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This is a large format painting compared to most of my work. It is 50 x 50cm,  around 20″x 20″.

After working with this theme for months  now, I realized a short while ago where the underlying fascination with light shining through coloured glass might come from. I recently remembered a phrase of Michael Ondaatje’s from the English Patient I wrote down about 20 years ago intending to do a calligraphic artwork with it. I never got further than a sketch, but the image of the ‘glass curtain’ has never left me:

The next day he heard snatches of the glassy sound as he lay once more covered in cloth. A noise out of the darkness. At twilight the felt was unwrapped and he saw a man’s head on a table moving towards him, then realized the man wore a giant yoke from which hung hundreds of small bottles on different lengths of string and wire. Moving as if part of a glass curtain, his body enveloped within that sphere.

The figure resembled most of all those drawings of archangels he had tried to copy as a schoolboy, never solving how one body could have space for the muscles of such wings. The man moved with a long, slow gait, so smoothly there was hardly a tilt in the bottles. A wave of glass, an archangel, all the ointments within the bottles warmed from the sun, so when they were rubbed onto skin they seemed to have been heated especially for a wound. Behind him was translated light – blues and other colours shivering in the haze and sand. The faint glass noise and the diverse colours and the regal walk and his face like a lean dark gun.

From The English Patient, by Micahel Ondaatje

Below is a detail-  the green glass is old and full of little bubbles,  I applied light green with drybrush to create a haze that imitates the effect of the countless little bubbles in the glass.  I love the mosaic of colours in the right half of the painting and hope to expand on that effect in the next one.

Friends at decor-artuk recently posted a helpful entry on marketing for artists. A short exchange between us followed, and I’d like to continue my  bit here – everyone is welcome to join in, of course.

As my oil paintings mount up here (and they are the first work in several years which I feel are worthy of exhibiting), I will soon be re-entering the marketing fray in some way or another.

So just a reminder that my ‘anti-marketing’ posts aren’t about not selling one’s work, they are about the other sides of art which are getting lost in the marketing discussion. These facets of art/the arts are essential to human spiritual and cultural life, I feel. So I’ll continute to write about them here, perhaps reminding us why we chose to be artists in the first place.

When a work of art, piece of music, phrase of literature, etc  connects straight to my soul I get launched out of my small life with its everyday cares. I get reconnected to the best in myself, and reminded of why I am here- even if I can’t express it in words. It is just a profound reassurance that life is fine as it is, warts and all, the larger wheel is turning in a beauty and order which is unfathomable to a human mind, and my small life is somehow held and counted in it. Those mysteries are what art touches.
A past post, Art’s worth, explores the issue further, with Rob Riemen, a Dutch publisher and writer who spoke eloquently of how art was a solace to him after a series of devastating personal losses.

In Kristina’s (decor-artuk) reply to me she says, ‘… it does seem that art has lost a lot of it’s true characteristics; it has become like everything around us – you can sell it and you can buy it, it’s that simple’. (See the full comment here. )

Yes, Kristina I think , you are perfectly right. This made me feel my age, because being part of an earlier generation than most of the avidly marketing 30 somethings, I feel that loss keenly.

For one instant I even wondered whether in advocating a more ethical, and connected art I was becoming dated, an art veteran holding on to a disappearing age. But actually I think what we see emerging in all kinds of wonderful quirky forms outside the established art world -this is the future of art.
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Photos of the museum by Rende. Other photo credits: de Ploeg paintings – Groninger Museum. Fashion photos- site of Iris van Herpen

I spent yesterday morning in the Groningen Museum.  It is an edgy, internationally acclaimed building and collection. It is very competitively positioned and run as a status symbol for this northern city, which is considered inferior by the culture gurus in Amsterdam. Maybe that is why most of the exhibitions, chosen for the wrong reasons (commercial and status)  in my mind, rarely speak to me.

But Thursday, I went especially to see the Jan Altink paintings, he is a member of the ‘Ploeg’ which was mentioned in a previous post.

While there I also saw two other featured shows, both having to do with fashion. I wouldn’t have normally gone out of my way to see these, but they were both inspiring. This vimeo of  the opening of the Azzedine Alaia show gives an impression of this fashion artist’s mastery. He designs, cuts and sews each piece. The craftsmanship is to die for, and the details, materials, and ingeneious handling of materials were so inspiring.

The entry into this show was in a dimly lit room, showing off his black evening dresses on a round platform. You can see this in the above mentioned vimeo. They were all body hugging exquisitely feminine pieces in luxurious velvets and silks, shown on nearly invisible plexiglass forms, and draped impeccably.

The other show was of a young designer very much in the picture here and internationally, Iris van Herpen. Her work is more sculptural than wearable, in my opinion. I like it as art, it is fresh, and as exquisitely crafted as Alaia’s. She uses all kinds of materials and techniques from 3D printing to casting. She thinks alot about things and each collection is based on an issue that is up for her. It was impressive to see this work in real life.

Finally, I spent the rest of the time with the Altink paintings. Ate luch at the beautiful museum café overlooking the large canal, and went back for another hour to see a selection of the Ploeg collection.

The paintings are so messy!! Not just the tossed off strokes, but the surfaces! They look like they’d been dragged through the dirt, or at least as if the brushes with paint had. Close up all you could see was gritty colours, step back and there was a reasonably harmonious whole. Totally not my way of perceiving or working, but intriguing all the same.

Holland is kind of progressive in some areas. (The Dutch tend to think of themselves as very progressive, to some extent they are, but not as much as they would like to think. How progressive is a society that is cutting the art budgets to suicidal levels and at the same time elevating the sales tax on art from 6% to 19%, and in 2013 to 21%!!) later: as of July 2012, this has luckily been reversed. Praised be!

Anyway, there is a new feature in the museum I really like. You get a memory stick type thing on a key ring when you get your admission card. Every exhibition has selected works with an electronic box beside it. If you want to ‘collect’ that work, you just put the stick up to it and a little green led flashes on the box to show that piece has been added to your images. When you are ready to leave, you just go to a computer and send your collected images home via e-mail and turn in the stick.  You can see mine here . My collection starts with the dresses in the banner across the top of the page. Just click on each image to see a larger version.

Journey in paint

May 2, 2012

First stage, roughly indicating the colors

Almost there

A good stopping point

I’m fairly pleased with this result. One can go on endlessly refining, but for me it is a discipline to stop before that point.
It is acrylic, by the way, I wanted to work fast adding layers while the other oil painting I started was drying.

I like the looser brush strokes and thicker application of paint.  I’m pushing myself out of the familiar territory of just rendering because I love how some of the painters capture objects in a few thick strokes. When seen up close, they look purely abstract, and when you step back, wow- an onion (lemon, face, hand, etc).

What I worked on, among other things, between stage 2 (middle photo) and stage 3(above),  were the bottoms of the bulb shaped bottle on the left and the squarish one on the right.  I really liked the thick, painterly strokes on the right one.

When a painting is at a stage where it looks good, it is always a risk to continue developing it and risk ruining what you have. This is a constant decision process in painting, you’ve put down a spontaneous series of strokes you like, but when you change something in another area of the painting they no longer work. It is difficult to bring yourself to paint over these.

In this case, I decided to change the rest of the painting to accommodate the spontaneous strokes. 🙂

I’m now working on the oil painting I started a while back and let dry so I could work on it further. This one is getting exciting, new stuff happening, looking forward to showing new developments in the next few days.