Posts Tagged ‘Mingus’

Blackpaint 29

January 4, 2010


Got to Susan Sontag in “Art Theory for Beginners”, and she sounds just the ticket for an abstract painter like me.  The search for meaning in an art work misses the point, apparently – art is irrational, a sort of magical transmutation which is beyond rational explanation.

She also has a good word for pornography, in the sense that in “goes to places” that others do not; the transgressor  (the producer of pornography, presumably), she is quoted as saying, “knows things that others don’t”.  It’s not clear whether this attitude extends to the consumer too.

No doubt her argument is distorted by compression, but it came as a surprise to me.

Theo Kuijpers

In “Intensely Dutch” – lovely, loopy triangles and half squares in oily black over deep, glowing, heavily-scored patches of colour – reds, blues, turquoise.  The paintings in this book are so rich I can’t be bothered to read the text.


I chickened out – appropriately; toned my yellows down with splotches of ochre & smears of grey, and framed them with slashes and rods of black.  Now it’s messy and sort of tough, but back to what I was doing before.  Got to make that break.

Listening to “Freddy Freeloader”, Miles Davis, and “Fables of Faubus”, Charles Mingus and “Lonely Woman”, Ornette Coleman. 

 “Two, four, six, eight,

They brainwash and teach you hate..”

( Faubus/Mingus.)



Blackpaint 15

December 15, 2009

Why Paint?

So the big question.  The first painters, on cave walls, were supposed to have been engaged in some sort of attempt to gain a magical advantage over the animals which they hunted for food.  Or, perhaps they were done by a caste of artist/priests, as part of religous, or magical ceremonies.  Either way, they would have been part of a process of gaining some sort of control, or influence over, their environment.

For centuries, a major purpose of art was to relate or reinforce the narratives of the great religions, with the exception of Islam, where the prohibition on images of the prophet precluded this and stimulated abstract art.

Later, painting and sculpture served to provide a record of important individuals and families rich enough to pay for them.

Later still (but overlapping, of course) landscapes, still lifes, historical scenes, interiors, all evolved to supply a developing market for art, while helping to shape and extend it at the same time.

Marxists say that, like all forms of culture, it helps to reinforce the power of the status quo – or rarely, fleetingly, can help the forces that seek to overthrow it. 

Now of course, one reason for painting or sculpture or any form of artistic production is the fact that it is an established thing.  Like sex or cooking, people have been doing it one way or another since the beginning of society, so to use pigment or line to establish patterns and make a picture does not seem an odd thing to do.

 The sort of thing you hear artists and critics saying is art tells you things about the world you live in, or makes you see the world in a new way- or art is about emotion, it expresses what the artist feels.  I saw Louise Bourgeois on TV last night saying just that – art for her is never just about the materials, it is about emotion.  I suppose these are two poles of perception; one addresses the external world, the other expresses the internal.  But then there is a third position; those artists for whom it is exactly about the materials; what you can do with them, what their properties are, how far you can push them…

I don’t know, but I imagine most artists do all three to some degree.  Anyway, I paint with no preconceived philosophy, it’s a physical process that gives me pleasure and pain (in the form of irritation and disgust when it’s not going right), and the process is something that keeps me sane and gives me a reason for living, over and above the duties which I have.  It’s nothing to do with money – selling pictures is all about knowing that people are prepared to part with cash to put my stuff on the wall.

I was trained years ago at university (history, not art) to be dissatisfied with a theory that wasn’t properly unified – that is to say, it explained things one way for one epoch and another way for another.  So, if I paint because I need to, to express something or maybe just to do it, that should be true for the cave painters as well, and all the ones who have painted since.

Anyway, must stop now – to do some painting.

Listening to Mingus again today – Video of Stockholm concert with Dolphy, 1964.  Mellow, fantastic – my, my they cry (great line, Donovan, but Mingus was rarely mellow).

Blackpaint, drunk, 14.12.09

Blackpaint 12

December 11, 2009

Trying out the “Van Gogh” method of drawing I mentioned yesterday (using no shading but that of closely drawn lines), I found that I didn’t know how to do it; for example, should all the shading lines point the same way?  It will be easy enough to find out and not worth mentioning perhaps, except that it illustrates a problem faced by the self-taught in all fields; that of patches of deep ignorance in technique.

I remember Rolf Harris explaining to an amateur painter on TV about reflections in water, how a tree’s reflection, for example, goes straight “down” rather than “across” the surface.  This painter was working outdoors, with the scene in front of him and yet he’d not noticed this.  I suppose it goes some way to explaining that apparent inability of many Renaissance artists to do a good infant, that I was writing about the other day.  There must be something in the way the brain processes the information that’s in front of the eyes, that refuses to register the “truth”.

Some interesting stuff in Daniel Farson’s book on Bacon, “The Gilded Gutter Life of FB”; Bacon “believed (that Picasso’s Guernica) reeked of propaganda”.  Also, the opening scenes of “Last Tango in Paris” were based on Bacon’s work (haven’t seen it, so can’t comment) and also Hannibal Lecter’s cage in “Silence of the Lambs”.

Last night’s painting has now acquired a lot of white “strapping” around the black areas and some Prussian blue and black additions that look like an anvil poking up towards the top left hand corner- or maybe an electric hand drill.  The trouble is, if you leave it around it grows familiar and, far from breeding contempt, it seems to gain credibility, or integrity – to me, anyway. 

Watched the Ballets Russes programme on TV; that incredible end to “L’apres midi d’un Faune”, where the faun appears to masturbate on the scarf of the departed nymph – or to “achieve climax”, as one old dancer put it.  Now I understand why audiences found it shocking.

Listening to: “Tonight at Noon” by Charles Mingus – now there’s a great title; I think I’ll nick it for a picture.