9 January 2013: dear London, on working in the studio … day 3


A physical day. I spent about an hour adding a piece of paper over the rather low drawing of the studio on the 10m bit of paper, by cutting the right-hand blank side off and pinning and sticking it above and behind the original drawing. It now measures about 6m by 3 metres. This is really to do with boys’ toys I think, working up the scaffolding tower and on this scale. The drawing is descriptive, self-consciously expressive and may or may not be useful, either as a record or something to snaffle some smaller compositions from.I did then do some actual painting and worked on what I must now call the ‘After Degas’ painting, enjoying the thick linseed oil and its coverage. Then I worked over the ‘After Van Gogh’ painting and rubbed out, painted in and tried to balance pale violet, orange/brown and green with the original black lines and shapes. The ‘After Rembrandt’ tonal piece looks just fine, so probably isn’t about anything.

My lunchtime reading was an Arshile Gorky catalogue raisoneé …

Meyer Schapiro called him a ‘fervent scrutinizer of painting’ – sensible as he was ‘self-taught’. [Art teacher’s note: aren’t we all, really? I have developed significant respect for my CLC pupils and adult students who work things out so well after some hopeful guidance and sometimes a structure from me]

Gorky was a kind of ‘hinge’ between Surrealiism and Geometric Rationalism and he tried to be painterly, dramatic and broadly relevant. Phew.



Connections abound. I found his work oddly reminiscent of Theo Jansen and his Strandbeests in the Netherlands. I have shown you these ones (only marginally Jansen-like), mainly because this is the stage I am at – I need to respond to drawings that offer possibilities to paint.


Arshile Gorky

Gorky, like Jansen, invented (in paint, admittedly) ‘an intimate and fecund environment of creatures that act out biological drams of procreation and survival – He first  loved Cezanne, then loved Picasso’s work, not as obvious as it sounds in the US in the 1930’s.

Can I reduce paintings, or parts of paintings to some sort of empiricism, where only the essential survives? A kind of self-selection – an evolution of visual, visceral ideas from paint itself?


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