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The spell of Cezanne

January 14, 2014

I’m painting again. It feels like coming alive, or stepping into sunlight after months in a cave. I think November last year was my last painting and it stranded from lack of inspiration.

In between times.

Incubation periods.

Heavens, they are so hard to navigate. Every.  Single. Time.

I’ve been creatively active with various crafts, volunteer work, writing, etc. So I’ve been ok, but underneath is that constant worry that the will to paint won’t come back, and also the longing to be immersed again, in the search, the problem solving, the bliss, the colour the vapours of oils and paints.

Eisenstein speaks of receiving a vision of one’s next step as a gift, but he also says that the ‘volition’ to follow that vision is also a gift. Yes, it is so true.

I’m under the spell of Cezanne at the moment- have visited two of his canvasses which are part of the show, Natural Beauty’, here in the Groningen Museum, and last year in Germany and England.  What is it about his still lifes especially which keep inspiring artists down the years? Funny, when I am standing in front of one, it doesn’t give me the buzz I get from other favourite painters, rather it reassures me. They are so matter of fact and unassuming. This is an apple, these are a bunch of apples on a table on a cloth or in a dish. They don’t look easy, it isn’t that- they just ‘Are’, so much so they reach directly into the heart of life and into the heart of the viewer.
I’m reading about him- his work developed in a chaotic time in the 1880s when painting was being reinvented. He got drawn to the Impressionists, then he pulled back to find his own truth, and ultimately moved closer to the Symbolists- so says the book I’m reading. I don’t know enough factual art history from that period to comment further on this point.

Cezanne still life with a ginger jar

Cezanne still life with a ginger jar

Cezanne still life

Cezanne still life

I feel that 2014 must be as chaotic as 1880 was, as far as what art is, what it wants to be. The writer says that the chaos in art reflected what was happening in the society.That is true of these times as well. What does one paint and why, and, artists of our day have been asking themselves for decades, ‘does it really matter?’

I lost inspiration after a good long run with my Friend’s Fruit Bowls series. I had a gallery here to look at the work recently and they found some of it ‘conventional’. People often encourage me to follow my more whimsical style because it stands out more and is more unique (ie will sell better). But I’ve stood in front of a Cezanne and felt an answer to something I didn’t know I’d asked.
It is not very fashionable to keep working away on still lifes, fruit, cloths, bottles- we’ve seen all that. After I more or less finished with the fruit bowls, I was wondering what would be next, I thought I was done with that. But when I listened properly, it was, ‘More Fruit!!!!’

So I set up a still life (innocent husband reaches for a pear and is strangled) and am all fired up again. Mr Cezanne is close by, open to a spread of still lifes on the work table, I will shamelessly follow his lead, and so learn where I’m meant to go. But God, does it ever feel good to be back in the saddle again!

Under painting, thinned oils on a ground of raw sienna and white acrylic

Under-painting, thinned oils on a ground of raw sienna and white acrylic

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9 Responses to “The spell of Cezanne”

  1. decorartuk Says:

    Looking forward to seeing how it evolves!

    P.S. I’ve also had a break from painting… I’m more than ready to get back to this activity. There must be something in the air…


    • Me too!
      Something in the air- here in Europe, it is spring perhaps. I know we are still going to get hit with cold weather, but it has been so mild that the birds are starting to sing spring songs and the snow drops are poking above the ground! My creative juices always seem to start flowing as the world gets lighter.
      Hope you get back to your painting soon.

  2. Antonio Dias Says:

    I didn’t paint for over ten years. Been back at it for three?

    Cezanne is a constant inspiration. I’ve been meaning to write about what he means to me. This might just get me to do it!

    Your new still life had the quality of air and light, of being in process but not “unfinished,” that Cezanne’s work has. Great!


    • Yes, I recognise those long periods of not painting. I also have been ‘back at it’ for about 3 years now.
      I look forward to your reflections on Cezanne.
      Thanks for your comment on the first, sketched in part of my new still life. Hopefully I can keep in touch with that airiness as I work it out. In the book I have on Cezanne, there is one landscape that looks like it wasn’t finished, yet as you say, it is in process, and complete as it is. One can learn a lot seeing the first stages of a master painter.
      One thing I love about Cezanne is that he is never fussy. The cloth I have in this still life has a lot of detail and it will be a challenge for me to work with the broad sweeps of cloth and not get caught up in the intricate paisley designs on the surface.

      Spent some time looking at your recent work, I very much like ‘Pears, northern light’, and your watercolor, ‘Carnations, Pears and Peppers’. And the oil, ‘Letters to Theo conch and pears’.


  3. Still Life with Ginger Jar is the first still life I have ever seen that keeps drawing me into it. There are so many stories there; so much more to discover the more one looks. Thank you, Sarah, for putting it in front of me again. Rock on!

    • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

      Funny, I get so absorbed in the technical things these days, I have been missing some of the story side. Thanks for reminding me.

  4. Kay Says:

    been having a good read and look. enjoying your reflections on transitions and your recorded process on working with ideas and following them through. it sounds very considered. I am going through a bit of a transition and the biggest challenge is engaging with new found time without becoming overly busy or worrying about what i could be doing.


    • HI Kay, thanks for taking time to read, and comment. Do we know each other? Your name is familiar, and my memory is like a sieve these days. I’m thinking of the symposium hosted by John Killick in Newcastle 2 years ago.
      I’ve been over to your site and obviously it resonates. I’m not really active on the dementia scene right now, but I guess you know about my book, Chocolate rain, published by Hawker.
      I agree that one of the big challenges of ‘being between’ is the time that opens up, and the accompanying pressure to be ‘productive’. Please feel welcome to share your ongoing experiences and thoughts either here, or at ‘tendingtime.wordpress.com’or offline.


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