Guston on Painting

art

A few years ago a friend mentioned the artist Philip Guston.  Go check out his images on google.  I personally like his black and white line drawings or markings like this one.

Philip Guston - 1966 Faith hope and impossibility

Philip Guston – 1966 Faith hope and impossibility

But lets not talk about like or not like. I read a book of his collected writings and interviews about art. What is art these days? Who is entitled to make art? Why make a painting?  I was drawn to a few of Guston’s ideas (and then of course rejected others).

  1. The plane – the plane is not the plane of the canvas but the imaginary plane. This is where you create an illusion. You put two lines together or two colors, and something happens. It is like alchemy (my analogy not his).  I love this idea that the plane of the canvas is the imaginary plane, or maybe like Jung, the imaginal plane… the starting off point for active imagining.
  2. The first civilized man – or the first civilized man in eden. This is related to the idea in the image at the top of this blog post. That the artist is at the vanguard. Art is tied with a transformation of consciousness, or spirit.  The artist is the next step in the evolution, she is creating the next ‘reality’ or maybe we should call it the environment or milieu. I used to think that the artist was creating a new way of perceiving the world. But this is reductive. In the above quotation, the artist is re-enchanting the world. The artist is worlding within the world. Not creating an adjacent world but rebirthing the world.  (Also what would it be like to be the first painter, how do you paint without knowing what a painting is, what is painting from first principles).
  3. Diagram vs life- Lets move beyond a diagram (representation) to something that is vitally alive – that has its own life.
  4. I disagree with the critique of Duchamp and Cage. These figures to me are the star children of art. What is the artist when she moves beyond mediums or through mediums? This is the digitization of everything that brings in the recombination or fluidity of representation. Otherwise we fetishize a particular medium, becoming locked in it rather than transforming ourselves. (Again this leads to Guston’s meditation on Kafka and superconsciousness, the ability for the eye to see itself, for consciousness to observe itself. How can painting paint itself? How can art art itself?

I have been painting this winter at the art students league. I general procedure is that I sketch the sitter, sometimes with charcoal, sometimes with a blue acrylic wash. Then I will over draw a diagram, or glyph or sigil. Finally I will color in with solid (or as solid as I can get) colors. I have stuck with monochrome or one color in some instances. I try not to think, I try to surprise myself with my paintings,  They are not precious. I paint them on newsprint with cheap student acrylic and sometimes the paintings stick together if I am hasty and they have not finished drying.  Am I getting beyond myself? Am I super conscious? Am I creating something that is alive? Am I creating something that is between human and divine, beyond both or a child of both?

The Roman Baths at Nimes

poetry

Herein I continue down the rabbit hole of homoerotic greco-roman inspired poetry.  I feel like this blog post has been inspired by the spirit of VH1’s pop-up video.

So lets talk about Nimes – It is a city in the south of France and there is indeed a ruin of a roman bath there.  But I think perhaps we are talking here about bath houses frequented by gay men in the 70s.

Lets talk more about the south of France, Occitanie.  This is an interesting place. It is the land of the troubadours. It is also the land of the Cathars, a heretical christian sect massacred by the king of France.

So some background on what it means to go to a bath house in Nimes.

“In the hall of mirrors no body speaks” – why not? Do they just look? I guess in a Anechoic hall people may speak – for the novelty of not hearing an echo. But you know where else there is a hall of mirrors… Versailles – Also France. lets proceed.

“An ember smolders before hallowed cheeks”  speaks/cheeks. I get it. I dont really get this line.  Smolders is an exciting and evocative word. Cheeks is like butt cheeks – maybe too much too soon (dont give it all ways).

The next line – emptying pockets – to me this is auditory. i hear it. In the hall of mirrors where no one speaks. There is only the clanging of disrobing.

“My god forgive me” – I don’t love this line -the Romans would not have a problem with disrobing. Perhaps there is another way to express guilt.

“Some say love” This is a the beginning of a Bette Middler song – The Rose. It is also a film staring the divine Ms M, which I think is a fictional rendering of the life of Janice Joplin. Bette Middler played a lot in Bath Houses (also apparently my parents saw her at the Copa in the 70s).

“love, repels what it sees” – interesting. Not my love language, but create a new lexicon for me and introduce me to new ways of loving.  Love as magnetic is a language, but love as the magnetic repulsion this could be a new language. It is not explored in the rest of the poem.

“In the steamroom, inconsolable tears” This is beautiful and heart breaking.

I don’t understand the little green crests in the whirlpool. Really it is green that I’m hung up on. Because little green men are aliens or maybe leprechauns. Otherwise I could guess what this whole section is about … riding against death… – wink wink – hot.  This rises above cliche. So another interesting thing poetry does is take existing languages, idioms, and vocabularies, and refines them.

“bright beach towel” I like this alliteration.  It is also very visual. There is only darkness until this line.

“and tongue, good things, make something sweet

of fear.”

A beautiful last line. We dont discuss bodies at all in this poem until the end

although we know that is it is about bodies. Make something sweet of fear– sigh…