Tag Archives: modern

A seminar with Francis Bacon …

Well – he has never taught art to others officially, and has never been taught art by others in such a manner

And while not being entirely sure, if just because or despite of that  – Francis Bacon excels as an art (painting) tutor. I found him so lucidly articulated, so continuously and deeply inspiring in his views on the artistic practice that I just couldn’t help not to present his ‘tutorials’ in a customized, yet systematic way.

Bacon took with him his mystery of how to talk about highly complex and irrational matters in an analytical and engaging manner.  And this very ability of his redeems his work, which could otherwise be easily classified as a tormented expression of an idiot-savant. Being himself deeply anti-theoretical he offers an impressive theory of his own oeuvre. With a certain force of authority, though never deliberately,  he shows that an artist’s journey is (should be) a continuous interplay between both challenges: ‘making images’ and making sense of them…

All points below are taken from interviews Bacon gave to D. Sylvester and while taking part in a documentary devoted to his work. They are extracts of the artist’s more elaborated statements. To access the original talks get a book and watch the movie (links below).

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You have to decide, that you are not going to be afraid of making a fool of yourself.

One needs to find his subject – otherwise one will be tempted to escape into a decoration. Most of the problems of the painting now result from the fact that painters don’t know what to paint – they are short of images.

The better the techniques of recording the reality become – the more inventive the painter needs to be in his ways to lock reality into something completely arbitrary. Going back to figuration in a more accepted sense is weak and meaningless.

The image – its power and integrity matters more than the beauty of paint.

Narration speaks louder than paint – avoid telling stories, unless you want to.

Aim at a highly disciplined work, even though the methods of pursuing it need to be ever- experimental and deeply instinctive. To make an image one has to control it.

Use secondary imaginary as a compost which will breed you images.

Painting (if successful) is a process of unlocking sensations and feelings on as many levels and as acutely as possible.

Painting is a ongoing interplay of luck/hazard, instinct and one’s critical sense.

Your technique needs to be as subjective and unique as your sensibility is.

‘Fresh’ image is the one which has a ‘foam of the unconscious’ still locked around it…

Make your forms memorable – otherwise they will exist only as ‘blobs’ on a wall…

A chance is more important than a conscious intellect because I made images that intellect would never make.

If you going to capture something REALLY REAL – it will be painful…

The most important thing for a painter is – to paint – nothing more…


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D. Sylvester, ‘Interviews with Francis Bacon: The Brutality of fact’, Thames and Hudson

Francis Bacon Documentary’

Here: preview of a new exhibition of Bacon in Dublin: ‘Terrible Beauty’


Contempotary Art (8) Chris Marker

Chris Marker (b. Neuilly-sur-Seine, France 1921) – actual  name: Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve – multimedia artist, photographer, film director, writer. Lives in Paris and does not grant interviews. When asked for a picture of himself, he usually offers a photograph of a cat instead (so far as the gossip says). His cat is named Guillaume-en-egypte. (See more details in my previous post here: http://wp.me/p8s8b-66)

Creator of: La Jetée (1962), A Grin Without a Cat (1977), Sans Soleil (1983) and AK (1985) a documentary on Akiro Kurosawa. From the recent projects: in 2005 Marker created a multimedia piece for The Museum of Modern Art in New York titled Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men (influenced by T.S. Elliot’s poem); in 2008: Immemory – an interactive video produced  by Centre Pompidou, created out of fascination by digital technology. 

Marker is as enigmatic, brilliant and witty in his collages above as he would be behind his directorial camera viewfinder. One simply cannot get enough of this artist’s vision – it escapes one’s full comprehension and intuitive potential. It’s a one-man world-view, a singularity which resists any thorough penetration. A beauty and power of human uncanniness captured into a compelling, enthrilling  visual extravaganza. Just keep exploring…

Site about Marker’s view of the world:  Chris Marker


‘Making Worlds’ by losing your way…

That is a surprisingly romantic title for an enormous international art show – ‘Making Worlds – Fare Mondi’… Right from the day it was announced I knew I got to see it.

In a strange way that name referred to my own idea of art as a device for creating universes, for inventing new realities and new ways of perception of what is ‘known’ and ‘familiar’… To see how very different artists from tens of countries address this very issue right now; and to experience it in one place within only few days of an intense take – that sounded like a dream-come-true opportunity.0

Then I made my way to Venice… A group of us – final year fine art students – we spent half of a night and most of a day getting ourselves from a tiny, misty Irish airport right to an artistic epicenter of the 53rd Biennale. And then – the true challenge had begun… Being a first time visitor to Venice – one has to invent ways – quick and efficient:  of avoiding crowds, of finding ways in an omnipresent maze of lanes and canals, of keeping cool when faced with a wondrous strangeness and beauty of the place and, finally – to get the most (and the best) of the shows presented – tens of them blown around the city like some erratic parts of a huge machinery; often in places that even locals found difficult to find…

I can be pretty sure not to be the first and the last of the 53rd Biennale visitor, who was immensely tempted to dismiss the entire pandemonium and to spend some quality time in one of the Irish or English pubs; just drinking some wine and staring at Venetian light reflected from the Grand Canal… So tempting…

Anyway, I went through it all in a less indulgent way, which means: I stuffed myself, my cameras and my notebook with the visions of ‘Making Worlds’… Facing it all, and reflecting on it afterward looking for a compendium, links and any order – that is a sort of making yet another world – so diverse, rich and demanding the whole experience is. Yet, it does not necessary mean, that the Biennale was/is a miraculous, creative Wonderland…quite to the contrary – but by its intrinsic qualities like the size, inter-nationality and the inherited prestige – it’s born to leave a clear mark on one’s artistic psyche; not matter how critical and contemptuous one becomes when addressing it.

Making Worlds… artistic (and curatorial!) calling, duty, obsession, wonder and a doom. Nothing more self-indulgent, nothing more pretentious. Nothing more marvelous, nothing more risky. In fact, I don’t personally believe that the most of Birnbaum’s show has stood up to its own challenge… And instead of some down-spine shivers and wide-opened eyes browsing a miracle of some new-born, never seen before worlds – one had to chew up, once again, the same familiar concepts and interventions  cooked and served in a way, which anyone even mildly accustomed to the history of the contemporary art has to know by heart by now…

In other words, there was a chance-taking, adventure -seeking, alternative-supporting attitude bitterly missing in all the curatorial effort of this Biennale. Each show of this type is a sort of an authorship (sometimes – dictatorship); but if a good author hides his strings he is pulling to make his personal vision to be appreciated, Birnbaum made it all too predictable and dull as a whole. One has to allow to risk it all, to be completely lost in order to make entire world out of this self-implied or provoked chaos. There is no other way of creating new world than the one which faces chaos and a gulf; otherwise we got ‘re-making’ old worlds or ‘recycling’ the existing, but worn out ones…

I lost my way dozens of times in Venice. Venice is the space to be lost and to be found, and this very process goes in circles and in-finitum… One has to throw away all maps, one has to trust his instincts and follow no path other than the one which cuts across the old ones instead of re-drawing them…

Making worlds is the most human of all human dwellings… And it is possible, yet not easy – to make a new world out of this too-familiar, too-excessive, too-indulgent entropy of art today.  By losing one’s way in it – one will find the way out of it…


Contemporary Art (7) – Marlene Dumas

“My best works are erotic displays of mental confusions (with intrusions of irrelevant information).”

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Marlene Dumas (b. 1953, Cape Town) – one of the most important, influential figurative painters working today.

With Dumas one may easy get into a trap of ‘an infatuated viewer’. Trap she has crafted herself – deliberately or not- it is working well, and blinding all those moths that had dared to approach these paintings too close, well beyond the line of their personal zones…

They are there to seduce, to spit at taboo, to provoke, to lit the flames of all sorts of powerful emotions… Embodied femmes fatales, dark and alluring, doomed and the born survivors…

To form any theoretical apparatus for Dumas’ work is a waste of time. Yet, it doesn’t mean the paintings are irrational. Quite opposite is true – to experience them means to approach them with some sort of a keen intelligence, yet it’s a special kind of intelligence; even not the emotional one – more sensual, passionate one… And some deeply fleshly logic has to be put to hard work… Painted with brooding, intense sensations they reveal themselves under the touch of a viewer’s neurological stir…

As paintings-artworks they are deliciously painterly and ardent in execution. Paint is being laid (poured) loosely and in a number of visceral, beautifully transparent layers; highly expressive marks co-exist with a smooth, detailed finish in one part or another. The overall impression is that of a juicy, bitter-sweet forbidden fruit – to be taken of left behind….

Mmmm…


“Floating Culture” and the Thickness of things…

Check out these two last posts on Henri Art Magazine:

In Hyperaesthetics – 19 sixty he describes our culture – POMO (Postmodernism) of an unacceptable lightness:

We are somnambulists and voyeurs, lost in the hallucinatory world of light-speed and lenses. We are no longer grounded. We float in the digital subjective, our voices not quite our own, because we have merged into the great electronic collective. (…) We lack depth and heft. We are light as a feather on the breeze – a world of Forrest Gumps. (…) We signify rather than converse. We develop games rather than create poetics. We program applications rather than create mythologies. Our vision determines nothing in the free floating vacuum of space.

Hm, interesting… It reminds me about Japanese Ukyio-efloating world, floating culture from 19th. century, which Hokusai captured in his great woodcuts. That was the world of hedonism, light-weight and extravagance, ‘unbearably light’ as M. Kundera would say. In Hokusai’s ” Great Wave” a disaster strikes dwarfing the frantic efforts of men in boats, who are about to perish. A big metaphor and vision at the same time?

Then, Jerry Saltz is being quoted as commenting on the “Generational: Younger than Jesus” (what an awkward title, after all) exhibition:These young artists show us that the sublime has moved into us, that we are the sublime; life, not art, has become so real that it’s almost unreal. I would disagree – that “Man is the measure of all things” – that’s nothing new; in fact, it has been said in 5th B.C. (Protagoras) and has been repeated endlessly in different forms from then till now. But, hardly ever before man was less ‘sublime’, if one takes traditional/dictionary meaning of the word as : elevated, noble, lofty, awe-inspiring, majestic and out-of-this-world… Well, one could agree on the last adjective Floating in today’s cyber-space, creating avatars and entire parallel worlds/lives online, living in the complex, globalized, absolutely commercialized spacethe contemporary man is, indeed, out-of-this-world. But, if the world he inhabits belongs to the ‘sublime’ experience is rather a questionable point…

Another post: Rough Trade – Thick is a logical consequence of the first one. We are too light, our art is too light… Solution? We have to become thicker… Actually, I find it fascinating – this author from another continent, another generation expresses, in slightly different terms, what I defined as: painting independent ‘living organisms’,  rather than just another image/representation. We echo each other intuitions, as if this mood and a need of a change was in the air:

It is not the “fresh air…around the painting” that we need to be looking at. We’ve had fresh air around painting for FAR TOO LONG. We need fecund, thick air in the painting itself. We need to be panting, gasping for air, in front of the painting. And it’s here that we get to the thickness of things. It’s like when one holds a thing in one’s hand – it has heft and weight, volume and form. It has temperature and texture, it asserts its existence. These are exactly the same things that happen when we look at things without the critical play, when we look at things straight away and it should happen when we look at art. We should see the Thickness of things and by seeing it, we should feel it…

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Henri – Mark Stone – is an American painter. To see his personal site click here.


The story of Bacon’s studio

ks317ks3222Well, the story is simple, yet it remains, as for my current knowledge without a precedent in the contemporary art history. It goes like this:

At 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London; at the last floor in a shabby, industrial-looking building Francis Bacon has lived and worked for the last thirty years of his life (1961-1992). It was there, where a big chunk of his works of had been created – in solitude and in the ‘ordered chaos”, as he would call the towering pandemonium of his workshop.

John Edwards, the artist’s old companion became a heir of the space (and its contents) and after its main occupant’s sudden death, he has donated Bacon’s studio to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Contemporary Art in Dublin. For three long years art historians and conservators, supported by archeologists were documenting, removing and reconstructing every inch of the room and every bit of dirt in the new ‘home’.

In May 2001 the studio was open to the public, drawing significant numbers of visitors – art students/researchers/admirers to the gallery. However, some bitter discussions and arguments has sustained for years over that ‘transplantation’ as London’s art world – never truly giving any credit to Bacon’s Irish roots (artist was born in Dublin, then moved to London in his teens) had to swallow a bitter pill indeed, after Edwards had decided against everyone’s expectations (of leaving the treasure where it was). Irony adds a grotesque element to the whole story – the perpetrator of the mess, the painter himself had nothing to do with all that phenomenon germinating as happily and unstoppably as the mould has been in his beloved studio. He remained loyal to it despite numerous offers of much better (objectively speaking) locations, and never truly concerned what will happen to it after he’s gone.

But, what is that phenomenon all about? Does it exist at all beyond the claustrophobic circle of Bacon’s fans and London-Dublin microcosm of the local politics? What is the matter – after all?

A relatively tiny attic space, gray and dark, with no widows except of a skylight. Its contents – beyond any description (hence photos). Treated with awe, respect and a sort of a silenced admiration which one adopts facing a great artwork. Is Bacon’s Studio an artwork on its own? There are many, who have never doubted it… If so – can a significant artwork be created without its creator’s conscious will, sometimes – even against it; as Bacon would ‘fight’ his chaos from time to time, removing a part of the mess? What sort of the methodological and aesthetic tools one needs to approach ‘an artwork’ of this kind? Questions just keep flowing raising some controversial issues on the nature of art, its very core/sense/meaning…

I remember seeing it at Hugh Lane, with a long, elegant corridor of a very well-behaved art decorating the walls leading to it – the contrast was almost sublime, yet – all the project of that post-mortem ‘repatriation’ seemed pointless to me, even cruel for some reason. Great artist’s spirit locked in a maze of his belongings was right there – mocking mercilessly all the ‘gentile’ surroundings, yet – paying an unfairly high price at the same time – the price of being the perfect stranger, the alien “Other”… Packed in a sterile cage of a gallery’s room like a bizarre gift and a trophy for the visitors – that intensely private (Bacon would never let anyone to enter this space, except the closest friends), and – must say – profoundly moving and in a deep sense beautiful room seemed like the loneliest, the most misunderstood space within the art-world. An amusing ‘freak-show’ for some, a perfect epitome of the genius-artist’s workshop for many…

What else can be said – would you ever consider a couple of your old socks, you’ve had used as wipes  becoming a gallery/collection jewel?… would you ever give a thought, that your online ‘studio’ – your ‘e-space’ may look as madly creative, legendary and desired to ‘possess’ by dozens as 7 Reece Mews had been? Would you… this makes all the art-creating business even more interesting… Doesn’t it – after all?…

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Both photos above of F. Bacon’s studio by Perry Ogden; scanned by me from 7 Reece Mews; Francis Bacon’s Studio, Thames and Hudson, London, 2001.


Art is no more… (Whilt 12)

Art is no more. It doesn’t matter any more. Few decades from now on, without any new input of any new visual expression would do us all great. We are all over-loaded, the world is over-saturated with pictures.

Conservators and museums do their best, and in 2500 the human race still marvels over Massacio, enjoys Matisse, gets confused wrinkles over ‘Mr. Important Conceptualist’.

In 4500 the most sophisticated communication between the members of the population flows in a continuous river of the perfectly balanced impulses from the brain-installed implants. No dream-catchers are needed, no thoughts brokers and emotions dealers allowed. Experience of living is a powerful, never-ending climax of meaning, yet no need/desire to use any kind of the ‘conventional’ language ever reaches that multiverse of sense and beauty.

I’m having now two simultaneous streams of images/concepts going through my head; one is obsessively evolving around the contemporary paintings I saw recently and the theory of art I have studied; the other flashes with a vivid recollection of Gaza war chaos and drama, some great death-escapes (as a heroic pilot lands the broken plane safely on the water), some very ordinary challenges of the everyday existence. And these two worlds seem to form two different orbits – visible for each other, yet never really meeting or interacting…

I would say, in theory it’s getting closer, in practice – you see art today, you think about your work, and you have that overwhelming feeling – the real stuff happens elsewhere.  Art in general, my art (in particular) is like a granny trying to break in a wild horse, its language and politics – no matter how ‘contemporary’ – are not exactly there yet, pretentious and impotent… And ‘yet’ is a key-world here. Since why to bother with all that after all… art is the null, but it’s got that privilege of being the ‘great null’. Its DNA is that of the Black Holes of the Universe – it compares to nothing from the world you know as a common bread-eater. By its superior genetics art is the space of a transformation and becoming, it can transform into its own antithesis…

And that is my lesson for today… Night, night…

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