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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Diebenkorn’

Diebenkorn Ocean Park 67

Richard Diebenkorn- Ocean Park #67



When I am halfway there with a painting, it can occasionally be thrilling… But it happens very rarely; usually it’s agony… I go to great pains to mask the agony. But the struggle is there. It’s the invisible enemy.

–Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)



I am in the middle of painting and preparing work for my upcoming shows, the first being my annual solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria in June. This is my 22nd show there so there is a definite pattern of behaviors and responses that occur during this process of putting together a show.

Some are quite good, resulting in me feeling a sense of purpose or worth. Then there are others that have me wondering why I am doing this or if I am good enough. It’s a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, sometimes both taking place within hours of each other.

Sometimes a new painting will elicit both elation and doubt. I sometimes finish a piece being totally enamored of its effect on me then begin to doubt my own feeling. Is the appeal I feel real and from the piece itself? Or is it something else? Does my own bias blind me to its flaws?

I had that happen yesterday as I finished a piece that had me very satisfied at its completion. I just loved it, thought that it captured what I felt and needed to say in it. And did so in a bold way. But within hours, my doubts dispensed with all good feelings. I felt like maybe I was seeing things in it that would not be visible to others.

I ended the day not sure what to think of it and not trusting any reaction I felt.

The words from the late painter Richard Diebenkorn above ring very true for me at times like this. There is a constant struggle in the process for me during this time of my painting year. I am up one minute and down the next. At least, I know and accept this so I don’t mistake it for something else, like a psychotic episode.

There might even be something to be gained from this struggle. Maybe it keeps down that form of blind confidence that ultimately stifles the work’s growth.

Conversely, maybe the doubt prohibits growth?

I don’t know and don’t know that I ever will. But I continue the struggle, day in and day out. And cherish the highs and persist through agony of the lows.

It’s all I know how to do.

Time to get on the rollercoaster.

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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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It is not a matter of painting life. It’s a matter of giving life to a painting.

-Richard Diebenkorn

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I am going through a period where I am struggling to find focus. My ability to concentrate seems limited and everything, even small tasks, seem like huge distractions which I allow to take over much of my day. Even writing a short blog entry has become an epic struggle to complete, taking twice as long as normal to write a few lines that say little.

It’s frustrating and a little scary, with a nagging fear that this will become the new normal, that every task will become a struggle. I worry that the spark that has sustained me for the past two decades has somehow diminished.

I’ve been through these episodes before, as I’ve noted here in the past. I can’t say that this is any worse than any of those although it probably seems that way while I’m in the middle of it. I’ve always been able to muddle through it and have usually come out at the other end back in form, the spark in full blaze.

But part of me worries that this time might be a different thing. Maybe it’s watching my father living a shallow existence with his dementia in a local nursing home. I find myself worrying that my current lack of concentration might morph into the same short attention span that bedevils him.

I tell myself that this a baseless fear but when you’re running on a low spark, your confidence in your own beliefs and strengths becomes a bit strained. Fears, once unthinkable, become plausible.

So, trying to find inspiration, I spend some mornings looking at the work of other artists and reading a bit about how they perceived their work and how they coped with the struggles they faced. I’ve been a fan of Richard Diebenkorn’s work for some time, especially his Ocean Park series. Ocean Park #79 is shown at the top. I was looking at some of his work this morning and reading a few short quotes from him. The one at the top resonated because it reminds me of what I am trying to do.

Another, about the beginning of his process, also spoke to me: Of course, I don’t go into the studio with the idea of ‘saying’ something—that’s ludicrous. What I do is face the blank canvas, which is terrifying. Finally I put a few arbitrary marks on it that start me on some sort of dialogue. I need a dialogue to get going.

That is where I am right now. I am trying to start a dialogue, a conversation, with a blank surface. The problem is that on some recent mornings I feel as blank as the empty canvas. That doesn’t make for sparkling dialogue.

But I keep trying because it is what I do. And I have to believe that the spark is there, waiting to spring into a full blaze. Maybe it’s today…

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2016 Smithsonian Photo Contest Winner- The China Red- Jian Wang

2016 Smithsonian Photo Contest Winner- The China Red- Jian Wang

I came across the photo above this morning which is titled The China Red.  It was shot by photographer Jian Wang at Olympic Forest Park in Beijing, China and is the winning image in the Mobile Category of the Smithsonian’s 13th Annual Photo Contest.  I spent about five minutes just staring at it, transfixed by the pattern of the shadows and colors.  Just a great image.

The color and forms incorporated in the photo reminded me of some of the work from the Precisionist painters such as DeMuth and Sheeler.  I thought I would share the following post from back in 2009 about Demuth:

demuth-number-5I’ve been a fan of Charles Demuth since the first time I saw his work.  He was considered a part of the Precisionist movement of the 20’s, along with painters such as Charles Sheeler and Joseph Stella among many others, with his paintings of  buildings and poster-like graphics such as this painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold.  He was also one of the prominent watercolorists of his time and while they are beautiful and deserve praise in their own right, it’s his buildings that draw me in.

Demuth’s work has a tight graphic quality but still feels painterly to me.  There’s still the feel of the artist’s hand in his work which to me is a great quality.  There are photorealist painters out there whose craftsmanship I can really admire but who are so precise that they lose thatdemuth-my-egypt feel of having the artist’s hand in the work.  I like seeing the imperfection of the artist.  The first time I saw one of the Ocean Park paintings from artist Richard Diebenkorn, it wasn’t the composition or color that excited me.  It was the sight of several bristles from his brush embedded in the surface.  To me, that was a thrill, seeing  a part of the process.  The imperfect hand of the artist.  I get that feeling from Demuth.

He also had a great sense of color and the harmony and interplay of colors.  His colors are often soft yet strong, a result of his work with watercolors.  His whites are never fully white and there are subtle shades everywhere, all contributing to the overall feel of the piece.  His work always seems to achieve that sense of rightness I often mention.

His works, especially his paintings of buildings, have a very signature look, marked by a repeated viewpoint demuth-after-all where he views the buildings above him.  His paintings are usually fragments of the building’s upper reaches.  There’s a sense of formality in this view, almost reverence.  I don’t really know if he was merely entranced by the forms of industrial buildings or if he was making social commentary.

Whatever the case, do yourself a favor and take a look at the work of Charles Demuth.  It’s plain and simple good stuff…

Buildings, Lancaster 1930demuth-from-the-garden-of-the-chateau

demuth_charles_aucassiu_and_nicolette_1921

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I Saw the Figure 5 in GoldI’ve been a fan of Charles Demuth since the first time I saw his work.  He was considered a part of the Precisionist movement of the 20’s, along with painters such as Charles Sheeler and Joseph Stella among many others, with his paintings of  buildings and poster-like graphics such as this painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold.  He was also one of the prominent watercolorists of his time and while they are beautiful and deserve praise in their own right, it’s his buildings that draw me in.

Demuth’s work has a tight graphic quality but still feels painterly to me.  There’s still the feel of the artist’s hand in his work which to me is a great quality.  There are photorealist painters out there whose craftsmanship I can really admire but who are so precise that they lose thatdemuth-my-egypt feel of having the artist’s hand in the work.  I like seeing the imperfection of the artist.  The first time I saw one of the Ocean Park paintings from artist Richard Diebenkorn, it wasn’t the composition or color that excited me.  It was the sight of several bristles from his brush embedded in the surface.  To me, that was a thrill, seeing  a part of the process.  The imperfect hand of the artist.  I get that feeling from Demuth.

He also had a great sense of color and the harmony and interplay of colors.  His colors are often soft yet strong, a result of his work with watercolors.  His whites are never fully white and there are subtle shades everywhere, all contributing to the overall feel of the piece.  His work always seems to achieve that sense of rightness I often mention.Buildings, Lancaster 1930

His works, especially his paintings of buildings, have a very signature look, marked by a repeated viewpoint  where he views the buildings above him.  His paintings are usually fragments of the building’s upper reaches.  There’s a sense of formality in this view, almost reverence.  I don’t really know if he was merely entranced by the forms of industrial buildings or if he was making social commentary.

Whatever the case, do yourself a favor and take a look at the work of Charles Demuth.  It’s plain and simple good stuff…

demuth-from-the-garden-of-the-chateaudemuth-after-all

demuth_charles_aucassiu_and_nicolette_1921

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