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Archives for December, 2008

Inside Out: painting the outside from in

In a site called “Hold this Thought” Tom Livingston (Between Silence and Light) quotes architect Louis Kahn:

Architect Louis Kahn’s writings about daylight resonate with me. Here he talks about the nature of a room and its natural light:

“The room is not only the beginning of architecture: it is an extension of self. If you think about it, you realize that you don’t say the same thing in a small room that you say in a large room. If I were to speak in a great hall, I would have to pick one person who smiles at me in order to be able to speak at all.

Also marvelous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of that room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how wonderful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”


I’m rather addicted to painting plein air, but the weather in western Oregon is more like eastern Kansas (ie snow, ice, slush, ugh!) right now. So I’ve been painting from my windows, which frame various neighborhood views and foliage. But the Kahn quote also gets me to thinking about the nature of rooms, which I haven’t painted.

This is the unprepossessing set-up in my kitchen. The reason for painting in the kitchen, in spite of the traffic and the high window, is that the best tree in the vicinity faces the sink. It is a continual source of happiness to me — to be cleansing the cutlery while gazing at the ancient face of the huge cherry, with all its anciliary objects — squirrels, hanging plants, pots on the fence that leans against it.

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Janet Fish and my quest for edges and dissolving boundaries

After sending me to the Morandi exhibit at the MET, my friend and mentor, Nancy Plum, introduced me to Janet Fish’s paintings. She lent me Gerrit Henry’s 1987 JANET FISH and as a present for Hanneke (Psst, don’t tell her), I bought Janet FISH PAINTINGS by Vincent Katz, a more recent version.

Below are photographs of two of JF’s paintings, first F.W.F, 1976 (72 x 56″):

Fascinating to see geometry outlined by edges! The dazzling quality of the painting appears to be due to, quoting JF:

…I started sitting the bottles on mirrors, to bounce the light back up through them and intensify it. I’d paint the set-up all day long. If the light was terrific in the bottle at one moment, that’s when it was painted. I sort of set up a watch. And I’d look at things, and whatever was exciting that happened – in this situation where everything was always in flux – was recorded in the painting. The light is never in the same place for more than a second…

Vincent Katz likens the ‘artificiality ‘ in lighting due to capturing highlights at different time points to the artificiality in Dutch still life where flowers that bloom at different times of the year nevertheless appear in the same painting.

The next picture is Orange Cloth/Orange Poppies, 2000 (48 x 60″):

Edges are still accentuated. And, I think in this painting, there may be some dissolving of boundaries due to similarity in color of different shapes.

Has anyone thought about Morandi and Fish at the same time?

So far, I have only seen Morandi’s paintings in real life. I will attempt to see Janet Fish’ Grey Day (1978) in my town at the Kresge Art Museum Collection, Michigan State University. Nancy thinks that the painting may be archived. Thus, I will have to put in a request for special viewing after I return from Germany. More later,

Happy New Year!

Twixt Light and Shadow

Birgit asked if anyone employed a strongly contrasting treatment between the illuminated and the shadowed side of an object as seen in Morandi’s late painting. I’ve been tripping over a painting, that I did a few years ago, that might fill the bill.

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Two paintings, two challenges

On Monday, I painted two plein aire oils from the uppermost level of a parking garage. On Tuesday I attended a crit session with some other painters that I meet with regularly. OF course, I showed them the paintings.

I managed to remember to photograph the first painting twice — once as it emerged from the garage session, and then again after I had been through the critique and had tweaked it in the studio. I didn’t do a lot to this  painting in my second go-round, but when I finished I was concerned about the loss of some of the “naive” quality of the red building. Here are images of the two versions:

Library Parking Garage, View South (first draft) 12 x 16, oil on board more… »

Giorgio Morandi – late work

The two paintings by Giorgio Morandi shown here interest me because of what Steve called  their ‘dissolving boundaries’. The first one was done in 1960:

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More Morandi

My apologies for not being more visible in this discussion, but it’s been more fun just kibitzing.

But I’ve noticed that Morandi has become front-of-mind of late; to the extent that his characteristics are influencing what gets my attention. Today I was cutting pieces of plexiglass to make into chains. I was lining them up when – behold – there was a little Morandi assembly.

Frankly, there’s little resemblance. No painterliness is in evidence, but things are arranged after a fashion and one can see an intersection of table and wall. For some reason this was enough to trigger the association.

The plexiglass blocks go into the likes of this prototype seen here in a basket of apples. I’m tempted to make up some shapes similar to those used by Morandi – this as an adjunct to Steve’s experiments with the bottles.

I was going to ask rhetorically if you find your focus and sensitivities influenced by these discussions on A&P, but I know the answer already. For me, the scanner of limited attention, it’s the concentration. Any comments?

Photo Morandi II

It’s been instructive to continue experimenting with photography à la Morandi: not attempting to imitate, but rather to explore some of the themes he seems to be working with, or at least what I find myself working with as I go about it. One thing I realized looking at more of his pictures, both online at the Metropolitan and the Morandi Museum, and also in a book found at the library, is that he was often interested in the modeling of masses by the light falling on him. This was contrary to my impression from the quite flat images that seem to be more common. Perhaps working in both modes was his own form of experimentation.

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