04 September 2021

1st class or Economy, or on a wall at TATE Britain?


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 28 August, 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This is from last Saturday evening. The sky was insane, and I really wanted to jump into it quickly, like a child, impulsively, and without a thought. I managed all of this except the last, for it was hard for me to keep my mind from butting in all the time. I had wanted to make a savage-looking, wild, Fauvist sort of picture without a thought for distance, colour harmony, or composition, for that matter. This was a tall order because, let's face it, I am who I am at this late stage in my life, but nonetheless I did paint it quickly. 

A friend in New York is interested in two paintings and she is curious about frames which I offer to accompany the pictures. So I made a few quick shots of recent things to give her an idea of how they look (I kind of liked the un-cropped and quirky feel of the photos so I have left them as they are). They are a satisfactory solution to the awful and vexing problem of framing which most painters I know struggle with. 

They are made locally, very simple and unpretentious, and not expensive so they are an easy solution for presenting these things. The very top one is not the same, it is from a shop in Montparnasse which I ordered when in Paris the last time. It is more expensive, and made with oak and brushed with a white paint but rubbed off, typical of that style of frame. Nice, but expensive. But since I am in Australia I found a small shop here in the nearby town of Balina. These are made of just pine but they are covered with a thin veneer of bamboo paper curiously enough. I like them, they are simple and people can change them easily if they want something more to their liking. I buy them by the dozen when I have some cash as I am hoping to show a large number of these small things one day soon. But who knows? In the meantime I send them off to art lovers mostly in America and France.

And then a curious but not unusual thought came to me after looking at the top one. I suddenly wondered, by chance, if I had stumbled upon this painting on some lonely wall, lost somewhere in Tate Britain, would I still like it? I confess that in fact, I often do this with my own work. This is my way of measuring up to what I deem to be successful. Does it seem to work? Will it stand up on its own, surrounded hopefully, by great things?

Yes, it's crazy, and not a little delusional, I freely admit, but HEY! we are in Lockdown, and at least I have an excuse for my general instability. But really, the truth is that I compare myself with my greatest heroes all the time. They are, after all, my teachers, my guides. Why wouldn't I think of museums as a parking spot for a picture of mine, however small and insignificant?

And, if, by chance, it were presented as the work of someone very famous, renowned, and with a big career, what would I see? How would I react? Would I look at it and think: "Oh Yes!" or "Wow" ou bien, "J'aime ça!", or would I quickly think: "This stinks!"? 

So many possibilities, so much foolishness!

And actually, (spoiler alert) this is something that I find myself doing anyway whilst still on the beach in front of a painting still wet. It's my device of separating it from me, as the painter, in my own mind. I regard it for a moment, wondering whether or not it is finished, and still in my mind, I frame it, and I imagine it on a white wall.

All this is done in less than a minute. Perhaps a bit strange, yes,  but it allows for some distance, a space that anyone else would not be able to imagine. They might see just a sloppy wreck of a picture on its own. But me, I need to see it even briefly, at Tate Britain. Ha Ha.

But then, I often wonder about the mind-set of the public when walking through a museum. Just because a picture hangs on a wall, is it a valuable use of our time, and imagination? Or is it being 'sold' to us by trendy curators and the gallery intelligentsia? Or indeed, is it not unlike being on a plane where those of us in Economy are expected to just eat whatever the stewards bring us, while those in 1st Class, have a choice of what they will or will not consume? 

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