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."
Martin Oldham reviews Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery London, on view through January 10, 2016.
Oldham writes: "If there is a disruptive element here, it is Francisco de Goya y Lucientes himself. He may have been the servant of the Spanish elite, but his frank and often unflattering portraits betray a human vulnerability behind his sitters’ social performances. By focusing solely on the portraiture, the curators successfully show just how diverse and unconventional Goya’s approach was, revealing the artist’s restless innovation and commitment to creating unique images that play off the tensions between personality and public persona. Few of them are pretty, some are decidedly peculiar, but viewed within the continuum of his career each work can be appreciated as an individual expression of Goya’s wilful defiance of artistic norms."
Malone writes that the show "is an opportunity to reassess the relationship between Sargent’s skill and his decision to retain a fidelity to nature that was in the last decades of the 19th century becoming understandably discredited by the sentimentality of official Salon painting. And it comes at just the right moment, because we have reached a point in our postmodern tangles where an unprecedented lack of skill, particularly among painters, is severely limiting the possibilities of a medium that ought to be as alive and as fluid as contemporary music. What’s needed is a fresh look at the work of painters like Sargent, who embody that crucial moment in art history just before things began to change so rapidly."
Peter Schjeldahl considers James Abbott McNeill Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist's Mother), 1871, currently on loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris to the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA.
Schjeldahl writes: "The painting represents the peak of Whistler’s radical method of modulating tones of single colors. The paint looks soft, almost fuzzy—as if it were exhaled onto the surface. There is some bravura brushwork, where Anna’s lace-cuffed hands clutch a handkerchief, with unprimed canvas peeking through, and daubed hints of Japanese-style floral patterning on a curtain that commands the left side of the picture. A few of the daubs faintly echo the pink of Anna’s flesh. She wears a gold wedding ring: a spark of harmony with the muted gilding of the frame that Whistler designed for the picture. Practically subliminal whispers of reds and blues underlie areas of the silver-gray wall behind her, and a dark purple smolders in the curtain, where the artist’s signature emblem—a butterfly—hovers."
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.