Here’s the latest etching in the Darkening Garden series. The top part is derived from my painting: Bone Scan. The lower one can look look like a skull, or whatever the viewer wants. It started from a photograph of me drinking from a wine glass, but maybe we don’t need to know that. I really do like things unexplained. (I’m pushing time for this pic because the frame is only half finished.)
This time I’m only putting in three new works, and one, is an amendment. It is a mark-two version of WarHorse.
In the last set of etchings entered here on the 17th of February, I see that I’m not well served by the small square thumbnail format. This time they are photographed in their mounts and their dimensions are accordingly, in inches, 19 by 9 and a half. And in millimetres, 487 x 244. Please click on the images to get the full view.
Meet my daughter
No Man’s Land
The working title for this set continues to be – The Darkening Garden.
Today’s the publication date for our book. We drink champagne. Against the Art of War: poems by Ernest Hilbert and Henry Wessells; etchings by Judith Clute. Temporary Culture, Upper Montclair, USA limited edition, 26 copies lettered A to Z. Edited by Henry Wessells. (Price to subscribers: $375.00). And here’s the cover:
Here are the four editioned etchings set within:
Jason Van Hollander is utterly brilliant. Look what just came through the letterbox today: HELL STAMP:Slough of Despond.
We are amongst the lucky few. It’s a limited edition of 60. Ours is 45/60.
And there is a beautiful note to go with it, quoting John Bunyan.
Presently at the Prague College are 18 works on display, ten of which are etchings. Recent works: on canvas and on paper.
And at the same time in Prague, the Prestigious Galerie Rudolfinum is hosting the excellent exhibition: Beyond Reality: British Painting Today.
Here are a few etchings done this summer. They follow from the Nest Wars theme that I set in here on the 12th of January.
The following framed etchings are variously sized. Scorched earth is 16 by 17 inches. (I always measure the height first, then the width.) And Self Portrait is 19 by 13 inches. The others are all 18 by 13 inches. Each framed etching whatever the size sells from the artist at GBP 125.
In this very small painting I’ve made use of two great Spanish painters, Velasquez and Juan Gris. Velasquez is a god and it takes cheek to borrow from him without acknowledging his magnificent way of placing characters in deep space. I can gaze at his paintings and time stops. But I’m up here in the 21st century and I need Juan Gris to confirm me in my chosen task of making this composition sparkle across the surface of the canvas. (It’s only 24 by 20 inches.)
Over a century ago when Juan Gris’s name was still – José Victoriano Carmelo Carlos González Pérez – he developed a distaste for “good” painting. While still in Madrid, in a gesture of independence, he gave himself the pseudonym – John Gray – Juan Gris. All this was before he went to Paris and met Picasso and lived in Le Bateau Lavoir. He was ripe for the new esthetique that was in the air and his paintings from 1912 to 1922 remain some of my favourites of all time.
One of the things I love about Juan Gris is that, despite his distaste for “good” painting, he believed in real painting, paintings that moved him. Paintings done by masters. He would go to the Louvre and study, for instance, the French 18th century painter, Chardin. There he saw the object treated with enormous reverence and emotion. In his own cubist paintings he somehow did the equivalent. They are not motivated by mere design. It would be a huge mistake to say that his works are a product of his training in engineering. Gertrude Stein understood his emotional depths. She was able to unsettle Picasso by suggesting that Juan Gris’s paintings were more perfect than his. (Picasso is, of course, another god.)
I feel a barbarian outsider, sitting up here in 2012, borrowing from these old masters, mixing my stuff with theirs. I’m post, post, I don’t know what.
With this painting I feel compelled to wonder, as I look over my shoulder, how I managed to take about half a year for one medium sized painting. It’s only 40 by 30 inches. And really it is just a whisper. There is nothing to shout at you. You might easily walk by it.
But that is precisely why I’m so proud of this work. There is a flicker across the surface and a sort of trembling quality. I spent a lot of time just thinking and undoing things to arrive at this state.
The first intimations for the painting began with Gassed by John Singer Sargent. I had an uncomfortable feeling as I stood in front of that massive anti-war painting in the Imperial war museum, south London. It depicts blind-folded soldiers from WW1 standing for ever in a line, each with a hand on the man in front. At their feet lie other soldiers in various positions of blind exhaustion. I still feel this moment in time is going on forever. Paintings do this to us.
I thought to make my own small painting along these lines. I’d lift a portion of Sargent’s composition for background and I’d foreground it with a young woman wearing a CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) logo. I wanted her to somehow haunt the work. This was how I started. My canvas became filled with charcoal marks as I thought about the Sargent painting, copying some parts in faithful appreciation.
But of course my own temperament* soon took over. My inside world bustled in and everything changed. It kept changing for months. One of the main elements which lasted through all the changes was a shaman image, his moon head being a point of entry for three of the soldiers. Their heads and shoulders were just about all that remained from the first sketch.
Incidentally the shaman was a borrowing from one of my own paintings. Manger.
And so here we have the painting and I can’t say why it took so long, except that it is part of the mystery of the way things get made. Things happen and you can’t rush the job. On some level the painting says – or at least I intend it to say – that human lives are pulled into nothingness. Whatever, I think we have to keep re-telling the story of the sadness of war because no man is an island; we all feel it. The title is – Aftermath Rag.
*temperament is not quite saying what I mean. Indeed temperament is something we are born with, yet the artist’s temperament gets honed through the years. In my case I have been painting for over 50 years. I think hard about what I do. I get excited and tend to put too much onto the canvas. For instance, in this painting there was a flute player laid in at an angle. I very much enjoyed painting his fedora. It shaded his eyes and that was in accord with the feel of the rest of the painting. But in a stern judgement, did he fit at all? It had become an “all right” painting and had passages of interest, but it didn’t sing. That’s what I have to keep working for, in a painting that is well underway. I have to find ways to make passages that are already there and waiting – I have to make connections so that those elements work in harmony and suddenly at the end, if I do it rightly, the whole thing has taken on a humming note. Nothing in this world is truly “well tempered”, but a painting can express its temperament and mine. That’s when I stop.