Tag Archives: modern art

Troubled Art – Chaim Soutine

He was that kind of a difficult snotty kid, who appeared from nowhere as if fully formed, then, like a meteor glowing with dark, perpetual fire he flashed through life fulfilled with struggles, suffering, torment and passions. He left one of the most compelling collections of paintings in the Modern Art; despite of the quite ferocious competition from Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and many others…

Chaim Soutine was a painter of his own obsessions. Only. Buying his place in the art world at a high price of the family rejection, exile, extreme poverty, illness and the life-long emotional disturbance he remained an outsider in Paris of Modernists; moody, clumsy Jewish oddball from funny-sounding village (Smilovitchy) in Belarus.

He painted like a man possessed, staining canvasses with his own guts and each time risking that he won’t survive his own probe. He handled paint like one handles a chunk of meat – he penetrated it deeply as if with a knife in order to spread it thickly across the canvas in violent patterns. An ultimate, genius painting animal – no real training, no theory or concepts behind, no alternations or preparations – only the creative act, urgent, necessary, exhausting and virtuoso at the same time.

He was often called ‘the painter of death’ due to his eccentric fancies for smelly carcasses and hanged turkeys; yet – I cannot agree with that. For Soutine’s perpetual greed and hunger for life is much more stronger than his apparent melancholic flirting with the extinction forces… His forests and fields, dead birds and fish seemed to be endowed with life simply because they¬† breathe with Soutine’s own fever, intensity, complexity and beauty of the character. His admired master – Rembrandt has taught him that – that reality is there to be respected; the materiality, sensuality of things is at the foundation of a spiritual strength. That’s why Soutine was probably the only major painter in Fauvists and Cubists’ Paris having painting only from life and with no interest at all in participating in the revolution going on in art at that moment.

I have a strange fondness for that dirty Jewish kid, I envy his purest, unadulterated ‘gut feeling’ of paint and creative experience; and when I was looking for his grave at Montparnasse Cemetery (it took me a bit – the grave itself is a very simple, horizontal tombstone in a small, Jewish part of the place) I had in mind the words of a distinguished Polish art historian (Waldemar Lysiak) – that Chaim Soutine was forever a banished child – the one thrown out of a nest, who has never fully managed to exorcise his childhood and to grant the world his absolution… And he painted, again an again, the most poignant images of little children (just like the one featured above) – alone on a road, with ominous, stormy world towering over them… Little exiles, at home in no place; so sad yet so truthful – and with no sentiment or self-pity at all…


Art as seen by Louise Bourgeois

Art is a privilege, a blessing, a relief. (…) Privilege entitles you when you deserve nothing. Privilege is something you have and others don’t.

Art was a privilege given to me and I pursue it even more than a privilege of having children. (…) It’s a fantastic privilege to have access to the unconscious. I have to be worthy of this privilege and to exercise it. It was a privilege also to sublimate. A lot of people cannot sublimate. They have no access to their unconscious. There is something very special and very a painful in the access to your unconscious. But there is no escape from it and no escape from an access once it’s given to you, once you are favoured with it, whether you want it or not…The life of an artist is basically a denial of sex…

(…) I’m not interested in art history (…) Art is not about art, art is about life and that sums it up (…)

Modern art(…) is about the hurt of not being able to express yourself properly, to express your intimate relations, your unconscious, to trust the world enough to express yourself directly in it. It is about trying to be sane in this situation, of being tentatively and temporarily sane by expressing yourself. All art comes from terrific failures and terrific needs that we have.

It is about the difficulty of being a self because one is neglected. Everywhere in the modern world there is neglect, the need to be recognized, which is not satisfied. Art is a way of recognizing oneself, which is why it will always be modern.

Louise Bourgeois in an interview with D. Kuspit; excerpts from her Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998

What can be said more? Perhaps, being a bit bold – that art is not a therapy alone. Art is not an introspection only. Art is about the Other, about the conscious, real, about the self-rejection of the sublime and about cherishing sex. Because sex means to cherish the Other. The Other can be and is your Sublime. No one sane could possibly claim – I’m the only source of my art, of the sublimity, of the privilege and – of the pain my unconscious implies and my art excavates…

Hans’s World – Caucasus


Originally uploaded by grijsz

I’ve just found a friend on Flickr. I hope, he won’t mind this post of mine. Hans Heiner is a German artist living in Tbilisi, Georgia. His neo-expressionist paintings have been inspiring me for some time. Their raw intensity, emotional/expressive power and honesty are simply addicting. The great artists like George Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat or even Chaim Soutine come to mind when one browses those dozens of hugely evocative images, usually conveying forceful emotions/message in an impressively economical, disciplined manner.

Hans (grijsz) seems to be also a skillful draughtsman, pop-artist, photographer and an art-animator. One can only envy and admire his energy, talents, free-spirited attitude and a truly amazing personality, which simply radiate from the work and photos available on the net. In such moments of some really inspiring discoveries I’m getting very grateful for an invention of the Internet – just imagine not to have the slightest idea about all those fascinating artists working out of the ‘celebrities’ status in the intimacy and glory of their own wonderful worlds! That would be like living in 12th c. Europe – the self-proclaimed ‘center of the world’ with a very little awareness, how the planet really looks and works like…

To meet the artist – please, visit his blogs: New Images, The Art Club Caucasus and grijsz’s Flickr page

Photo featured by H. Heiner – Khevsureti, Georgia, Caucasus

Bacon or how to suffer in an outstanding manner…

Francis Bacon is back again in London – Tate Britain (11 Sept. 2008 – 4 Jan. 2009) – or, as I should write – he strikes again in this major retrospective show, displaying the formidable panorama of his paintings right from the first attempts (1940s) to the last experiments executed before his death in 1992. The exhibition fills in ten rooms with the most of the representative works present. Additionally – what I fully appreciated as a student – there is one room devoted to the methods and materials of the artist’s research and another one – called the “Crisis” featuring his artistic mistakes. And it’s probably from Bacon’s mistakes that one should start to view his art (maybe right after the impressive early period) – they clearly show how perfectly balanced his masterpieces are and how incredibly difficult had to be to find that fine line – between the genius audacity/ an outstanding quality of suffering portrayed and a pure, cheap melodrama/grotesque strangely embodied into it.

There are different sorts and qualities of suffering, to mention only few: the one, which glows with inner nobility and sophistication; other, which is low and attention-seeking, flirting with itself and seeking self-approval; the one, great and intense, which has no name until some kind of a higher/different level of self-recognition takes place and the one, which cannot be named at all – simply because is beyond human capacity of the verbal expression and anything you can do is to be silent in its presence. And Bacon’s paintings actually look like those, by a default, silent companions of their creator’s inner turmoil – giving it voice by the artistic language yet, paradoxically, communicating or conveying nothing beyond its own captivating void. The vision presented is the Alpha and Omega in itself, a riddle not to be explained – only accepted, with all the courage and emotional maturity it demands. For this Irish-born painter, alike Peter Handke in his autobiographical story, where he tries to reflect on his mother suicide (“It’s about the moments, when the mind boggles with horror so brief that speech always comes to late. Horror seems real and meaningful only when it is incomprehensible…” ) – leads us at the very edge of what the typical cognitive system perceives as ‘human’.

What is utterly fascinating in all this, is that that enigmatic, powerful monster and alien encaged into Bacon’s canvases keeps the modern viewer under his spell, even wins the claim as ‘genius’ instead of, as the common sense whispers -to provoke a total rejection or simply, to scare him away. Just like with Shakespeare’s murderers and witches – one cannot simply apply wrong/right brackets, we are suspended in the unnamed and the dark, hold there by the sheer magic of the art… Only very few artists out of dozens who were trying to confront the man with his own shadows succeeded, only few suffered – in an outstanding manner – through their art, teaching us – perhaps unwittingly – how to acknowledge and express our own pain. Bacon belongs to those few and that will probably sound shamelessly, but … I’m glad that he happened to exist, in the very unique way of his. His story casts as much shadow as it illuminates – it’s good to have it ‘documented’ in the great artworks, it’s great to have those audacious screams in paint among us.

P. S.

See the virtual, interactive tour of the exhibition here, yet – for the better results, see it in life…

What are you trying to communicate?

The question – scarecrow for all the art students – or for those at least who manage to have some self-reflection on what they are doing…Because it’s not that easy question at all…Obviously you can always say something…people say “something” being inquired on things which tend to be beyond of all words… But there’s hardly any point in it…

Each time I see my tutors I know I will be interrogated about the meanings I want to convey… But- just look around – don’t we live in a world that has a great potential of not making any sense at all? You get up in the morning, having a chance you listen to the BBC World and what you get is that Dozens where killed in Pakistan Blasts and that Weather for London is: Sunday -Max 10C, Min -5C, and that J. Howard won the Australian election, and Man Utd slump to defeat at Bolton – does it make any sense apart from that news-y, journalists’ sense of supplying that “here & now” mess?

You don’t have time to digest what you’ve just heard, you run to fulfill your social duties, in your head may sound dozens killed…London – 10C Max…Man Utd….Australian Election…And in a case you forgot – you are being bombarded by hundreds of images, often contradictory – you see a false smile on a billboard, you see the face of a driver next to you, you see the registration plates, you see buildings – familiar environment, you see Tokyo, Warsaw and the Orion constellation if you want (these via the Internet), then you may see Vikings, Ancient Romans and New York 3034 (these via cinema/movies)… So there you are thinking about meaning of the contemporary reality you may want to convey to other people…

But you can say – it’s fine, I’ve got used to it. Obviously, we all did – aren’t we – to put it poetically (but without any sentiment – no, no and no) – children of our times? Didn’t we train our senses to select only this info/meaning/sense which has a concrete use for us (contemporary cognitive psychology has lots to say about it)? But it doesn’t necessary help to answer the question. Since all genuine, non – escapist art is supposed to make comments and generate metaphors on what’s the contemporary essence, and it’s expected to this with an insight and ingenuity – the modern art is nothing but mess and it has to be accepted as such without puristic, conservative nonsense that there are mediums (read: oils/canvas), theories, approaches and “names” more “legitimate” than others.

And looking at art as a sort of a language (hence you get the terminology – communication, message, meaning) is – for me – just another simplification kept for the sake of explainers … Cannot art be an experience beyond words, or be functioning in a pre-verbal, sub-conscious state? Cannot art be simply a silence, and I mean silence – mystical void which doesn’t attempt to mean something… ?

You may say – post-modernistic garbage – no rules need to be applied, all is relevant and continuously changing… But that’s what has been shaping our world for some time now…Those who choose not to bother produce pretty images of plums resting on a cloth, or a favourite cat catching a butterfly…Would you like all art to be like this?

On the other hand there’s another acceptable point of view – since an artist is a human being he/she may choose a deeply personal path and in a consequence will try to communicate the humanity, himself/herself exclusively, deliberately ignoring all more generalised statements on the world around… But since he/she is a modern artist there will always dilemma born purely from functioning within “here & now”. Just listen to this voice: (…)what does modern art as such mean to you?
What modern art means is that you have to keep finding new ways to express yourself, to express the problems, that there are no settled ways, no fixed approach. This is a painful situation, and modern art is about this painful situation of having no absolutely definite way of expressing yourself. This is why modern art will continue, because this condition remains; it is the modern human condition. (…) [Modern art] is about the hurt of not being able to express yourself properly, to express your intimate relations, your unconscious, to trust the world enough to express yourself directly in it. It is about trying to be sane in this situation, of being tentatively and temporarily sane by expressing yourself. (…) It is about the difficulty of being a self because one is neglected. Everywhere in the modern world there is neglect, the need to be recognized, which is not satisfied. Art is a way of recognizing oneself, which is why it will always be modern. (Louise Bourgeois, quoted via New – Art site, thanks vvoi for your intelligence)

Summing it all up – I’m still in a deep confusion when considering seriously what I would like to communicate…And it’s originated from my respect towards art (not “my” art but art per se), I prefer to appear as not – having – a – clue than to “dress” my confusion in self – assuring, empty words…

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