27 November 2022

Tedeschi Trucks and the melody of the Tahitian sea.

I am just crazy about this song. I only heard of this group a few months ago though they are HUGE on the Rhythm and Blues circuit in America and have had big following for years.

Once in while I hear a song that cracks me up open like a summer melon but it is generally as rare as seeing two moons in the night sky. I bring this up because I began watching interviews with Derick Trucks and Susan Tedeski, who are married to one another with children and started the band many years back. 

As is so often the case when I approach the vast world of music; Classical, Jazz, Country, etc, etc... I marvel with envy at the communal  life-style of a musician in today's world. They appear to share an intimate life together while touring in tight living quarters through thick and thin, and their collaborations bring forth a collective creativity. Their work it seems, is almost always linked up with other human beings obviously because music is mostly, almost always a communal experience. 

And this fact that inevitably hits home for me is that visual artists (in the plastic arts) work like hermit crabs, alone with their solitary feelings, their anxieties, fears, panic attacks and basically, just all the neurotic plumbing that creates a personally individual creative vision, remote from the cacophony of a jam session.

Of course there are the musical loners like Satie, holed up in his apartment surrounded by his silent umbrellas, but this is rare. Music is about joining together the feelings of the human experience through humans themselves. 

I can really only speak as a painter, but I do know that this solitary class of craftspeople melts into so many other creative professions too,,, I think of potters, poets and authors, etc, etc,,, just off the top of head. 

Any solitary creative experience is often a lonely one and one must accept that or slowly go crazy. And of course there is the penalty of the family around such an artist. 

I am reminded of all the difficult characters in the Painting World. Half of them died from drink or drugs, many others lived in poverty and died alone, while still others left their families flying high but then low like Icarus. Paul Gaugin, who easily comes to mind, gave up any semblance of a normal Bourgeois life to live in far-off Tahiti. 

The list is long, but nowadays this contemporary life has tamed somewhat the quirky, solitary, misfit artists because after all, WI-FI keeps all sorts of connections going without actually having to spend time getting anywhere, or without having to even be in the same room with another human soul. 

But anyway, I really just wanted to say that I love a great melody, and they are not freely  given out from God easily. They must be earned just like a painter must earn his or her own use of light. 

Like in the Painting World, where there is so much crumby, cheap Painting, the POP music has churned out so much junk too, that one becomes inured it. 

So this melody from Midnight in Harlem really gets me but but it may do the same for others I understand.

21 November 2022

Dreams; prescient, and otherwise

These are small gouache studies done under the dry summer dome of the Drôme. It's funny to see them ten years later where I'm living now next to the sea here in Australia and also actively engaged in paintings done from the actual sea. 

In Montbrison in 2012, I was staying that summer in a small cottage above a shaded garden where I went early to work before the day heated up. I set up an old round iron table under the shadow of a large Tilleul tree (Linden family). Next to me was a tiny brook which ran all summer keeping the space green and the numerous frogs happy. 

I had begun fooling around with gouache in Japan a few months earlier while traveling there. I was really in an excited travel-mode having never been to Japan before. I had packed up and moved from the Belvédère in Dieulefit where I had lived for about twelve years. It was a monstrous move especially because I had no real idea where I was going to live afterward. All I knew was that it was time to move on and make an unknown change in my life. I would be leaving a small village where I had made many friends and acquaintances. I also knew that I wanted to make a voyage far from France that would turn me upside down before taking the next step in life. I had thought to go back to India on a drawing trip but the visa procurement was too complicated for my complicated mind in the middle of the complicated move. Fortunately, my painter friend Giulia Archer who lived in Truinas, a hamlet not far away, allowed me to put everything in her large barn for the interim period. I knew I wanted to go somewhere, to be somewhere in a new place where I could levitate upside down in a lost state in order to mark the transition from the comforts of life in Dieulefit to elsewhere unknown. 

Then it came to me that I would go to Japan. My brother had gone years earlier with his wife and extolled its crazy and beautiful virtues, so I went without hesitation. Of course I loved it like most visitors do who spend enough time on this extraordinary island. (What's not to like as we say in the Bronx?) But I loved it so much I went back again the next year, and if I could afford it I would even return every year. But anyway, that was already ten years ago and since then I have settled here in Australia next to the sea in Northern New South Wales where a thoughtful Muse so serendipitously placed me to focus on the act of Painting.

But for some strange reason after my return from Japan after I had settled into a small cottage life back in Montbrison, only a stone's throw from Dieulefit, and with a head full of uncertainty, I began to make these gouaches in the early mornings. I wasn't consciously thinking of the sea, and I certainly could not have imagined then that I would soon be living next to the Pacific Ocean with the ability to work from it each night. I simply began to make these things out of experimentation, for the uncertain fun of it.

A few were left in an unfinished state and I don't consider any of them great by any means but they do interest me mostly because of their prescient quality. They were speaking to me from the dry heat of Provence about future work, of a future life of which I could not have envisioned though only dreamed of maybe. But I certainly had the sea on my mind for I had prowled around Brittany several times thinking of settling there but nothing came of it. Then, of course the weather had never encouraged this dreamy state. But another surprise for me is that even after living in the remarkable south of France, and bathed in its colours for so many years, could I have possibly imagined I would be blinded by such light as I have found here in Australia.  

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 4 June 2020 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 17 April 2020 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 9 July 2022 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 13 April 2022 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 3 April 2022 oil on canvas board 30 X 25 cm

17 November 2022

Painting as redemption?


Evening Poët Laval, oil on canvas board,  25 X 20 cm

With so many different artistic and contextual mediums, does this contemporary world even need Painting any more? 

OK,,, unseriously,,, who doesn't like a bit of rhetoric? But the question is a good one, one that creeps into my mind continually these days but only after waking in in the morning when I feel heavy with dread. Actually, I try to remain focussed on own love for, and belief in the act of Painting as a way of human redemption because it's my daily reprieve from insanity. I would otherwise be falling into rabbit holes of doubt in each of my extremities because honestly, as most of us know these daze, it's a pretty wild world of distractions out there.

What do I mean by 'a belief in the act of Painting as a way of redemption?'. 

That means that both the painter and viewer can have their minds changed from the experience of a work of art. It's what one can expect from theatre, architecture and music, books and dance, etc, etc,, so why can't we expect the same from painting?

I am certainly changed by the experience of painting, both creating and viewing certain things but then, I'm in the game. The real question is how to touch others.

I put up this very small picture simply because it intrigued me, and because I was the author. I made it four years ago almost exactly. I had seen the small hills across from Poet Laval at dusk while driving down the back way to Dieulefit one night. I stopped and made two studies. The darkening gloom of a red November sky was enticing. Below it, an enormous field of burnt umber. A farmer on his tractor arrived after I had set up in a corner to do some last work. I moved everything to make room for him. He stopped and said hello. In France farmers aren't too shocked by seeing painter in a field at dusk as they would be in Australia. It turned out that he was the husband of the lovely German woman who works in the Post office in Dieulefit and for whom I had always harboured a small crush. And he was a nice as her!

A few years earlier I had lost my fountain pen in the Post and asked her to contact me if it ever turned up. Eight months later, here in Australia, I received a small packet from France with the pen inside and a small note. I was quite surprised but pleased. I sent her a box of chocolates via Amazon. I stopped in on one of my last days there after meeting her husband to say goodbye. There are many acquaintances I cherish from my life in France which I've never really found here in Australia though folks are awfully kind too.

And now this picture reminds me of that dear memory. But I like it too because it is so very Expressionist, and it reminds me of Philip Guston who I like very much. Though he mostly painted so much 'Non-Objective' work, I think if he had worked from a 'motif' he might have done something similar to this small picture, and perhaps he might have even liked it. But I say this somewhat cautiously to the grey clouds overhead. 

10 November 2022

wearing out current fashions


Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 5 November 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 5 November 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick heads, 5 November 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

I recently came across these three studies, all of which were done in November 2019. I was surprised, and even though they were uploaded without any thought I can see now they are in the right order of when they were painted.

On top is the one with a lemon yellow sky and a squiggle of pink clouds over the horizon line. Hovering over that is a pale band of Prussian Blue while below it, like a cellar, is the deep purple sea, and all this beckons the first moments of magnificence when day seeps into night. 

The second one shows the pink band expanding higher up into the sky as the deepening purple sea turns darker and more menacing.

The third one reveals the aftermath when the sea has returned back to blue-green and the sky mellows out into a gentle latticework of muted hues left over like smoke when a match has gone out. 

I can imagine that they may seem too simple, too understated, less interesting, and maybe too boring for viewers, but hey! They please me, and that's what matters most. And its not because I made them, it's because I thing they work. They are believable, and that is really what it's all about whether one paints in allegory, metaphor, or the photo-realism so fashionable in many epochs, sadly. 

Do they live enough beyond the moment? Do they live beyond the morrow? Will they surprise me next week?, or next year? Critically speaking, this is what concerns me the most. Do paintings have enough truth in them to live on beyond the current fashions of the moment? 

I myself, may find them uninteresting (or heaven forbid) boring next year, but if they still possess some truth, they will live on, no matter how much my taste changes over time. If they work truthfully, they will always be immune to current fashions. I was tying to figure out which one I preferred the most, but weirdly, I like them all equally.

05 November 2022

Pan Am, and the light of dusk DownUnder


Pan Am, Myocum, N.S.W. 21 October 2022, oil on plywood, 
140 X 100 cm

Two different paintings, both of which are part of a series entitled Pan Am that I began this past year. This one above, is from October 21st, it's a little smaller than the one below. Unfortunately, neither of them photographs well, I think mostly because they are too large to be seen in such a small window space here on social media. The one below, (pictured with the piano) reveals its true scale while below it, is a detail from it which reveals its colour harmony and a sense of the light in it, for the light, is the most important part of these things. 

That it sits above the piano is too, another side of these pictures, for these are also linked to music and I should say that for me, they are musical, but more about this another time.

I set out to make playful images, images which would only please me first and foremost. Sadly, I don't live in an oversized loft big enough to hang them on large white walls everywhere at once. But hey!...... It's certainly more satisfying to be someone who creates these things in a small space than one who lives in a large space collecting them for a glamorous home. But hey! Thank the muses for wealthy folks who collect art out of love or for other reasons.

Pan Am, Myocum N.S.W. 8 August 2022, oil on plywood, 240 X 120 cm

(detail from above) 

But anyway, this series makes me very happy because I am really obsessed with it, prolifically so, as I see so many images to make from it. It is fertile ground, and like a farmer around here in New South Wales might boast, "there's a whole lotta of good field to plant here".

I am working on several others, even larger ones in the studio (300 X 150 cm), which also please me. There is nothing quite like seeing a big project take form in one's imagination just when one feels big enough to tackle them with a confident optimism. I am too often prone to watching large and wild ideas form like giant clouds in my mind only to then see them dissipate for lack of will.

I think also that this special pleasure comes from the fact that I have struggled for twenty years in search of pathway into a 'Non-Objective Form' and have felt like I've failed so very much, over and over again in this quest. But now, I do see a glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and I seem to have found a way into something, something of great value for me alone, and this strengthens my willpower. 

And to any success with this large project I am embarking upon, I owe all to the very small paintings made from the motif over the past five years. This was my pathway from the beach to the studio, and the mystery in this is rich with irony.

It's not easy to explain, but these little Evening Prayers have led me to a surprising crossroads where the images have teetered closer and closer to a 'Non-Objective' form of imagery. I won't say more abstract because they were abstract already at the beach.

Moreover, it's perhaps something that the author can see more easily than the viewers themselves. But nonetheless, the light of both the sea and the sky (at dusk) in these small studies were the catalyst which steered me to this new place back in the studio.

Is it really possible to render the light of both the twilight sea and sky into a 'Non-Objective' form, one quite removed from the actual feeling experienced both sensorially and empirically in front of the motif? To clarify, can one create something in the studio, far  away from the visual feeling originally felt at the beach? 
These two below (two, among too many, and done one year ago) seemed to reveal to me something yet to come, something on this pathway to a possible future.  

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 10 September 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 9 September 2021, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

02 November 2022

tarte au citron

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 26 October 2022, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 26 October 2022, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

Here are two studies from the other night. After almost a month of not working at the beach motif I was nervous and feeling somewhat ambivalent about even going. But as is always the case, whenever I show up, something happens to change my mind for the better.

I liked these two pictures so I left them in a curious of state of suspension as if unfinished (though they are certainly not). They are fully realised but in an abbreviated state only, yet finished nonetheless. I wonder if this can make sense to others.

When I arrived, the sea was a pale and glassy Prussian Blue/Citron Yellow colour which quickly began to fade into the greyish hue of the second study. 

Like freshly made Tarte au Citron's, these are delicious and sensual colours for me, and if I were at a pastry shop in Paris I would leave with two of them and scarf them both down while walking the streets. And with barely a hint of shame, most tourists will do the same when the strawberries arrive in May and June. This happens all over France.

So I wanted to leave these two studies as fresh and appetising as possible, like straight from the pastry shop. Did I say what was needed to be said with such abbreviated sensuality? Can I get away with that?, Is it enough? I suppose the pictures themselves are proof that I was intuitively satisfied with them at the end of the session.

Time will tell, as it always will.