Driving Down a Road to Nowhere; Driving Down a Road to Somewhere

Driving Down a Road to Nowhere; Driving Down a Road to Somewhere

For an abstract painter, where nearly everything in life is abstract, painting is very much like driving down a road to nowhere. At the same time it is very much like driving down a road to somewhere. The distance between the two is thinly veiled. A slice in time and space. With no GPS to guide this way or that. There is no up and down, no left and right. Only space unfolding. Intuition plays a great part in all of this. But, if you listen too hard or too often, intuition will turn on you as well. It cannot do the work. It is not up to this enormous task. The painter must find the path. The painter must struggle through the reeds, the muck, the mire, the bramble. Torn and bloodied the painter crawls up from the slippery slope back onto the road. Sometimes you see something in the distance, but it is nothing. Other times you see nothing but your own hand, your own doubt and the painting appears before you. This is the magic of painting: it chooses you as much as you choose it. The road comes to a turn. One gets out and walks under a full moon. The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear;...
Life, Love and Riding the Wave: A Sun Valley Komarin Art Show

Life, Love and Riding the Wave: A Sun Valley Komarin Art Show

Life takes many curious twists and turns. Generally speaking, life moves in a wave, as does sound, light, and the oceans that cover our planet – whether you are in St. Bart’s, Jones Beach or the far reaches of some distant island. It happens that light can travel through space in a complete vacuum, whereas sound needs some form of matter to travel. As I have a current exhibition of new paintings at Gail Severn Gallery in Sun Valley, Idaho, KK and I were fully prepared and packed and ready to go fly west. Upon arriving at La Guardia Airport (at the ungodly hour of 6 am) we were told by the sleep deprived flight attendant that “all flights were canceled.” Period. End of subject. We returned to our NYC pied a terre, at first a bit out of sorts, had a glass of champagne and decided, as they say, “to make the best of it”. Or similarly, we made lemonade out of lemons. We had attempted to ride the wave and fly west and, on this morning, there was no wave to ride. Life is very much like riding a wave, and it does one good to remember this. Things often go well until they don’t. Much of this is, it seems, beyond our control. It is a good thing to realize that things happen that will position you, for a while only, in a downward wave; if one breathes adequately and stays calm, they will be picked up by an upward moving wave. So KK and I hung out, as it were, saw several movies – including...
Embracing Beauty and the Dance of Life in the Face of Violence

Embracing Beauty and the Dance of Life in the Face of Violence

There is a great need within the human condition to embrace beauty in the face of horror. We live in a troubled world. It has always been a troubled world. It seems a bit more troubled, of late, with terrorist attacks upon innocent people by groups who are nihilist by nature and enjoy killing more than living. The desire to seek beauty in life goes back through recorded time. This desire precedes recorded time; far earlier cultures drew on cave walls and painted their own bodies and faces with the juice of berries and plants before written language existed. Killing can be traced back just as far. There is killing on a smaller tribal scale – where warriors in one tribe hunted down their tribal enemies, cutting off the heads of the opposition and subsequently kicking those heads around the campfire, or posting them on assorted spikes and trees. We have, as well, killing on a far larger scale in World War One and World War Two, clearly showing us that killing runs deep in human beings. The nearly successful attempt of the Nazi regime to kill all the Jews of Europe illustrates this point quite well. One must also consider the crusades, which ran for decades and in which many were killed in the name of this or that god. And yet, all through human development, individuals have sought beauty in the visual arts, music, dance, poetry and film. We are a complicated species capable of much love and grace and at the same time capable of much horror and destruction. When Matisse painted ‘the dance’, his great...
My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

I recently attended the new Francis Bacon exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York. I was struck by how very powerful his paintings were and was unexpectedly pulled into them, having seen them many times. This most recent visit was intense in its grasp of my attention and emotion. Bacon is a most curious painter in that he combined a raw and gritty set of images against a beautifully painted and often serene backdrop. Combining the beautiful with the grotesque gives Bacon’s work an unexpected mystery and strength. Francis Bacon came from a design background and did a certain amount of set design early in his career. He had a way with color that was somewhat schizophrenic. The ‘set’ or ‘stage set,’ within which his figures writhe and twist and bend and scream, is painted in a fairly flat and beautifully coordinated way. It occurred to me during this visit how elegant were the backdrops, lean and clean and very much like a Motherwell painting in their sensitivity to flat planes of color and beautifully aligned edges. The creation of a proscenium sets the stage quite literally for the drama that is about to unfold. Within this ‘stage set,’ Bacon gives us figures that are anything but beautiful. Often grey and grisly, Francis Bacon’s figures are twisted and torn, whether sitting or stretched out on the floor. Bacon’s figures are bruised and bent, sometimes missing parts of their anatomy – as if the pressures of life have carved entire chunks of flesh away. Bacon was interested in diseases of the mouth and one sees in many of his paintings...
How the Painter Sets the Stage

How the Painter Sets the Stage

When a painter, whether abstract or figurative, begins a painting there is nearly always an awareness of where color will go. How a painter creates an explosion of color on the canvas depends on the working methods of the painter and, to a large extent, the time frame within which the painter paints. In earlier centuries, for the most part, a painting was built up in series of layers using glazes and repeated layers of paint to prepare for the drama that was to unfold whether The subject was Jesus about to be crucified or a Dutch merchant ship sailing into the harbor. In more recent times, as the immediacy of painting became more implicit and the setting up of the ground (or background as most call it), it became a process that was not buried under layers of Paint but rather asserted itself with and against the ‘subject of the painting’ whatever that subject might have been. When Henri Matisse, the grand master of painting in the 20th Century, painted a simple still life of pink and red tulips on a grey green table against a blue grey wall, he would begin Not with the painting of the flowers but the painting of the space around the flowers. A preliminary drawing would be made most often in charcoal and Matisse would begin to fill in the space around things, the space around the flowers. His brush would move quietly, then Pick up speed and drama it would ‘ dance ‘ around the drawing of the flowers. The brushstrokes begin to collide and swim and toss and turn a...