Tag Archives: literature

More Complex Form

One couldn’t come up with an artist further from the concerns of modern day, formalist inclined abstraction than George Eliot—her novels are all about moral challenges. I can hardly express my esteem for what she did, and who she was. … Continue reading

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Two of a Kind

From Wodehouse’s Joy in the Morning: ‘By an unfortunate coincidence, his lordship will in a few moments from now be proceeding to the potting shed to confer with Mr. Chichester Clam.’ ‘Chichester Clam?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ I shook the head. ‘I … Continue reading

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Wooster’s Version

I hope my readers will excuse this long quote from one of the Jeeves and Wooster books: The effect the apparition had on me was to make me start violently, and we all know what happens when you start violently … Continue reading

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Somehow Both

Further to the Marisa Merz work in the previous post, and to the discussion about story telling in abstraction—we are familiar with the common object decontextualized to the degree that it becomes “abstract,” and also with the evocative shape or form … Continue reading

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Forms of Realism

The best part of Facebook, in fact the only good part, is some of the people one can meet. Recently I connected with a young writer called Joobin Bekhrad, of Iranian extraction but living in Toronto, who loves to post … Continue reading

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Abstraction from Life

This blog is about abstract art, and I think it offers some interesting and novel ideas. It also has some unconventional ideas, and makes no apology for that. The recent post on Ian Wallace’s work is, for me, a bit … Continue reading

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Aristocrat of the Spirit

You have to know that you are right. But if no one else agrees then you’re a poor sap anyway. Indifference to shame helps. The shame of poverty, for example. Baudelaire turned poverty into “poverty.” Shamelessness fosters conviction.

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Wallace’s Poverty

Ian Wallace’s Poverty is a fiction. Can someone who is really poor take an interest in that? You’d have to be indifferent to wealth to begin with to appreciate both rich and poor as roles, to take them as art. For … Continue reading

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Illusions of Identity

A couple of months ago I read about the American writer Lionel Shriver and the scandal she caused at a writer’s festival in Brisbane. At the time I was sympathetic but passed on. Recently a follow up article showed that the whole … Continue reading

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Stories in Stories

Stella’s large sculpture, The Town-Ho’s Story, is, among other things, a collection of smaller pieces. I’ve mentioned this before, but as I suggested in the previous post, parts of the main body of the work could also be seen separately, … Continue reading

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A Story

In Moby-Dick the chapter is called “The Town-Ho’s Story,” and the story is of an encounter with the white whale. In Stella’s piece the ship is heeling over, and from the side it looks like it’s taken a hit. Jammed … Continue reading

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Invention and Labour

I read recently about Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic, an allegorical/historical cycle of gigantic paintings, some actually as much as 20 feet high. I’d like to see them, but even before doing so I’m getting tired. Too much work! Mucha is … Continue reading

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This World or Another

At the time of writing, a couple of weeks before publication, the Trump election is everyone’s topic of discussion, and the content of that discussion can get pretty intense—intensely apocalyptic in some cases. I’ve been putting in my own opinion … Continue reading

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Literary Modernism

I’ve always been drawn to artists who write their own books and illustrate them—or maybe they are actually writers who also draw. Two obvious ones who come to mind are Mervyn Peake and Bruno Schulz, and I like them both. … Continue reading

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A Literary Art

Back at the start of this blog, in 2011 I think it was, I wrote several posts on R.H.Quaytman. She’s still one of my favourite artists, and features prominently in my book. Another artist with a very creative relationship to … Continue reading

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Interpretation in Time

My post on destruction got an interesting response on Facebook from reader Nicole Rigets. She says: “Old books contain new ways of seeing and thinking. In my opinion all books contain secret knowledge (even novels).” This is really fascinating. Of … Continue reading

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Objectivity of Art

Recently a journalist has outed the legal identity of Italian author Elena Ferrante. There have been many critical responses to this piece of detective work. People are not happy. This is what Ferrante has to say about why she doesn’t … Continue reading

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Criticism versus Publicity

Alfredo Triff is an interesting guy who lives in Miami, teaches at a local college and writes about art on his blog miami bourbaki. I don’t know exactly what he teaches—somewhere in the realm of philosophy/history/political economy—but I like his … Continue reading

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Detour

One of my favorite jazz standards is “Detour Ahead”, though I’ve only heard it in one version, and maybe not the best possible one. Was listening to it tonight. Smooth road, clear day But why am I the only one … Continue reading

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Bureaucratic Fantasy

Here’s a moment of high comedy from Chin P’ing Mei, an account of Taoist ritual:“This lot consists of nine memorials…the one submitted at the time of the ninth recitation to the Ruler of the Most Exalted Crimson Empyrean, the Perfected … Continue reading

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A New Artworld

On holiday I brought two books, precisely because of the excruciating contrast between them. The criticism of Patrick Heron is on a very high level, of both insight and rhetorical skill. It’s inspiring, and what more could you ask? It … Continue reading

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A Real Change

Recently I’m rediscovering the absolute genius of Walter Benjamin, including reading some texts I had a hard time with years ago. In “The Task of the Translator” he confirms remarks made in an earlier post about how artworks change over … Continue reading

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Images Without Words

While in Vancouver for my recent show I took in Peter Culley’s excellent show at the Charles Scott Gallery. A giant montage of small to medium ink jet prints wrapped around three walls, thankfully without any explanatory wall text or … Continue reading

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Illustration and Abstraction

I’ve been enjoying the work of the great British illustrator Brian Wildsmith. He started in the early sixties and it’s not hard to see some influence from Alan Davie, as well as from those perennial undergraduate favorites Klimt and Hundertwasser. Arbitrary … Continue reading

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Chin P’ing Mei

Chin P’ing Mei is an incredibly rich and detailed account of all the details of life in historical China, from food to clothes to architecture, and all the goings on between people, the ways they fill the passing time. It … Continue reading

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A Journey by Train

Sonia Delaunay’s collaboration with Blaise Cendrars, La Prose du Transsiberien, featured in a number of recent catalogs, including Inventing Abstraction, is pretty interesting. I love the shapes, and of course I love the idea of an abstract book. This one is … Continue reading

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The Feeling of a Moment

Robert Musil‘s novel The Man Without Qualities should be required reading – for somebody. I read it years ago in the first English translation, and kept turning down pages to mark the mind expanding moments I wanted to return to. … Continue reading

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Had Gadya Again

Just for the pleasure of it I want to make another Stella print/study comparison. The Had Gadya works reward the effort. From the first resolved version of this piece to the final, the scribbly bits are quite changed. The scribbles … Continue reading

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A Book

Long before my recent enthusiasm for the work of Frank Stella, I made a number of small books which are pretty busy and figurative. I’ve had them stuck away for a while because they have a small binding problem not … Continue reading

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Inscrutable Klee

Readers of this blog will have noticed that I sometimes allude to T.J.Clark’s articles in the LRB. Recently he reviewed the massive Klee exhibition at Tate Modern. I think he is right to stress that it is very hard for … Continue reading

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