07 April 2010

art preoccupations in europe

my main interest has been in learning how to take photos and videos using only the iphone camera, which turns out to be very versatile -- a wide angle format capable of macro closeup, color accurate and very responsive to changes in light.

i tried to paint watercolors plein air twice in venice, but was driven back before i could finish a painting by the extreme cold air and january wind. on one day i soon could not feel the brush in my numb hands. rain and a very busy schedule have kept me from painting in london.

museums in london are receptive to sketchers, so i've been drawing in the national and portrait galleries, and in the victoria & albert. i bought some charcoal pencils and a set of black felt tip pens, but the felt tip pens have yielded fun results, such as this drawing from a very large painting of an irish female politician in the portrait gallery.

i've sharpened my sense of color by looking at art by many different hands from many different historical and national styles. my appreciation of kandinsky, klee, degas and many of the old masters such as titian, chardin and gainsborough has gone up, and my interest in surrealism has waned. the berlin modern exhibition of "degenerate" painters was painful to look at from both their thematic and technical content. there was a stark difference in all periods between the painters whose colors seem trustworthy and painters whose works have lost their original balance and appear quite dark or oddly imbalanced. the paintings by joshua reynolds, with their ghostly white faces (all the carmine pigment has faded) are especially easy to recognize.

i've had a great time with my wife. we share for a while, split up, get back together to exchange enthusiasms and observations, and so on, with many nice respites in the museum cafes. (the restaurants in the tate modern and national portrait gallery are especially fine.)

i've gotten a peculiar sense of the enormity and intricacy of historical time, through the large number of buildings and artifacts and historical items we've seen over the past eight weeks, including the domestic items in the science museum in london. a sense of how many lives have poured forth onto the planet and how long they have worked to dig, pile, scrape, fire and cultivate all these things preserved from dust.

and these items have a cumulative flavor that is very different from mass produced items that pile up everywhere in our contemporary environment. a reverent, almost mystic aura surrounds them, like the relic bones, teeth, hair and larger corpse parts of saints that are stored in the churches of venice -- st. mark's in particular. against this dreary backdrop the paintings shine out miraculously with a living force and honesty.

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