Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just one day

Tine is a skin, not a dress. 11"x14" (27.9x35.6 cm). Oil on linen panel.
Today has been a good day in the studio, although it didn't promise to be so, and I want to record as it has been happening – because if ever I received a confirmation of the often quoted promise by Picasso –  that inspiration does come, but must find you working, today is the day. I cannot even tell, at the moment, if anything I've done today is any good – and yet the impressions of the day have been so powerful, so real, so intense, so rich – that it doesn't really matter that much. 

I woke up after a long night's sleep, but not feeling refreshed; rather, still exhausted from yesterday's work on the 27th sonnet painting and from reviewing a whole bunch of recent work – which resulted in a dozen paintings landing back in my "in-progress" pile. Without much hope for a fruitful day, I decided to try and work on some of these; and not the most important to me, either. Not because I expected the inspiration to come, but just because I need to paint. I decided I wouldn't even confine myself to focusing on a single painting, but would just switch between them whenever I like; just to keep it going, rather than to achieve anything in particular. The onions panel above was the first one, and I stopped rather quickly, with the painting suspended in an intermediate moment from which I had no idea where to go. 

Be Italian. 11"x14" (27.9x35.6 cm). Oil on linen panel.
As I switched to the next still life, this one on the left, filled with bread, onions and tomatoes, it began to play in my head the song "Be Italian", from the musical "Nine". The association, albeit purely gastronomical at its conception, soon started playing back into the painting, endowing it with richer and more passionate reds and fierier rhythms. Here is the song, in case you don't remember it:

Howard Creek Ranch plein air. 16"x12".
I stopped working on this still life at an earlier stage, not reflected in the photo (to return to it later in the day), because the intensity which comes from interaction between two (here, rather three) art forms inspired me to switch to a panel more important to me, which has been sitting in the "in-progress" pile for some time. I felt something important hidden in it, but it wouldn't reveal itself; and I didn't know how to approach it. Here on the left is the original plein air study I brought from our stay at Howard Creek Ranch in July. It had been tweaked a bit in the meantime, but without any clear sense of direction or meaning. The subject matter and the overall rhythms of the painting seemed to resonate with something within my memory and mind; but the link was vague and too weak to work from. 

I remember a garden. 16"x12" (40.6x30.5 cm). Oil on linen panel.
This is the photo of the same panel by the end of today's painting session. Its working title now is "I remember a garden" – a slightly hidden quote from "The English Patient" (I remember a garden, running down to the sea). Said by a man who doesn't want to remember his life, but remembers a garden he has never even seen, but was just told about by his lover, in a more intense and joyful moment of his life. So it is not a painting about a garden; it's a painting about shared memories and impressions, and their overwhelming intensity. 

Because my studio session today was filled with memories and impressions of sunny Italian beaches and cool English gardens, with a little boy's early passions and later struggles, with love and pain of a Hungarian count, and with the farewell letter of a woman dying in an African desert. And I am richer and more alive after the studio time than I was in the morning, slow and sleepy as it was. This is, in the end, what art is all about.   
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