Blackpaint 160

The Vivisector by Patrick White

I’m still reading this, after months, as a result of my obsessive behaviour in reading a dozen books at once, four pages at a time.  Consequently, I can never remember what happened at the start by the time I finish.  With some books this doesn’t matter; Beckett’s “The Unnameable” for  example.  If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. 

The Patrick White, however, is great, but I think difficult.  Anyway, today I came to a bit which struck me very hard.  Duffield (White’s painter, apparently based on a combo of Bacon and Nolan) at the age of fifty-five, is brought suddenly down to earth by a shopgirl referring to him as “elderly”.  His reaction is to retreat into his house, where his paintings are waiting for him:

“The paintings, the earlier ones you end by accepting like inherited moral traits, had withdrawn apathetically into the walls on which they were hanging.  They were less humiliating, however, than the bravura of technique, the unsolved problems of space, the passages of turgid paint, which glared at him from the later ones standing around the skirting boards.  Most disturbing of all was the painting on the easel…before his going out, it had struck him as having a lucidity, an almost perfect simplicity….all lost with his going out; the smallgoods girl…..had done away with the membrane separating truth from illusion. ”

This is something I guess that everyone who aspires to creative work experiences frequently – all the time, in fact.  Something you thought was quite good, you were perhaps a bit excited about, suddenly dies and drains away, on the wall or the page.  You can’t think how you failed to notice the scrappy bits, the dead areas, the garishness of that blue which you had thought was subtle, the boring bit in the top left, the glare of the colours generally.  Always there is the lack of originality, in that what you think of as good is the result of your work looking a bit like someone else’s that you like.  If it were original, you wouldn’t like it in the first place.

So, White writes well about painting.  This scene is followed by Duffield using an outside toilet, but unlike Leopold Bloom, that constipation of yesterday is NOT gone.  Other toilet scenes in modern literature; Inside Mr.Enderby by Anthony Burgess, Jubb by Keith Waterhouse , a short story (I think) by John Cheever and of course, Trainspotting.

After that short digression into literature, back to art.

Jim Dine

Beautiful woodblock prints of classical sculptures, done in the late 80s; “Red Dancer on the Western Shore” and the “Oil of Gladness” (actually a brightly coloured print of the Venus de Milo).


Two pictures done in 1961 and 2, “Nives” and “Portrait of Janine” that, at first glance, are very much like de Kooning women.

Blackpaint, not Appel of course.


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