Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Road Trippin'

I returned home today from a short stay, but most enjoyable road trip to Moama. It was a long overdue visit to see my parents.

I had not seen my mother since a friends wedding last November, and my father since September. It seems like an awfully long time but has somehow gone very quickly. It always sounds so cliché saying things like "I can't believe it's the end of June already", and "the years seem to go faster and faster as we get older", even though it really does feel this way. I honestly did not think it had been so long since I last visited my parents.

I had decided to go on a surprise visit, but when I missed my turn off and drove a fair bit further on the Hume Highway than necessary, I called my father to let him know I was on my way - the long way - and that I had hoped to arrive before midday and surprise my mother at the radio station, where she was doing a community on-air slot that day from 9am - midday. For a little while I was concerned I was not going to make it in time but I got there with 40 minutes to spare... and the surprise was a success.

Although my father was already aware I was on my way, it did not stop him from exhibiting emotion when I walked into the studio. Every time I see him I am reminded where I got my ridiculously emotional character from! It was quite moving though, and made me realise I should do it more often, (visit them that is, not cry). Four hours on the road is really not an excuse to avoid visiting people you love. I can't expect my father, at 77 years of age, to make regular trips of that distance, and my mother, who, even though she is a fair bit younger than dad, got her license quite late in life, thus her confidence on the road does not extend beyond her surrounding twin township of Echuca/Moama.

I went alone this time, or at least with no other human traveling companion... I did however take one of my dogs, (Teak), to fill that position, and she proved to be the perfect choice.

My father, who pretends to not really be a fan of dogs, (although secretly, he has a soft spot for them, especially well behaved female dogs, as they remind him of a German Shepard bitch he had, and adored, as a young adult), actually let her sleep inside next to me, which was completely unexpected. Anyone who knows my father would understand what a big thing that was!

That part of Australia really does have a certain charm to it. Taking a morning walk along the Murray, for me, is one of life's simple pleasures. It reminded me that traveling (itself) is the important thing, not whether it's an exotic or overseas destination, or a lengthy duration - although I do enjoy the opportunities when they arise - but the feeling of 'being on the road', of 'no set agenda' that is appealing and liberating.

Ah, the wide open road. There were a number of moments where I had such a strong desire to just keep driving... and driving...

...and driving.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Head versus Hand

I read an interview with Rotraut Klein-Moquay, the widow of Yves Klein today. It was not all that in depth, but it was enough to trigger a few thoughts and emotions inside me. Since last writing, I have been re-visiting some of Sigmar Polke's work and once again finding it quite inspiring. After reading this interview today, I re-visited some of the work of Klein and also read a little more about him than I ever had before.

Although his work has never stood out in any brilliance to me, the process, evolution and construction of his work, (and life), is brilliantly inspiring. Sadly though, it was all cut short, Klein suffered a fatal heart attack at only 34.

I must say I spend A LOT of time on the internet... probably much more than I should, but in defense of all it's non-constructive distractions, and voyeuristic social networking, it does contain a plethora of information so widely and freely available that used to cost me a small fortune from the arts section at secondhand bookstores. It provides me with a 24 hour virtual gallery and bookstore, full of images and information on art and artists that was never accessible to me when I was at Art School, but has now become a great resource for me, (as an artist).

One thing that has surfaced with my recent 'internet viewing', is this current battle between my head and my hand. Whilst my head conjures up images that are free flowing, multi-layered and dynamic, my hand continues to paint these finely tuned, super-flat, graphic slash 'pop' images. I stare at my painting with a sense of bewilderment, wondering how my hand once again managed to trick my head, how these finely painted lines and highly detailed figures keep making their way onto the canvas when my head has other ideas. Often I am even convinced that my head is governing my hand because the work may start out one way... but then the hand takes over and the head must just surrender into some kind of auto-pilot mode.

It's not that I don't enjoy painting this particular style of work... it's just that I so desperately want to 'break out'... or break the mold, step outside the square for a little while.

I've even been trying to convince myself that after spending hours upon hours fine tuning a piece, re-working every line, that I should either sand it back or paint a white-wash over it so that it becomes not the final image, but merely the base layer of the work... but I deliberate, after considering just how long the work has taken to paint and get to the polished and detailed state that it's in.

There is a sense of freedom and even liberation that comes with creating work that is not so refined and 'confined'. Of course, there is also a sense of satisfaction that still comes with paitning graphic and slick images that require enormous amounts of patience - (part of the satisfaction is the fact I have actually found that much patience within me). However, many of my recent ideas do not lend themselves to the hard edged pop style of painting, so I need to find a way to release the tiger from its creative cage.

Above image: Yves Klein covers a naked model in blue paint to use as a 'living brush'.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So Long, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen...

Another one gone this week.

I speak of the artist Sigmar Polke, yet another influential artist of my time and an inspirational figure to me, who passed away on June 10th. He was 69.

I have been fortunate enough in my travels to see quite a number of his works in the flesh, including a fantastic retrospective exhibition in 2004 - I think it was in New York.
"Polke for a long time has been the most interesting, least predictable of the painters around." critic and curator Robert Storr, 2007.
Ruhe in Frieden Sigmar Polke.

above image: Sigmar Polke, Kandinsdingsda, (Wir Kleinbürger), 1976.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fingernails and Fairytales

I'm watching Roman Holiday while my 3 dogs search the house for my lost, or misplaced, inspiration.

My inspiration is not so much lost as 'cluttered'... confused. My ideas are currently torn between those from the past and these of the present, between child and woman, between innocence and cynicism... I feel like I am hovering somewhere between Betty Boop and Bettie Paige!

Perhaps there need not be any conflict of interest inside my head. Maybe all these ideas can work harmoniously, (or otherwise), together...
"If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all."
Audrey Hepburn

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Props for the Procrastinator


...and a handful of relative Henry Moore quotes.
'It is a mistake for a sculptor or a painter to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work.'

'Art is not to do with the practical side of making a living. It's to live a fuller human life.'

'The important thing is somehow to begin.'

'I sometimes begin a drawing with no preconceived problem to solve, with only the desire to use pencil on paper... but as my eye takes in what is so produced, a point arrives where some idea crystallizes, and then a control and ordering begins to take place.'

'I find in all the artists that I admire most a disturbing element, a distortion, giving evidence of a struggle... In great art, this conflict is hidden, it is unresolved. All that is bursting with energy is disturbing – not perfect.'

Ambition and Fear

I have managed to master the art of procrastination over the past couple of weeks. At least, I have done far more of this than painting... or even attempting to paint. However, I did make one today, an attempt that is, but it felt half-arsed.

Since returning from Perth I have, creatively, been stuck somewhere between ambition and fear. This kind of anxiety is ridiculous.

It's hard to explain the fear side of things... (the ambition is self explanatory); it's like I get so worked up about starting a new piece in case it may not work out the way I want it to - hell, I should know by now that they very rarely do, and that often the further away from the initial idea they are, sometimes the better the work ends up being... it's like some sort of self-evolving lucky-dip... but lately, more so than usual, I have been so nervous about starting something new - it's like I feel that my every move in the studio is being watched and criticised - when clearly, it's not, (or should I say the only one doing so is ME)... but somehow, stupidly, I allow this kind of fear to enter, be it to provide an excuse to procrastinate, or be it genuine anxiety driven fear... with the ridiculous thought that every mark I make on the canvas will be seen - when in reality, I don't have to show my work to anyone. If a piece does not work, or I am not happy with something, I do not have to present it to the public to be judged. I can paint over it in the privacy of my studio as if what's underneath never existed... I can even slash it or burn it if I so desire, and no-one else has to know.

It's such a weird state of mind. I wonder sometimes if it is laziness - this procrastination... but I have a genuine desire to be busy. I find myself frantically cleaning the house or doing other tasks that are indeed productive in other ways, but in no means towards my art.

I feel a little silly even writing about it but I am sure I will curiously re-read it with interest one day. Just as I am sure if I was to scroll back to any blog, diary or folio entries after previous exhibitions, I would probably see some sort of pattern in my way of thinking... perhaps it is just that 'post-exhibition confusion' that an artist can sometimes feel after a show. I am in no way feeling 'down' at the moment, I am, in fact, generally happy... just not very productive. I realise I am the only one who can change this and I truly hope me, myself and I get their act together soon.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Blanket Magazine

Thanks to Bec Brown and crew for the feature in Blanket Magazine - Cosmos Issue.

In their own words...(taken from their website)
Blanket is an online PDF magazine that uncovers art + design + photography from the talented people who create it.

Bec has put together a talented team of Blanketeers, dotted all over the world, who help her create a beautiful magazine each and every issue with their contributions of artist interviews, cheeky and humorous stories, craft, cartoons and, of course, beautiful art, design and photography.
Blanket Magazine can be downloaded here for the tiniest of fees and is definitely good value and a good read.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Reconstruction of the Father Mother

I received an email from my mother today.

It read, simply...
She had read my entries about the late, and great, Louise Bourgeois. I was so thrilled at the thought of my mother wanting to read this that I almost put my copy in the post to her, but then thought twice... I have a feeling I will be wanting to refer to it for one reason or another - as it has barely left my side over the past two days... so instead, I am going to buy her a copy online and send it to her as a gift.

I had actually been wanting to buy my mother a meaningful gift for a while.

I've no doubt it will inspire my mother, as a woman, and also an artist, the way it has me.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Bit More of Bourgeois...

(above: Portrait of Louise Bourgeois with Fillette, 1968, by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982)

I have been reading bits and pieces from the book all afternoon, remembering the wonderful Louise Bourgeois.

The rawness and honesty of her words make them so powerful and allow the reader to gain a modest amount of insight into her amazing and ever creative mind. She says things that many artists are either too proud or too afraid to say, she happily contradicts herself if the words come from an honest place... it's more a case of sharing her evolved knowledge on a previous thought or topic rather than contradiction in the true sense - regardless, her words strike a chord with me and I admire her tremendously.

From an interview with Stuart Morgan, first published in Artscribe 1988 -
What's this piece called?

It embarrasses me to say I don't know what it's called. As time goes on it means different things to me, so I don't have a title. This is not my job. As far as I'm concerned it should have four or five titles. My subjects recur. They might look different but the subjects themselves are the same.

A diary note from 1986 -
Self-control means:
Do not show your arrow, idiot.
Do not make threats, stupid.
Do not frighten horses.
Do not rock the boats.
Do not push a tantrum.
Do not show your jealousy.
Do not show how much you care.

A statement from 1979 -
Once I was beset by anxiety. I couldn't tell right from left or orient myself. I could have cried out with terror at being lost. But I pushed the fear away by studying the sky, determining where the moon would come out, where the sun would appear in the morning. I saw myself in relationship to the stars. I began weeping, and I knew that I was all right.
This is the way I make use of geometry today. The miracle is that I am able to do it - by geometry.

8 August 1987 -
You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love. That is why geometrically speaking the circle is a one.
Everything comes to you from the other. You have to be able to reach the other. If not you are alone...

3 October 1987 -
Transparency interests me. I want to be transparent. If people could see through me, they could not help loving me, forgive me. What is the difference between the two? None.

From a series of statements published in 1992 -
When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles, I've always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair the damage. It's a claim to forgiveness. It is never aggressive, it's not a pin.

If a person is an artist, it is a guarantee of sanity. He is able to take his torment.

By withdrawing, by recognizing you have no power, you become more than yourself. You get ideas which never would have occurred to you. In my art, I live in a world of my own making. I make decisions. I have power. In the real world, I don't want power.

Self-expression is sacred and fatal. It's a necessity. Sublimation is a gift, a stroke of luck. One has nothing to do with the other.
I am saying in my sculpture today what I could not make out in the past. It was fear that kept me from understanding. Fear is the pits. It paralyzes you.
My sculpture allows me to re-experience the fear, to give it a physicality so I am able to hack away at it. Fear becomes a manageable reality. Sculpture allows me to re-experience the past, to see the past in its objective, realistic proportion.
Fear is a passive state. The goal is to be active and take control. The move is from the passive to the active. If the past is not negated in the present, you do not live. You go through the emotions like a zombie, and life passes you by.
Since the fears of the past were connected with the functions of the body, they reappear through the body. For me, sculpture is the body. My body is my sculpture.

The intensity of Francis Bacon's work moves me deeply. I react positively. I sympathize. His suffering communicates. The definition of beauty is a kind of intimacy in the visual. I feel for Bacon even though his emotions are not mine.
The physical reality of his works is transformed and transcended. His room does not obey the laws of perspective. To look at his pictures makes me alive. I want to share it. It's almost the expression of love..

I am glad she shared her insight, knowledge and experience in print.

I do not know who took the above photograph of Louise, if I find out, I will credit note it - but I love it so much I just had to include it.

Farewell Louise Josephine Bourgeois

I should be painting today. I've not done so since returning from Perth a week ago. I had planned to spend all day in the studio and not succumb to any distractions, but when I learned that Louise Bourgeois had passed away, I felt compelled to pay some kind of a tribute to her, even if only in the form of a blog post. However, my respects run far deeper than the words on this page.

To look at my work you would not necessarily recognise that for the past 10 years, Louise Bourgeois has been one of my greatest artistic influences. I don't choose to imitate but rather allow inspiration to take hold and manifest in it's own wonderful and often peculiar ways.

Unfortunately, I never met Louise Bourgeois, nor was I allowed to take photographs of her work at an exhibition in Dublin years ago, (way before the iPhone!); so I have grabbed a few images from the internet to illustrate this post.

I have mentioned here in this blog several times as well as dedicating this post from 2006 to her, quoting some excerpts from her book Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father.

I just adore that book, and refer to it often, it showcases her fertile imagination and holds a wealth of experience and inspiration... and through her words, her images became more appealing and meaningful to me.
To be born an artist is both a privilege and a curse. How can it be taught? It is not possible to become one, you can just accept or refuse the gift. It is not in my power or is it my responsibility or am I willing to try the impossible aim [of] teaching someone to "become" an artist.

A diary entry from 1983:
Success or good news is terrifying and provokes attack, anxiety attacks or aggressive and murderous attack; it is the fear of the alter ego. I do not want to be rewarded or exalted. I detest it. It makes me bite. It is not ingratitude, it is not fear, it is terror.

Every time I open the book, I am greeted with this...

My name is Louise Josephine Bourgeois.
I was born 24 December 1911, in Paris.
All my work in the past fifty years, all my
subjects, have found their inspiration in
my childhood.

My childhood has never lost its magic, it
has never lost its mystery, and it has never
lost its drama.

Almost childlike themselves, they are possibly the most simple words to grace the book, said with the kind of innocence that many of us strive to hang on to, but with a lifetime of experience that many of us will never know. She lived ninety-eight years. I have to wonder, to make it that far and not see out 100, was it a choice? Was she ready to go beyond her lifetime on earth? She has certainly left behind an amazing legacy and will no doubt forever inspire future generations of artists and women alike.

In a questionnaire from 1971, Louise was asked -
Do you feel you have as much recognition of your work as you would like?

She answered simply -
No. But recognition will come in time, and this is enough for me.

I think she can rest assured that she has made her mark in this world and not only in the form of recognition, she was also a true inspiration figure to so many and shall continue to be well beyond her time on this earth.

Rest in Peace SpiderWoman.

above image:
Louise Bourgeois in 1990,
behind her marble sculpture Eye to Eye (1970)
Photo by Raimon Ramis

With a Heavy Heart...

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. I have just heard news of the passing of one of the most amazing women to ever have graced this earth. The wonderful, beautiful and SO, SO inspirational Louise Bourgeois passed away yesterday, May 31, aged 98.

Despite her age, I had somehow believed she would live forever, so news of her death is still somewhat of a shock to me.

I need to gather my thoughts in order to come back and pay my respects.

RIP the amazing Spider Mistress.

Today the art world, and the WORLD, learned of a great loss.

Photo credit for the amazing image above - the wonderful Annie Leibovitz