EXHIBITIONS: The Stuckists Astrology Show, London England

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Richard Bledsoe “Libra: Yes, No, Maybe So” acrylic on canvas 16″ x 12″

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September 28 is my birthday, and this year my Libra nature is being celebrated in an upcoming exhibit in London, England: “The Stuckist Astrology Show,” on November 19, 2016.

Now I don’t believe the stars control our fates, or can be used to tell our fortunes. But life has proven to me again and again the time of year a person is born does seem to influence their personalities.

Why would this be the case? I have no idea. But my observations show me the universe is full of patterns, cycles, all evidence of the great underlying order beyond our limited human perceptions. The pseudo-science of astrology is the result of centuries of study on human behavior. Somehow we find echos of our souls projected out into a cosmic scale; around and around we all go, playing our variations of the 12 eternal roles manifested in symbols of animals, mythical beasts, and one inanimate object: the Scales.

I’m full of Libra traits that mark me as distinct from friends and family. I have a hard time making up my mind, and can see both sides all too easily. The Libra experience aims for balance, but the only way to get there is bobbing up and down, switching back and forth; the equilibrium is hard to achieve. But the process is full of moments of bliss and peace.

The painting I sent to England shows the experience in an oblique way. Since the piece was for a Stuckist show I worked rapidly and with exuberance, to create a painting with figurative elements. There is imagery suggested by a different set of ancient legends-the final test of the Egyptians.

Because for all their graciousness, dabbling and charm, the Libra is a tool of judgement-not on our own behalf, but as an expression of the chaos of life trying to find that place of harmony.

astrology

 

COMMENTARY: The -isms of Modern Art

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Alfred Barr, Jr.

Director of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art 1929-1943

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Lots of people say they don’t appreciate Modern Art. The term is used as a kind of generic catchall description, often a term of derision for the hokum perpetrated by the out of touch creative class of visual artists.

Technically though, when people refer to Modern Art, they are talking about something that is already in the past.

Modern Art was the future that ended.

For centuries in the western world, art followed predictable formulas, and only changed slowly. Artists focused on creating variations of Classical art, inspired by the masterpieces of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance.

There was broad consensus on what made for quality art. Order, beauty, and flawless adherence to approved techniques were desirable traits. Support for artworks came from powerful institutional patrons: the church, the state, and the aristocracy. These factions had much to gain from promoting stability and the status quo.

Sometimes an isolated eccentric would create art of a different kind, and challenge expectations. The artistic and cultural establishment of the times reacted harshly to such experimentation. William Blake was called mad, and worked in near total obscurity on his visionary books. J.M.W. Turner faced criticism and ridicule as his landscapes became more atmospheric and abstract. Francisco Goya kept his powerful and morbid black paintings hidden away from his employers at the royal court.

Despite these occasional flare ups from forward thinking radicals, for centuries the art world was a model of social control. Creatives were dominated by the elite. Training and opportunities for artists were under monopolistic control. It’s not that different in today’s commercialized fine art market. Advancement requires conformity to the self-aggrandizement and conceits of the ruling class.

But by the middle of the 1800s, the traditional dynamics changed. Life started moving faster than the establishment could react. The long standing pattern of gradual cultural evolution done in the service of the powerful underwent massive disruptions.

The Modern Age was upon us.

There’s no clear cut definition of the time the Modern Era covered. I define the era of Modern Art as running almost 100 years, bracketed by two art shows: the Salon des Refusés in Paris 1863, to the first major Pop Art show held in New York in 1962. The roots run deeper, and the influence lingers longer, but this is a useful measure for when Modern ideas were the most important in the culture.

Before the Modern age, the conventional understanding was art should present beauty, which represents truth. In modern art, beauty was no longer the highest aspiration, because it symbolized a kind of order and redemptive quality intellectuals had lost faith in.

Modern age rationalism and materialism compels that everything needs to be dissected and analyzed. Artists brought this mentality into art, and manifested this questioning both thematically and visually.

As the Modern age unfolded, the ideas imposed by social changes seemed to demand artists abandon art’s enduring function as a tool for bringing harmony and unity into the lives of humanity. A sense of doubt became a standard starting point.

No longer did art look to provide the comforting experience of the beautiful.  Modern art featured probing and often critical ideas about the nature of art, perception, humanity, and the values we so often fail to live up to. Pessimism was a safe attitude, depicted with ugliness.

Modern art took on an unstable aspect as artists looked to find something to effectively replace the sense of meaning and purpose that had informed the art of the past. The creative class tried to define possible alternatives, angling for personal advantage and prestige. Theories abounded.

Modernism fragmented into competing movements, schools, and influences. With all the possibilities swirling around, artists were not sure what or who to believe in. In rapid succession, the art world moved through major phases: Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Abstraction, Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism,. De Stijl, Dada, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Artists built entire careers based on the nuances of these experiments.

Modern art can be observed as a series of trends proposed as solutions to the void introduced into heart of art-and by extension, life itself. Nothing seemed to work for long.

This lead to a terrible burnout, and what we have now: the sophistry, shallowness and will to power of the Post Modern age. But even this horror is coming to an end. We are at the beginning of a new era. Welcome to the Remodern Age. We integrate the fragmentation of the Moderns back into a holistic approach, art as a tool for communion and connection once again.

STUDIO: Sixteen Years of Paintings

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At least they stack nicely

We are working on some renovations on our house. These upgrades involve emptying the room where Michele Bledsoe and I store our art.

Paintings can be fragile things, easy to scratch, dent, puncture, or rip if you are not careful. I believe the best way to store a painting is to have it hanging on the wall, and believe me when I say our house is lined practically floor to ceiling with art. This is what happens when two compulsive painters get married, and they have lots of artistic friends to trade works with.

But in the end there is a limited amount of wall space, so the majority of my art gets stacked out of the way of life. This home improvement project we are working on required moving my paintings out of their secure location.

It didn’t occur to me to take a “Before” picture. We had sixteen years worth of mostly my paintings lined neatly up by size, front to front, back to back, with dividers of cardboard and foam core for extra safety. They were elevated off the floor on strips of lumber I cut for just that purpose.

I was so used to this system it didn’t really occur to me how many paintings there were, until I had to pull them out.

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This isn’t even all of them, just a few of the stacks that have been distributed throughout the house. One thing we are doing is taking this opportunity to do an inventory: documenting the titles, medium, and size of each work. Once we get this massive update done, I intend to keep it current with my new works, but we will see how that goes.

Ironically, seeing how many paintings I have, and scrambling to find a place to put them, makes me want to paint even more, on even larger canvases.

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PAINTINGS: A Plague Upon the Prairies

A Plague Upon The Prairies

Richard Bledsoe “A Plague Upon the Prairies” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 20″

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The vision came, and I performed a transcription of what I was shown. This is the results. It was painted fairly rapidly, a momentum matched in the treatment of the field that appeared.

What is this herd, or pack, wandering in the waving grass? The title that was presented to me suggest they are nothing good.

A painting is a contained unit of interlocking contrasts that create a balanced world apart. Contrasts of light and dark, naturalism and stylization, fade and edge, and perhaps most importantly for my Symbolist art: the beautiful and the grotesque.

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“Spiritual art is not about fairyland. It is about taking hold of the rough texture of life. It is about addressing the shadow and making friends with wild dogs. Spirituality is the awareness that everything in life is for a higher purpose.”

The Remodernism Manifesto

ARTISTS: Ed Paschke

 He Paschke

Ed Paschke “He” oil on linen, 50″ x 78″

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“Paintings is all about problem solving. The bigger the problems you create yourself, the more resourceful you have to become to resolve it and make it work some how. If when you’re working on a painting and everything feels comfortable and cozy and secure and safe than you’re probably not doing anything new. You are probably repeating all sorts of old ideas. That frustrated, awkward feeling of not knowing how to solve the problematic area of your work will eventually force you to try something new and this sort of visual orchestration helps to pull you forward as an artist.”

-Ed Paschke (June 22, 1939 – November 25, 2004)

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Ble Boy Paschke

Ed Paschke “Blue Boy” oil on linen 24″ x 36″

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Strangulita Paschke

Ed Paschke “Strangulita” oil on linen 46″ x 80″

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Paschke Bill

Ed Paschke “Bill” oil on canvas 70″ x 48″

PAINTINGS: The Finish Line

Finish Line

Richard Bledsoe “The Finish Line” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 24″

Sometimes the paintings just take off in unexpected directions. When they do, it’s best just to follow their lead.

We, as artists, act as conduits. Through us pours the source of all creativity, into vessels shaped by our own particular consciousness.

It takes faith to get out of the way of that flow.

“Spiritual art is not religion. Spirituality is humanity’s quest to understand itself and finds its symbology through the clarity and integrity of its artists.”

The Remodernism Manifesto

STUDIO: Stretcher Construction

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A stretcher support for a new canvas, 36″ x 36″

I’ve written before on starting a new painting from scratch: Creating a Canvas.

It’s an elaborate process, involving lumber and quarter round, wood joiners and brad nails, a miter saw and a staple gun, gesso and sandpaper. It’s a big savings over buying prepared canvases, but that’s just one facet of it. There is a sense of thoroughness and craft I get from working on a support I built myself. I will use store bought canvases as well, but my most significant pieces were done on stretchers I’ve constructed myself.

This time I’m taking the process back a step further, and showing the underlying framework.

Today I’ve built another stretcher for a major painting, another 36″ by 36″ piece. The key to the way I build stretchers are these vicious looking little metal plates, which are called wood joiners:

Wood joiners

More than once in my painting career I’ve carelessly knelt on one these while building a stretcher; I don’t recommend it.

These days I’m using poplar wood for my supports. It’s an inexpensive soft wood which takes the wood joiners well, and it’s usually straighter and smoother than the pine wood I used to use. After using my chop saw to cut 1″ x 2″ lumber to the correct lengths, I use the wood joiners to fasten the pieces together. Then I nail quarter round molding to the outer edge on one side of the frame.

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Quarter round molding

This will elevate the stretched canvas material off the wooden supports, creating a smooth surface to paint on.

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Detail shot: quarter round nailed on 1″ x 2″s, held together with wood joiners

This was the method I was trained in when I went to art school at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve experimented with other methods in the years since, but I never found anything else that worked as well.

I intend this new canvas to be a companion piece to the painting I covered in my last series on a work in progress, “A Tale of the Forked River.” It was enjoyable to share the developments as I worked out painting issues of the course of many weeks, running from March 15, 2015, to July 1, 2015. See the entries here:

Creating a Canvas

Painting in Progress 1

Painting in Progress 2

Painting in Progress 3

Painting in Progress 4 – Completion

A Tale of the Forked River

The finished product, completed June 28, 2015:

“A Tale of the Forked River” acrylic on canvas 36″ x 36″

I have the vision for the new painting. For the moment it exists only in my mind, so there is nothing to show yet. But the title will be “What Does It Take to Make a House Haunted?”

I can’t wait to get it going, so everyone can see what I was shown.