Been reading the memoirs of Antoni Tapies. I find them bland and a little disappointing for an artist of his stature, but here is one interesting observation: “A moment of lucidity will also free the artists from many hours of effort. I do not meant to say that efforts are useless, much less do I regret any of mine. What I am trying to say is that they are not necessarily unavoidable.” I agree completely. Why not just do it right the first time? Of course the capacity for that depends on preparation over years. He goes on: “We western artists fight with our work, and surely to excess.” I’m sure this is not usually the case with conceptualism, but it may be with painting. The art and science of improvisation is not well understood. I learned a lot about it very early on from jazz musicians—repetition is both the key to success and the cause of failure. Here’s two of his prints. They each have a frame within the frame, a device that I’ve admired in Stella. The square in the second one is made by ripping a hole in the paper. Good one.
I saw a large show of his prints at the Tapies Foundation in Barcelona in 2003, and immediately recognized his interest in Zen, also discussed on this blog. I’m sure it’s no secret, but the memoir confirms that he made a pretty serious study of eastern religions, including and especially Zen. More important to me is that the work makes it evident, for better and worse. These prints are not so obviously influenced by the east, but, nevertheless, it’s better to draw on western traditions of improvisation—the Zen ethic confuses natural energy flows with religious ambitions.