Fisher comments: "I think one of the most interesting questions in a painting practice is how to be simultaneously of the present in the work and at the same time speak to a well-articulated lineage. This binary is at the core of painting, as it is essential to develop the ability to move fluidly through an ascetic relationship to influence and an immersion with in it... Work that relies on thematic concerns of an era can be limited in its consideration of the universal. Painters such as Morandi have the most revolutionary of paintings as they function outside of their epoch of making. They function on a level that is outside of dichotomy. While polemical modes of argument are useful as a way to amplify distinctions within a range of considerations, a painting is not an opinion on a scale, it is an ineffable investigation which is a result of an engagement with simultaneous phenomena. Abstraction is both a structure and a language and does not negate representation, rather it is at its core."
Dominic Green writes about the exhibition Frank Auerbach, on view at Tate Britain through March 13, 2016. Green concludes: "We build up life’s layers like impasto, and time scrapes back to the ground, just as Auerbach does each morning. Paint may create three-dimensional illusions in two dimensions; it cannot undo or recover the past. The force of Auerbach’s brushwork, the pushing on and cutting back, the loading and filling of the space—all draw our attention to the mystery of paint, its power to create tactile impressions of absent objects... That is the priority and value of all art, and it is why Auerbach, in aspiring to and attaining that expression, is number one. 'If you take a photograph,' he tells [curator Catherine] Lampert, 'it becomes historic five seconds later. But if you do a painting: Franz Hals’ portrait of a woman—he’s yanked her out of the seventeenth century and brought her here, and in a small way he has defeated death.'"
David Sweet reflects on the recent exhibition Goya: The Portraits at The National Gallery, London.
Sweet writes that "[Goya] depicts the faces of his subjects as marked or unmarked by experience, altering his painting method to accommodate this insight at the expense of technical and aesthetic pictorial unity... the emphasis on the individual and the importance of experience in the formation of the individual, was so urgent that it demanded that the painting accommodate it explicitly, but in a limited location. The pictorial territory beyond the face was not under the same obligation. Clothing and objects are brushed in with a peculiar mixture of abandon and precision, creating what seem to be like painting ‘events’ addressed to the retina, which spontaneously give rise to phenomenologically convincing, but non-tactile, versions of silk and lace and velvet. It’s this aspect of Goya’s paintings that relate to the other definition of experience of interest to a modern audience."
Carrier writes: "A little suspicious of the intrinsic power of visual images, Collins-Fernandez ... turns to words, gathered from overheard city conversations, and fabrics, materials that have a very different visual identity... Her materials, she rightly says, 'produce a density of emotion and meaning which I am interested in reproducing in my paintings.' Here of course she joins a long tradition of art drawing upon the contemporary urban environment. Langberg, on the other hand, wants that his paintings be presentations of visual desire. Not just of his personal desires—rather, 'I want my work to speak of things we all share such as friendship, intimacy, and pleasure.' In setting up this opposition between Langberg and Collins-Fernandez, however, I do not mean to underestimate their common concerns. When Collins-Fernandez says, 'you put a lot of yourself out there to see what will stick,' I believe that she speaks for both of them."
Hilton Als interviews painter Celia Paul on the occasion of the exhibition Desdemona for Celia at the Metropolitan Opera Gallery (curated by Als) on view through January 2, 2016.
In his curatorial statement Als writes: "The majority of Paul’s paintings—or the majority of the paintings I saw then—were of women: her mother primarily and then her sisters and herself. In recent years, though, Paul added several elements to her repertoire; indeed, her images of the elements—water and sky—were as rich, to me, as the faces she drew and painted with such precision. Taken together with my photographs [of Paul], [gallery director Dodie Kazanjian] and I felt Paul’s paintings and drawings were deeply evocative of the character of Desdemona—one of the more mysterious figures in Shakespeare’s great play and Verdi’s unforgettable opera [Otello], despite the fact that so much of the plot turns on her and her actions."
Hartigan writes that "[Harris's] new series mostly consists of roughly-painted torsos, seen from the front. The outline of arms and a body sometimes emerges from the monochromatic ground via thinly painted marks, or is announced loudly with a broad-brushed line. There are faces, but they are depicted in ways that seem to cancel themselves out: a quick, semi-abstract mark, furtive smudges of paint, a collaged face cut out from another painting... Certainly these works present an accomplished artist asking questions about her own practice, questions such as: How can I paint the body in a more immediate way? What sort of mark delineates the content of the body or the edge of the body? At what point can a painting be considered finished?"
Christopher Howard reports on a recent artist talk given by painter Clarity Haynes at Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
Howard writes: "Because she works from life, [Haynes] gets to know not only the bodies she depicts but also the person inside them, like the trans bodybuilder Roxanne, whom she finished painting in 2012. 'I really enjoy the long process of slowly getting to know the body,' Haynes said, 'the specific body.' ... The general form of the Breast Portrait Project—frontal view, centered composition, neutral background, and a body cropped at the neck and waist—remains consistent. What varies is the shape, color, and texture of the woman, and also things like necklaces and clothing (pants). The artist realized the importance of such accoutrements after a year’s worth of comments by visitors to her studio."
T.J. Clark reviews Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery, London, on view through January 10, 2016.
Discussing Goya's The Countess of Fernán Núñez, Clark writes that "never has a painting worked so hard to de-realise the setting and stance of its sitter ... and yet never has the resultant dream world appeared so much the condition of a terrible intimacy... Of course the setting is a fable. The great tree trunk glowering and growling over the ground at left like a gathering storm; the cottonwool glacier of cloud to the right; the pointing toe on the edge of the precipice; the Jezebel halo of red and black against the tree; the level after level of rock and scorched grass going down to darkness; and the stiff cantilevered arms: everything here is absurd and momentary and touching, a tableau, a stage set, a false confession. And the falsity is its truth. It is what convinces the viewer (and doubtless this too is an effect) that the picture was born from deep collusion, from a true mutual acknowledgment of distance – immense, unbridgeable, guarded by rampart after rampart – but also sympathy."
Gayford writes: "Although the works in the exhibition are ostensibly portraits, they have little sense of individual personality, psychology or even appearance. The people seem more like everyman and everywoman, staring out. The subject is more, as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, ‘pure presence’: another human being looking back at you. That, and the sheer impossibility of adequately fixing that experience in paint or clay. The result is that the exhibition is simultaneously repetitive and compelling. Giacometti was saying more or less the same thing, again and again, but with an intensity that never flags."
Lampert writes: "With a portrait his aim is not exactly to convey likeness, more an experience: how the person looks (including under the skin); what’s going on in their life (and his); the conditions of that evening. Like an apparition, something totally unforeseen, possibly lasting for just seconds, may spring from making a few brush strokes, establishing an area of truth which ‘might actually expand into a whole truth’. The goal is a set of connections between the masses, the space, the sensations and a picture with a tense surface character."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.