Thursday, 14 January 2010

Keeping strength in reserve

I am enjoying the book "Life with Picasso" by Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake. Gilot was (still is) an artist herself, 40 years younger than Picasso, and a very strong woman.

One of the things he told her:
"You must always work not just within but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, then handle only five. In that way the ones you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve." (p. 50)

Just the opposite of 'aim for the moon, you may land among the stars' or 'work at the edge of your capabilities; that way you learn something new'. And it has a truth in it that appeals.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Redon -- I await joyous surpises

Odilon Redon wrote in a letter to Charles Morice, 1911:

I am capricious. I float along on the infinite combination of the materials I touch. I believe that the artist yields to the stimulus of materials that will transport his spirit. I am sure of what I will not do, but not of what my art will bring about. I await joyous surprises while working, an awakening of the materials that I put to work and that my spirit develops.

A good work of art, made in one burst with tenacity, determination, passion as much as reason, should surpass the goal the artists has set for himself.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Four paintings

I took the book "French Art at the Hermitage" and chose the four paintings that most appealed to me. Vlaminck, Redon, Cheret, Redon. Dynamic or quite still.
What next?

Snowbound art

Four days after the snow fell, it is still six inches deep and powdery. In the mornings, the cottage windows have a layer of ice on the inside, but the various heating sources soon make it warm and cosy. The blog is restarted to make contact with the world beyond the lane, or at least to feel as if there is contact.

I have been in my study writing so am surrounded by bits of paper with black and white typing on. Out of the window, the pond and hedges started looking like black and white typing too. I thought it would be fun to make a collage from my discarded drafts so tried - it turned into a 3d model of the pond with bits stuck on - rather like something children might bring home from school. So I just laughed and told myself "that's lovely, dear. Well done!" Perhaps Saatchi might like it.

The books and websites keep telling me to play, become like a child again. But they don't really mean that - it's something much more sophisticated that combines skill and expertise with imagination, not this clumsy gluing and sticking. I can make a story about the collage/3d model - how it turns my (too) serious academic work into a hedge and a brambly island in an icy pond - there are lots of potential metaphors in that. But even with a story, it doesn't look like art to me.

And I like the resonance (such a handily vague word that) between the seeds that fell out of the larch cones on to the card and looked just like the ducks' footprints in the snow as they walked and slid across the icy pond. When I look down from the study -my little ivory tower, except that the ivory is all outside - I see the duck tracks across and around, and even, this morning, a rabbit lolloping from bank to island. I had noticed, the day before, the same seeds scattered over the snow up by the edge of the wood, and thought how that must happen anyway, but how the snow made it visible. So I stuck on the seeds to seem like duck webprints.

And was it synchronicity that my John Lewis Christmas paper napkins had the very same muted green that the water at the edge of the pond took on when it began to freeze? So that those bits of the collage/model now remind me of Christmas and family who came to stay and eating mince pies. What rich reverberations that silly little collage/model has for me...