ART QUOTES: Georges Braque

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A Zen Master disguised as a Cubist:

Georges Braque “Interior with Palette”

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“There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain.”
– Georges Braque

Georges Braque (1882-1963) was Pablo Picasso’s co-conspirator in the controversial founding of Cubism,  but their temperaments could not have been more different. While Picasso lived it up as a jet-setting, exploitative celebrity, Braque plodded along, living quietly and honing his craft.

Not only did Braque show an amazing mastery of composition in his paintings, the man had a way with words. He produced a series of maxims, statements on art and life,  that could function as Zen parables or Koans, so elegant and simple they are in their observational power and often paradoxical presentations.

The art world could use more of the kind of patience, dedication and wisdom that Georges Braque brought to the exploration of his vision. Below are just a few of his penetrating insights.

“With age, art and life become one.”

“The space between the dish and the pitcher, that I paint also.”

“The painting is finished when the idea has disappeared.”

“Reality only reveals itself when it is illuminated by a ray of poetry.”

“Truth exists. Only lies are invented.”

“It is the unforeseeable that creates the event.”

“Painting is a nail to which I fasten my ideas.”

“Scientific perspective forces the objects in a picture to disappear away from the beholder instead of bringing them within his reach as painting should.”

“A painting without something disturbing in it – what’s that?”

“Poetry is to a painting what life is to man.”

-Georges Braque

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Braque With Studio 4

Braque in his studio

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Braque Fruit

A Braque Still Life

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Georges Braque “Woman at a Mirror”

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Georges Braque “The Boat of the Flag”

COMMENTARY: The Special Effects of Human Expression and Ray Harryhausen

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Gazing into the Mirror of Art: Ray Harryhausen

“I had to learn to do everything because I couldn’t find another kindred soul. Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing by myself.”
-Ray Harryhausen

A New Yorker article written after stop motion animation master Ray Harryhausen passed away in 2013 has some some hits and misses.  Harryhausen and the Expressively Imperfect World by Adam Gopnik captures something of the mystery, but is a little too pat in its Postmodern self regard.

Where the article goes awry is the typical “Of course I know how he did that” smugness and detachment that is the curse of the contemporary academic mind:

“Though who—at least among those who saw her at an impressionable age—can forget the snake woman who emerges, Play-Doh body writhing serpentinely, before the Sultan’s court—and is met by carefully directed gazes of awe and wonder and cries of ‘Allah, be praised!’ on the part of extras who are, rather obviously, looking at nothing.”

Gopnik undermines the nostalgic awe by pointing out that of course HE knows that it’s just a campy movie and that a sense of wonder is just kids stuff. It wouldn’t be so annoying if he and his ilk didn’t live their entire lives that way, and insist on telling the rest of us about it constantly.

People like that think picking apart the presentation is the fun part; not to better appreciate the artistry, but to try to out-analyze someone who is actually accomplishing something. That sort of thing is only fun for deconstructive wankers who assume others are impressed when they whip out their tiny little pride.

But the heart of the article gets it right in the following quote:

“For, deeper still, in some primal part of us, there is always a vital role for the not-too-perfect in our pleasures. Imperfection is essential to art. In music, the vibrato we love involves not quite landing directly on the note; the rubato singers cultivate involves not quite keeping to the beat. What really moves us in art may be what really moves us in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”: the vital sign of a human hand, in all its broken and just-unsteady grace, manipulating its keys, or puppets, and our minds. Expressiveness is imperfection, and Harryhausen’s monsters and ghouls are expressively imperfect. ‘I don’t think you want to make it quite real. Stop-motion, to me, gives that added value of a dream world,’ he [Harryhausen] once said, wisely, himself.”

Wisdom is in short supply in our intellectuals, so that is a welcome admission.

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Since I wanted to make movies from a young age, and was enthralled by fantasy, it’s natural Harryhausen has been a huge influence on my art. Not so much purely in subject matter, but in atmosphere.

I never approached his movies with the clinical awareness of how-did-he-do-that while watching them; I just embraced the poetry of the moment. In any great art, there is level of fascination that defies verbal explanation and rational analysis.

Later, when I pondered armatures, miniature sets, and incredible patient craftsmanship, it wasn’t doubt that was intriguing, it was the power of the achievement.

Gopnik does acknowledge this as well, though he seems leery of being so lowbrow to actually admit he enjoyed something: “…we appreciate them poetically, not for what they did given what they didn’t have, but for what they did with what they did have. We genuinely like them more than things we know are better at doing what they seemed to set out to do.”

A description of painting in the Stuckist Manifesto captures what Harryhausen accomplished in his animated films: ” Painting is mysterious. It creates worlds within worlds, giving access to the unseen psychological realities that we inhabit. The results are radically different from the materials employed…”

As Ray Harryhausen was an innovator, visionary and solitary creative genius who made art for the people, I nominate him as an honorary Remodernist.

The legendary career of stop-motion and visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen will be showcased in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesÕ new summer exhibition ÒThe Fantastical Worlds of Ray Harryhausen,Ó opening to the public on Friday, May 14, in the AcademyÕs Fourth Floor Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.

ARTICLE: Winston Churchill, Painter

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Winston Churchill “Mary’s First Speech”

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“When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject…”
-Winston Churchill

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The above article is full of great information about the art habits of one of the most significant figures in history.

Winston Churchill was the man who probably did more than anyone else to save Western civilization in the dark early decades of the twentieth century.

Our culture is suffering intensely these days from the lack of anyone of his stature who could provide the kind of clarity and force of will he did. Our current inept and corrupt scumbag political class isn’t worth a tiny flick of his cigar ash.

He was a man of intense highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies. But also, the mighty Winston Churchill was an accomplished painter.

A key quote from the article: “Characteristically, Churchill’s first word of advice to budding artists was ‘audacity.'”

The article also describes painting as half passion, half philosophy. Indeed.

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The man at work

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The dark early decades of the twenty-first century are in need of some audacious passionate philosophers making a stand against the slide back into premodern savagery. That kind of leadership will never come from the thoroughly compromised hacks busy fighting over the crumbs of the subsidized culture industries.

A colleague of Churchill’s once remarked, “”If Churchill had given the time to art that he has given to politics, he would have been by all odds the world’s greatest painter.” It’s a good thing for the world he made the choice he did, the need was so great for his statesmanship.

But each can serve in whatever area they are best suited for. For real change to happen, it starts in the art.

After 50 plus years of a creative class committed to behaving like a dithering parasitic cult clique, the time has come for art to get real again. It will be interesting to see in the future who will be recognized as the statesmen of art who helped save Western civilization.

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Winston Churchill, “Vesuvius, From Pompeii”

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Winston Churchill “The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell”

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Winston Churchill “Racecourse, Nice”

COMMENTARY: Rock On, Establishment Art

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We need boulder art

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Fred Flintstone would appreciate this.

Right next door to the La Brea Tar Pits (translation: The “The Tar” Tar Pits), the Los Angles County Museum of Art  has plunked down a 340 ton piece of granite, precariously straddling a trench designed so wandering pedestrians can experience of a sense of impending peril. It’s called, somewhat inaccurately, “Levitated Mass.”

Artist Michael Heizer states he had the idea in 1969. The idea seems to have been, “Hey, I’d like to move a big rock from somewhere to somewhere else.” Heady stuff they were smoking back then. Brings a whole new connotation to getting stoned.

In 2012, 43 years and $10 million dollars later, the vision was realized, an homage, we are assured, to human engineering feats performed since prehistoric times-though I don’t think the Druids or Egyptians had access to cranes and semis.

It’s a colossal Found Object, an environmental Ready Made, a hunk of Earth Art dropped into the midst of LA LA Land.

Perhaps the piece is impressive to encounter, in a spectacle kind of way, a geologic variation of the sort of “World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn” offering that small towns dream up as tourist traps.

Perhaps you have to be there. It doesn’t look impressive in photographs. It has all the drama you would expect a bloated public works project to have.

And as the Wikipedia piece on the rock blandly states, “Initial plans for the work described the boulder as being affixed to the trench walls themselves, giving the boulder the appearance of ‘floating’ when viewed from within the trench via optical illusion, hence the work’s title. With the addition of the support shelves, this illusion does not occur.”

Calling it “Bolted to City Bureaucrat Approved Steel Safety Shelves Mass” would be more accurate, but that lacks cachet.

I see this attempt to confabulate a cheap thrill and a big budget with the experience of fine art as evidence of culture establishment floundering. It’s increasingly a strategy being played out: from giant slides to pretentiously ironic pseudo-theme parks, art industry insiders are desperately trying to gain relevance by pretending to to be some kind of second rate carnival. It’s patronizing and pathetic at the same time, and demonstrates they have no sense of what art actually does for people.

What does “Levitated Mass” say about the artist who thought it up? What does it say about the culture that made it? The work maintains a stony silence.

At least in Bedrock, the artist might have been called Pablo Pick-rockso or something.

ART QUOTES: Peter Doig

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Peter Doig “Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre” 77″ x 116″

“If you look at the two costumed figures represented in Gasthof, they are the gatekeepers to the world of painting. These are the people who allow you to disband your disbelief, like an entrance to a dream. For me they are dressed up like the Byrds, pretending to be from another time, although this could lead to a much too specific background, musically as well as historically. In the end, they are at the center of attraction while equally being out of time.”

-Peter Doig

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Peter Doig creates dreamlike paintings, influenced by the likes of Edvard Munch and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, that combine a hallucinatory palette with expressive brushwork. Here the image of the two men derives from a photograph taken when the artist was working as a dresser at the London Coliseum. One night, after a production of Igor Stravinsky’s Petrouchka (1911), Doig and a friend donned costumes from the performance and comically posed for a picture. The artist initially used this photograph as the basis for a figure study; he then superimposed the two men on a landscape borrowed from an antique postcard, depicting the vista from an old German tavern, Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre.

-The Art Institute of Chicago

STUDIO: A Method for Painting Productivity

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Right now: Three Works in Progess

 

Every artist has their own individual approach to creating art. Everyone needs to figure out what method works best for them.

I’ve found I do best when I have multiple paintings in progress, at different stages of completion. If I’m not feeling the flow on a particular piece, I can switch to another one that’s at either a more basic or complex stage of resolution, and keep going.

There could be a danger in this. I have so many ideas, I could start 50 canvases, and nothing would ever get finished, just because my efforts would be too diffused. So to approach painting in a systematic and orderly fashion, I’ve developed a method which keeps the number of works in progress manageable, but still gives flexibility and choices.

I try to have 3 canvases going at the same time: A long term project, a medium term project, and a short term project. Long term will take several months to complete. Medium term is around a month. Short term is a couple of weeks.

I usually make an assumption on how long a painting will take based on its size. For example, right now my long term is 30″ x 30″, the medium term is 24″ x 18″, and the short term is 12″ x 16″.

The tricky part is the smaller works sometimes take a lot longer than I anticipate-smaller does not mean easier. Big pieces, however, predictably remain marathons.

Because of the staggered start dates and completion times, I always have something still fresh and new available to work on, something that needs very exacting details and decisions made, and something in between. It also means that in a typical three month block of time, I will have made multiple new paintings.

This model can apply to more than just painting. In life, what long term, medium term, and short term goals do you have going at any one time? It’s a great way to keep making consistent progress.