I just finished The Blue Guitar, by John Banville. Great book. The narrator is a painter who has given up painting. I identified with both of these:
One of the phenomena I sorely miss from the days when I was still painting, is the stillness which used to generate itself around me when I was at work, and into which I was able to make some sort of temporary escape from myself. That kind of peace and quiet you don’t get by any other means, or I don’t, anyway… At the easel, the silence that fell upon everything was like the silence I imagine spreading over the world after I am dead. P. 102
I am… an enthusiastic advocate of the ordinary. P. 113
Another artist shared by Colossal, who I admire greatly. Unbelievably perfect.
I'm excited to read this new book, called, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artiface, by J.F. Martel. It is described in the blurb at bookshop.org: "Part treatise, part critique, part call to action, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice is a journey into the uncanny realities revealed to us in the great works of art of the past and present."
For anyone who believes that art really can reveal "uncanny realities" I would think this book would be exciting. We are all tired of "art" that is mere artiface, art that is considered to be "culturally-determined and relative" (as the blurb goes on to say), and that is all it is or can be. The true power of the spiritual depth of art has been readily dismissed in our culture. "Martel argues that art is an inborn human phenomenon that precedes the formation of culture and even society." I grew up holding this truth to be self-evident, however the older I've grown the more I've felt the burden of the weight of cultural dismissal. Art is seldom considered as anything more than visual noise in an overwhelmed world. When it is considered at all it seems people either like it or don't like it, and that's it, a mere decoration that either contributes to, in some small way, or is is bothersome -- annoying -- to a given space, It is exhausting to live here, and I'm weary of the battle. But it appears Martel has energy yet for this war. He holds that art is "a force of liberation wherever it breaks through the trance of humdrum existence." The blurb goes on to say that authentic art "is a gift from beyond the field of the human, and it connects us with realities that, though normally unseen, are crucial components of a living world."
It sounds like a breath of fresh air to me. Here's the link to the book, with the rest of the blurb. I hope to read it soon!
I was listening to an interview yesterday with a fascinating woman named Dr. Iya Whiteley. Brilliant woman, a psychologist who works with the space program. I can't even begin to tell you everything she's doing -- partly because I don't understand most of it. But in the course of the conversation she mentioned that she had a child recently, and was dissatisfied with the selection of baby books, all meant to introduce little ones to the wonders of the world. You know what she's talking about. The cartoonish baby animals and goofy alphabet books. So she decided to design her own. I looked her up, and was blown away by what I found!
These designs look familiar? They should! Archetypal forms that I've been working with for years. First with students:
And eventually in my own work with the Square Mandala series:
Designs for babies to look at. Wow. Brilliant. Why didn't I think of that?
I mean, I did put my designs in a book or two (or three):
But I'd love to see just what Dr. Whiteley's book has to offer, so I put it on my Amazon wish list, in case one of my kids wants to order me something for Father's Day!
I've been discovering so many wonderful artists lately. I can attribute it mostly to the good people at Colossal. I subscribed to their emails a few years ago, and only recently decided to reconnect. They are a wealth of inspiration. Here's my latest discovery they offered: https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2023/05/rachel-spelling-color-charts/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Tue+May+30+2023&utm_campaign=Ocean+Sentinels
Spelling paints on color charts that paint stores offer to people who are selecting colors for the walls of their homes. Tiny paintings of ordinary household objects and scenes. And they are beautiful! I especially love the vintage folders she's scrounged.
Breathtaking in their poignant detail. And the colors! I love how she incorporates the colors of the swatches along with the titles given to the color by the paint manufacturer.
Together -- and she leaves them all together -- they make a sort of miniature gallery of quotidian life. There's nothing about this work that I don't like!
It's got to be a little nerve wracking as she gets to the final images. What if she makes a mistake? I have so much respect for the craftsmanship that supports her unique vision.
Here's the entire article from Colossal:
Rachel Spelling Meticulously Fills Vintage Paint Swatch Booklets with Vibrant Miniature Paintings
“A paint chart is ostensibly about planning colors for your home, but if you break it down, there are so many aspects to that: dreams, frustrations, happiness, sadness, loss, family, hope, despair, fashion, identity… When you look at my work, you see a lot of ideas all at once,” says Rachel Spelling. Prior to 2020, the London-based artist focused on home interiors and painting elaborate murals, including a six-month project to recreate the original Chinese wallpaper pattern of Pitzhanger Manor, the former country house of English architect Sir John Soane, which is now open to the public. Vivid flora and fauna stretch from corner to corner, carefully responding to the surface area—an approach that also happens to work well on a minuscule scale.
Fascinated by the possibilities of painting and drawing since childhood, Spelling has a knack for expressing vibrant detail at on a variety of surface sizes. During the pandemic when everything came to a stand-still, she was eager for a new project, sharing that “one long lockdown day, I was at home with a really strong desire to paint some walls but no walls left to paint. There was a Farrow and Ball paint chart on my kitchen table, and I suddenly realized that each paint chip was like a tiny, perfectly prepped wall, just waiting to be painted.” Commercial swatches designed to help homeowners and decorators choose colors transformed into a canvas ripe for interpretation.
“Stone Blue” was the name of the tile Spelling tested first, meticulously rendering a tiny fish onto the rectangle. “It looked really strange and interesting, and the paint sat really well on the surface, so I painted another one and then another,” she says. By the end of lockdown, she had rendered tiny works in all 132 squares in the chart, and she was intrigued by the relationship between the bewildering blast of hues and subject matter balanced by the orderly grid layout. “I really enjoy the clash of the mundane, everyday stuff alongside the big ideas, because that’s such a key feature of lived experience and one that I found hard to put my finger on until I found this way of working.”
Spelling works on a combination of new swatch booklets and old ones, searching for vintage charts at car boot sales, charity shops, and other places where she might find examples that remain intact and have surfaces that are matte enough to paint on. There aren’t too many out there, since it’s the sort of item that people throw away when they’re no longer needed. Finding an older one is always a thrill, and so is the experience of working on the delicate, one-of-a-kind surface. “There is much jeopardy when I’m painting directly onto a fragile vintage chart. It’s nerve-wracking, but I think the drama of that keeps me on my toes,” she says. “There’s a fine line between damaging something old and creating something new, and I enjoy trying to figure out where that line lies!”
Spelling sells prints in her shop and makes originals available for sale a few times per year. You can see more on her website and on Instagram.
I can almost not believe this. No words. No words. “Grand Jardin” (2016-2022), quilled Japanese mulberry paper and gilt-edged paper, 38″ x 50″ x 1/4″. Image © Matthew Hamilton
I don't know if James Frei is my new "favorite artist," as I so often like to discover, but I do love the organic geometry he finds in nature, and how he honors it with the attention he gives it.
My new favorite artist. Have you heard of this guy? It seems like I should have heard of him long ago. But... better late than never. Much like Andy Goldsworthy, and artist I've admired for years, Jon Forman works with natural found material, creating wonderful designs, usually, if not only, on a beach. Often (though not always) taking the archetypal form of circle or spiral.
Very healing, very contemplative. Check out his website. https://sculpttheworld.smugmug.com
These are all temporary, of course, out in the wild of nature, where the wind and the waves will soon restore everything to its natural (dis)order. But that's one thing I love about them. How they form perfect geometry... but only temporarily.
I am an artist. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- Art Statement, 2023
- New Work, 2023
- Drawings, 2020 - 22
- Square Mandalas
- The Remnant Series
Gallery of Past Work
- Self Published Books