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Posts Tagged ‘Georges Braque’

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Art is polymorphic. A picture appears to each onlooker under a different guise.

–Georges Braque

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Polymorphic.

I like the sound of the word and the fact it describes the idea that every picture is seen by each viewer in a distinct way. Everyone responds to whatever speaks loudest to them in that picture. Some respond to the colors or forms. Some to textures or brushwork. Some to the subject represented and some to an emotion felt by them that they see in the picture.

As an artist, you often see your own work in one way which is your own personal take on a particular piece. As such, you expect others to see it in the same way. But after a while of being an artist you begin to understand that the polymorphic piece that inspires different responses and interpretations in others is what you desire for your work.

It means the work is beyond the flatness of a single unified response. It is fuller, with more levels of depth of meaning and expression. It means the work has moved beyond your control and become something more, with its own voice and message that is beyond any contrivance you might impose on it.

It’s actually an exciting thing to have others respond to your work in ways you never anticipated, even when it widely swerves from what you yourself saw in it. You know it’s alive then.

And that’s what you seek as an artist– polymorphic creations.

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I have made a great discovery. I no longer believe in anything. Objects don’t exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them and myself. When one attains this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual non-existence, what I can only describe as a sense of peace, which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation. That is true poetry.

Georges Braque

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Just about anything I read  from Georges Braque (1882-1963) makes me stop and think. I am still trying to digest this. In one moment it makes perfect sense and aligns with my own thoughts while the next it confounds me, like I’ve turned down a street that is totally unrecognizable. Not sure which way to turn.

But there is something in the pondering that makes me think it might be worthwhile.

Braque had a pretty amazing career, moving from Impressionism to Cubism to Fauvism and Expressionism with his own unique voice. Here are some of my favorites.

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Truth exists. Only lies are invented.

Georges Braque

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I am in the studio, looking at a new larger painting on my easel that is nearing completion. The words above Braque clang around in my mind as I look at it.

The painting is strictly an invention, a representation of a nonexistent place.

I ask myself, “Is it therefore a lie?”

No, of course not.

The painting is a true expression of my emotion and existence. That place represented on the canvas exists within me.  And maybe within others who see its symbolic truth.

But I think I know what Braque means with his words. I have some paintings in the studio that I know are lies, not done with honest emotion. They aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, a few have a shiny appeal and have an appearance of truth in them. But there is something just a bit off in the way they come across to me, like hearing the words of a well constructed lie that you know in fact to be untrue.

And if that feeling comes across to me, it no doubt does the same for some others, as well. Not everyone. Some people don’t want to look beyond the surface and are willing to accept the lie before them because it somehow fits their own needs. For them, it is an acceptable truth.

It is a useful lie that serves a purpose to fill their personal need.

And that is okay.

Well, at least it’s okay in the realm of art which is based on personal and subjective preferences.

In other aspects of this life, I think we are finding that this casual acceptance of invented lies can have dire consequences.

Hopefully, truth prevails…

 

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My post yesterday was about the guitarist Django Reinhardt and the beauty of the guitars he played.  I replied in a comment that I was surprised more painters didn’t use the guitar as a subject because, to me, it has a feeling of iconic expression.  It’s there in the shape of the instrument with its sensuous curves and neck.  The way the player holds- no, embraces the guitar.  The way they move their hands over the strings. 

It made me wonder how often the guitar had been used as subject and prompted to me to do a quick search. Now I don’t know what most people think and I don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of art history but for me the piece that must be the most recognized is Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist from his Blue Period, around 1903.  I have used this piece as the inspiration for paintings of my own and love the expessiveness of the hands and the bow of the player’s neck.

Another was from Georges Braque, one of the prominent names in Cubism with Picasso.  His Woman With a Guitar from 1913, shown here, is a beautiful example of the Cubist style.  I’m not sure it carries the emotional impact of the Picasso piece above but it is a fine piece.

Many of the earlier paintings I found containing stringed instruments were not guitars but lutes.  Perhaps the best of these paintings is this gorgeous painting from Vermeer, The Guitar Player.  On closer examination, you can see that it is a lute.  But it’s such a beautiful piece of painting, does it really matter?

Renoir- Young Spanish Woman with Guitar

Edouard Manet used the guitar player as a subject in several paintings as did Auguste Renoir.  Renoir really seized on the romantic aspect of the instrument which worked well with his style.  His players, usually his female subjects, cradle the instruments in a number of paintings.

There are certainly many, many more paintings out there that I failed to see or mention.  If you come across one that strikes your fancy, let me know.  There are some new kitschy paintings out there that are painted to appeal to guitar owners, not to actually create a sense of emotion which is  what I’m discussing here.  I’m talking about using the guitar as a subject for expression in the paintings, not simply as an object.

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