Wednesday 30 April 2014

Picasso Museum Antibes - Nicolas de Stael

While in Antibes recently, I returned again to the Picasso Museum in the Chateau Grimaldi. I think this is one of my favourite art galleries in the world: it is neither too big or too small; it is a beautiful building housing beautiful work; it has a sculpture terrace overlooking the Mediterranean; it is in the heart of old Antibes. I would say it is the heart of old Antibes!

This year there was an exhibition of recent acquisitions and an exhibition to complement the large Nicolas de Stael painting "Le Concert" which permanently occupies a wall in the gallery. I know I posted this picture a year ago, but I love it, so here it is again:

This gallery view gives an idea of the scale:

Nicolas de Stael was born in St. Petersburg in 1914 and died in Paris, a French citizen, in 1955. I like this photograph of him in his studio.

I remember seeing this painting at the exhibition in Antibes and like it for it's abstract simplicity.

I enjoy the simplified forms and colour of de Stael paintings, the two below as other examples.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Just Kids

Yesterday I finished reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids", her story (mostly) of the relationship between her and artist Robert Mapplethorpe and their early time together in New York. Smith's writing is beautiful and the love with which it is written is so pure. Of course, I was bawling my eyes out at the end, knowing the inevitable devastation at the death of Mapplethorpe.

I had the great fortune to see an exhibition of Mapplethorpe's flowers on my second trip to New York in 1981. I was obsessed with yellow tulips at the time myself and he photographed them beautifully. I love his photos of flowers. Here is Calla Lily from 1984:

And Poppy from 1988:

And a portrait of Patti Smith from 1986:

I am always interested in finding new things by Patti Smith -- she is a very generous artist (poet, painter, musician). Here she shares some advice for writers given to her by William Burroughs. And here she is performing a wonderful tribute to Virginia Woolf.

Before xmas I came across a review of and link to the film Patti Smith: Dream of Life by Steven Sebring in Brainpickings and finally had time to see the film which was ten years in the making. The review and film can be accessed here. It is a wonderful and insightful 2007 documentary which also includes older footage. A joy to watch.

Wednesday 9 April 2014


I have been working on some watercolour pencil sketches for the new work, Fever Afterimages, but have found it taking too long. I want a sense of immediacy! I did some test monoprints in three different sizes with acrylic paint, but again I felt dissatisfied. So over the past couple of days have been searching, both locally and over the internet for some water-soluble ink to do my monoprints with. Happily I found one jar of Speedball water soluble block printer's ink in the local school supply shop (the local art supply shop was mystified by my description of the product!). Out came my roller, wooden spoon, various papers, and plastic utensils for drawing into the ink once it is rolled on a glass plate. If I am happy with the results I will have a look for my linoblocks, get out the lino tools and do an edition. But first things first!

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Classic Abstraction

As I am preparing new abstract work, my thoughts are revisiting classic abstract artists whose work had a great effect on the way I like to paint. I love this picture of Helen Frankenthaler in her studio. I have never had a large work space but have always made good use of the space I have!

A gorgeous, ethereal Frankenthaler painting.

Mark Rothko's paintings have always appealed to me. About 1980 I read Lee Seldes' 1979 book, The Legacy of Mark Rothko, and was convinced that Rothko's suicide was a set-up. Bad dealings of galleries and corporate greed made interesting reading but unfortunately it was a well-researched factual book, not a novel.

I have only gotten to experience the Rothko Room once, when it was still at Tate Britain (it was moved to Tate Modern but must be in storage as the paintings are never on display when I visit London!). I was lucky to have no one else around in the room and was seated on my own. The paintings seemed to hum and open a door into thoughtfulness.

I think it was in 1981 when, with several of art school graduates, I visited the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. There is a large collection of Clyfford Still paintings there which are huge. I remember being hugely impressed by their colour and size!

Abstraction was also happening in Canada in the same time frame as the New York school of classic abstract expressionism (1950s) and being in art school in Toronto I became familiar with Canadian content! I liked the work of Paul Emile Borduas.

There was a huge show in the Art Gallery of Ontario of Gershon Iskowitz in the early 1980s. Again I could not fail to be impressed by the size and colour of his paintings.

Jack Bush is probably the best known of the Canadian abstract artists.

Another American abstract artist whose work appeals to me is Robert Motherwell.

I love seeing work from Motherwell's Elegy series. I can imagine myself painting the paintings with large brushes, plenty of space, etc. A painting fantasy!

I probably saw the work of Richard Diebenkorn on visits to museums in New York in the early 80s.

It is the application of paint and working out of composition in his work that really appeals to me.

It is Diebenkorn's work which is echoing in my mind when I am thinking of my next paintings Fever Afterimages.