25 September 2021

Usual and unusual, elastic and electric, Japan!

Frôler, August, 2013, oil on canvas, 150 X 150 cm

This painting was done back in Dieulefit in August of 2013, a year after the small gouache shown below. 

I was in a particular kind of groove, I think because I had just gone on two trips to Japan which gave me a jolt of elasticity. Maybe electricity too, but really, I was pulled and pushed to extremes both during, and after these trips. Japan has that effect upon people. I only met one person whom I know who didn't like it. But he was a sad and angry Parisian. 

Since I went to Japan I have never quite been the same. It affected me, had a strong effect upon me and also re-enforced feelings which I have harboured for decades regarding the world of Painting. It released this energy inside which allowed me to vault over so many ideas I had learned from European Art History which I had stored like a squirrel somewhere between my heart and mind. Vertical space, horizontal space, space used and unused, too much, or too little! Japan seems to be a culture of space, the reverence for it, the protection of it, the embrace of it in all its spiritual emptiness.

It seems to me that contrary to practically everything revered in America, where emptiness often connotes a kind of material desolation, the embrace of the void in Japan is an emotional bond. 

Of course, the Japanese abroad will be drawn to all those big spaces of America and Australia because to live in Japan is almost always to be cramped in little homes. Yet, generally, they are organised for a limited physical space and their homes are designed impeccably. Unlike Americans who go full and extra-large, the Japanese tend toward spare and lean.

The painting above and the small gouache below would never have been done if I had not made those two trips to Japan. In them both, I yearned to stop at just the edge of something, an inspiration comprised of so little. Having over-thought everything in my life and in art, suddenly, I wanted to slip quietly underneath the bridge. 

I began a lot of work which defied everything I had been taught. Some of it was Ok, some of it was not, but some of it was really interesting for me. I wouldn't pretend that it is even very good. But what I do know is that a lot of the work done in these last few years have spoken to me, spoken a strange and encrypted language that I was barely equipped to understand.

And that is a key for me for I will always prefer to feel an artistic emotional than to understand it rationally.  

The painting above, so simple it surprised me. I left it as is. And today, I am glad I did. I have ruined too many pictures trying to make them righter. It is hopeless cause. 

But this is titled after the French word verb frôler which means to lightly touch, or graze something. Imagine a butterfly alighting a rose petal. 

It also speaks to the gouaches too. Looking back, I suppose those several years were all about searching for a metaphor expressing that 'gentleness in all things tactile'. 

I took to framing the small gouaches with a simple band of masking tape while leaving paint splotches and ink drips as they had fallen. I do like works of any kind to show their battle scars, as it were. I hate pretty frames that attempt to cover up the organic execution of a picture which is sort of like putting a silk suit on a slob. 

Japan has been on my mind because I recently saw The Earthquake Bird which is set in contemporary Tokyo. It's a compelling film and I liked it very much, so much, that it has stayed in my imagination, lingering like  everything of substance.

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