Friday, October 13, 2006

Splash it all over

Why do I find reading interviews with painters often much more stimulating than those with writers?

In my student abode, I had pinned over my desk a quotation from an interview with Frank Auerbach. It was under a picture of him sitting down - covered in paint, holding a mug of tea - looking as if the effort of painting had drained every ounce of energy from his body.
Painting is a practical day-to-day thing, I think. One might say something clever, one might say something big, but one does something limited. It is a serious thing - like religion - like love - one does the persistent thing, and then the really remarkable happens when something's there that wasn't there before.
Today I saw this one in the Telegraph with Lucien Freud (link via Conscientious).
If you look at Chardin's animals, they're absolute portraits. It's to do with the feeling of individuality and the intensity of the regard and the focus on the specific. I think the most boring thing you can say about a work of art is that it's 'timeless'. That induces a kind of panic in me. It's almost like political speech - it doesn't apply to anyone. The idea that something's wrong if the work gives off a feeling of being tied to the moment is crazy. One of the things about all great art is that it involves you, don't you agree? It's the same in literature. One of the things I so like about Saul Bellow is that I almost feel as if I had written it myself. There's a degree of conviction that involves you in a way that seems almost innate.
He also speaks of painting the Queen's portrait: "She's very, very open-minded" he says. The accompanying photo seems to prove him right.

By coincidence, Serpent's Tail has just sent me The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B and other stories, a collection of stories by artists, including Jake Chapman and the late Ian Breakwell (who remembers his diary pieces on early Channel 4?), with an introduction by poet George Szirtes.

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