still, looking

Sunday 30 November 2014

i was looking at some pictures at the metropolitan museum of art’s website one morning and found this image of a japanese screen. i was much intrigued by the implication of a conceptual element [whether or not it was intended – it was probably an ‘exercise’ or presentation of skill and craftsmanship], pictures and scenes within a larger pictured scene.


screens within screens, edo period, japan 1615-1868 [metropolitan museum of art]

and on another virtual museum visit, this painting:


georgia o’keeffe, white canadian barn II, 1932, oil-on-canvas [metropolitan museum of art]

o’keeffe painted this after ‘escaping’ to canada.

both of the images above appear refreshingly ‘contemporary’ [and visually similar, much serendipity], finding connections in different contexts, about facades and barriers, what is visible and what is [un]known.

more barns: walker evans took a lot of pictures of barns… this polaroid photograph exudes the aesthetic much admired on instagram.


walker-evans, shrub in front of barn facade, 1973-74, instant colour print [polaroid]

this photograph reminds me of the desire to appreciate the ‘poetry’ in the everyday. it was ‘interesting to look at’ for a moment…


it’s a boarded-up window of a shop which may also have been a shop sign. oh, how those tiny fragments of paint cling so precariously to the surface! they will not see this winter out.


howard hodgkin, old books, 2006, oil on wood, 55.6 x 71.8 cm

i have been thinking about a particular painting, ‘old books’ by howard hodgkin, which i had first seen in an exhibition at the fitzwilliam museum a few years back – i have a postcard of it – then perusing the beautifully designed book of howard hodgkin’s paintings that i had bought at the same exhibition. looking at the postcard led me to find this painting online on a dark november afternoon:


howard hodgkin, hello again, 2006-08, oil on wood, 20 x 23.8 cm

a precious instance of painterly purity. is it hodgkin saying ‘hello again’ to painting after an hiatus, or suggestive of the memory of a private conversation or encounter? maybe it doesn’t matter, it seems both playful and coy, of thoughts and feelings that need to be ambiguous or subtly expressed. it’s also quite revealing that unlike most of his paintings, the wooden frame is left unpainted – exposed – which is what first drew me to it.


gary hume, red barn door, 2008, oil on two aluminium panels [tate collection]

this large painting by gary hume is not on display at tate modern. i like this painting. it feels ‘sublime’ in the sense that it is unfathomable and overpowering, enigmatic [maybe even hypnotic], seductive and beautiful, cool perfection in the painted strokes, the symmetry, the flatness, the intense redness. shallow deep stuff…


maki haku, work 73-50-a (nothing) 1973, woodblock print and blind embossing [british museum]

this is one of a pair of prints, exploring the universal balance of yin and yang, and referring to a state of nothingness, or emptiness, the often misunderstood ‘void’, which i understand to be about the existence of things as in-between, independent or fluid. in a nutshell [maybe?], letting go of the idea that things are always ‘fixed’.

what does this all mean? maybe it is just another distraction? [i am now looking at the untidy pile of books i’m currently reading]. the fire has been lit for the second day in a row, it is now glowing, it gently crackles, it is almost too warm and cosy… i think the old neighbour was right; when you split the logs yourself you get twice the heat.

here are some recent random quotes harvested from twitterland – idly observing the interesting flotsam and jetsam of others’ thinking as they float by; it’s very zen…

Living away from great art centers is a handicap for those who want to cultivate their taste. Clement Greenberg

Nothing beautiful asks for attention Drunk Poetry Experiment

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication Leonardo da Vinci

The more you see human nature in its unvarnished state, the more politeness becomes interesting. Alain de Botton

Now, let’s get crazy. In your world you decide where the waterfall lives. Shooom! Bob Ross

4 thoughts on... still, looking

  1. jazz

    …the postcard [‘old books’] on the mantelpiece looks a little like a stack of small logs gently burning in the fireplace.

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