28 June 2023

"You is what you was"

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 June 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

From the other night came this, the first of three studies. The other two were reasonably sedate compared to this but I do remember feeling that I wanted to let go and really make a mess which seems to go against all of my early infant conditioning. 

"Suck it up!" and "Don't make a mess!", Ha Ha. 

As a Thelonious Monk might have said.

"You is what you was".

I'm not even sure how much truth is in this but it sounds good to me now. How does one know how one really was at the beginning of their own life? Lot's of Guru's pretend to know, but who cares what a guru thinks? 

While painting a picture, who, or what, is really in control? I do know that I am working from both spheres of my head, one side interrupts all the learned ability while the other allows it to make mistakes. That is my limited understanding because like the Guru, I don't really care (thank you for this Melania Trump.) 

In any event, while the animal apparently lives comfortably in the chaos of the Right side of the brain, all the computer controls are on the Left, so they say. So despite being a painter whose work is kind of messy, I've always secretly known that I'm ruled by my Left sphere where despite my messy life, it fights to maintain order and cleanliness. 

Thus, the dilemma, for I do find myself actively striving to return to this small cage inside the right side of my brain because I suspect that that's where the fun is located. I know because I see it in so much creative work everywhere around me.

So I begin to see my poor mind as a circus where in the Left side, a Lion tamer rules with pompous insecurity while using the whip and whatever. In the Right side, the wild lion prowls back and forth, waiting for some release but this comes only when the Lion Tamer lets the lion out for a show. 

In my case, from one of the cheap seats under the tent, I always root for the lion because the Lion Tamer is an uptight old white guy who has never made peace with his own lion within.

But all this is not to say that as a painter I believe that just 'Anything Goes', like in a Cole Porter musical. Mais Non! The lion is a wild beast after all so 'Anything Goes' should be mostly reserved for therapy sessions, not museum collections. 

But that doesn't mean that the lion cannot make great stuff nor is forbidden entrance to the museum. But alas, I fear it's as unlikely as winning the lottery. Don't get me wrong, I'm all in for finding one's own Lion and letting it go free to face down the Lion Tamer, but let's just say that I'm against this kind of Lion Tamer.  

So if some of us really do need to live in the Left side of our brains, why can't we have a really cool guy, a sort of a Bohemian who may look a little wonky but really tells it like it is. For instance, like Kramer from Seinfield. Get rid of the tamer and his costume and just hire Kramer instead. (Ok, maybe not all of Kramer, but parts of him anyway. Maybe mix of Kramer and US House Representative Adam Schiff).

OK some of our readers out of the loop both culturally and politically will miss these portraits, but hey, get a life!

So the picture below, done just after the one above, is an uptight study from the Lion Tamer which seems to demand an ordered, pre-formulated  idea that is both controlled and without risk. 

It's not that I dislike it, it's just not the result I usually look forward to each evening. The one thing I do like in it is the strip of warm grey/green that seems to glide across the sky separating the warmth and the cold colour harmonies just like a referee at a boxing match who keep the fighters apart when they begin hugging one another in the corner. This anodyne layer is what I desire most and it's what I covet and sort of crave to see in any painting. It serves as a transitional space between colours but also a surprise of sorts. 

Every picture teaches something and reveals a lesson for the humble painter. A picture is a kind of ultra-sound into a painters's psyche. In this picture I see the Lion Tamer somewhat firmly in control except for this marvelous stripe that throws a poetic wrench into the mix. Every boring picture can often possess small flashes of visual satisfaction.  

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 14 June 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

20 June 2023

The Muses, bon à pétit !

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 13 June 2023, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This is from the other night. I have had a lucky streak over the past few weeks even if I have not been out there as much lately. I am always quite surprised because honestly, I usually feel so ill-prepared, mentally speaking, but physically too. 

But this image answers a sensual need that must be deeply inside me. It’s true, to make a picture like this is really why I paint. I’m continually looking to satisfy an itch, but not to make a point or dazzle viewers with technique, mais non! I’m just looking for sensuality anywhere I can find it. Everywhere, the painter in me searches out layers and globs of colour that will harmonise easily together and correspond with something I’ve seen and felt out there in the motif heretofore hidden away in my subconscious.

But I do like this one very much, and although I don’t believe it be too exceptional, it just feels good to me somehow.  

When a painting comes so easily, but also smoothly with grace at the same time, (and whether or not it is great) I am always so surprised and very pleased that it can happens at all to me. It’s like I’ve won Bingo. 

And somehow, I muse that those infamous ‘Greek Muses’ scooped me up out of a big crowd and said: 

“You must paint this because nobody else will!” 

Sometimes (like today) when visions of grandeur kick in for me, I have this funny little exercise that starts spinning rapidly like a top in my inner brain. It’s like this; I imagine my pictures hanging on old walls in an elegant Hotel de ville somewhere in Europe. There is ample white space everywhere and old wood flooring that creaks in places when one walks across a room. Then, it goes, I imagine these small pictures are separated discreetly by about 800mm with enough space for viewers to gently shift from one image into the next like a slow slide show. These delicate images might also be firmly held by simple and unpretentious frames in order to establish them as sovereign images in themselves, independent from reality outside of these walls. But frames, and what they do, how they function, etc etc..., is a big subject for another time. 

And there! I can see it all in my imagination, a castle built in thin air like I’m Don Quixote, ha ha. 

In truth, so much of my life has been that of a dreamer, a fantasist,,,,, but I’ve changed now, hopefully, I am simply a man who paints small things but dreams big.


16 June 2023

Hélène Leloup and the object of beauty


I have bought lots of artwork over the years but I'm certainly not a collector. Mostly, I buy things I like, but in the past I have often bought paintings and drawings to help out friends who were going through hard financial times. It was a way to support them even if I wasn't necessarily compelled by some deep feeling about the work, something I couldn't live without.. 

But being a painter I am awfully glad that we still have collectors who regularly buy work from artists most of whom are at the mercy of an insensitive and uncomprehending world. Of course, we often read about the celebrity auctions between very wealthy people and a handful of selected artists upon whom the current taste and fashion is receptive, but this can all change in the blip of an interest rate move.

Yet, I have also always sensed another level of art compulsion that worked just underneath that really big money wheel rotating in the silver sky overhead where reside your average folks who just buy 'Art' because they really like it. And some of these people really live and breath it. They consume art and creativity on a daily basis the way most people now consume entertainment and fast food. (Full disclosure: Though I don't actually eat fast food, I do like entertainment for I am not a complete snob even if I still believe in proper etiquette and an interesting conversation.

But I'm really happy that in this oft-times cold and cruel world there are still people who breath and flourish in the middle of these mysterious and unruly storms from which Art is often ejected. Australia is not a country where Art is appreciated at all, But I say this this with compassion because its (mostly white) society is still immature and still developing, so who knows?? 

Culture, like all organic things, both cerebral and obscure, appear to take forever to develop and only curious people have need for it.

Thankfully though, here in Australia, Aboriginal culture is very old and somewhat appreciated (with lukewarm applause) so all is not yet lost here. But the European implant (like me!) still have a long way to go.

Where am I going with is? I am going to the image above, one that captivated me when I saw it this morning in an advertisement. To live with this one, yes, I would beg, borrow and steal. 

That look! The sophistication of simplicity, the pathos of humanity in the face of existence is treated here with dignity and compassion. I would give away all my riches to create such a thing.

I am always on the the prowl for visual imagery. I seem to screen-shot so many images that my phone is like an over-stuffed wallet that one sees in the back pocket of an accountant when he reaches over the buffet to grab three dinner rolls. I am a visual person. Thankfully, I always have been. Curious too, but that is another story irrelevant to this one-sided conversation.

Apparently, Hélène Leloup, (a wonderful name) was also curious because she left her Parisian home for Africa as a young student and she returned a very changed person. She eventually became an important dealer of African and Oceania artefacts while introducing the West to Dogon and Mbembe sculpture among so much else. I know nothing about her, I'd never heard of her before, but like so many extraordinary Parisians she is an unusual woman who has lived an uncommon life.

But what I like in her story is that she lived for something mysterious, something so exotic that it transformed her life completely. That happens to all extraordinary people in so many various fields of work. But that also really happens a lot to people who have been bitten by the Art bug.

So, all this suddenly reminds me of a wonderful film from back in the 1990's with John Malkovich and Andie MacDowell; The Object of Beauty. It's a deliciously depicted tale of very bad behaviour in a high-end London hotel where a deaf-mute chambermaid steals a small Henry Moore statuette from a spoiled, beautiful-looking American couple. When caught at the end of the film the maid was asked why she had taken it, to which she replied that "it spoke to her".  

06 June 2023

"What's not to like???" Uncle Boris in front of Art.


I picked this off Instagram several months ago and I'm wondering how I can qualify my ardent affection for it? What can I say? As the jazz guys used in yesteryear: 

"If you can't dig, I can't help ya"

But in the meantime I don't know who the artist is, alas.

(Addendum!, an astute reader, fellow artist, and also a friend too, emailed me the name of the heretofore unknown artist whom he found on the net through a process called reverse Google?? Anyway, the artist is Jochem Rotteveel, and somehow it makes perfect sense (and I have absolutely no idea why) that he be Dutch, and from The Hague! But I thank David Hickson for his input)

What do I like about it?? Always a good question! I like that it was designed in a colourful and wonky kind of paper/plastic seal but constructed as a bona fide Painting. It has a curious sort of unity that relates all the different elements together almost as if it were  a sovereign  flag representing a really cool but homeless community of graphic designers.

The colour harmony works well as do the shapes and sizes of each of these coloured pieces. It has all the elements I love in a picture but it also shocks in an amusing way. It is unified! That is to say that all the separate coloured elements come together to form something as one, indivisible. Great!

"What's not to like??" as my Uncle Boris from Odessa would say with a shrug?

Looking at it, I begin to wonder if its origin isn't from a simplified design blown up from an image on Photoshop or Illustrator then put through a filter rendering it, and spitting it out in chunky pieces of colour and zoomed in.

But hey!,,,, what do I know?,,,,, I'm just a guy from Odessa who likes irony.