Sunday, April 25

Surface: Seeing it in Person

Reflection, Self Portrait 1985 Lucien Freud (via WebMuseum)
There is a Lucien Freud exhibit up at the Centre Pompidou in France. It's unlikely that I'll get to that. There isn't a good chance I will see Freud's work in person for a long while either.

Lucien Freud uses so much paint - his images are so tactile -  that I wonder how seeing them in person would change my experience of them. My wife said seeing the paintings in London is the reason for her undergrad thesis. Oppositely, another friend recently said he saw some in person and it changed his view of the work for the worse.
Study for Head of George Dyer 1967 Francis Bacon (via ARTINFO)
There are so many artists that I've only known through reproductions. A good example is Francis Bacon. Sometimes books and the internet are my primary source of images.But do I really know what it's like to experience standing in front of a Bacon painting (although great documents like this tend to explore an entirely different side)?

Morning Sun 1952 Edward Hopper (via NY Times)
During undergrad I was all about Edward Hopper. And I only knew him through books. Those reproductions always led me to believe he was a terrible, good painter. Meaning he could use color and make space, but had this ugly surface. It turned me off slightly. But during college I saw a good majority of his work at the Whitney, and later at the MFA Boston, and realized the texture and mark making was all lost in the reproductions. His colors were still messy, but beautiful.

Reproduction Drawing 1 (after Leonardo Cartoon) 2009-10 Jenny Saville (via Gagosian)
I'm always thinking about the aesthetics of a surface. So much so, I tend to scrape off my marks and repaint them until I've got the movement memorized. I tend to gravitate to a nicely orchestrated form, or shape. I get distracted at poorly made marks - or rather, insecure mark making. I like sureness or decisiveness- even if I haven't been able to demonstrate it myself (or if it's prevented me from allowing anything of mine to come to fruition lately!). It's led me lately to care more about what that paint looks like, in any form, than what the image is.

There are dozens of artists I have only known through seeing in person, sometimes even only once (and maybe in that case they live more in my head than anything). Whereas others, like Jenny Saville, I am in awe of their mark making and paint, but haven't seen one. Am I looking at different elements to a work of art when I see it reproduced instead of in-person? Would my view of certain artists diminish if I were to see a haphazard surface? Or, would it give me more confidence to be a bit more carefree myself?

1 comment:

  1. i enjoyed reading this post about surface, i wrote and am still pondering a million words to describe my inquisition about surface and as a painter i think over time we understand our relationship with it.