Posts Tagged ‘Phillip Glass’

While searching for a piece of music to feature here this morning, I found myself looking over at this new painting shown here as I listened to the music. As usual, the search had me running down rabbit holes that sent me in all different directions, none that satisfied me enough to want to share it.

Then I somehow ended up on this modern classical piano piece from composer Phillip Glass, Etude No. 14, played by pianist Vikingur Olafsson. There’s a part in it, starting at about 1:15, that the sound and this painting just seemed to mesh for me, filling out the feeling that I was experiencing as I was taking it in.

It is a painting that is still on the easel, near completion or so I think. I am in that part of the process where I am still examining it, absorbing it to see what it has for me, what it’s trying to say to and for me. And here, the music created a narrative line that pulled me and the image together.

It’s hard to explain. Everybody sees art differently, having different expectations of what they hope to extract from it, if anything. I think a lot of folks don’t even think about those expectations and just react to what is before them. I do that as well and it is generally gives a true response.

But more often I see art as an existential puzzle with pieces that provide clues as to our meaning and purpose. There are works that attract me and I search them for these clues, trying to figure out if there are answers or where it will send me next in my search. In this painting, the Glass music helped me see what I had only sensed before.

As I said, it’s hard to explain.

Anyway, give a listen and have yourself a good Sunday. By the way, I am calling this painting Etude No. 14.

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You have most likely seen the work of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter who lived from 1872 until 1944.

Like the painting shown here. Seems so simple. Mainly black lines creating squares and rectangles that are mainly white but periodically filled with bright primary colors. Critics claim it is too simple, that it is something a grade-schooler with a ruler and some paints could replicate easily.

Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares?

But putting that side aside, his work has always remained refresh and modern through most of the last century up to this very minute. Outside of time, like it represents a future moment that exists just beyond this very moment at all times. And that factor in itself makes his work appealing to me.

I will never list Mondrian as a true influence or even a real favorite of mine, there is much to be gained as an artist from studying his work. The elegance of his structures and the space created within, for example. Or how he transformed his work through the years from a style of impressionistic realism into cubism and then into the style of his that we know so well, stripping away all detail and content down to the bare essence of being.

The video below shows that evolution beautifully, with musical accompaniment from Phillip Glass. I hope you’ll find it interesting to see how the work makes that transformation. Take a look below.

Let us note that art – even on an abstract level – has never been confined to ‘idea’; art has always been the ‘realized’ expression of equilibrium.
-Piet Mondrian

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I’ve been a fan of the work of Chuck Close for some time, admiring the grand scale that much of his work assumes as well as his evolution as an artist, especially given his challenges after a spinal artery collapse left him paralyzed from the neck down in 1988.  He regained slight use of his arms and continued to paint, creating work through this time that rates among his best.  He also suffers from prosopagnosia which is face blindness, meaning that he cannot recognize faces.  He has stated that this is perhaps the main  reason he has continued his explorations in portraiture for his entire career.  The piece shown here is a portrait of composer Phillip Glass that was made using only Close’s fingerprints,  a technique which presaged his incorporation of his own unique form of pixelation into his painting process.

His determination to overcome, to keep at it, is a big attraction for me and should be an object lesson for most young artists (and non-artists, also) who keep putting off projects until all the conditions are perfect and all the stars align.  Waiting for the muse of inspiration to take them by the hand and lead them forward.  Sometimes you have to meet the muse halfway and Close has this advice for those who hesitate:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the… work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.

Amen to thatThe process provides the inspiration.  I’ve stumbled around for some time trying to say this but never could say it as plainly and directly as Close has managed.  Thanks, Chuck.  I think I’ll take your advice and get to work.

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In the town that I call home there is the local theatre and center for the performing arts, the Clemens Center, that underwent a remarkable renovation a few years back and emerged as a spectacular and beautiful showcase.  It has real presence as you sit and take in the restored mural above the stage or admire the intricate carvings that form a frame  around stage opening.

Just a beautiful facility.  A gem.

Unfortunately, it is not always as well attended as one might hope, especially for events that are quite remarkable.   Seeing so few people come out makes me wonder if we deserve such a beautiful theatre or if our area will soon lose the ability to attract world-class musicians.

Last night, there was a performance by world-renowned and Grammy nominated violinist Robert McDuffie accompanied by the Venice Baroque Orchestra.  They were performing The Seasons Project which featured, in the first half of the show, Vivaldi’s  Four Seasons and, in the second half, modern composer Phillip Glass’ composition The American Four Seasons.  This new piece was written specifically for McDuffie and is inspirationally derived from Vivaldi’s seminal work. 

Let me point out that I know little of classical music and cannot speak with any degree of specificity about any piece of music.  I can only tell you what I like.  Like art, all you need to know is your reaction to it.

The Vivaldi was wonderful.  The sound of McDuffie and the 18 musicians of the Venice Baroque Orchestra played the well known work with passion and grace.  There is something quite amazing in the power of an acoustic orchestra and I found myself wondering what it must feel like to be one of those violinists when they are fully immersed in such a piece, with the sound of the other instruments all around them in unison.  Or how this piece  must have stunned audiences in 1725. Truly powerful.

I really didn’t know what to expect for the second half.  I had heard Glass’s work before and had found it always interesting, though not always pleasing to my ear.  I can’t fully describe the piece but I will say that as it grew I began to realize I was witnessing something quite remarkable, both in the compostion and in McDuffie’s performance.  His emotional rendering propelled the piece forward and as it climaxed all the pieces of the composition seemed to suddenly come together as a whole, giving the whole thing an impact that I hadn’t seen coming.  I know that is  hardly descriptive in musical terms but I can do no better.

It was breathtaking to see an original piece played with such passion. 

And for a theatre that was perhaps filled to one third its capacity. 

The elation of the show was tempered for me by the size of the crowd and thr realization that soon such shows would no longer be brought to our area for lack of an audience.  As I looked over the audience last night, I saw a tremendous amount of gray and white  hair.  I was among the younger set there and I am no longer young.  We, as an area, do not have a large number of young professionals that might take in such a show in larger metropolitan areas.  Over the years, we have lost many of our brightest and best to larger cities due the limited prospects caused by the financial hardship that seems to have a permanent home in this area.  The recession that swept the country over the last few years has been in these parts for about thirty years.

I guess that’s just the way things go.  For now, I am pleased to have witnessed something special and will put aside the fact that it may not be a possibility here soon.  If McDuffie is coming to a city near you with this tour, take advantage of the opportunity.

Here’s a small taste of the music…

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