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Archive for the ‘Romantic’ Category

Oehlen3
“People don’t realize that when you are working on a painting, every day you are seeing something awful,” Albert Oehlen said in an interview with Peter Schjeldahl from the New Yorker. I burst out laughing when I read that. I don’t mean, that Oehlen was joking, not at all. What he said was funny because it’s the truth, but so awful a truth, that nobody wants to come out and say it. Once you hear somebody say that, you have to admit it’s true. It has to be true. If a panting looked wonderful after the first splash of paint, it would be done. While that can happen once in a rare while, we know that artists work on a painting for hours, days, sometimes weeks and months. During all that time, they would have to be dissatisfied with what they’re looking at, otherwise….it’s obvious. So, what drives the artist is that, as Oehlen says, he’s looking at something awful.
This is not how the public sees artists’ work. The public prefers the kitschy, idealized image of the smock wearing, beret topped artist who merely channels “inspiration.” Ha.
Oehlen2The dramatic mood of the work is comic, beset by existential worry, Oehlen continued. It’s as if each picture wondered, “What am I? Am I even art? O.K., but what does that mean?”
The article by Peter Schjeldahl appeared in the New Yorker, June 22, 2015, p82.
More paintings by Albert Oehlen at https://www.google.com/search?q=albert+oehlen&biw=1321&bih=796&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CI0BEIkeahUKEwirxaLszdHHAhVKeT4KHWRkBpQ
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SpilledMilk
Classicism gives way to Romanticism: right there at the dairy section of Trader Joe’s, a gallon jug of milk falls off the peaceful, orderly shelf without any apparent provocation.
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14StillLifeBoxGabyCHow long does it take to draw a still life like the one in the previous post? Three hours. This does not mean that graphite is being deposited on paper uninterruptedly for three hours. Much of the time is devoted to looking, considering, deciding, trying. The big decision, of course, is when to stop.
I tend to like a work at a very early stage of its development. That’s probably because of my love of abstraction and so a few lines on the page already speak to me. As for the love of incompletion, that’s an attribute of a romantic sensibility. I’m one of those.

14StillLifeBoxGabyEIn this second “stage set” Gaby again produced a fine drawing, this time with more delicate markmaking and with more devoted attention to shading . I’ll show it here in two stages, the one that starts the post being the final one. Final, not only in the sense of three-hours-are-up but also in the sense of “it is resolved.”

What’s particularly effective in the drawing is how the rectillinear edges on the left were worked out to contrast with the round billowing forms on the right.

14StillLifeBoxGabyD
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14ElizMorlsPaperBag1

At this stage, I took a shot of the drawing because I thought it might be finished.  Elizabeth thought so, too, but decided to continue working on it.  When she had all the facets of the paper bag carefully drawn (see previous post), she said, “I liked it better before.”

I’ve talked about the “Unfinished” before:  https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/yoko-ono-and-romantic-irony/

An article on this subject appeared in the NYtimes just a few days ago, worth reading:

“The Fascination of the Unfinished, “ by Roberta Smith

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/arts/design/the-fascination-of-the-unfinished.html?hp&_r=0

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I presented the ideas of Johannes Itten in that class (see previous post) and also the paintings of Turner.

Art historians discuss Turner in connection with the aesthetic of the Sublime, a central idea in Romanticism.  The Sublime was opposed to beauty, restraint, balance, harmony.  Romantic poets felt tormented by infinite longing and passion that could not be contained.  In their debates about form and content , form lost its former respect.  The content of turbulent emotion and the newly discovered dark aspects of the psyche—not as sin but as depth and authenticity—were seen to correspond to the awe and terror of natural forces , such as mountains and oceans.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 –1851) is famous for his seascapes, which are most often turbulent and terrifying:  burning ships; ship wrecks; drowning, shackled slaves; blazing orange skies. Though he was a member of the Royal Academy, he had to endure much ridicule from his contemporaries who preferred polite, sedate , well-ordered pictures to be mollified by.

Turner also painted landscapes.  He hated the color green and painted landscapes while avoiding that color.  What is a landscape?  We keep coming back to that question in my landscape class.  Turner assures us that it’s not about the color green.

I didn’t present the Sublime in class.  Just looking at Turner gives you goose bumps and you GET it.  Elaine C. again faced a white canvas by putting down color and letting the form follow.  This is a small painting, about 12 x 16.  If it were 48 x 64, it would pull us into the Romantic Sublime.

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The Momento Mori or Vanitas still life I talked about in post for 6.17.11 led to a meticulous drawing by Louise F.  I’ll show two stages of her drawing.  Above is the drawing as it was at the end of the three-hour class.  I liked it at this stage and considered it finished.  I loved the side view of the violin because it was unusual and unconventional.  It offers a hint of the violin and just enough information to allow the viewer to identify the object.  There’s a mystery about it because of its averted angle.  Also mysterious are the flowers—where do they come from?  Then the scrolls of paper, echoing the scroll at the violin’s neck, but again, what are these things doing here?  We can’t quite make sense of the meeting of these objects, but at the same time the forms are perfect, all playing on each other.

Louise didn’t think it was finished at this stage.  She didn’t like the vacant space at the bottom.  The violin was resting on some drapery, which she didn’t have time to draw during the class period.  She invented some drapery at home, filled in the “vacant” space at the bottom and framed the drawing.  The pencil marks now fill out a rectangle, which conforms to the shape of the mat and frame. There’s more to look at.  The drawing looks more finished and complete and this is satisfying to most viewers.

We’ve encountered the opposition of the classical and romantic sensibility before in this blog.  My preference for the “vacant” space, for the incomplete feeling, is part of the romantic approach.  Louise, like most students (in my experience), preferred the complete, balanced drawing without the open space.  That’s the classical sensibility expressing itself.

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The history of the still life can be traced back to the Romans, but it came into full force around 1600, primarily in the Netherlands.  We have a still life by Caravaggio, but in Italy religious themes remained dominant.  In the Netherlands, where a republican government had taken root early and where a secular culture was in ascendancy, still life paintings became powerful objects of contemplation.  By the middle of the 17th century, Dutch art collectors filled their homes with landscapes, family portraits, still lifes,  and scenes of domesticity, with religious themes numbering (it’s estimated) only about one in five.  There was a special theme for a still life, devoid of religious references, that reminded the viewer of the transience of life.  Called “Vanitas” paintings or “Momemto Mori,” these paintings involved the human skull and other reminders of mortality such as candles, cobwebs;  the ephemeralness of fame as symbolized in cultural treasures like books and violins.

In a recent drawing class I set up such a Vanitas still life.  It turned out to be an inspiring subject, though half of the class avoided the skull, arguably the anchor of the still life, altogether. Some students invented background “atmospherics” in their use of shading or rectilinear forms.  I particularly like the choice of very oblique views of the still life so that the violin—the prima donna of the show—is actually seen from an obscuring angle.  The incompletion that we see in all of the drawings, this fading out of the lines and the shading as we get to the edge, this incompletion is a thoroughly modern technique.  It comes, as we have seen before (posts 2.21, 4.22, and 5.23.11) from early 19th century Romanticism.

Shown here are drawings by Maggy S., Karen G., In Young J., who gave us the most realistic rendering and Vera C., who drew the individual objects as if they were collaged together on the drawing paper according to dictates of the life in her composition.  The drawing by Louise F. will get a post of its own.

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