Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Milk Bottle and Eggs

I am at at last old enough to have painted objects that are now considered nostalgic antiques, painted without a trace of irony or kitsch!

This was one of the first paintings I painted soon after I immigrated to New Zealand with my family in 1974. Milk was delivered in glass bottles and cost 4 cents a bottle!

This was also the first painting I had exhibited at a public art gallery at New Plymouths Govett Brewster Art Gallery. I thought I had hit the big time! Ha ha! This was a time when the art world in NZ was very different to how it is today. Although my painting is today much better and more sophisticated, I now wouldn't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting a painting in the Govett Brewster's hallowed halls.

This was one of those exercises in tone I was conducting at the time. White objects on a white background.

The yellowing you can see on the left side is the result of the painting being kept in the dark for many years. I simply follow Rubens advice to his patrons and stand the painting in direct sunlight for a few days. The yellowing is caused by the linseed oil darkening and it is bleached again with exposure to sunlight. Since taking this photo that is exactly what has happened.

Now I can hide it away again for another forty years. But I wont be around to be bothered then.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Caput Mortuum

This is a couple of progress shots of my latest painting: Caput Mortuum.  It is the name of another of my favourite pigments. It's basicly a dark red/purple oxide.  Caput Mortuum translates as Death's Head.

From Wikipedia:

"In alchemy, caput mortuum (alternately called nigredo) signified a useless substance left over from a chemical operation such as sublimation and the epitome of decline and decay; alchemists represented this residue with a stylized human skull, a literal death's head."

Well, in my bleak moments of despair, that pretty much sums up how I feel about myself.

Also, I have been thinking about our mortality as I get older and begin to face the inevitable.  I am also now considering the mortality of the human race. Humanity seems to be hell bent on self destruction and the geo-political (latest buzzword), situation is the gravest it has been in all the relatively brief time humans have walked on two legs.

I have never considered myself a political animal, and have never been one to make political statements in my work. But lately I find it hard to not do so, if only at the subliminal level.

I started this painting just after the Paris attacks.

Self Portrait 1985 2015

 I've recently been looking at some early work to see how the paint is holding up. In most cases it is holding it's own better than the images...

This was a self portrait painted some thirty years ago. I have always used white lead wherever possible in my painting, knowing that it's unique physical properties, as well as being highly desirable from a painterly point of view, imbue it with a rugged permanence.  As you can see from the close up, the paint has not cracked or flaked at all.  It is a pity that white lead is getting very difficult to obtain because of mamby-pamby toxicity concerns. the irony is that now I have to grind my own from the dry pigment and it is in this form that it is most toxic. I simply wear a mask.

Anyway, this image seemed to also be holding it's own, but there were some areas that didn't work, especially the background. So I repainted it and also tightened up some other areas here and there.

It is interesting looking back on how I saw myself as a young man. It has a certain aloof arrogance that I don't think I feel now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I wanted to record some of the guitars I have made. Kind of like the Little Red Hen.  This particular guitar is my favourite of the nylon strung classicals, with a very thin spruce top and indian rosewood back and sides. I also wanted to get back into playing after a long hiatus. Starting out very simple with a Sor exercise - the musical equivalent of Run Spot Run... I decided not to try and compete with the birds. They are really much better at it than me.