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Archive for the ‘THOUGHTS ON ART’ Category

I was doing some preliminary sketches for some new paintings I have in mind the other day, happily subscribing to those limitations which keep the enemy of art at bay.

As I drew it occurred to me that the objects and the model before me no longer remained separate things in themselves. What I mean by this is that as I drew I became aware that I was working towards some inner aspect, reaching towards “the germ of that object” which is the work to be born.

It was something like grasping at an aspect or element of mystery wired into matter or of matter, in so far as what is being grasped at can be lain down into a construction of values, lines and colors.

It may very well be the case that what is looked for in visible things must have the same kind of inner depth and inexhaustible potentialities for revelation as the Self of the painter.

Perhaps this might account for that dissatisfaction so often felt by painters, feeling as we often must, that the buried significance of inner things escape us in proportion as we take hold of it.

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I had just finished reading a collection of short stories by Mark Samuels and though I was able to appreciate them, being fine examples of the weird tradition in the current literature of this kind, I cannot say that I enjoyed them particularly.  Yet threaded throughout were a number of well considered thoughts wonderfully expressed.  One “pseudo excerpt” in particular, the author having attributed it to Thomas De Quincey, is still rattling around my head.  It runs thus:

“We continually regard what is miraculous as merely commonplace by virtue of extreme familiarity.”

In short, for those in search of the miraculous: look no further but rather, Look!

The author is of course concerned with language, something that is suggestive of great mystery; a proof, he says, that this cosmos is not easily explained!  It’s occurred to me that, perhaps coeval to speech, was the desire to make pictures.  Between what is written and what is painted there has always been a relationship; a constant since antiquity if I am not mistaken.   It was in those days the poet who determined in what manner a thing ought to be represented – its secondary detailing and embellishment alone being left to the creative powers of the artist to suggest.

I believe that the concerns of both Artist and Author are closely united.  Each unveils in a manner appropriate to their mode of expression a facet of the common place heightened to the imminence and reality of experience renewed; a peak experience as Colin Wilson terms it, divested from the short sighted preoccupations of immediate physical and emotional concerns.

Words and Pictures help to cultivate our curiosity and wonder without which, the world slips into a boring and benighted procession of catalogued forms pointlessly self repeating.  Not only is our will sapped when an unbalanced view of this kind prevails but we soon find our depth of experience prey to the emptiness of promised novelty and distraction.

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Art and Politics

Art is not some free floating agent miraculously cut loose from the common life of social and historical realities.

Art is political only in as much as it strives to come to grips with underlying metaphysical structures which underpin any number of political claims.

When art is joined to politics of the moment it becomes a fade away affair notable only for its connection to the historical incident that necessitated it.

Li Huayi is a fantastic Chinese painter whose earlier artistic career illustrates something of what I mean by the above statement.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHizMRo_T_M

In counterpoint, here is a brilliant painter who worked happily enough in collusion with any regime that happened to be in power…Jacques-Louis David.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJVCtPrJ7NQ

A minor though more pernicious variant of this opportunism is evident when a dominant theme, meme, hashtag or fascination – that is to say, any more or less transient issue with which we distract ourselves, including all preoccupation with celebrity and entertainment – is transformed into a visual conceit for profitable consumption; a kind of meager, cynical intellectual affectation with a shelf life comparable to the brevity and relevance of the very thing that caused it to come into being in the first place.

Whereas the former may be categorized as work done under the gun (I’m not talking about speed of production here ladies and gentlemen) the latter is plainly novelty capriciously exploited in the hopes of getting ones hook into the public imagination for the sake of a quick cash or opinion grab.

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Artists need solitude.  Too much time is wasted on the pose, playing the part, attempting to seduce the world at large with a glittering surface.
Solitude is necessary if you wish to cut through the noise of expectation, self image and desire.

An effort must also be made to avoid the false echo of private romance. It may charm but indulging it will only serve to hamper if not entirely prevent the possibility of forming an authentic relationship between the observer and the observed.  In its place we would have every kind of conceptual shackle foisted upon a world that would otherwise freely yield, without coercion, a host of conceptions and ideas, harmonizing the many facets of its own nature to our own level of understanding and ability as painters.

Artists also need one another.  They need friendship.  They need criticism that can be learned from and admiration that strengthens rather than corrupts.  This becomes especially important when one’s work is critiqued as there is no guarantee that it will be assessed by highly competent and constructive critics.  It is more likely that you will be either pointlessly trashed or stupidly celebrated. 

That being said…

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It’s Still life

There have been times when I’ve suspected the objects around me of having revealed or perhaps taken up curious and unlooked for suggestions, pulling a host of strange significances and fascination from… well… that is the mystery, isn’t it?

As it is, I’m someone merely passing through, exercising at best a kind of temporary stewardship over all the little things I have come to view as my own.  I catch myself looking at a particular book placed irregularly upon the shelf or regarding a clump of melted wax, my chess set whose chipped edge remains beautifully marred from accident or play and I am left with a feeling that I am surrounded by things possessing a sentience I would normally not suppose them to have and a life that may very well continue to exist in some vital way beyond the diverging tangent that is my own.

A sense of being observed is also intuited – such has been my experience anyway.  A dialogue that might be called co-natural appears to develop between the observer and a world that looks back, regarding the artist in turn, with its own questions and requirements.

Whether this dialogue can be considered inspiration, I cannot say.  I think it is more likely a way to inspiration rather than inspiration itself.  Whatever the case it is always there and its promptings never fully abate until the impulse to do whatever is required of me is finally realised on canvas.  Is it any wonder that we can’t look at a painting without thinking of it as somehow being “still life”?

In`an`i`ma´tion

n. 1. Lack of animation; lifeless; dullness.

1. Infusion of life or vigor; animation; inspiration.

The inanimation of Christ living and breathing within us.

– Bp. Hall.

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There are those who contend the authenticity of this statement being ascribed to Picasso.  I do not believe that this in anyway detracts from the truth of what is being said either way.  So with that in mind.. here we go:

“From the moment that art ceases to be food that feeds the best minds, the artist can use his talents to perform all the tricks of the intellectual charlatan.  Most people can today no longer expect to receive consolation and exaltation from art. The ‘re-fined, ‘the rich, the professional ‘do-nothing, ‘the distillers of quintessence desire only the peculiar, the sensational, the eccen-tric, the scandalous in today’s art.  I myself, since the advent of Cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my mind.  The less they understood them, the more they admired me. Through amusing myself with all absurd farces, I became celebrated, and very rapidly.  For a painter, celebrity means sales and consequent affluence. Today as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich.  But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not it the grand old meaning of the word; Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, were great painters.  I am only a public clown – a mountebank. I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries.  It is a bitter con-fession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last it does have the merit of being honest.”

Pablo Picasso, 1952

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