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Painting and seeing the big picture

Originally posted on November, 30, 2008

I had much to ponder during my yearly walks on the Normandy beaches. For a long time, I’ve closely observed the fabric of our cultural life. So, needless to say, there was much new in that regard. But autumn has for many years been, for me, a period of personal introspection. I have hope that this year’s effort will prove to be insightful and bring some much needed wisdom. Recognition of this need seems to come with age. Hopefully. On the practical side there is the continual need to redefine the search. It seems the creative voice must forever become more clear.

Joyce deals deeply with several aspects of creativity in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”.Henry Thoreau repeatedly writes “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” The excess of details separates us from not only the world around us, but our personal understanding, and any creative efforts we subsequently make.

Back to the beach. This year, my difficulties with writing in general and the writing of this blog become more clear to me. For many years, I solved this problem of writing by simply not doing any. Problem solved. I had been determined to let my painting speak for me and I would keep my mouth shut. I sometimes wonder if I should not have continued to keep it shut. It was enough for me to have a few close friends with whom I could talk. Deeper, theoretical concerns have their own place and I long ago realized my limitations in adequately expressing them.

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Cheap Original Hand Painted Oils

Originally posted on April, 30, 2008

In booksellers booths along the Seine quays in Paris you may purchase “Original Hand Painted Oils? (the sign is in English). The paintings are hand painted (not reproductions), they are done in oil, but original, they are not. Most certainly, mass produced in Chinese Art Factories (see article). The vender is evasive when questioned about where the paintings come from. No telling what they say the tourists? Prices I saw started at 15 euros and went to 85 euros for the largest sizes. They were around 50 cm x 65 cm. Copies of Van Gogh subjects are a favourite it seems.

What happened to the booksellers that previously had these spaces? It had been a while since I had been along the Seine on the left bank. In fact, it has been a while since I’ve spent any time in Paris at all.

Another change I noticed was the lack of the charcoal portrait painters by Notre Dame: On nice days in April? Well, nothing last forever. Maybe the fact that almost every tourist is carrying a digital camera has something to do with this.

I believe technology and the internet have a lot to do with the changes we are seeing. One thing, younger people have grown up pirating music and images. Many of them would not think of purchasing original software: Money for original artwork? It had better be cheap.

I use the word cheap because it seems to me we are losing the cultural elegance to use more delicate descriptions for shlock. As well also not to glorify something demonstrating bad taste: Chinese shlock art on the quays in Paris?

In my mind, there is one and only one valid justification for purchasing a work of art: If it gives you pleasure. A stimulating painting can give you, your children and their children pleasure into the distant future. If the painting is not up to this measure anything spent on it is probably too much.

Galleries and painters are not having an easy time of it at the moment. As always, there remains many committed to high standards of excellence. It will, however, require a lot of courage and perseverance to ride out this tide of …? : What is the word? : May be artistic deprivation. Deprivation both of on the part of many would be artists as well as their public.

Published in french as Huiles originales et pour pas cher


Impressionism was the Day before Yesterday

Originally posted on February, 18, 2008

I believe that most people who read are aware of the anti-intellectual bias. That was written about periodically throughout the twentieth century. Recently, it was written about one more time by an American author, Susan Jacoby. Her decision to write this book was based on a real life experience that took place, I believe, in a New York bar on the day of 11 September 2001. She overheard a conversation between two young men. One of them said to the other that it was like Pearl Harbor. The other asked: “what is Pearl Harbor?? The response was that it was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs on a harbor and started the Vietnam War. Overhearing this conversation was the jolt that prompted her to write yet another book about the intellectual health of our culture. A major book on this subject had already been written. Richard Hostadter covered this theme with his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1963 book, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life?. We are today being informed that in the US two out of three students in their last year of high school cannot read beyond a remedial level. While Europe is in much better shape, the trend is not good.

What does this have to do with art and painting? To adequately address this question would require a much longer article than I have the time to write. Nonetheless, I will continue.

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Freedom from Content

Originally posted on January, 7, 2008

"Purple Pool", watercolor, 38cm x 28cm, 100% cotton paper, 2005

On the main page in the gallery section of my website there is a short introduction: “Somehow I have recently gained a certain distance and freedom from the content of painting…? I have just recently acquired this sense of distance. The paintings I am now doing speak to me of it. Understanding is slowly following.

Since the dawn of modernism almost all of the critical writing has been concerned with the question of decadence. Who are the bad guys and who are the good guys? As long as this state of affairs continues the health of our culture is compromised. There are many more important things to talk about. And where are all the people who used to appreciate painting? For the artist painter today, he has the additional challenge of working in a vacuum. These things come to mind because if as an artist painter we are to have any freedom from the content of our paintings they are important considerations.

Recently, I have been reviewing some of my older painting. I’ve selected a number of paintings done over the last ten twelve years to put on the web site. In the course of doing this I thought quite a bit about content. Paintings done close to 10 years ago were a turning point for me. Before that time I had been struggling with the act of painting. Learning “how”? to paint is one thing. This is something different. For some reason you just begin to relax and enjoy the process of painting. The relationship with the tools, the paint and so forth changes. And choosing what to paint becomes much easier. Everything becomes easier. There is freedom from the content 10 years later. The questions of questions: could this sense of freedom happen at any time? Do we all have to convince ourselves that we deserve it? I certainly hope not.


Published in french as Liberté vis-à-vis du contenu


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