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Posts Tagged ‘Painting’

Édouard Vuillard – Landscape at Saint-Jacut

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To say that a thing is beautiful is simply an act of faith, not a measurement on some kind of scale.

–Édouard Vuillard

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If you asked me about my favorite painters, Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) is not a name that would come to mind. In fact, I never even gave much thought to his work and didn’t have much of an opinion on it. I knew a little bit about the interior scenes for which he is well known but if you asked me to name or even describe his best known work, I would be at a loss.

But the more I look and the more I see of his work, the more of a fan I become of Édouard Vuillard. There is such a wide array of style in the body of his work that shows his exploration and growth.

The interior scenes I once shrugged over now seem to be wonderfully dense explorations into abstraction, pattern and color. There is so much to latch onto in each piece that a cursory glimpse doesn’t often suffice. I now see his work with a bit of a sense of awe and can honestly take that leap of faith and say that I see them as beautiful.

I even like a few of the things from him I have read, like the words at the top. Beauty is indeed subjective, not measurable with any set scale. My sense of beauty may well differ from yours. You may be moved by things that do nothing for me and vice versa. I don’t know that there is any one things, any one piece of art, that is absolutely beautiful to everyone.

Maybe there is. Who knows? Certainly not me.

He also wrote: I do not belong to any school, I simply want to do something that is personal to my self

These words depict that need to create something that is only mine, not something instantly attributable to a school or movement or any other artist, that has always been the driving force behind my own work. I don’t know that I have always been successful but I can say that Vuillard definitively did create a distinct body of art, beautiful work that is all his own.

Just good stuff. Here are a few examples from a sea of choices.

 

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The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.

–Flannery O’Connor

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I think you could probably substitute artist in for writer in the words above from author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) without changing the gist of the thought too much. All art, and literature certainly falls into that category, is about transforming the now of the creation– the time and place— into something beyond that moment, into something timeless–the eternity to which O’Connor refers.

Finding that intersection where those two things come together is, as she points out, not such as easy thing to accomplish. And almost every instance the artist will never know if they have come to those crossroads that moves their work into the realm of the eternal.

I guess the finding is immaterial without the seeking. And seeking without any assurance of finding something that will ever reveal itself to you is an act of faith, a belief that there something eternal worth seeking.

I don’t know what else to call it. You keep trying. You think it is near sometimes but when you finally come to it, you’re not sure enough of what you’re experiencing to stop seeking.

Does one ever know when they have come to that crossroads?

That being said, here’s this week’s Sunday morning music from a longtime favorite of mine, Tracy Chapman. I think her body of work sometimes get overlooked in the deluge of the new but every time I come back to her, I wonder how I have let her slip out of mind. Here’s a song that fits the subject here, Crossroads, to accompany the painting at the top, Beyond the Crossroads, from back in 2004.

Have a good Sunday, okay?

 

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Peter Doig- Swamped 1990

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I sometimes wish I had never had to sell a painting. Every painting you make represents the time it was made and how you were feeling and what your influences were… You are never going to feel that way again, so you can never repeat it…

–Peter Doig 

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I shouldn’t make such a blanket statement but I doubt that most of you out there know the name of the contemporary artist Peter Doig. I know that I wasn’t fully aware of him until a decade or so back and even then only on a passing basis where I would stop and examine his work when I would come across it in an article. The piece at the top always made me stop and look a bit closer.

But the fact of the matter is that the Scottish born Doig (b. 1959) is perhaps the most sought after living artist working today with works selling for the tens of millions at auction. Of the 9 paintings shown here, only one sold for less than $10 million at auction. The most expensive sold for over $ 28 million. I won’t tell you which is which. There were many others on the auction sites that sold for between 1 and 4 million that I didn’t include.

These prices always open up a debate with lots of questions on the relative value of artwork. What makes a work worth $28 million? Does the auction value of the work determine its importance or does its importance determine its value? Is the working and thinking process of this artist that much different than that of an artist that sells for tremendously less?

You might think from the direction this seems to be heading that I am decrying Doig’s work selling for what I believe are ludicrous sums. I am not. I very much like and admire his work. I can see those elements in it that make it distinct. It is good and great work and might very well be among the most important work from this time. If his work can bring in that kind of money, I applaud him.

I am, if anything, criticizing myself for not having the ability– or knowledge or audacity– to command such prices. I know that the price of a piece of art sometimes determines how serious collectors view it and that a great piece can be overlooked simply because it is too inexpensive, at least by the standards of collectors.

That has happened to me at times.

In some galleries, my works sits at the top end of their market and in others, in the middle or near the bottom of their price ranges. While I am satisfied with that, I firmly believe that my work is greatly undervalued across the board, that it should be demanding much higher prices.

Now, that sounds like confidence, doesn’t it? Maybe even overconfidence?

Actually, it is the opposite of that. It is a lack of confidence and a bit of fear that keeps the prices of my work in the range where they are and have been. While I have the belief in the relative value of my work, I just don’t have the guts to make that jump.

I have been poor in my life and it wasn’t that long ago that I was dead broke and I think that tempers my ambitions, as far as pricing my work is concerned. I like to have my work sell and make a living from it. I take pride in being able to live off of the product of my own thoughts and imagination. And I find a sense of security in being able to provide what I consider high quality work at prices that make it obtainable for more people than if it were in a much higher range– it’s undervaluation generally means that the work will sell eventually.

Maybe I am too comfortable and seeing Mr. Doig’s prices just nudges me a bit, telling me to be less comfortable, to be more proactive.

I don’t know. Just thinking out loud this morning. I wrote this because much of what I have read about and from Doig jibes with my own experiences, including the quote at the top. For all the talk about prices, every real piece of art represents a certain time and place for that artist, one that is distinct and not repeatable. I know that I will sometimes look at a piece and remember the days I spent in front of it while painting it. That time, that thought process is burned into my psyche and will never happen again in the same way.

Anyway, lets’s push aside thoughts of money for now and just look at the paintings of Peter Doig a bit more.

Peter Doig- Rosedale 1991

Peter Doig– Red House 1995

Peter Doig– Island Painting 2000/01

Peter Doig– Grasshopper 1990

Peter Doig — Daytime Astronomy 1998/99

Peter Doig– Charley’s Space 1990

Peter Doig– Forestia 1996

Peter Doig– Almost Grown 2000

 

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“I’m not sure this will make sense to you but I felt as though I’d turned around to look in a different direction so that I no longer faced backward toward the past but forward toward the future. And now the question confronting me was this: What would the future be”

― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

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This small painting that is hanging as part of the Little Gems exhibit at the West End Gallery (opening Friday, February 7) is titled Memoir.

The thought behind that title was that that while the future seems uncertain as we look forward, our pasts as we recall them are often just as uncertain.

Our personal histories are a patchwork, like the sky in this painting, of half memories and dimly lit stories. Faces and names fade. Words once spoken are lost in the void. We have grainy snips and snaps of what we recall as significant moments and some surprisingly sharp images of insignificant moments that puzzle us, leaving us to wonder why they remain so clear.

Do they mean something more and we just don’t see their true meaning?

I looked at this small piece and wondered what I would include in my memoir. What would I pull from that haphazard patchwork that I would want to share now and into the future?

After sifting through the shards of broken memories, I come to the conclusion that I don’t want to write a memoir. Let my memoir show itself in my work, let my story be told in paint and line and shapes, a crude group of hieroglyphs that will no doubt go untranslated in generations to come.

Let the future, if it is so inclined, write my past. That shall be memoir enough for me.

For this Sunday morning music, here’s a song to go along with this painting. It’s the Nick Lowe pop classic, When I Write the Book.

Have a good Sunday.

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The world was on fire and no one could save me but you
It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do

Chris Isaak, Wicked Game

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Another piece headed to the West End Gallery for their annual Little Gems exhibit, opening next Friday, February 7. It’s called Wicked Game after the title of the Chris Isaak song from 1989. Wow, hard to believe it’s been that long. But that opening line– The world was on fire…— was the first thing that came to mind when I finished this little piece.

It fit the painting.

As does the second line– It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do…– which fits the time, this particular moment in history as we watch a Republican party so fixated on their desire to maintain power that they will turn a blind eye to the corruption of our system that has taken place in the open for us all to see. The question of whether they will ever stand up for truth and justice, against those wrongs we know have been done and those we expect will be done in the future, seems to leaning toward a big and emphatic NO.

Doing that which is right even when it doesn’t personally benefit you or goes against your personal interests is a noble and honorable thing.

Don’t expect to see such a thing anytime soon.

Like the song says: It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do. Put on your seatbelts, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Here’s the original from Chris Isaak.

 

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Marc Chagall- Paris Through My Window 1913

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If a symbol should be discovered in a painting of mine, it was not my intention. It is a result I did not seek. It is something that may be found afterwards, and which can be interpreted according to taste.

–Marc Chagall

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I love that a painter like Marc Chagall whose work is seemingly teeming with symbols never painted them with the intention of becoming such. It seems hard to believe but I believe him and understand what he’s saying. So often something in a painting gets picked up on by a viewer who infuses personal meaning onto it.

It becomes something more.

And even after it has attained symbolic status, it is stilled created in later iterations without that in mind. At the moment of creation, it’s just about giving the vision a sense of completeness. It is simply what it is at that moment and becomes something else afterward.

Another favorite of mine, Richard Diebenkorn, said pretty much the same thing: I trust the symbol that is arrived at in the making of the painting. Meaningful symbols aren’t invented as such, they are made or discovered as symbol later. 

Basically, the artist paints first then translates after the fact.

Hey, symbols happen.

That works for me and I think this is the case for most artists. I don’t really know for sure. I am sure there artists who wouldn’t agree with this, especially those who deal in allegorical work which is symbolic by design, and that’s fine. Everyone has their own mode of operation that hopefully works for them.

That being said, this is just an excuse to look at some Chagall paintings and the symbols in them.

Marc Chagall- La Vie 1964

Marc Chagall- The Night the Sun Rose

Marc Chagall Over Vitebsk 1915-20

 

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I have written a little in the last week or so about the wildfires that are devastating the landscape, people and wildlife of Australia. It’s on a scale that I don’t think we can really envision. I saw the diagram above that allowed you to move a circle the approximate size of the acreage  that has burned in Australia over a map so that you can see how it would affect an area that you might recognize.

The image above is from an area that encompasses my home, extending all the way to NYC, covering all of the Pocono Mountains along with most of the Endless Mountains and the Catskills, most of central and eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, down to Philadelphia and into Delaware. If you’re familiar with this area, you know that it’s a substantial area.

Imagine, one day as you drive to NYC, that everything is suddenly gone. Every tree burned and every inch of ground scorched. The once verdant valleys that extend off of the highways for miles and miles in all directions stripped of all life. And not for just a short stretch of highway but for the entire drive.

Hour after hour of a suddenly empty, barren landscape extending as far as you can see.

There are no animals. There is nothing– no food nor shelter–there for those that may have somehow survived. And nowhere to go.

That’s pretty much the scenario that is taking place in Australia.

They are saying that perhaps a billion and a half creatures have perished in the fire. That is an incomprehensible figure, one that makes any effort to help seem so small, so insignificant.

But that is what it takes to recover from such a great blow– one small step to begin. Instead of wringing our hands and saying that there’s nothing we can do, we can do one small thing. A lot of people doing seemingly small things suddenly becomes a large and effective thing.

I don’t have many resources but what I can do, my small step, is to auction off a painting and direct the funds to a wildlife charity in Australia that is deeply involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of the affected wildlife in Australia. My research has led me to the organization, Wildlife Rescue Australia or WIRES as they are known. They are largest wildlife rescue organization in Australia. Though they are especially suited to this mission, they are in need of all the assistance they can get. This will require years and much effort to restore the environment and animals to this land.

The painting I am auctioning is below. It is titled A Clearing Comes and is a piece that is a favorite of mine, one that I had to convince myself to part with. I also think it’s one whose message and feel is relevant to this circumstance. I see the crow in the dead tree as being symbolic of the wildlife enduring the devastation. The sky, while dark and portentous, is clearing and the Red Tree and the richly colored fields in the distance represent a better, more hopeful future.

The painting is on paper and is matted under glass in my standard hand stained 16″ by 20″ frame. It has a value of $1600. The bidding starts at $500, please. I will end the auction at once if there is a bid reaching a maximum $1750. You can bid in the comments section or, if you desire privacy, you can email your bid ( please put AUCTION in the subject line) to info@gcmyers.com. I will ship the painting at my expense and will include a few additional doodads and geegaws to the winning bidder. Unless someone bids the maximum $1750, the bidding ends Saturday, January 18, at 12 noon EST. I will provide proof of all funds being donated to the winning bidder, as well.

I will post updates throughout the next few days.

So, if you can, take a step and help in some small way.

9:45 AM Update: There is a bid for $500.

10:15 AM Update: Current bid is now $1000.

A Clearing Comes- Auction for Australian Wildlife

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