Friday, January 17, 2014

Bread and Eggs
18 x 20   Oil on Linen

I was lying awake in bed last night thinking about how to teach my students to create atmosphere in a painting. Painting something you can't see is much more difficult than painting the observed physical forms in front of you. Perhaps if I presented it as painting a concept, as opposed to an object, I might be able to break through. I went to the computer to see what I could find about conceptual art, hoping to find something useful for my lesson. The definition of conceptual art is a rather free floating concept itself but basically any work of art where the original idea, the concept, is more important than the actual work qualifies. Then I went to my website and reread my artist's statement, I use still lifes and landscapes and figures to explore the possibilities of light and space and mystery in a painting it said. I clicked on the image of my Bread and Eggs painting which is not at all about bread and eggs and fruit but rather is about luminosity and atmosphere, design and color. That sounds like conceptual art to me I thought so I went to see the exhibit at the Tate, a comprehensive history of conceptual art starting with what they call preconceptual art, Turner's late seascapes and Whistler's arrangements and symphonies, and then moves on to classic conceptual pieces like Duchamp's urinal/fountain, and there are installations of course, one with a room full of people seated quietly in the middle of the room examining their reactions as lights of varying color and intensity and duration flashed around them, and another where everyone walked through a collection of objects from the life of the artist, again in silence, installations almost always require silence, and observed their feelings about those objects and then discussed those feelings in front of a video camera as they emerged on the far side of the room, thus participating in and becoming a part of the work, then postconceptual work like Damian Hirst's bisected and dissected animals in formaldehyde and Tracy Emin's bed and the last room labeled neo-postconceptual art is filled with my paintings and there is Damian Hirst standing in front of my Bread and Eggs saying "I don't get this stuff", paintings do not require silence, and Tracy Emin bent over reading the curator's text on the wall trying to find out why this is important since has nothing to do with her life or who she has slept with and then I hear music, a Beethoven string quartet, one of his  Razumovsky quartets, and I think what an interesting choice of music for this exhibit, then realize it is my alarm clock, set on the radio mode. I got up and showered and headed out to catch the train to the NY, to try to explain to my students how to create atmosphere in a painting.....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Slate Valley Farm
9 x 12  Oil on Linen

I was looking through a catalog* of Constable's paintings recently and came across the following passage, which I offer as a consolation to any artist who has ever entered a painting in a juried competition.

In 1830 the Royal Academy Council, of which Constable was a member, met to consider entries for the annual Exhibition. An eyewitness reported the following occurence:
a small landscape was brought to judgement; it was not received with favor. The first judge said "That's a poor thing"; the next muttered "It's very green"; in short, the picture had to stand the fire of animadversion from everybody but Constable, the last remark being "It's devilish bad - cross it". Constable rose, took a couple of steps in front, turned round, and faced the Council. "That picture," said he, "was painted by me. I had a notion that some of you didn't like my work, and this is a pretty convincing proof. I am very much obliged to you", making a low bow. "Dear, dear!" said the President [Martin Archer Shee]..., "how came that picture amongst the outsiders? Bring it back; it must be admitted, of course." "No! it must not" said Constable; "out it goes!" and, in spite of apology and entreaty, out it went.....

 * John Constable by Conal Shields and Leslie Parris. Published by Tate Gallery Publications, 1985