Still image from Doug Aitken’s project, Migration

I had some days to spend in Liverpool last November! It was cold and grey and wet, but that all changed when I walked into The Source, an installation at the Liverpool Tate. I entered a dark, round, thickly insulated space with about 10 huge video screens going around the outside wall.  Each one contained a different interview with an artist (architect, musician, painter, conceptual artist etc.). The installation was by Doug Aitken, and like all his work I’ve seen since, it widened my perspectives on just what art is about right now and what it can do.


The Source, installation by Doug Aitken at the Liverpool Tate, 2012

His latest work is called Station to Station and is exciting. Starting in a few days, Americans, if they are lucky enough to live along the train tracks, can enjoy performances and exhibitions live, in cities strung across the country like so many beads along the train’s route.

Not the actual train, but an just to give the idea     Source

From the site:

Organized by artist Doug Aitken, Station to Station will connect leading figures and underground creators from the worlds of art, music, food, literature, and film for a series of cultural interventions and site-specific happenings. The train, designed as a moving, kinetic light sculpture, will broadcast unique content and experiences to a global audience.

I love artists who blast apart my preconceptions about anything. This is such an ambitious and multifaceted project which is so much about what art is and can be about today. Doug Aitken is someone who is deeply passionate about creating and the creative process. His work is beautifully conceived, crafted, and carried out; he is generous about turning the spotlight on other artists; and he has an alive sense of wonder that is communicated through all he does.

Here is a little sample from one of the videos on the Station to Station site, the speaker (couldn’t find her name) tells us what art means to her city (the twin cities of Minneapolis/St Paul ), and I think captures the essence of the new directions the arts are taking everywhere:

It is a strong moment here…people believe things are possible, and that is a fertile place for art to flourish. But also there is a great love of doing things collectively. There’s this strong sense of communal pride and of wanting to gather together and make things happen, and obviously music and art are central to what makes people come together and appreciate culture, but also culture and nature, those two things come together I think.

She concludes by saying that the rich cultural base that now exists in Minneapolis/St Paul is a result of decades of culture being a central community value there.

Do go to the Station to Station site and have fun, like I did, clicking on all the different videos; they, like the one above are cameos of people and places individually inspiring- but awesome when seen together.

And check out Aitken’s  site.

Well, the last 5 posts have been a lot of talking about art, today, I’m finally getting a chance to DO some!

But first an update on my recent trip to the UK. Sorry no photos, I’ll bring my camera next time.

I took the train under the English Channel from the Netherlands to St Pancras, London via Brussels. I travelled by train up to Newcastle where I was an invited speaker at a round-table discussion on art in dementia care. We were about 13 artists from different disciplines, a wonderful inspiring group. I’ll be speaking more about that in another post.

Then I trained over to Liverpool for another meeting. That was useful for orientation in participatory arts in Britain, but there wasn’t much concrete for me in the way of support for this in Holland. Still, I had fun at the Liverpool Tate where there was a great installation by Doug Aitken.

Though I visited art galleries and museums in both Newcastle and Liverpool, the creative high point for me personally was the National Gallery in London,- specifically two rooms containing Impressionists and post -Impressionists.  I’d been reading Rilke’s, ‘Letters on Cezanne’ and was yearning to see one of Cezanne’s still-lifes up close. They didn’t have those on display but some of his mountain landscapes were there, along with other icons of art history like Seurat’s ‘The bathers’, one of van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Degas’ dancers.

I think as far as paint application and strength of the image go, I love Sargeant the best.  Still, it was just amazing to stand in front of these canvasses and feel the artist’s presence in every brush stroke.

I came back inspired and nourished, from all the art, and spending time with my mother’s sister, the concert pianist. And from the cities, and all the meetings with other artists and travellers. This was a big contrast with our northern Dutch village life, which occasionally feels claustrophobic.

I started on a large painting yesterday. Wanting more texture and freedom, I applied a thick layer of acrylic as under painting, partly with brush partly with palette knife.

Acrylic under painting with charcoal sketch

Acrylic under painting with charcoal sketch on top       50 x 70cm

And here is one step further with some glazing. Loving how the colours glow through.

Thin oil paint glazes added

Thin oil paint glazes added

I suppose some people would stop here, but I have a vision for this painting of a fairly loosely painted rendering of transparent bottles in their beautiful pale aquas, lime greens and olive greens. There is also some deep plummy tints which will ground the composition. It feels great to be painting again.