Wednesday, October 22, 2014

extraneous work (3): writing about art, presenting art

[you will by now understand that the word `extraneous' in the series' title is meant thus: `not immediately pertaining to the creation of art'.]

i write about art in different ways, one important way is this blog. but i also have two other art blogs, in dutch. the first of those is called trijntje fop gaat op de schop. it is an extensive tribute to the many many artists that inspire / have inspired me. it takes the form of poetry, specifically light verse, with animals as characters. the name `trijntje fop' comes from multatuli's ideas (multatuli = eduard douwes dekker, see the previous post), from a famous and hilarious passage containing school children's poetry. it was taken as a nom de plume by the dutch poet kees stip (1913-2001). the name is currently used to describe light poetry with the following style characteristics:

  • about 1 or more animals (`on a ...' ) with typical human characteristics - as in de la fontaine's work
  • abundance of spoonerisms.
  • 2 to ... lines, mostly 6 lines in aabbcc form.

most of my trijntje fops are about a specific artist, where the 'punchline' usually consists of some wordplay on the artist's name. i illustrate these poems with relevant artworks and background information, which is where the real work creeps in. all in all i've written some 200 trijntje fops so far...which was a lot of work. to give an idea, let me present my latest trijntje fop -not about a specific artist- below:

op n tasmaanse duivel en n duivelsrog

briest thea tasmaanse duivel:
`alleen maar banaan met zuivel?
vervloekt zij wie steeds ons hellevoer
weer boekt bij die zweedse melkboer!'

de helleveeg eist n vragenuur:
voor welk beest spijst t vagevuur?

`besef toch' sust dragan duivelsrog
de chefkok van satans ruif en trog
`aan types als bok beëlzebub
heeft íedere kok n helse club

de stamppotstampij
van harry harpij!
of maak maar ns snert voor ruziester
en drama queen slechtvalk lucifer

misschien stopt de hel met kniezen
indien k ze zelf laat kiezen?'

bel nu 666 voor vlammetjes!
-of stuur sms voor bammetjes

tasmaanse duivel, chen wu
tasmaanse duivel
(foto chen wu)

duivelsrog, david sim
(mobula mobular, foto david sim)

bok, de seve, baquoy
(tekening van de sève, gravure van c. baquoy, in  illustrations de histoire naturelle générale et particulière avec la description du cabinet du roy, tome v, 1755)

harpij, bjørn christian tørrissen
(foto bjørn christian tørrissen)

slechtvalk, peregrine falcon, john james audubon
(john james audubon, uit the birds of america)

harpij waterspuwer, veronique pagnier
waterspuwer harpij (mythologisch)
(foto véronique pagnier)

harpij, bjørn christian tørrissen
duivel = satan, beëlzebub, lucifer
(tarotkaart van pamela colman smith)

drama queen: iemand die graag van een mug een olifant maakt; vlammetjes: scherpe snack, bammetjes: boterhammetjes

john james audubon, for example, features here. what an incredible artist! the world of art is very strange, for the recognition of audubon is no doubt formidable, yet one does not usually see his works in art museums, nor is he usually mentioned in art history books. [one reason of course is that his main work is contained in the incredible book birds of america (link to digital version, only 120 complete sets exist), and it is hard to display books]. anyway, the older i get, the less i understand of this world. but the less i care, too, for fitting in, for understanding...what i perceive as the general insanity of our society.

(in the trijntje fops i often comment ironically on this general craziness.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

extraneous work (2): writing about art (van gogh)

perhaps you remember that i wrote about multatuli earlier (my favourite dutch author, more or less from the same time period as vincent van gogh) as being perhaps the inventor of blogging, see his published ideas. sorry to see that they are still not translated in english, an unbelievable state of affairs to me. i'm not a chauvinist, this is a terrific author with truly original prose and ... ideas of course.

but vincent van gogh is an example of a visual artist who also wrote prolifically, on art. of course, contrary to multatuli he never intended these writings to become public, they were after all personal letters, mostly to his brother theo, who was a close supporter of vincent. theo died shortly after vincent, and fortunately for us theo's young widow johanna bonger took great pains to spread appreciation of both vincent's art and the brothers' letters.

crediting multatuli with the invention of blogging is probably unfair to earlier minds which i'm unaware of. and of course, there was an essential ingredient missing: pictures. in vincent's letters one does see pictures being integrated, abundantly so and in much the same way as on this blog. [so even though i would like to be original or prolific or whatever epithet: the truth is that i'm neither of all these things, compared to certain giants in the past and present. but does it matter?]

excerpt from letter to john russell, vincent van gogh
excerpt from letter to john russell, vincent van gogh (click on the image for an enlargement)

the letter is in english (which is why i chose it for this post) since john peter russell was an australian artist who made vincent's acquaintance in paris. vincent was completely fluent in dutch, french and english, and also a voracious reader. here is a portrait of vincent by john russell:

portrait of vincent van gogh, john peter russell
portrait of vincent van gogh, john peter russell (1886, click on the image for an enlargement)

anyway, vincent wrote over 840 letters (844 have survived due to theo and johanna), containing a staggering amount of prose and sketches. seeing the interest in these letters i should remind myself that perhaps my writings here are not as uninteresting to others as i often fear them to be. but already for vincent the letters themselves were enough, and so it is for me as well: a main reason to maintain this blog is to help me crystallize and develop my thoughts on art.

excerpt from letter to john russell, vincent van gogh
yellow house sketch from letter vgm 491, vincent van gogh (click on the image for an enlargement)

Monday, October 20, 2014

intermezzo: francis bacon and van gogh

should have posted this before starting the series... my `study after van gogh' reminded me suddenly of francis bacon and vincent van gogh (both in a league of their own), just let me put up some pictures of bacon's amazing series of studies 'after' van gogh:

study for a portrait of van gogh ii, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh ii, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

i am as usual enthralled by bacon's way of distorting space and spatiality. i really am working on spatiality myself, but am a long way from where i would like to be.

the series of portait studies was inspired by the van gogh painting painter on the road to tarascon (destroyed in world war ii, bacon only had a photograph)

painter on the road to tarascon, vincent van gogh
painter on the road to tarascon, vincent van gogh (1885, click on the image for an enlargement)

study for a portrait of van gogh iii, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh iii, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

study for a portrait of van gogh v, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh v, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

study for a portrait of van gogh vi, francis bacon
study for a portrait of van gogh vi, francis bacon (1957, click on the image for an enlargement)

however, i suddenly realize that this intermezzo is even more to the point than i thought. if there is any artist who wrote about his art, then it must be vincent van gogh. let's elaborate on this in the next post.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

extraneous work (1): 6,5 years of this artist's blog

so time flies. and it happens i repeat myself. what i would like to do next is start a little series on all the extra -sometimes extraneous- work that comes along with being an artist, for me at last.

is this an interesting subject? not sure. why would a musician blogging about practising scales interest me? how she has to make recordings to submit to ... and how she has to do photo shoots, buy strings, tune the instrument, heat the appartment... we take all these things for granted, even when we're in awe of her music. even then, would my interest stretch beyond reading what influences / influenced her, her coming of age as a musician etc? not sure.

when i look at the large amount of time i spend on music (practising, myself; listening to music) and compare it to the amount of time i read about musicians/composers... it doesn't bode well for how interesting my own blog would be to others than myself. [still, the blog at least makes my art available on the web, and it has the added advantage of offering me the opportunity to crystallize some of my thoughts on art.]

but i suppose i would be interested in a description of this musician's activities, if it is well written, and offered some real insight in what drives her, both musically and as a person i suppose, since it seems hard to separate the two completely. and if like on this blog, the description would be interlaced with music...

anyway. it seems i would do well to at least write well on this blog. yet i tend to think that if i had wanted to become a good writer, then i would not have become an artist. most things takes a lot of time and energy to do well, and writing a blog is no exception. worth it too, since writing this blog helps me in important ways with my art itself: to present my art, to think about art and artists, to rethink my art, to rethink my artist's position in life and society, and even to create my art.

in order to present my art here, i spend quite some time on photography and subsequent tuning of digital images with photoshop and other image editors, such as picasa. a subject for the next post in this series, but as an example:

outsider in woman-man dance, frank waaldijk
outsider in woman-man dance (own work, 2010-2013, 21 x 30cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

difficulties abound: the colours of the drawing are hard to capture even with my canon 650d; then apart from often tricky colour adjustments the white-balance and the brightness of the picture need to be calibrated for use on computer screens. for shiny paintings, reflection-specks are edited out. then the image has to be saved for web, in a typical compromise between size and detail.

the drawing itself combines two themes: man-woman dance, and outsiderness (being an outsider). much as i would like to be able to write strikingly about my art, this is where i usually find myself at a loss for words.

lately i realize that this has something to do with a `trite' question: what do we mean with `meaning'? i cannot explain the meaning of art, i feel. if it has meaning (whatever that means), then the most important part of that meaning to me is essentially non-verbal. what is the meaning of the goldberg variations?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

art appreciation, a study after van gogh, and an old rotring-pen drawing

study after van gogh, frank waaldijk
study after van gogh (own work, 2013, 30 x 21 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

always drawing, always thinking... i also share some other artistic characteristics with van gogh. like lack of artist recognition :-). [van gogh was very avant-garde, i'm just plain old-fashioned (except in the `details'): painting, drawing, sculpting.]

seriously, after having had three exhibitions this year, i find myself wondering once again what it takes to get people interested in art? it hardly seems to matter how hard it is and how long it takes to achieve a certain artistic mastery, it seems to be all about `buzz' (generalized page rank...see previous posts).

with just little recognition, at times i find it difficult to keep up my motivation to go further, work harder, push beyond my current limits. but on the other hand, i find the work to be its own reward and its own recognition. there something special in having drawings that i made 30 years ago, and from every period in between till now, and see the development, see aspirations coming true.

horse, frank waaldijk
horse (own work, 1984, 20 x 30 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

(this drawing i made with a rotring pen...and i'm still drawing with rotring pens over 30 years later.)

there is also some artistic merit in lack of recognition: it gives a lot of freedom, and quiet. especially the quiet i'm starting to appreciate more and more.

[a year ago i wrote on this subject also, see this post on frida kahlo. the downside to my dedicated-to-art blog seems that inevitably i repeat myself. i also have trouble highlighting other artists (much as i would like to!) since i'm always running behind with putting up my own work on the internet, due to health issues.]

Thursday, October 16, 2014

young woman in tangerine dress (notre dame des anges)

notre dame des anges (young woman in tangerine dress), frank waaldijk
young woman in tangerine dress (notre dame des anges) (own work, 2014, 55 x 80 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

this painting also arose from experimenting, but it appears more traditional. if you look more closely you can see the paper cut-outs that i used to start the painting. the light tangerine colour is captured poorly by the photograph. my current three main points of painting people: expression, expression, expression...

and still more (notre dame des anges)

notre dame des anges with folded hands, frank waaldijk
notre dame des anges with folded hands (own work, 2014, 55 x 80 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

see the previous post: i'm simply working very hard to get things to work... which for now seems to imply that i'm hardly involved on a conscious/verbal level, so i can't really add much to the picture itself. endless reworking, adding of extraneous materials etc., to achieve a certain expression. once again, a photograph hardly does justice to the real thing.

[repeated from previous posts: the woman portraits made in this series share the name `notre dame des anges´. this is a reference to the `medieval´ spirituality i mentioned above. but the portraits are of course not a depiction of maria. they are intended as portraits of contemporary women emanating this type of spirituality which i find hard to describe.
in this series i experiment with all sorts of visual elements. you can see that i do not shy away from outsider-like techniques. at the same time, i'm also studying the human form and face, as a means of expressing spirituality, vulnerability, openness, unarmedness etc.]