Memorial blog entry for Christopher Van Schaak, the person who made me my first silverpoint pen
Last week close friends gathered in a garden of mansion near Temple, Midlothians to plant a memorial palm tree for Chris Van Schaak, who passed away after lung infection which he caught treating a rose in his garden in rainy weather, over half a year ago.
Christopher was a person who made for me by hand my first silverpoint appliance, and who accompanied me on a road trip to Borders looking for Merlins grave and baptism stone, which we both identified.
He probably identified himself with Merlin a little, maybe the astral meeting exploded the vortex of wisdom and carried him away into the realm of ancients.
Posting abstracts from memorial speech by his friend, photos from palm ceremony and some silverpoints i had done on a journey to Merlindale, Stobo.
“Christopher van Schaack would surely want to have been thought of for his labours and for his legacy. I thought I knew a bit about Artists materials. It was all readymade out of acrylics and pastels and chalks and inks and oils and pencils and wax and it came in pretty tubs and tubes and plastic pots that you could buy at Artists suppliers. You did not consider where it came from. In his choosing to create using the old methods of grinding down minerals at source to acquire pigmentation for painting – when just about everyone else had turned their back on this as a viable method and indeed forgot or held it in modern contempt – Christopher van Schaack was utterly unique in the Art world. At that level of unique in the sense that his was of a kind of weird esoteric genius and a labour of love. He truly believed in his Art.
Others I have talked to do so too.
I was fortunate to be able to help him one afternoon. All we were doing were making explanatory labels for some completed artworks that were due to be used for a forthcoming exhibition to be held in London. You will some of you recall that Christopher was dyslexic and needed assistance with reading and writing. So there he is dictating to me the names of the minerals that had produced these pigments used in his
pictures! The only one to my shame I can recall now was the lovely sounding mineral, “Chrysacolla.” Very difficult to spell. That is some of Christopher’s important legacy.”
“There was something old fashioned and Thomas Hardy-esque about Christopher and the way he would dress for special occasions with his bow tie. Perhaps he had been born in the wrong time period. It was during the time when our sun was in the constellation of Sagittarius that he was born in 1947. To a well to do Southern family from Birmingham Alabama in the US. They had owned plantations and also apparently slaves. His grandfather was a doctor. He had a stormy relationship with his father, though, who according to one source, kind of abandoned him. His mother, Margaret and he were very close though and they maintained a special connection up to her death in 2008. She was a noted researcher, writer and curator in the field of fine arts and a specialist in 19th Century furniture. Christopher also had a sister, Anne Hope but she died earlier. One senses that there is a family tragedy to be found there.
Christopher being a child of the sixties went in a more diverse direction than most. This is born out by his knowledge of many people who were movers and shakers of the American counter-culture and of the Art world and the acting world of the 80’s 60s and 70s. Warhol for example. Or Peter Fonda. Country Joe, Edie Sedgwick. Jack Nicolson. Then the earlier surrealist, De Chirico who he had met and studied under. Christopher through the Art world was in fact acquainted with quite a few names. And also some highly connected and powerful top flight US familes through his associations. The strength of his own convictions alone can tell you that Christopher was certainly one who might be considered not just of the counterculture but “radical.” He was often to be found venting to us on the subjects of the CIA, (did you ever hear the story of how they tried to recruit him?) Or of the Chemtrails in the Sky, or of Syria, False flags? What he considered was the, “Global warming hoax.” You name it. MK ULtra, “the evil Royal Family.”
“They’re all morons! Ruled by Satan!”
But people told me he would talk about these subjects and then mysteriously after they had discounted them as paranoid nonsense he’d be proven right in some manner. Not always though…
He moved from The South state of Alabama over to West Port in Connecticut where he developed a love of sailing and retained strong associations with that Eastern Seaboard of the United States all his life. I have said that I would speak for some of those who knew him intimately and cannot be here with us today. Anthony the son of Stevan Dohanos an acclaimed and noted social realist painter is now a fair-trade cocoa
farmer in his beloved Hawaii. Then he was a radical and fellow painter. He had been at the boarding school Avon Hills Connecticut with Christopher in 1966-1967 and had dated the same girl in Westport as Christopher. In Southport Connecticut they had sailed together as children: He had this to say:
“Christopher was a classy guy, he was a gentleman.. And generous.. I remember he gave my father a few gifts.. The one time I remember he gave my dad a bag full of Old Pocket watch Faces.. And he gave me a whole bag of Silver dollars once.. Lol.. I helped him get to Hawaii in ’69 . I have a photograph of him, 19 years old or so in Alabama and he looks like a young Marlon Brando!”
Anthony told me that within the American counterculture Christopher was in fact instrumental in setting up Health food stores in Hawaii and also bicycle racks. Anthony was in Glasgow at the time and got Christopher his ticket. They swapped in fact. Christopher to Europe, Anthony to Hawaii. Christopher lived in a famous “let it all hang out” type hippie commune called “Taylor camp” in Maui, Hawaii in 1969 at the time.
To sketch this biography out briefly now. I apologise for any errors. I will do better next time. He had then lived in a sort of villa upon the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy and also in Switzerland (the details absent) with Christine, his wife. There they began to raise his two sons, Justin Ten Haaf and Manolis Ten Haaf. There it was too that he rode horses. Afterward he moved over to a house in Amsterdam. There he continued with his art work until he came finally to his beloved Scotland in 1980. This proved an inspiration to him. In Glasgow he started to make his etchings. Then later at Edinburgh in the Printmakers studio.”
from left: Gordon, neighbour, George, KT chevalier, me, Author of speech, John, Chris’s art agent
Recently, in one of my revelationary trances, i had to check some data. Here are some interrsting calculations i came up with.
The year 1322bc saw a comet landing in Britain, whos impact on Scotland was so noticeable it was recorded in pictish stones, and in cave drawings in Wemys Cave near Kircaldy. It is often depicted as a twin comet, and is rumoured to thus symbolise a twin indoeuropean deity, or others say Ishtar or Venus.
If one takes the amount of years between now, 2016, with huge anticipstion of Nibiru, and this day and divides by two it gives number 1665, pointing to year when Sir Isaac Newton was personally appointed by court to watch over a Red Comet which was omenous for Plague of London.
Further. The amount of years between 2016, 1665 and 1322 would give 3338 years, which is approximate amount of years between creation and foundation of First Temple of Solomon, set to be between 832 and 997 bc, but more exactly number 666, as the amount of years after creation of world.
The year the interval is pointing to is 347ad, while year 365 is mentioned in regards of huge earthquake which altered much of shoreline of mediterranean.
Is the Nibiru to be expected? Are we to buy Newtonian telescopes to watch?
Botticellis Divine Comedy: Trick or treat?
This spring saw epochal exhibition in Somerset House of treasures from auctioned in early decades of last century collection of 13th Duke Douglas-Hamilton. The family, one of scottish oldest, has a haunted history. Known from Black Douglas featured in scoolbooks as Robert Bruce opponent, at the same time another Douglas, whos job was to carry around enbalmed and encapsuled in gold Robert Bruce head as talisman for battle victories, accompanying Sinclair known from notorious Dan Brown fiction in crucade to Jerusalem upon which sharing the legendary Templar treasures, 13th Duke was a charitable person. It was going bad for family for some generations. With arrival of electicity the bills were just tooo huge for a non-working person, although the family had stakes in newly fashionable aviation. WWI saw the estate used for hospital, then sold, then demolished. Yes, the beautiful 16c paladian mansion, upgrafed and enlarged in stages to become one of the biggest estate houses in Britain, is now grounds of parking lot and sports field, except for Mausoleum in Hamilton village.
Now to Botticelli, known as one of first Grand Masters of Sion from Sauniere files. Duke of Hamilton owned a sequence of drawings, chapter by chapter, the same way as Gustave Dore illustrating Dante.
Not only that. According to the legend, Botticelli had framed the drawings in a special way. Drawn on half transparent, almost rice paper, he layered handwritten text underneath, halfseen through the drawing. Which is how Duke of Hamilton re-framed it later, to be exhibited in Somerset collection.
Subtle effect of heavenly beauty.
Why does is mimick my grandfathers silkscreen, which unveiled a level of handwritten poetry after upper silkdrawing of ravens was taken off by me to be frsmed separately?
Another question: why is Botticelli so profound judging by exhibition, not mentioned in my Silverpoint and Goldenpoint all-embracing anthology, apart from one single piece, where he is mentioned in collaboration with Lippi?
We all have a seen a Boticelli coloured chart of hell in Dantes house in Florence. Why is it so different in style?
My good old friend, granddaughter of Duke of Hamilton, has mentioned that her daughter, my former best friend, graduate of Edinburgh Art College with history of burlesque and methadon, is dating Banksy, who happens to be son of Jenners former owner.
But who is Banksy? Can she be sure he is who he says he is? Or is it a hoax from her?
Is Botticelli exhibition, so subtle and so advanced, a hoax grom Banksy, commisioned to draw to a japanese anime artist?
Chess, a short story
(I wrote this story as 17 year old in my native language and found it recently in my mother’s cupboard. Reading it again I was surprised by its metaphorical intricacy, and decided to translate to English. As with all bi- or tri-lingual writers, like Nabokov, it is an advantage to write in the language it would be published at once rather than to translate, so does my story also lose a bit on poetic fluency and semantic depth compared to original version, still I hope it will tease and please some of intellectual and aesthetic tastebuds of readers.)
© Natasha Kimstatsch, 2016
Claus Kurtzweil hated to play chess since he was a child. And now he felt that he was being dragged into this useless game – and panicked.
This morning nothing omened the awaiting tribulation. Claus got up in ordinary mood, he was not heavied by glimpsed memories of the night’s mares, as his dreams he simply did not remember.
Claus washed his face, cleanly shaved his chin and cheeks with a safe razor, scrupulously brushed his teeth and was all in all satisfied with the reflection in the mirror. After breakfast, which was cooked as usual by the old woman from whom he was renting a room facing orange painted windowless wall of perpendicularly placed house, he decided to take a walk.
It was the first half of a glorious sunny Sunday, and Claus carelessly was mumming in his head the refrain of the song he had just heard on the radio. Claus walked his street and turned into a little green tree-livened-up square. He was often here during the weekdays, but never knew that early on Sundays on one of the benches, in the most remote and shadowed part of the square, gathered amateur chess players. The bench where they would gather was unchanged for many years, and generations of chess players having already forgotten according to what principle it was chosen, every Sunday the first part of the day, as if obeying the same blind instinct which unmistakably leads a hungry moose to the spot of previous feeding, or a ringmarked and released hundreds of miles away robin to the place of previous years nesting, so would the chessplayers stream every week to this bench.
Their society was at times freshened by out-of-town chessplayers, who would gladly tell how, during the first half of the day on a Sunday they came out of a hotel took a walk and absolutely accidentally in a square walked upon a bench, where brothers in hobby would gather.
Ha, one could only laugh at their naivity. They sincerely thought that really came to this town on a business trip on completely different affairs, and that they walked into this square in the first half of a Sunday out of nothing-to-do, and that they bumped into this bench by mere coincidence, and that the invitation for a “little chessie game” they could have declined, but simply did not see any weighty reasons for that.
But Claus was never a chess player! And still the relaxed worrieless flair of a sunny Sunday morning led him out exactly to the alley of the square leading to the bench. Truthfully, there was more than one bench. At both sides of the bench there were two other benches of exactly same appearance, and facing it a hammock in which one could relax at will. Nevertheless passing by the notorious bench Claus felt irritation, that it was exactly this one occupied by some retirees, nosing around something. The retirees were swarming, constantly moving and changing places so as to assume the position allowing the best way to see something hidden in the heart of a moving living hive. Some retirees were with their shiny patches inbetween missing hair reflecting light, which was increasing the effect of swirling and mobility of the living clump. At that the retirees were also exchanging glances, gestures, were grimacing and producing unpleasant caw sounds.
Nevertheless first Claus did not even pay attention to the retirees. He simply felt irritation at the fact that he did not have opportunity to sit down and relax exactly at this bench, that exactly it was busy. Claus stopped and started to examine the group of retirees with growing dismay. His thoughts had not yet summoned upon construction of versions of what it was the retirees had gathered around. He was simply consumed by sensation of irritation and was as if immersing in it.
Suddenly the retirees silenced, and out of the center of the hive rose a man. The retirees stepped aside, made the way, let him step out and were standing there following with their eyes his figure moving away. The man was moving down the alley, and the sight of his back was evoking for some reason in Claus the feeling of having no exit. He was long following the gradually diminishing figure of a man, and when he turned back towards the bench, he noticed that the retirees were uninterruptedly staring at himself. The feeling of exitlessness was increasing. Claus, powerless, glanced at the bench opening up for his sight. It revealed a chessboard with readyset figures.
“Would You like a little chessie game, not?” – with a squeaky voice asked one of the retirees. Claus started to decline, to say that he does not play chess, but subconsciously was already feeling that he is doomed. “Who am I playing against?” – asked as firm as possible Claus. “Over here, with Shortie. He is our winner, has just won a game. And we have a rule – the winner plays the next game with a newcomer. Take a seat, please!” – and a roof of grimacing wrinkly oldies shattered over Claus. That is right where and when panic took a grip of Claus. “Why did I agree? I should have run away, ask passers-by for rescue, resist!” His head was overflowing with hundreds of solutions, which could have been useful only a second ago. “I should have said that I was blind, that I am being contageous with siberian plague which is tansmittable through contact with objects”…. But now there was no turning back. And we between us know that there was no way out even there and then.
Claus rose his eyes at the opponent and shrugged. In front of him was seated a boy of 11-12 years of age, in white shirtie with a jabot and kneecut trousers, but with a strangely wrinkly face of an old man. A dwarf! Claus felt a rush of cold sweat on his forehead. Could it be that a minute ago this creature won over a grown up clever man! And I am the next! This situation had a hint of something frightening, infernal. Claus was understood, that he should not be start the game if he did not want to become the next victim. He should gather all strength, rise up from the bench and leave – but Shortie was already making the first move with the pawn, and Claus powerlessly began to move a symmertical pawn from his side. And here in front of him arose the picture of his birth in expensive area, his still young father – a prominent lawyer, the nannies him surrounding, the smell of cleanness and bourgeois comfort. The picture gradually dissolved in memory, and triggered by the second move of Shortie, Claus re-lived the episode from early childhood when he with his own hands made a christmas tree decoration formed as a butterfly and, to applauds of parents and nannies, dangled it solemnly on the pine. Everyone was complementing the decoration. The third move enlivened the picture of being admitted to grammar school when Claus, wearing the new uniform and gymnasium cap brilliantly passed the entry exam in arythmetics and spelling. Here Claus’s attention became slightly shattered and the Shorty takes with a horse his pawn. And infront of Claus assembled itself the picture of shameful punishment for receiving first E in callygraphy for omitting to prepare homework thoroughly enough. The eve before that he was staying busy with side tasks and did not have time left for this one. But Claus decided to grip into sensces, to self-improve, and is finishing the year with excellent result, taking the Shortie’s pawn with a rook.
Further the game developed with changeable success. Claus was becoming more and more engaged, getting almost into gambling suspense. On the board there were less and less figures. And right here the Shortie to astonished row of jubilation of cheerers took the most precious figure of Claus – the queen. And Claus saw in front of him the most charming girl named Klava. He had made her acquaintance by chance at one party. She is nothing like anyone he knew. She is incredibly sensitive and refined. She was reading same books as him, loved the same music, same smells and dishes, as him. She understood him from half-a-word. She was send from above. And, while he was immersing himself in very fact of her existence, Klava is leaving for her aunt, fist for a short while then for a month, then Claus learns that she got married to a promising surgeon. Claus is hardening up. He felt that the game’s success was not on his side. He gathered all his will in one point. He believes that for him the victory is a matter of honor. He saw that he was being looked at by all the world, all humanity. Would he not overcome some filthy small midget with intellect and appearance of a boy! Claus must win. And he is taking a pay-back. First he is taking the Shortie’s bishop, then his queen, announces a check. Everything inside is jubilating. Why has he never played such encaptivating game as chess? Another move and – checkmate! Brilliant! Marvelous! The oldies are glorious, shaking Claus’s hands, one even is kissed him in bloodless looking like a sponge cheek. Astonishing debut! Of course, Claus is now as a winner would gladly play another match with a newcomer. Yes, he would surely not let victory slip between his fingers. So pity You gather only on Sundays matinees. Anticipating, will he wait for next time.
When Claus after several triumphant matches and wishes of soon-to come re-visitation returned home for dinner, he entered the bathroom to wash his hands. From the mirror there stared at him the wrinkly face of an old man.
The slippery alpine slope of folk romanticism in nordic tradition
This month saw epochal opening of individual retrospective of Nikolai Astrup in Dulwich gallery of London, the first time to leave the country after being long prepared by gathering items from private collections and family members with huge support from DNB Bank of Norway. It started with impressive invited guests only reception with bonfire in the gallery’s garden being the main theme in several of Astrup’s oil paintings and sketches.
Why bonfire and why Astrup to choose as iconic image of Norway for imprint in stereotypes of 21 century art connoisseurs?
First it was Edwared Munch, then it was academicians like J C Dahl or Adolf Tidemand, to follow with majestic solitude of monochromatic arctic visions of Balke at National Gallery last year.
The choice is strange and personal. It is in the legend.
Artist’s life story is as much his artwork as his physically created pieces.
Born to a family of lutheran minister with bad health, struggling both with self-imposed poverty being part of lutheran ministry upbringing and pains in joints and chest, he with heroic effort similar to one of Per Gynt rips himself out of well-known environment to explore the world in a zeal of being a painter. He studies with Krogh and moves for several years to Paris, where he gets engaged with Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Rousseau, moves further to London to attend The New English Arts Club, and further Berlin steeped at the time in experimentalism from Den Blau Ritter to Bocklin and Stuck. After which he returns to Norway, secludes himself in a hut in the mountains and paints.
The cabin is traditional, no electricity or drive access to it, so the artist carries all necessities by feet up the hill, miles upon miles. He is happy, and in no way is his art as dismal and hysterically close to nervous breakdown as Edward Munch, whos artistic flourishing fell upon decade earlier in capital of Christiania.
Was he mad, as mad as Munch, maybe as Van Gogh? Probably, suffering from pain, he was extracting out of it naivist joyful visions of austere norwegian folk life in utmost remotest hideaways. It obviously is style of mad naivist art, not intentionally and deliberately naive as Henri Rousseau’s, but the whirlwind spirals of fire do remind in shape ones of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a sign of insights in the universal mysteries through emercing in them through direct contact with life rather than academic study of it. Also, he was not keen on selling it.
Nevertheless, how safe is romancing the folk life in the eyes of growing monster of industrialism, the Moloch consuming all sacred and authentic bit by bit, and on the other hand, of a misfit fetus of culture of nazism and fascism?
The rest of the artists of generation of nordic folk romanticism have been stored away from public for almost a century, as a shameful reminder of greatness than never got to be. The bordrline between innocent folk romanticism and historism, involving much higher academic background both in study of motifs and their execution, is almost invisible, the two floating into each other, as mythology, fairy tale and historic fable are intertwined with spirit of folk, being its vital artery.
Not to mention Peter Nikolai Arbo or Knud Baade deliberately conveying and propagating nordic myth as ultimate aesthetic and spiritual salvation.
How far is too far? how close is too close? Shall we see ban on performing Wagner in public?
With personal thanks to Ian Dejardin, co-curator of exhibition, for insights into artist’s life
Intentionally blury photos from book by Knut Ljøgodt “Historien fremstilt i bilder”
Jean-Etienne Liotard. On optical illusion and sexual confusion.
This week was the grand finale of epochal exhibition of Jean-Etienne Liotard, court painter and villain, first to travel around UK including Edinburgh to end at honoured second floor glass entrance London Royal Academy space which previously housed Waterhouse, Moroni to name just few, while contemporary blockbuster shows like simultaneous AiWeiWei would occupy first floor.
My connection to the artist is highly personal. As a child, my father would stimulate my interest in contemporary and experimental art, classical being obligatory but a mere stepping stone. Nevertheless his undisputable favourite was Liotard’s La Chocolatiere, a pastel owned by venetian Count Francesco Algarotti, a luminary and collector who called the work “Holbein in pastel”, which also my father showed me repeatedly as ideal of good taste. I think what he was trying to say was: keep modest, hold Your chin not too high and back straight, do not look a person straight in the eyes, dress tidy, always serve Your guests something tasty to please their senses – and You might even keep Your head from being chopped off on Guillotine.
Liotard, born in Geneve, belonged to the race of 17th century wandering geniuses consisting of Voltaire and Casanova, Mozart and Tiepolo, having lived in all notable places of Europe and Levant. When Liotard appeared in 1753 in London he was heralded as “The Turk”, as he adopted the image during his stay in unknown city in Moldavia, current Romania, an exotic costume comprised of bright red kaftan and Cossack Fur Hat. Joshua Reynolds called his appearance shocking and his behaviour “very essence of Imposture”, his style of carrying oneself flamboyantly and épater (Quote Wiktionary: épater, eɪˈpateɪ, French epate/verb: Shock people who have attitudes or views perceived as conventional or complacent, ex “the artist was trying to épater les bourgeois again with ‘Altar’, made of bloodstained stretchers”) nicknamed “the turquerie” coming into fashion right after. Jean-Jeacques Rousseau, fellow swiss and friend of Liotard, was painted by Allan Ramsey at the same time in his favourite Armenian cloak, the garb also adopted by Willam Constable (to be spoken of later) who Liotard in his turn had painted.
Liotard had travelled to orient through Constantinople in the train owned by two big british travellers, Earl of Sandwich and William Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough, who he made acquaintance with in a coffee house in Rome where they were admiring his miniature copy of Venus de Medici, and decided to hang along. Thus he spent in Constantinople 4 years, becoming part of local international art scene intermingled with diplomats. Many of his portraits, known otherwise for breathtaking depiction of fabrics, especially female, have oriental setting, otherwise coming into fashion a little bit later, as a famous private portrait of teen Queen Victoria in turkish costume on a divan almost century after.
(Victoria, Princess Royale, by Sir Willam Charles Ross, 1850)
(Marie Adelaide de France en Robe Turque, Liotard, 1753)
Now, to the strange portrait of Willaim Constable, the three: Artist himself, Rousseau and the abovementioned having high liking for fur Cossack Hats. William Constable, baronet, was a prominent at time art, artifact and curiosities collector and his museum is now known as Burton Constable Hall in Yorkshire. It was the time of expansion of knowledge, travel and early science. Like Sir Isaac Newton who started Spalding Gentlemen’s Society noted for its collection, it was a form of secret society of people of knowledge. Rousseau is a link between the two, as running from French mind police, he was at some point hiding in Spalding.
If You look at the portrait from the right corner, the hand gesture is an upward pointfinger, compositionally parallel with with downward pointfinger in the shadow in a delightfully balanced 8, or a mild elyptic ying-yang. It is a perfect gesture for cultural discourse, intelligent contemplative dialogue. If we, on the other hand, look from the left corner, what do we see: Is it a gesture of straightened point and pinky finger, known to contemporaries as a goat? The same optical illusion we see in portrait of David Garrick, 1751.
We know this effect from classical puzzle piece by Hans Holbein the Younger called The Ambassadors, shown to every teenager taken with a class excursion to London National Gallery because they just love puzzles.
If we look against the Crucifix, the funny pattern on the floor turns into a skull, while if we come towards the Crucifix and look from this corner, the skull disappears completely, thus mediating the idea that Cross conquers death and opposition to Cross makes death appear in its fullest gruesomness. One cannot clearly experience this cathartic discovery on a photo and has to really spend time with the painting one-to-one.
Some years ago i was having a stand at Chelsea Art Fair not far from a sculptor, Jonty Hurwitz. Apart from looking a bit and having same level of energy as Mozart in old Forman movie, witnessing his works makes You realize: You cannot make or construct an optical illusion, it is a work of a genius, and a genuine A-Ha and not random blah-blah-blah or dahhhhh experience for a viewer.
Further, to choice of subjects. We know Liotard as court painter, renowned for crown portraits, including children, George, Prince of Wales, among others. Also, of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stewart pretender to throne, who Liotard knew in Rome, as well as much of Jacobite lodge in exile.
This portrait is surprisingly more affirmative and masculine then Charles Edward is traditionally known. On escape from Scotland through Isle of Mull arranged by Flora McDonald who’s father owned shipping business, he had to dress as a girl. And not only to dress as a girl, but to be able to pass the inquisitive hostile eyes of security, who’s only goal was to reveal and capture him. That means he could indeed pass himself as a girl.
Now, look at family portrait of Liotard. If i do not tell You who the sitters are, would You think it is a Young handsome male and baby girl? No, it is Liotard’s wife and her elder son, a very famous miniature drawing.
Liotard himself made numerous selfportraits over the cause of time. Flamboyant, artistically mad. Some silly kid looking at his self portrait dropped “Liotard rhymes with retard”.
So what is Your chocolate of choice? Mine is definitely Whittard, it also rhymes with retard, but kinda a retard with lots and lots and lots of whit.
Danae. Out of acid flux.
I conceived the painting of Danae after visiting Galleria Academia in Venice with Tintoretto’s Pieta, depicting an antique looking arched cave, probably subterranean, and golden shower over the group.
To the legend of Danae: she was locked in subterranean chamber due to bad omen, and Zeus, distantly feeling her grace and beauty, impregnated her by coming down in form of golden shower. The story continues dramatically involving mother and child, further known as Perseus the beheader of Medusa, sent off in unknown direction due to prosecution of the King.
Coincidental similarity? immaculate conception, flight to…unknown territory, miraculously born child destined to conquer Medusa spreading the snakes from her head and thus fearmonering the rest of the peaceful community, as if allegorically finally conquering the snake of sin and filth from Eden who had initiated the human downfall?
Normally I would use live models for any artistic projects, but this time I decided to base it on a photo of myself, as the figure posture on a studio-made photo i have was quite appealing to the eye.
While I was working on a painting, two unexpected phenomena occurred. First, there appeared a landscape I was not planning in advance. I did not think through the composition around the figure before starting, but did not want it to be a house like rest of Danae paintings. After finishing it, I was reading about Hoffman, the writer of fairy-tales born together with Imanuel Kant in the town native to my own family on father’s side of Koenningsburgh, now part of Russia. Apart from having written Nutcracker, he had also written a not known story of Tannhauser, set to opera by Wagner.
Tannhauser is a mienesinger poet, taking part in poetry competition, location of which is….subterranean grotto of Venus, so similar to the one I had depicted.
Further, while painting, I could not get rid of strange effect in lower right corner. The paint would not sit, I was removing, repainting, removing, repainting, nothing helped. In the end it struck me: it looks like an acid burn. The spot had ripped edge, the effect was reminding of Sigmar Polke alchemical experiments on uneven layering of paint, or as artterms call it, “deliberate accidents”.
It was pointing, with invisible hand, to the episode in Hermitage museum, where an evil person threw acid on Rembrandt’s Danae, inburning a spot, about this size, which was hard the restore for 2 decades.
Ohyes, the word FLUX in the title of this blog is reference to Fluxus movement in which Yoko Ono used to start her artlife, because I, as her, love shouting out weird noises as part of Primal Scream therapy.
Scottish Artists at Queen’s Gallery, Hollyrood (photos from exhibition catalogue, as gallery photo not permitted)
Beautifully selected and presented exhibition to introduce to wide audience not so known Caledonian artists of 1750-1900, period so vibrant and future defining especially after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (of German origin) visited Scotland, fell in love with it, put a foot by purchasing an estate and designing a neo-gothic fairytale castle of Balmoral and blessed Scottish renaissance with enthusiastic input in revival of Scottish tradition in literature (which we love so much from Sir Walter Scott, Arthur Conan-Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson), architectural marvels of Calton Hill and master architect Adams known for his designs as far as Rome, as well as musical revival with composers like Mendelsohn, Donizetti and Sibelius visiting Scotland and putting to music its spirit. Rumour goes that ordinary scots did not wear kilt before queen Victoria, the same way as Norwegians did not wear medieval-inspired bunad folk costume before writer and civil activist Henrik Wergeland.
To start with, Aberdeen-born William Dyce, known for rendering mythological and religious subjects with hand light and etheric, and colours bright and clear like of Raphael himself. I would suggest he based his Virgin on Queen Victoria, as where would one have seen a jewish woman with flat reddish middle-split hair? It was a popular courtesy, a courtesy appreciated by the Queen, but not only, as she sincerely called his style “quite like an Old Master – so chaste, and exquisitely painted”. Dyce was close to the group of painters calling themselves Nazarethans including germans, romans and russians (like famous Vereshiagin, who’s “Christ in Wilderness” is so reminiscent of William Dyce’s painting with same title). He painted frescos, as “Neptune Resigning the Empire of the Seas to Britannia”, others based on Thomas Malory “Morte d’Arthur” in Queen’s Robbing Room of Westminster Palace.
Apart from giving the world the most strong portrait painters, like Raeburn, I would like to draw attention to more narrowly known Allan Ramsey, the son of poet Ramsey who’s sculpture we still see near the National Gallery at Mound. Deeply engaged in the philosophical debate of the Enlightenment (he was friends with David Hume and Jean-Jascques Rousseau), he was the first internationally acclaimed Scottish artist, and the tender and delicate portrait of his wife with flowers worthy of Fantine-Latour proves the status.
Sir David Wilkie, the self-appointed painter to the queen, is probably most known. The exhibition draws interesting parallel between his involvement in Spanish Wars of Independence known from Goyas works and current Scottish political debate. He, and several other painters, the same way as Lord Byron in Greece, were both involved and nourished by the quest of liberation from Napoleonic tyrany, by the air of secrecy, rebellion, romanticism of espionage and life undercover. The exhibition includes a diptych “The Guerilla’s Departure” and “The Guerilla’s Return”, and John Phillips’ “The Dying Contrabandista” is aligned with Sir Joseph Noel Paton’s (member of Pre-Raphaelites) “Home. The Return from the Crimea” depicting a Scots Fusilier in a composition reminiscent of Lamentation with Mary and Magdalene.
David Wilkie, Selfportrait
Landscape art of the period is viral and powerful. Naysmith, world-famous for dramatic castles and cliffs in windy scapes, Giles, integrating wildlife in style of iconic “Monarch of Glen” and Leitch, whos pupils included Duchess of Buccleuch and Duchess of Sutherland, here his amazing travel sketches in watercolour and bodycolour.
Scots travelled a lot. Not only within Europe, but to orient. David Roberts for example, presented fantastic architectural sketches /landscapes from his journey, the same way as architect Fergusson (my own discovery, not in the exhibition) participated in excavations of fundamentally important sites of Middle East (here his work “Palaces of Nimrod restored”), tragically newly lost for posterity. A vision for future, a vision for Empire, both earthly and celestial.
Scottish Women exhibition in Dean Gallery of Modern Art, National Galleries of Scotland
Centenary exhibition at Modern Art gallery, centenary in a sense that women in art became an independent cultural phenomen about hundred years ago, becoming a separate art movement rather than shameful exception or occasional “fantastic artist who also happened to be woman” but still having a male flair around persona, like Artemisia Gentilesci.
Almost omitting The Glasgow Girls created in parallel with The Glasgow Boys between former graduates of Glasgow College of Art, it mainly focuses on figures of Glasgow Art Society and Glasgow Society of Lady Artists. Funnily my favourite painting in the exhibition, which caught my eye by controlled and confident refinement, was made by then president of both, Mary Armour (Steel), but it is omitted from the exhibition catalogue so i cannot post is as photos are not allowed.
Historically, Glasgow female artist movement, as well as otherwise in Scotland and rest of Europe and unlike previously, when painting was considered a bit of a finishing school merit in fine families rather than “god forbid” independent career, was initiated and roofed by labour political movement and raptured middle-class women aiming to give them sense of self-worth, life zeal and nonetheless income.
But Scottish female artists came strikingly strong and original, be it something in the soil, food they eat or air they breath. Many were married to fellow male artists, often Glasgow Boys or Scottish Colorists, some came from artistic families, some unattached and nonetheless strong and unique.
Presenting here 3 incomparable self-portraits. Striking composition, confident colour use, insightful study of anatomy. Utterly brilliant.
I myself have enormous personal interest in Phoebe Traquair, both because of name deeply rooted in history, mythological and religious rather than social themes, and her elaborate work with frescos and later embroidery. To my enormous surprise i could not chase away similarity between her featured technique of oil paining imitating porcelain, where darker colour is layered upon uneven in texture light layer, the technique i naively had used on my very first oil paining 10 years ago, which i am intermingling here with photos from exhibition catalogue.
Matter of Time/ Marco Polo Art Ambassador title
Happy to tell that Dr. Francesco Saverio Russo nominated me for a title Marco Polo Art Ambassador to be awarded in Venice this September (which coincides with my birthday and Venice Art Biennale) for the painting Matter of Time which i have finished last week.
Matter of Time can be seen as related to Eve’s Expulsion from Eden due to presence of imaginary landscape, first being, if one studies it closely, of phallic nature (inspired by DaVincis Virgin of the Rocks), and second – having integrated shape of Mandorla, an ancient symbol of woman.
The female figure, representing the spirit of nature, is holding an hourglass, resembling in its turn with it’s shape a female figure. It is a meditation on limitation of both female and Earth time, which with enough force can be turned upside down to restart the flow of sand in the hourglass. The flow of organza fabric and the flow of waterfall represent the same – time.
As i mentioned before, the motifs for paintings come to me suddenly, mostly on the moment of waking up from sleep, as a ready painting, so that i do not have to work on composition etc Later on i often stumble upon works of artists dear to me who had rendered the same subject, without me knowing it in advance or deliberately making a pastiche. It makes me feel as truly belonging to tradition, invisible and existing in the realm of subconscious rather than gained through physical advancement. In this case i discovered an unknown painting by my big inspiration Pietro Annigoni entitled “Allegory of Time”.
The model is linguist and artist Topaz Pauls.