Friday, June 1, 2012

May studio news: nothingness

Sonnet 9: The world will wail thee. 20"x20". Oil on linen. 2012
How do you even begin to summarize news from a month if its central motive, its keyword as it were is nothingness?

On the surface, it was a busy month. Painting, keeping up with my "Shakespeare in colour" blog, preparations for my Open Studio on June 9th, which are gradually transforming our living space into something resembling a gallery, but looking more and more as though my internal world is staring at me from my own walls.

It was probably these preparations – with all the prerequisite going through my work again, editing, selecting, decluttering, and not the least the need to spread the word about the show, to announce it, to talk about myself more than feels even remotely comfortable to me, that sharpened and intensified the deepest conflict of my life: what I do to stay alive, to breathe, to think and to understand – that is, the process of seeing and painting – simultaneously produces more and more material objects, the things of painting and inevitably adds to the visual noisiness of our environment. When it is so noisy, even the most beautiful music would just add to the noise, and we will fail to discern it.     

Daffodils in rising sun. 14"×11, oil on panel, 2012.

It is this conflict between our need to make, to add something beautiful and meaningful to the world, and the perception that the world is overwhelmed with noise – both visual or acoustic, that found its – perhaps temporary – resolution in the concept of nothingness; nothingness as silence, an empty space – a prerequisite for any music to be heard and any image to be seen.

I wasn't overstating it when I said above that painting is my way to stay alive and to think, so it should come as no surprise that this resulted in a new series of paintings called "Nothingness": a series of images nearly non-existent, barely discernible. "Daffodils in rising sun" is one of the first in this series; it led me to a stylistic breakthrough which will take more time, and more paintings, to explore.

The death of Venus. 48"x24". Oil on canvas. 2012
The last painting I wanted to show you in this summary of the month of May, "The death of Venus", marks the end of two rather long processes simultaneously. One of them began as a figure painting from life about three years ago: the model, and the pose she has chosen, bore a remarkable resemblance to the famous Venus of Milos, and I made a not quite successful attempt to play on this resemblance. I was, however, so attached to the idea that I tried to repeat it on another canvas (this one, shown on the right).

The new Venus remained on it as a sketch for nearly two years, and finally took part in another long-term project: a study into Titian (based primarily on a recent exhibition of Venetian masters in San Francisco). In other words, I tried to make my Venus into a stylistic study of Titian's nudes. It was a long struggle, which led me to an important insight into my own world view: namely, that I deeply despise the very concept embodied in Venus, however charmed and fascinated I was by her endless and beautiful depictions in visual arts.

It is this sudden understanding that turned this canvas into "The death of Venus", the goddess herself being now deeply buried under the somewhat chaotic and wild arrangement of red roses.  
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