Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I Won't Really Paint Again Until Something Perverse Happens
Something delicious and perverse needs to goad me. Otherwise genuine painting will remain out of reach. I just don't think it can happen. Or, at least, it will be a different kind of imagery and treatment than I want to communicate my life's findings. I think that means that I don't want to bore anyone, least of all myself.
Conversations with my friend Elise are hard. She's smarter than me any day of the week. Compound that with her hunger for meaning and her voracious appetite for self-knowledge and you have a very formidable artist. Not all, not even many of the conversations are difficult. But I know she can tell that I'm floating in a dense ether right now, and she's demanding that I come out. So, we're talking about God. Or god. About our relationship to meaning and sex and how we want to die elegantly.
At any rate, she and I both know that I need to get laid. Something is building.
As I advance in age I find it more subtle, the line between thinking you're getting dumber and realizing that you're becoming more refined in your needs and how to meet them. So, patience for certain barriers becomes less. By 'refined' I do not mean calm. Those two are too readily associated. I mean efficient, and I need to efficiently streamline my need to have and absorb and process carnal human experiences. It's more than getting action. I know where that can get me, and contact means a lot to me and my work in so many of it's various implications.
Elise says that my logic is opaque. That's true, in a way, but I suspect that it's also too inchoate. It always has been. The way I feel, I've always been terrified of falling too short in transmuting that to some form of expression. It's all limited, and I do realize more and more that my internal experience isn't unique, so what's my deal? Folks, it's always a matter of security. I'm also terrified to face the possibility that I'm worthless. Then, it's into the river.
I can see through the you you've constructed to the one you're protecting. I love them, but I know it's too much to ask that I get to interact directly. How often do we really get that in a lifetime? Nearly never. Maybe definitely never. Is that the drive to have children, to be directly in contact with someone (albeit something largely unformed) before they slip away forever?
Art is an externalized security filter to me. Risky, serious, worthwhile art, that is.
Tuymans took my Composure
My friend Rob, I've mentioned, he and I have challenged one another to become a monk in regard to our painting. I'm more spiritual, he's more... monkish. At any rate, he's been berating me for a little while for having missed the Luc Tuymans show he traveled to New York to see. Well, Tuymans is here at my local MCA in Chicago, so I sauntered down there relishing the fact that Rob's Pittsburgh will never bring a contemporary painter of such caliber. Ever. Ha ha. Eat that, Rob.
I've not been entirely sure what I thought of Tuymans, but I developed something of a crush and fascination a good while back. My affections used to be reserved for his younger counterpart, Wilhelm Sasnal. Counterpart? At least, so many critics and writers want them paired.
I knew I'd get something significant out of the show, but really I felt overwhelmed in front of more than one of the pieces. I can pinpoint four of them that felt like a punch in the stomach. True, I'd been a bit starved of really impactfull painting, but that wasn't the only thing at play. Tuymans really shows you something. It is somewhat hit or miss, but the consistent level of ruthless focus for the most part is more than a little boggling.
It's a consistency in each individual piece, too. His is a focus I can't overemphasize. It doesn't happen in so much young work I see.
And therein lies a struggle I've encountered lately: I've decided that part of my beef with Francis Bacon is that his is imagery and handling that is declarative rather than exploratory. That's how it presents.
But now I see that in Tuymans done with more of an idea of collective human responsibility. His tone is not leaden with Frankie's fact, but it soars and penetrates in a way that an idea can subvert what you thought you had a firmer grasp on in regards to the world's basic function. Bacon just preaches his nihilistic arrogance. He isn't conflicted, just inflated.
Tuymans' process is all readily available right there in front of you. He's usually beginning on unstretched linen. You can often see the penciled square around the perimeter of the finished stretched work. Sometimes the pencil sketching comes through on the image surface, too. And then there is a deliberateness and efficiency of paint and mark that happens which could easily fail and read like ADHD or lack of commitment, but his focus comes through and gives the picture this unsettling growl-in-a-void kind of feel. It goes. Not all of them did it for me, some more readily than others, but when it goes it glowers at you.