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Posts Tagged ‘Quote’

Francis Bacon- Study after Velázquez Portrait of Pope Innocent- 1953

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Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

–Sir Francis Bacon

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There are two very different characters from history that carry the name Francis Bacon. Both are British, one a famous 20th century painter and the other a Renaissance man from the Age of Elizabeth in the late 16th/ early 17th century. The latter generally carries the Sir before his name. As I said, very different though I sometime come across a quote and have to do some checking to make sure one is not the other.

The painting Bacon was Irish born and lived from 1909 until 1992. He is best known for his dark figurative work that often contorts the features of the subjects of the work. I wrote about his studio (seen below) in an early post here. It was a spectacular mess, with piles of papers and paints and all sorts of detritus. Whenever I think my studio is an unworkable mess, I think of Bacon’s studio and suddenly mine doesn’t seem all that bad. His studio was such a spectacle of disarray that it was moved from where had been in London to a Dublin museum space, The Dublin City Gallery. There it was meticulously reconstructed to its former fabled jumble.

Francis bacon- Reece Mews Studio

Now, the other Francis Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, lived a life of great achievement from 1561 to 1626. As a statesman, he served as the Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I. He is perhaps better known as a philosopher and scientist, considered the father of the modern scientific method as well the father of empiricism.

One of the more famous stories of his life revolve around his death. While traveling, he was supposedly having a debate with a companion over his theory that animal meat could be frozen as a means of preservation, something unheard of at the time. Stopping at a farm they were passing, Bacon is said to have contracted the pneumonia which caused his death as the result of trying to freeze a chicken by stuffing its carcass with snow and ice.

What a way to go. But next time you pull your Swanson Chicken Pot Pie from the freezer, you might want to thank (or curse– it’s a frozen pot pie, for god’s sake) Francis Bacon. I mean, of course, Sir Francis Bacon.

The next time you have a nightmare with a screaming Pope, you can thank the other.

 

Francis Bacon- Three Studies Of George Dyer, 1966

 

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Between, Again

GC Myers- Between

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A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

-Albert Camus

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These lines above are from an essay, Between Yes and No,  written by the late French Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus. It basically states, in sometimes grim detail, his belief that art “exalts and denies simultaneously.” In short, truth, and life in general, operates somewhere in the middle, never a binary choice, never absolutely in yes or no.

To put it in visual terms– that’s my job, after all– life is never fully black or white. We live in shades of gray.

Yes or no is generally an oversimplified view for existentialists like Camus. The enigma of this world, this life, comes from forever living with both the yes and the no.

Shades of gray.

While I may not fully understand all the subtleties of Camus’ essay, I do fully agree with the premise as I see it in my own simplified way. I think that art communicates best when it contains both the yes and the no— those polar oppositions that create a tension to which we react on an emotional level. For example, I think my best work has come when it contains opposing elements such as optimism tinged with with the darkness of fear or remorse.

Yes and no.

I guess it’s this thought that brought the title for the piece ( 4″ by 4″ on paper) at the top which I call Between. Simply put, I see it as the Red Tree being torn between the nebulous  desire of the Moon’s promise set against the security of its earthly home, represented by the patchwork quilt-like look of the surrounding landscape. Between the unknown and known.

Somewhere in between the yes and the no…

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The post above ran back in 2015. I’ve edited it a bit for a little more clarity, to make it a little less gray.

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The only quality that endures in art is a personal vision of the world. Methods are transient: personality is enduring.

–Edward Hopper

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Felt like a little Edward Hopper this morning and realized that, in all the years of doing this blog, I had never shown his most famous painting, Nighthawks, above. Can’t say why I had failed to display it. Maybe it just felt so obvious that it overshadowed other works from his career that also moved me. Regardless, it remains a defining painting, one that never fails to be striking.

His words just below the painting above are equally striking for me.

I often write about artists trying to find their voice. By that, I am talking about painting (or working in any other medium) in a manner that matches up with and captures the artist’s point of view, their thought process, and the many facets of their personality. Not every method or style jibes with every artist, allowing them full expression of the truth of their own personality.

And method alone only goes so far. Method is transient and without endurance, as Hopper points out, without personality.

How does this happen, this insertion of personality into one’s work?

I can’t really say. I guess it starts with having a point of view, an opinion, an emotion, a thought. I tell high school and college students that technique is important but it is even more vital to have a base of other knowledge to draw from. Art is not technique or method, it is expression of the self so have a fully realized self to express.

Don’t know if that’s right for everybody but, hey, it feels right for me.

Work on that and get back to me, okay?

 

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Marc Chagall- La Vie – 1964

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If all life moves inevitably towards its end, then we must, during our own, colour it with our colours of love and hope.

–Marc Chagall

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Well, I feel that you can never go wrong by showing a painting or two from Marc Chagall. His work never fails to make me stop to examine it, to try to read what it has written in its colors and forms.

There is always something there.

There is music and dance, grace and movement. There is myth and memory all intertwined. So much is there. But in it all are the warm colors of love and hope, much like the ones he mentions in the words at the top.

I can only hope to live out my life like a Chagall painting.

That would be a good thing for any of us.

Marc Chagall- L’Âne Musicien à Saint-Paul- 1975

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“Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”

M. Scott Peck

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There are times when one can simplify, where complex concepts can be broken down to easily digestible chunks that allow almost anyone to understand and appreciate that concept.

I would argue that is the basis for my whole career as an artist.

I do it in simplifying forms and compositions so that they enter the viewer’s eye easily, before it has had a chance to fully comprehend the underlying complexity in the colors and textures. There’s more to it, obviously, but that’s a nice shorthand explanation of my process– in itself simple.

But there are other times where you can’t take a concept or situation and simplify it fully without losing the impact of all the details.

I am not talking about art here. No, I am talking about the beginning of the impeachment hearings tomorrow. I am afraid that too many of us want that simplified version, one that makes us see unequivocally either the guilt or innocence of this president* without having to wade through detail and actual thought.

This is a complex and multifaceted case, one filled with a multitude of details. When placed side by side so that you can easily see them, these details tell a damning tale. Cutting out details to simplify the story would muddy the clarity of the motivations behind it. When you get only a simplified version, you fall prey to the whims and preferences of the person telling the story or painting the picture.

I urge you to pay attention in the coming weeks. Take in the details, the nuance of each witness’ testimony, and let the story unfold in full for yourself. If you can do that, you may well come to a conclusion that is similar to my own after having followed this whole thing closely for the past three years.

Or maybe not. Maybe you will see things in a completely different way. Maybe you will refuse to see the details and complexity and try to simplify it for yourself to suit your own biases and predispositions.

But either way, I believe that the closer you look, the more you will see and the more you will understand.

Hey, maybe we’re back to art now?

Whichever case it is, pay attention and take a deep dive if you want to really get a better grip on the complexity that you’re witnessing. It’s too important to be asleep at the wheel at this point.

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Obstacles

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Joy is of the will which labours,

which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.

William Butler Yeats

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Klee/Art as Memory

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All art is a memory of age-old things, dark things, whose fragments live on in the artist.

Paul Klee

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When I need something to get me through periods of stress, something that engages me and makes me question myself while at the same time inspiring me, nothing serves me better than a dose of Paul Klee.

In his work I definitely feel like I am looking at the age-old memories of the artist. In fact, the attraction comes in the fact that I see his age-old memories and dark things as being my own.

A sense of familiarity.

Like being in an alien world and hearing a familiar language from some distance away. Words and phrases, bits of meaning, gleaned from a cacophony of unintelligible garble. It makes you alert and hopeful that there is a possibility of connection, of communication.

I can use a little Klee this morning.

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