I hadn't been out to the beach so much, and maybe I was feeling unsure of what I was going to do. Of course, I am never really sure what I'm going to do anyway until I begin mixing a palette. Tiny ideas bubble up like water when I prepare my colours and they begin to match up with what I'm starting to see in the sky already. But I rarely have an idea until the last minute because I don't know yet what the sea and sky want me to do. But they usually need a human sacrifice first, and it's always the painter, meaning ME, in this case.

So on this evening which was showing great promise, I set up and began to patiently await signs of life in the sky, wondering just what it would dictate for me. 

I had made the decision to work quickly, to try to find something simple to grasp onto, to capture it then leave it be. I'm like a lepidopterist who captures a butterfly in a large soft net only to let it go after a brief but intense inspection. 

I think it was because during those few days I was still thinking of that small Turner watercolour of which I wrote about a month ago. Images like that can take up lots of space in painter's head the same way as a melody in a musician's. This evening I wanted to keep them fresh and not get bogged down into laboured paintings, I wanted some delicate studies; I wanted the air, but not the wind. 

And so these came out of that evening and I was reasonably happy with them. I believe they are in order of execution. The last one at the bottom is actually a slightly larger canvas board, so by the fourth study, I must have been feeling more confident.

The first one was very compact, barely a breath of a thought, but I really like the way the sea came out, it was almost sliced in two and creates an unusual foreground almost like throwing a silk scarf around a wool jacket. 

These kinds of spontaneous decisions whilst painting are more natural to my process than to many other painters who might exercise more thoughtful care than me in front of a motif. After all, I'm a remnant of another tradition, one more casual than dour. But that said, I do like detail, but details are just nuts and bolts which fasten a structure together. Imagine Uccello's grand picture, The Battle of San Romano, in the National Gallery of London exhibited in someway close to a jet engine. (now that would be a fantastic piece of Conceptual Art).

In any event, the second painting became a little more involved as I became more entangled  with the sensuality of the paint like an artist from 18th century Holland.

The third one (here below) was also done quite quickly, it felt rushed, as if I wanted to get through the meal in a hurry, getting to the  desert even faster. And it even reminds me of a plum tarte, a Reine Claude, made in the late Autumn countryside of France.

The one below it (middle), is perhaps my favourite as it too came quickly, but with also  a real feeling of getting what I had desired out of this sky, not scratching haphazardly for an answer, but moving without hesitation to its resolution like a trained dog looking for survivors.

And lastly, the large one at the very bottom, is a depiction of when the sky has just peaked and feels mellow like a large hot air balloon releasing its chamber and slowly returning to earth.

Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayers Brunswick Heads, 18 January 2023, oil on canvas boards, 30 X 25 cm

14 February 2023

punished and sent to bed without dinner!

Evening Prayer Brunswick Head, 16 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Three dark pictures, taciturn, like naughty children who were punished and sent off to their rooms for misbehaving. They are not happy about it! In fact, they remind me of ME, when I was punished and sent to my room without dinner. Whether we like it or not, it appears that our past will always keep sending us postcards from places long ago that we would rather forget.

But these three were done on a rough and stormy-looking night. In the late afternoon I had driven out to the beach because the sky had looked decent from the house, but darn it, Mother Nature fooled me as it often does because it was overcast. I had had misgivings already when I hit the road and saw the dark sky but, "what the hell", I thought, I had been home all day and wanted to get out. After a ten minute drive I arrived and parked carrying my painting gear up the sweet little path about 60 meters further on to the small dune where I normally paint. The beach was windy and desolate but I set up anyway. My outings there had been sporadic all summer long due to the weather and I really missed these afternoon sessions. 

Though a bit confused by the form of so many clouds all jumbled together into a flat pile, I nonetheless jumped into the first painting above without too much thought and I quickly lost my way,. .. Ha Ha,... and so much for rigorous restraint. Remarkably though, I was able to 'bring it back' and save it by turning it into something I had not at all anticipated. It's now not at all unpleasant but just something very different than what I had had in mind. 

In fact, though surprised, I was reasonably happy with it, but the weather discouraged me from beginning another one from this dark and difficult sky. So I brought out two older studies which I had brought to see if I could also 'bring those back from the dead' and perhaps put them into an acceptable state.  

But there is something about these two older paintings (below) that make them somewhat unusual. When they were done (years earlier) they were not quite right, either just plain boring or perhaps just 'unfinished' or 'unrealised', which was what I actually felt about them. But anyway, they were unacceptable and worthless to me in their present state. No drama, this happens all the time to paintings. Often, paintings will either get better with time or worse. Unlucky paintings might appear great when just finished but over time they quietly fall off the podium and end up in the leprosy ward. Still others might look awful when just painted but improve with age like a bottle of whiskey. It's really out of our earthly hands, and as any artist knows, the Gods regulate all this stuff in the end.

But these two were rather mediocre, somewhat lifeless from the get-go and whether as Dr Frankenstein or Doctor Good, my desire was always to give them a life of their own. 

So over the past few weeks I have begun pulling these poor things off the shelf a few at a time and putting them into the boot of the car with the rest of my painting gear. When I have finished a session and my palette is drenched in colour, and importantly, if the skies seem to vaguely line up with an idea, I will put them on the easel, look at the motif, and throw colour at them to see what comes of it. What is that expression for politician's behaviour so prevalent on CNN roundtables these days? 

"Throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks?" 

After all, I have nothing to lose. Sometimes I pull it off while at others it's a lesson in exasperation. 

But Painting is not a zero-sum game as many seem to understand the rest of life to be, (mostly financiers to be honest). Still, the native American Indians (who are still a wise bunch) often quip: 

"Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you". It has nothing to do with a zero-sum game at all, its simply bad luck.

In any event I am reasonably happy with the first painting below, though there is that bit of scruffy-looking light on the righthand side that I might still tone down ever so gently if I get to it.

But I am really happy with the one below it, for it came out just right, to my complete surprise. And it was ALL just good fortune, really good luck, because this time around, the E.R. doctor inside me managed to revive this cadaver. But I have no idea how I did it. It happened so quickly, perhaps within ten minutes. It was done like in a dream that one quickly forgets upon awakening. It comes at the surprise end of a long trek home.

There is much to say about all this but it will have to wait for the next time to go further into this subject of what constitutes the idea of 'Finish' when considering a painting. 

Anyway, I always learn so much by going deeper and deeper into a picture, almost against my own instinct, like a cave inside myself, deeper and darker, until I feel as if I am back in my childhood bedroom again and still being punished without dinner.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Head, 16 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Head, 16 January 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

07 February 2023

Dreams and reality On Chesil Beach

As a creative person who believes in literature as a conveyance of truth, I almost always find more reality in works of fiction. I've been thinking a lot about how this relates to Painting over the past few years. 

I came to Ian McEwan quite late in my life, late like I've been late to nearly everything else in life, so it's no surprise that I've only just discovered his novel On Chesil Beach I recently found on the bookshelf which a friend gifted me a fewyears ago. 

But as a matter of fact, I was always late to many authors, too many musicians and composers, even too late to some painters too. It's not surprising because I have been late to so many other important parts of my life; late to discipline and hard work, but also late to work, period. And I've been too late to love as well, way past my expiration date. I arrived much later than I would have liked at sobriety too. But like they say, better late than never, for that one. 

In any event I am not alone, there are many other latecomers besides me, because Life is both difficult and quite complicated in this worldly space between dreams and reality. And even under the best of circumstances when life starts out for some in a cute pram they can end up living on the streets. There are late bloomers too, some of whom spend their lives teetering on the edge of bar stools. And for too many in the Third World, life begins on a dusty dry road which they are then condemned to march for the duration. Who can say where any choices are made?

But how one awakens to the great Reality of what we call Life is also quite varied, and it's also kind of mysterious, especially as one ages, but then many of us for some reason, never awaken to reality at all, regardless of our age. 

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 27 January 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

But, anyway,,, I love really good authors, not the cheap-reads but the ones who take us to a space where we can be confronted with Reality, the ones who show us where they fell and how got up again.

And this is equally true of the Arts in general, but I'm mostly thinking of how really fine (and great) painters who can also move us into this space of a wide reality through their own failures and successes.  

From the very first page of this wonderful and intimate book I was transfixed and transported back in time, to a Britain I had never even known. McEwan has the power of narrative and not unlike a great painter, he has a love for detail and mood. I highly recommend it for anyone, who like me, hasn't yet discovered this side of postwar Britain. 

Ian McEwan paints a picture of a complicated and unified order that is just on the verge of a social earthquake. I had seen lots of great British films, the edgier ones from the 40's and 50's that foretold the social unrest of the 60's to come but I had not read too many books about it. The 60's in every way, was a collision of several great forces that changed the landscape. 

Painting of course, changed dramatically like everything else as it went POP! But this movement seemed like a shallow display of ostrich plumage though I know many would strongly disagree. And hey! Who cares in the end? With perhaps the exception of Bacon and Freud, most visual artists went for the flashy gag which they managed to sell!! Silly money that made a few savvy investors wealthy.

But getting back to the world Painting, I ask always, how does a painter render a narrative, a voice, or a mood for instance? Is there a technique, or does it lie-in-wait, deeply inside a painter's soul for the right pictorial idea to surface at some point in his life? 

What I often think about in Painting is the specificity of detail that never bogs us down with tedium but lives in a generously grand operatic space. Ian McEwan paints this British social landscape with an eye like Chardin, but better yet, maybe Pietro Longhi with a twist of Goya thrown in.

Like a great writer, a great painter depicts the world at large by pulling it apart then only to piece it back together again whole and fresh as if by magic. The result is not a copy but an entirely new and believable world for the rest of us to experience. And with the subtlest of skill, his character development in On Chisel Beach pulls us into his drama within barely a few sentences. 

This reminds me of why we love Vincent Van Gogh's paintings so much. In front of his work we surrender ourselves obediently and give him the power to yank us into his feelings without a hint of defiance. He was that kind of painter, absolutely unique, he was a bonfire of feeling. Sometimes when I hear old scratchy recordings of Blues singers I feel heat from the same bonfire.

Don't we succumb to this because we have been seduced by his empathetic persuasion towards his characters like we do for an author? Both the artist and author seem to cast a spell over us, the really good ones are witchdoctors while the bad ones are priests.

Lastly, and speaking for myself; why am I so much more moved by Truffaut's The 400 Blows than I am about my own childhood experiences of family life and boarding school? Is it not that Art pierces both dreams and reality by recreating the concrete out of an abstract memory?

And what is it about truth and fiction in this space of memory in which we all live together, but separately? And how does a work of Art, a book or painting in these cases I have cited, possess the power to transport us to a particular place in ourselves that we recognise even if we have not yet been there? So many questions.... 

For your perusal and as a change of heart, a little like a tiny bowl of sorbet between gourmet dishes to change the palate, here are three different skies at three different times, from the same hand.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 1 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

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

24 January 2023

Mondrian in an upside down world

Now without getting too heavy about the following saga, I cannot help but point our that it does reveal one of the several cracks that I believe weaken the strength of the Post Modernist foundation that has reigned over us all these past eighty years. 

Objective and scientific reliance upon truth has been eroded in almost all aspects of modern life, from the way we receive information to the way we impart it to others (both our own, but also our entire collective cultural histories too that have opened up like autopsies for all to see). One cannot argue with things like this anymore than one can deny a giant river through the Alps. However in the political world, in a powerhouse like America, the concept of an objective truth has all but evaporated, or at the least, been severely damaged by recent politicians. Feelings are not fact, or so we have been taught to believe, and to push this infantile narrative is mendacious. But curiously, in the realm of Art, yes, feelings do become facts in this world of creative invention specially when it is convincing. For Art is a world of poetic contrivance, it's an inspired state of imagination in contrast to the world of politics and science even. Though to place politics and science together in the same sentence is unfair to scientists.

I am not alone in believing that the culprit of misinformation has been groomed by the internet, perhaps the greatest invention since the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg back in the 15th century. But this has been elevated to an even higher state of alert by the search engine Google and others. The speed of any information circling the globe today is mind-boggling. It is a Yin-Yang situation because all its fortunes are coupled with equal misfortune. 

Why do I bring this up? It's not exactly rocket science, but in this venerable world of experts and know-it-alls, there are concrete clues reminding us that these smartypants are sometimes clueless. For example, this Mondrian had been hung upside down for eighty years before anyone realised it (See below, or better yet, google the story).

In the following photo two gentlemen are looking at the version that is in fact upside-down. The correct version is at the very bottom in this post, and in it, are a double set of dark blue lines running horizontally at the top which give the picture weight. They also give the work a sense of gravity when correctly presented (and the way the artist had originally intended, though this is my own feeling). 

I also prefer it this way because of the single blue line running up the far left side of the picture, and this too, appears to anchor the image. Visually, also, my eyes gravitate more to the left, and they run up the blue line as if a heavy column to the imaginary heavy roof that once covered the Parthenon in Athens. 

But hey! It's not the kind of picture that would draw me in enough to really look at in the first place.

{Addendum} Because this painting was principally made by using rolls of coloured tape that have so severely disintegrated the curators have decided to leave it in its current state. So thus, it will continue to be hung upside down.

17 January 2023

Turner, a king in the realm of wise children

I was sent this small Turner watercolour recently by a mysterious gentleman, a certain Peter Shearer from Cincinnati who collects art and loves it too, apparently. We have mutual friends over there and I believe that he has also visited this small blog space so he obviously knew what interested me, but also  himself too. In any event I thank him for this small gift.

This unpretentious little oeuvre, lacking in any visual presumption is just so perfect and beguiling that I could weep with envy. Its innocence speaks of a rare and simple vision, one which a very insightful young child of rare sensibility might be able to pull off but only on a very lucky and insightful afternoon. 

There is at certain times, that awkward honesty in Turner's voluminous record-keeping of the sea and sky that reveals such playful abstraction that one could possibly (if they knew little or nothing about Art) imagine it done by a child indeed. But this of course, would be a fairly cheap value judgement by smug, smart-alecks who would be ruled by the left side of their brains only, for this is a masterpiece of invention.  

The perfect brilliance of this tiny and unobtrusive little souvenir is beyond description. This child-like innocence belies a profound vision, one that was cultivated by a lifetime of looking at Nature, but also by an enormous talent buried deeply within the structure of its four corners and behind its quiet and simple design. 

But hidden within this simplicity is a foreground, middle ground, and a background, which all together seem to come racing up to the viewer all at once on one plane, like the visual world does in fact. In Painting, this is the art of greatness for it has to be learned through practice but also a generously  extensive understanding of Art History itself. 

It's because normally, our eyes don't allow this to happen due to our incapacity to focus on all planes all at once, and at the same time. It is therefore left to the artist (and innocent eye of a gifted child) to reconfigure that physical impossibility for us viewers. And this sounds way more complicated than I am making it out to be. But put simply: our eyes only reveal to us, at nanoseconds at a time, the entire picture in front of us when we look out at the world at each moment. Normally, we cannot, without practice, see a landscape as painters have learned to make them because they were re-created using a kind of abstraction built by planes that move forward and backward on the two dimensional surface. The painter needs to fashion a foreground, middle ground, and background which are not always apparent to us, because our eyes do not naturally take them in as one. It is why some painters will squint their eyes whilst looking at a landscape in order to see it as one entire thing. But to paint it as one entire thing is an abstract process.

A viewer doesn't realise this because they don't think about it, it's taken for granted. But the painter (and gifted child) seem to understand this, though in different ways, because they know they need to reconfigure a visible world through a sort of connivance of talent and gumption to reconstruct the logic of a landscape in a painted image. For the gifted and clairvoyant child, and a few lucky painters (the visionaries), it's innate, but for most painters it must be learned. I had to learn it for instance, it didn't come naturally to me.

Put another way; the 'Academic Painter', of which there are many prestigious adherents, are trained to paint Nature (landscapes and models) as a compilation of separate parts, attaching them through painting technique alone. But unlike them, the visionary sees everything as an organic whole image all at once in their mind. 

In the Turner above is a great example of seeing the 'motif' of the picture as a unified visual idea. And because an academic painter sees only a picture as pieces to be attached to one another, he/she consequently attempts to tie them all together a bit like a patchwork quilt. But being a visionary, this is not how Turner saw either the motif or the picture, for he saw everything as a whole and he made the necessary sacrifices to reconfigure that whole into the form of a painting. 

11 January 2023

Somehow, Oscar Niemeyer Soares Filho will vanquish fascism

Oscar Niemeyer Soares Filho is my new hero! I went to Brazil about thirty years ago and was suitably dazzled with so much Modernist detail that seemed to be in lurking every little corner or round balcony. And looking down on the mosaic park design from a hotel high above the Copacabana beach front was a joyful sensation and it gave me this crazy unrealistic  optimism for the future of humankind. How did this government, this culture, these people, understand the meaning of such playful beauty? And how were they able to display such civic idealism in a world of limited bureaucratic imagination?? What an adventure! I remember thinking decades ago during my visit.

But watching news of the recent attack on the Congress in Brasilia suddenly awakened in me a complete infatuation and wonder at Niemeyer's design for the entire complex now being so thoughtlessly trashed by the mob. Not only do they not deserve a Democratic system, but neither do they merit Beauty, and that is the mark of a troll.

Ok, these are cheap photos I ripped from Google but I promise you I will go there sometime soon and take my own photos for this space herein! It will be my next pilgrimage because I just love this playfully sedate civic architecture. 

It will be like my trip to see the Taj Mahal already almost forty years ago and which, I should say, several idiot friends had warned me against visiting because that it was a big waste of time. OOOUUPH! These friends, I realised afterward, were the real waste of time because the Taj Mahal was for me, one of the most extraordinary places I had every been in my whole life. 

So like those idiot friends, and those too, who  ransacked the Congress in Washington two years ago, I only pray that these illiterate trolls be sent to Prison for years to contemplate their own furry, smelly feet. 

B.T.W, because I am on the subject, try as I may, I have never been able to see any beauty in the Capitol building in Washington. It has always been a boring, conventional, and ugly bit of cliche architecture for me)

Anyway, one has to love the Brazilians for creating such a remarkable government complex like they did in Brasilia. It's overwhelming in everyway, and it says to the world: We love Life and Art!

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.