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Oil Painting & Health

June 29th, 2011

No need today to point out that solvents are not good for you. Particularly if you expose yourself to them several hours on a daily basis. It was probably 25 years ago that I had an interesting conversation with a Winsor & Newton rep. about solvents. He was himself a painter and lost fellow painters to lung cancer. It was actually before this time that I had stopped painting oils for health reasons. But everytime my health improved I would do some oil painting. And always I searched for a long term solution. I never found one that was satisfactory. Nothing for me replaced oil and turpentine. So, a couple of years ago I stopped painting. Again for health reasons. And, ultimately, the solution was simple. Stop using solvents. I told myself that I would give it one year. I began painting with oil straight from the tube with only linseed or safflower oil used to moisten and clean the brush. I’m heading into my ninth month and am begining to feel pretty good about the results. I have a personal exhibit in August and want to show fresh work. So, wish me luck. Soon, I’ll take some photos and start posting them.

Published in french as Peinture à l’huile et santé

The Hidden Order of Painting

May 27th, 2011

On this blog I’ve been beating the bushes. The approach to the muse, however, is not a path which can be marked with words nor delineated with sign posts. And yet I continue to write articles as if it were not the case.

Rex Brandt said: “We do not paint things, we paint relationships.” True as far as it goes. If only it were so simple. Statements like this seem to entrench in the mind and we can easily lose the context. Rex was very much concerned with his medium of watercolor paint. I point this out as an example of how easily the message is compromised with a sign such expressed in blunt terms.

Delacroix said something that addresses what I’m trying to get at. He said the problem with many painters was they used coloration rather than color. He implies that they are not completely devoted to color and their medium.

If we say we do not paint things, we paint relationship in terms of a colored medium I believe we get closer to the crux of our problem as artists. I might add that to paint relationships we must become deeply involved in the initial experience. That very first impression which strikes strongly and ignites the process needs much nurturing. Carrying this around in our heads for a good period of time the muse may visit as we paint. That is the primary relationship.

Published in french as L’ordre caché en peinture

Art & Man Mechanized

April 1st, 2011

Well, first the move and all that entailed. Then over the last few months world events have drawn attention. Japan! What is this world coming to? In the midst of this I’m attempting to “produce” work for two personal exhibits this summer.

What to say? First and foremost, my heart goes out to the Japanese people. Words in this regard are totally inadequate. I’ve experienced some deeply moving moments in reflection. The following touches some of the highlights. Bear in mind these are verbal thoughts which miss the essence of the experience. They are, however, perhaps valuable on their own merit.

Everything to follow is based on a biased view towards human life quite outside the norm. Having said that, I need add that at my age I no longer feel any sense of judgment towards the society in which I live. Quite the contrary. I’ve written elsewhere about my opinion that our evolution is not done in a progressive linear manner. This has been well documented in the case of prehistoric cave paintings. But we do progress. It may be that over a given 100 year period we progress in humanistic manner 100 steps. Perhaps in the next few year we digress 99 steps. Well, that is still a net advance of 1 step. Has not our value of the human life progressed in this manner? Ever so slowly has the dignity and quality of the individual human life improved.

This model held true until the last 150 years. The photographic image has both directly and indirectly transformed our artistic/esthetic sensibilities. We have yet to begin understanding its significance. A, short, few decades later industrialization was in full swing. And given the choice between a horseless carriage and its alternative we started down the slippery road of mass consumption.

This abbreviated digression was necessary to preface what I wanted to say about my special experience. I felt a deep sense of identity with the Japanese people. This could not have been possible the day before yesterday. Many; if not most of us now can have the feeling of being in the same boat together.

My hope is that this catastrophic event may trigger steps in a different direction. Perhaps an understanding that a world devoid of artistic and esthetic sensibilities is a world that stepped into a deep precipice. If we do not come to our senses someday we will believe when looking back at the fruit of Western Civilization … “well, you can’t get back there from here.” Humanity will have become blind to the importance artistic sensibilities hold for society at large.

Here it is in a nutshell; If the big questions become muted, then the important question of, “how man should live”, becomes as important or unimportant as how ants should live.

Published in french as La mécanisation de l’homme et de l’art

Comment and Answer : The Truth of the Painter

December 9th, 2010

Anne says :

The truth, where is it? The truth what is it ?
Large question indeed.
Is not the truth subjective ?
Physically, it depends upon the point of view.
For exemple, Is a photography a true representation of reality? It is rather the vision of it that the photographer has wanted to give by not putting into it the garbage which is just outside the shot. The notion of in the field of vision / outside the field is already an interpretation witting or unwitting of the “Truth”.
Psychologically, the truth is even more subjective ?
Two persons will live a given situation in two very different ways. And however this experience is one (in the meaning unique) and therefore it has a priori only one truth. This makes me think about factual truth. After all a fact is a fact, unquestionable, confirmed.
But though, in history, the historical thought based upon real facts is in constant evolution. In science, the verity of to day will not be the truth of to morrow.! The discovery of a new “scientifical truth” will shake the truth.
I think we need to ask ourselves the question of the truth that we accept: our own truth, the one of our family, of our kin, of our colleague, of our culture, of our time. And for art, with my poor knowledge in this area, I think that the essential is that the artist respects hi truth, his own truth in the instant he is creating ( so “be true towards yourself”).
I agree with Corot about the truth of the first impression.
We finally come back most of the time to our first impression about people, about the landscape, about the content of our plate (here visual), about our future housing, about our work, about the work what we are looking at.

Denis responds :

Thank you Anne for your thoughtful remarks.

Here is the bottom line for me, I believe that what we see and what we think about that experience is important. We arrive at an understanding of what the words we use to describe and explain things represent. When they arrive at the point of becoming abstractions we can then get those words into perspective. In this context, it is not the things we know that create problems for us … it is the things we know that are not so. A poor grasp of abstract thought or abstract words compounds those problems. (I’ll write more about this probblem in a future article.) Art is largely about a good grasp of the tradition of painting and problem solving, not the pursuit of abstractions such as our common understanding of the word truth.

As you see, Anne, I am short on answers, long on questions. I trust that my studies and intuition lead me to good ones. This, I believe is the path of a painter.

Ciao, Denis,

Published in french as Commentaire et réponse sur “La vérité du peintre”

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