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Posts Tagged ‘Quotes’

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“You study, you learn, but you guard the original naïveté. It has to be within you, as desire for drink is within the drunkard or love is within the lover.”

Henri Matisse

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I can always turn to Henri Matisse for something interesting, either in his work or in his words. While he was prolific in his painting there is also a wealth of quotes, interviews and essays from him that give insight into a warmly wise and giving spirit. I will admit that there are painters whose body of work more readily excite me but the words of Matisse never fail to provide inspiration and reassurance when I am seeking some form of validation of what I am doing.

For instance, he speaks of maintaining one’s own original naïveté as one learns and grows as an artist. That rawness and the natural sense of excitement that comes with it, is something I have also felt was important to maintain even as my craft has grown. I see the raw energy of naïveté as the blood that gives a painting its life force, that allows the viewer to see past the improbabilities and imperfections and see the beauty and truth being presented.

Maintaining that naïveté is much more difficult than you might think. You sometimes have to fight against the proficiency gained through years of practice and trade the reality of the world shared with everyone else for the reality contained within yourself, trusting that this inner world, imperfect as it is, will have a commonality that might speak to similar inner worlds among some of those who view it.

And that  brings us to another favorite Matisse quote, below. The link to the universe he mentions is very much the same thing that links one’s inner world to that of another. At least that’s how I see it. This seems like a good spot to end this. Have a great day

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“We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.”

― Henri Matisse

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Ben Shahn

Ben Shahn -Jersey Homesteads (Roosevelt NJ) Mural

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The artist must operate on the assumption that the public consists in the highest order of individual; that he is civilized, cultured, and highly sensitive both to emotional and intellectual contexts. And while the whole public most certainly does not consist in that sort of individual, still the tendency of art is to create such a public – to lift the level of perceptivity, to increase and enrich the average individual’s store of values… I believe that it is in a certain devotion to concepts of truth that we discover values.

–Ben Shahn

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Born in Lithuania in 1898, Ben Shahn emigrated to America with his family in 1906. Throughout his career, up until his death in 1969, Shahn’s early training as a lithographer and graphic designer played a large part in his work, giving it a symbolic visual impact that made him one of he leading lights of social realist artists. His work often dealt with the human condition, particularly that of the common man.

Ben Shahn- The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti

While many of the themes in his work were labeled as leftist, his work championed civil rights and workers’ rights and stood against injustice and prejudice. He did a large series of works devoted to Sacco and Vanzetti. Designed to communicate a distinctly human point of view, his work always had a profound voice, one that called for the betterment of all people.

His was the work of the Everyman.

As he said: The natural reaction of the artist will be strongly towards bringing man back into focus as the center of importance.

I think that is a very important thing to keep in mind as is the quote at the top of the post, about how an artist must aspire to the highest human values of the public, even though they may not actually possess these qualities, with the hope that the artist’s work can lift them to a higher level. It’s a thought that should linger in the mind of any artist who hopes and desires to make a true difference in this world with their work.

I am not giving a lot of details here about the life and career of Shahn. But I hope the few that I have shared along with some of his images will inspire you to take a closer look at this interesting and important voice in modern art.

Ben Shahn- Father and Child 1946

Ben Shahn- The Burial Society

Ben Shahn- Nocturne

Ben Shahn- Four Piece Orchestra 1944

Ben Shahn- Self Portrait Among Churchgoers

Ben Shahn- Two Witnesses

Ben Shahn- Unemployment

 

 

 

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All that is necessary to paint well is to be sincere.

–Maurice Denis

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In my opinion, sincerity is a huge part of how an artist’s work comes across, perhaps even more than the actual ability of the artist. Sincerity carries the emotion, the sensation, of the work of art.  It is the part of art that moves and speaks to you.

I guess that is why I was drawn this morning to the simple quote above from painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943). I’ve been an admirer of his work for some time and for some reason have yet to mention him here. He was not one of the bigger names of art in his time but was important in that era that encompassed the transition from traditional representation to impressionism then on to modern art. He was part of Les Nabis which translates from both Hebrew and Arabic as The Prophets. It was a group of young French artists who followed in the artistic footsteps of Paul Gauguin.

As Denis wrote about Gauguin’s influence:

We learned from Gauguin that every work of art is a transposition, a caricature, a passionate equivalent of a sensation which has been experienced. He freed us from all restraints which the idea of copying naturally placed on our painter’s instincts. All artists are now free to express their own personality.

That basically deals with the same sort of sincerity mentioned at the top f the page.

Denis had a long career that moved through a number of different phases, all done well and with sincerity. There is much in his work that speaks to me, things that I wish to carry into my own work. Things I have already used, in some cases. I urge you to check out his wiki bio or some other reference sites to find out more.

A parting line from Denis:  Don’t lose sight of the essential objectives of painting, which are expression, emotion, delectation; to understand the means, to paint decoratively, to exalt form and color. 


 

 

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We are at a crucial time in this country and, maybe as well, the world as a whole. I think even those who refuse to pay attention are beginning to see that something very wrong has taken place and there is an effort to find the truth behind it. If this situation were a painting, it began with an underpainting of a scene based on lies. But each new day brings more and more strokes and color in the form of facts and truths that expose the underlying falsehood, the illegitimacy of the scene painted for us two plus years ago.

With each day, the final painting is becoming clearer and clearer.

I could go on but that would most likely be overkill. Too pedantic and preachy.

Instead, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes– I do love a good quote— dealing with lies and liars. A page of lies. Actually, not lies but about lies. As a liar myself, I can attest to the veracity of most of these but you would have to take my word for that. And, believe me (the liar’s favorite phrase, by the way), you don’t want to do that.

Though I think these are all pertinent, the most applicable to the current situation might be the last from Ray Bradbury‘s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. Most people will not be told, will not dare to extrapolate into the future. They only see the present moment and even then, it is seen with a subjective sort of vision, the kind that only sees and knows what is in its immediate reach. But once the fallout from this hits them, they will ask how this could have possibly happened, even though they themselves enabled it with their lack of attention.

The Albert Camus quote is also a favorite. The projection of self by the liar is most illuminating.

But don’t trust me, take a look for yourself.

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What was Avery’s repertoire? His living room, Central Park, his wife Sally, his daughter March, the beaches and mountains where they summered; cows, fish heads, the flight of birds; his friends and whatever world strayed through his studio: a domestic, unheroic cast. But from these there have been fashioned great canvases, that far from the casual and transitory implications of the subjects, have always a gripping lyricism, and often achieve the permanence and monumentality of Egypt.

Mark Rothko, 1965

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While not a huge fan of the paintings of Milton Avery upon my first encounters with it, I find myself respecting and appreciating his work the more I look at and read about it.

Born in 1885, Avery worked blue-collar jobs into his thirties. He felt a desire to paint and began taking classes while still toiling as a laborer, working in obscurity for many years. He moved from pure representation of his subjects to an abstracted representation built on blocks of color and a flattening of the picture plane that became his signature style. His work eventually was recognized by a wealthy collector who set out to make it better known by distributing it among various American museums.

It worked and Avery became a leading light of the early abstract movement with his abstracted takes on representation and was considered a master colorist, sometimes referred to as the American Matisse. He died in 1965 at the age of 80.

I find that there are commonalities between us that give me a better sense of his work. First, there is his late entry in the world of art and a prior existence as a blue-collar worker. I certainly can relate to that.

Then there is his use of blocks of color, especially colors that seem radical for the subject. Looking at his work, I can easily relate to how he composed his paintings, how each block of color relates to those around it.

I also like the fact that Mark Rothko pointed out the lyricism of his work which refers to the fact that his painting, even when the subject matter seems most mundane, has high emotional notes that give it great weight beyond the subject matter. That lyric quality is something I desire in my own work.

I also like some of the writings from Avery especially one quote that rings true for me:

I try to construct a picture in which shapes, spaces, colors, form a set of unique relationships, independent of any subject matter. At the same time I try to capture and translate the excitement and emotion aroused in me by the impact with the original idea.

That is exactly what I trying to do– trying to capture the excitement and emotion aroused in me— each day in the studio. I think I often use those very words when talking about my work practices.

So, these common bonds allow me me to see Avery’s work in a better light. I find myself liking the consistency of his work, how he confidently used his native voice to express himself.

Respect is now there.

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I think the best we can achieve is asking questions about the world in which we live because I think accepting the world as it is and so on is just impossible. Finding the right answer, maybe finding some directions towards some answers is the most we can dream of.

Samuel Bak

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I came across the work of Samuel Bak about twenty years ago, at the Pucker Gallery in Boston. It was easy for me to be drawn into his work. It was strongly symbolic and densely painted with deep, dark colors. It was easy to see that there was nothing trivial about it.

It had weight.

I discovered that Samuel Bak, who has resided in the United States since 1993, was born in Poland in 1933. From an early age his artistic talent was obvious. His family was Jewish and spent much of World war II in the ghetto of Wilno (where he had his first exhibit of his work at the age of nine) before being sent with his mother to a labor camp. They were able to flee and take shelter in a convent where they remained until the end of the war. At that time, only he and his mother survived from an extensive family.

He and his mother spent three years in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany before moving to Israel in 1948. He lived there until his move to the US in 1993.

I have followed his work for the past couple of decades and it almost always has the weight that I first saw in it.

It feels like it is filled with the memory of all memories.

I thought today would be a good day to share his work.

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Art lives and dies in the unique heart of he who carries it, just as all feelings only live and expand in the souls of those who feel them. There is no history of art — there is the history of artists.

Marianne von Werefkin

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Marianne von Werefkin is a name that often catches my eye when I am digging around for art online. It always stands out even though I don’t have any knowledge of her work so at some point I finally looked closer at her work. And, like so many little known artists that I come across, I have to say I was pleased by the work I found.

Marianne von Werefkin Self Portrait

She was born in Russia in 1860 and died in Switzerland in 1938. Throughout her life she was associated with several important painting groups and movements in Europe though she never achieved widespread recognition for her work, certainly nothing close to that of her peers such as Kandinsky and Klee. It was difficult for a woman to stand out in the male dominated world of art at that time. Fortunately, that has been changing over the past century though I am sure not as quick as it should.

I am very taken with much of her work, especially the compositions and the way in which she expresses her self in forms. I also have enjoyed a few quotes and other writings she left behind, which like her compositions line up with my own viewpoints.

Here are a couple of other examples;

All bores me in the world of facts, I see an end, a limit to all things and my heart thirsts for the infinite and for eternity.

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The artist is the only one who detaches himself from life, opposes his personality against it, he is the only one who orders things as he wishes them to be in place of things as they are. Thus, for him life is not a fait accompli, it is something to remake, to do again.

I know I am not giving you a lot of info here today outside a few quotes and images. But take a look and in it strikes you, dig a bit deeper for yourself. I think you will be rewarded. I see her work as just good stuff. And for me, that is a high compliment.

DGA510708 The Black Women, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard, 1910; (add.info.: The Black Women, 1910, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard.
Artwork-location: Hanover, Sprengel Museum Hannover (Art Museum)); De Agostini Picture Library / M. Carrieri; out of copyright

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