28 April 2013


For my parting,
A kookaburra cries out
For me.

25 April 2013

Kenko (c. 1283-1350)

Kenko is very special. His love for the Japanese idea of beauty aligned with impermanence; his preference for all which is irregular and unfinished, and his love for the understated and the restrained make him a kind of hero for me. From his essays on idleness:
'Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring - these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration. Are poems written on such themes as "Going to view the cherry blossoms only to find that they had scattered', or is 'On being prevented from visiting the blossoms' inferior to those on 'Seeing the blossoms'? People commonly regret that the cherry blossoms scatter or that the moon sinks in the sky, and this is natural; but only an exceptionally insensitive man would say, "This branch and that branch have lost their blossoms. There is nothing worth seeing now."

In all things, it is the beginnings and ends that are interesting. Does the love between men and women refer only to the moments when they are in each other's arms? The man who grieves over a love affair broken off before it was fulfilled, who bewails empty vows, who spends long autumn nights alone, who lets his thoughts wander to distant skies, who yearns for the past in a dilapidated house - such a man truly knows what love means.' 


A new moon!
The pancake 
Of my childhood.

12 April 2013

Picasso et Matisse

I have always loved the Matisse portrait of Marguerite. I only discovered the Picasso recently in a book. As they sit in different corners of my desktop I was suddenly struck by their similarity. What that is, I am not sure except for the obvious color harmony of magenta, and maybe, a disguised emerald green to create the blacks in both paintings. Both portraits of young women, one obediently posing for her father, the other in that feminine activity of having her hair brushed. 
Both gaze out towards the viewer but not quite on center. Both possess a kind of natural unity in the picture frame as if to say "No big deal, just me". There is nothing grand or ostentatious in their bearing, they are not  presented as being beautiful. They just are.

I believe that they are roughly about the same size. And the dates? Margueritte was done between 1906-1907. The Picasso, maybe late 1930's but not having studied Picasso I can only rely upon images gleaned from various websites. I found similar portraits of both Dora Maar and Nusch Eluard done in 1938 so its probably not crazy to say around 1937-1939.

I like them both very much. There is a simplicity and a freshness in them which creates an intimacy upon immediate inspection.
Both were done in one seance most certainly. 

I was speaking with an artist-friend the other day and lamenting this terrible obsession which so many artists have of working from photographs. (It makes me crazy.) But because it is such an accepted way of working in this contemporary art world I found it difficult to mount an attack on it to my friend. And yet, personally speaking, I find it ridiculous for a painter to work from a photograph. (Blasphemous indeed! The intolerant in me wants to shout out from the top of the museum) 
And I would be happy to eat my words if just one person could cite an example of a really great painting  done from a photograph.

In the end my argument had to resort to the fact that only from working from a real live person could one achieve a veritable image precisely because the mistakes inchoate are proof of the genuine experience and which result into an original and one of a kind image. One could say that the 'mistakes' in the making of a portrait are in fact 'decisions' in a most vital and integral way as they allow for this originality to subconsciously manifest through the artist's hand. I cannot believe that this be can achieved from working from a photograph. To paint a portrait is such a deeply personal experience implying so much of what the Japanese call Wabi-Sabithe necessity of an inherent imperfection in a work of art, and the inherent transitory nature of all things. 

11 April 2013


New leg tattoo
For the furry fellow
With the limp.

08 April 2013

Sidney Nolan

While in Melbourne I visited Heidi which was the home to Sunday and John Reed, Australia's most famous (and wealthy, I gather) bohemian couple. They built up a Contemporary Art Centre in Bulleen, just outside of Heidleberg and a stone's throw from Melbourne CBD. Originally a small dairy farm it was converted into an elegant yet simple home to which eventually two more buildings were added. It's walls  were quickly filled with works of Art by many of their artist friends who were living around Melbourne after the war. The three buildings on the property regularly host exhibitions. On my visit were exhibits showing new works by Contemporary artist Fiona Hall, and another with works by Louise Bourgeois. 

In the original farm house, which the Reeds returned to, and eventually died in (both within ten days of one another in December 1981) was a show of Sidney Nolan. Here there are small drawings, paintings and gouaches which decorate this unpretentious home. Over time, I see more and more clearly that he is really one of the most original European artists of 20th Australia. I include some poorly reproduced photos from this little booklet as I was not authorized to take photos inside. As well, (top) a painting which always stops me in my tracks when I see it at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. I could barely pull myself away from the second image which is entitled Abstract, St Kilda Reflections, 1939. I think it's the height of Modernism of which I am an adherent, and astute friends will recognize immediately why I am drawn to these images.

Bon parcours!

07 April 2013

Great Books #1 (Alain de Botton)

This is a great read! A selection of clever essays edited by Alain de Botton. All the usual suspects: sex, money, insecurity!

05 April 2013

Robert Rooney

Here in Melbourne in the neighborhood of Fitzroy, a wonderful show by Melbourne artist Robert Rooney who is photographer, musician and painter. I liked the three paintings done in the late fifties as well as these photographs shot with a Box Brownie. They are  printed as inkjet prints which give them a soft and eerie feel almost as if they could have been drawn with conte crayon. 

The Box Brownie was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1900, and was marketed toward children. Soon, Brownie Camera Clubs sprouted up everywhere.

from 28 March - 19 May 2013
at the Centre For Contemporary Photography
404 George Street, Fitzroy, Victoria

04 April 2013


The gutter,
Each rain a metronome
Of pain.

02 April 2013


This evening I went to see Performance here in Melbourne where I am for a week. Its a beautiful film which moved me, and I was left with a nostalgia for New York which couldn't be shaken off even while walking through these lovely streets of Carlton. Its a poetic and moving portrait of musicians undergoing a great transition in their lives, both personally and professionally. It is a postcard too, of Central Park in the whiteness of winter when only the intrepid go running around its reservoir. I, myself did for many years.  And throughout the film there is Beethoven, whose late sonatas make one weep inside. The Frick Collection which I know well, and used to visit often, also plays a pivotal role in the film. Christopher Walken is remarkable, but then, they all are: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivani and Imogen Poots. Don't miss you if you love Beethoven, and New York!

Watching it I am reminded yet again of the great divide between the erudite world Classical music on the one hand, and the Art world on the other. How could one possibly compare the discipline of playing Beethoven, (and all that implies) with the fabrication, and then the consequent sale of a large red valentine by Jeff Koons? What happened?

01 April 2013

poisson d'avril

Each year I call Poussy K. in France. He's like family to me and I have know him for 35 years.

He owns the Chateaunoir in Aix-en-provence where I used to live.

Every year I call him with an outlandish story to celebrate April 1st. Today I called him but his wife Choupette answered and said that he was out in the hills... She suggested that I call him later tonight. (which means early tomorrow morning for me here in Australia)
But I have to do it. 

For this year I have concocted a story that I am traveling with Gerard Depardieu in Russia. I have been asked to accompany him as his sober companion to make sure that he doesn't drink for two weeks. I will say that I met a beautiful Russian woman named Mina who had stayed at the Chateaunoir 25 years ago and told me that she had had a brief affair with the owner Poussy K. of the Chateaunoir in Tholonet. It should fly for at least a few minutes but then I will say that we have just finished a big fish goulash in a fabulous restaurant here in Moscow....when he will then tell me: "Ah, tu m'as fait bien marche connard!"

I have called him every year now on the 1st of April since I left so many years ago. Each year the story must be farfetched but also equally plausible. Its a delicate art of sorts. So I'll call early tomorrow morning.