18 November 2021

a painter gets it right or dies


Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 1 September, 2018, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads,  9 September, 2021, oil on canvas board, 25 X 20 cm

As the iconic Rod Serling would say at the opening of each episode of the Twilight Zone; "For your perusal", here are two very different kinds of images, both done virtually three years apart. Once in a while I stumble across pictures seemingly lost in a digital twilight zone somewhere that surprise me. And this early one (top) from 2018, did it for me. I see a freshness in it but also a certain conviction and an 'assured insouciance'. Though I vaguely remember painting it three years ago, I do remember seeing it the day after when I pulled it from the boot of my car to take a photo of it. Once in a great while a painter gets to say to himself: "Tiens!" 

What I like about it is the complete unity of expression (of feeling) as if the motif were seen, felt, ingested even, then hurled out upon this modest little board with a magical wand. 

I see no thought process involved it (though of course there was). It makes me think of how much I appreciate the frank conviction of a child's painting, one which is seen (somewhere in that imagination) then pushed out with glee. But I sense also that it is the kind of picture which only my close friends in Aix would really appreciate. To others with too much art education it risks to look silly. But Hey!!

The later picture which I include as its compliment, was done three years later and possesses a certain sophistication compared to the aforementioned study. I like this equally but for different reasons. It was one of those hazy skies which almost obscure the pale clouds at the very end of the day. The small, orange, raspy traces of sunlight almost feel glued upon the delicate sky. I remember thinking about them before putting them down. Specifically thinking: 


One doesn't get a second chance if one mucks it up, but if they do, they must keep going until  another solution is found. But then, it becomes a different painting! The thing is, though I wasn't by any means paralysed with fear, I still had to stop and think before putting these small wafts of orange down. In the painting above, there was no thinking, no thought, just an intuitive movement like one made by a child. 

Writers always talk about the 'shitty first draft', and when I read that I think: 

"Boy are they lucky!" 

A painter doesn't have that luxury to get to do a shitty first draft. (Well,,, maybe Basquiat or Twombly, but then they make a different kind of painting altogether). They make studio pictures which are altogether a different kind of beast (more on that another time).

A painter must get it right or go off and suffer an ignoble death someplace. But then he must also rise up again like Lazarus and return to fix it. One needs a lot of talent for this sort of thing, but maybe just divine intervention. As I noted a week or two ago, only the Dutch were very good at this, but they have been dead too long to return.

I always hope to have this experience of the first painting, but I am equally grateful for that of the second. Thinking or no thinking, thought or no thought, divine or profane, what counts is the result.  

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