Category Archives: Painting

FRANCIS BACON: BOOKS AND PAINTING at the Pompidou Centre

Texting before Bacon.

Francis Bacon was certainly on my radar during my time in art school. Just as I was completing my formal training at the University of Houston, I was aware of Bacon’s continued presence and activity. And then he died. I earned my BFA the year he passed away, 1992. Yes, Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was acknowledged as a heroic figure, a painter in the great tradition of towering romantic and angst-ridden artists. But what were we as art students doing with that information? What were our professors sharing with us about him? I mostly recall the awful jokes that he was Bacon the contemporary artist and not Bacon the great philosopher. So, in a nutshell, we didn’t do much of anything with Bacon looming in the background. Maybe I did more than most. I know a lot of students were lost in their own uneducated and overindulgent worlds or absorbed with the hotshots of the recent era as we understood it, people like Francisco Clemente, David Salle, even Julian Schnabel, especially Schnabel since he’d gone to UH for a short time. And, of course, there was no internet as we know it today and, in hindsight, I damn well could have used it back then!

Second Version of Painting from 1946, Museum of Modern Art, 1971.

After 1992, life’s circumstances gave me a bit of a bum’s rush from school and out the door. I’ve been cartwheeling ever since. Not to digress too much, but I’ve come out on top in a number of ways such as having the opportunity to gaze upon this dazzling show of Francis Bacon paintings at the Pompidou Centre! From the little I could glean from glossy art magazines, art history books and a few lectures, I was aware of Bacon’s raw and tortured energy. He was a rough cut fellow, is how I would casually put it if I was attempting to introduce him to someone unfamiliar with him and his work. Bacon’s career began in the 1940s and blossomed in the next two pivotal decades. Many an art student was familiar with Bacon’s landmark painting of the screaming pope, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953. What did it mean? Where did it come from? We mostly chalked it up as subversive. That much we knew for sure and we loved it.

Gathering among Bacon.

That brings us to this current show at the Pompidou Centre. Jennifer and I had managed to arrive just in time to settle into it with little else than an introductory pamphlet. So, there was some adjusting to do as we both gorged upon Bacon. We were certainly not alone. There was a nervy energy running throughout the crowd of people. The show had recently opened for its run of 11 September 2019 to 20 January 2020. They had all come to see Bacon! But what did it mean to them? They knew his name and they knew about the famous work and the raw energy. There was that and there was a theme attached to the show–but gathering up so many Bacons in one space was more than enough, theme or no theme. It wasn’t until I’d made the turn into another room that I sniffed out the curator’s ardor for organizing, labeling, categorizing and zealous need to impose their ownership upon another’s work. After all, Francis Bacon was first and foremost a painter. He was self-taught. He, unlike countless academics and so-called scholars, got dirty and actually did things. This is not to say that a finely-articulated analysis is not welcome from time to time but it is often best to be taken with a grain of salt. Anyway, the idea for the show is to tie Bacon’s choice of reading with his painting. That’s why this show has rooms where all you have is a book on display and an audio of someone reading.

Oedipus and the Sphinx, after Ingres, 1983.

It does make sense to link Bacon to his reading habits given the fact he was such an avid reader. He loved books. They came naturally to him as they did for many a young rebel of his time. There are a number of choices on display in this show that would have been catnip for many a young artist back then and even today. At least, one hopes young artists haven’t changed so much now that they are, on the whole, bypassing gorging upon the works of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Jean Racine, Balzac, Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Freud, T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Proust and many others. Well, that is the formal tent under which all these Bacons have been arranged. Process that however you like.

Walking towards Bacon.

One thing that struck me about this show is how it feels like it is stretching past its own time, as if it is still pulsating, still preening upon the gallery wall space and not ready to succumb to a timeless role as a museum artifact. I mean, the work still feels “contemporary” to me. While I was an art student, we had to suffer through all the prattle from critics and tastemakers over whether or not figurative painting was dead or not. To think we were getting this kind of talk even as we’d been experiencing a bunch of interesting “new” approaches to figurative work by the likes of Eric Fischl and Jonathan Borofsky. Finally, fast forward to today, the big secret is that figurative painting will never die. It’s just too vital, too primal, too essential. I guess, seeing this show takes me back to sometime before Bacon’s death, a world where there was a Francis Bacon still making new paintings and even making definitive versions of previous work. That is what this show is about: Bacon’s last two decades of his career (from 1971 to 1992). I can feel that artist raging and creating, knowing time was running out. So, ultimately, this show is more than about books and painting. This show is about an artist taking what he’s learned about painting and setting forth with his final explorations.

Bacon was always raging and rebelling, seeking a way to be the next Picasso. He was being himself when it was against the law in England to engage in homosexual acts. It wasn’t until 1967 that sex between two adult men (21 years-old) was decriminalized in the UK. What’s a “British artist” like Bacon to do? Well, that’s easy enough, go where you are welcome: Paris, the city that is open and fluid, revels in bohemian excess, and welcomes sex in all its many flavors. It was at the Grand Palais show at the Pompidou Centre in 1971 that Bacon delivered a landmark show that earned him critical praise, and raised him to the rank of a Picasso. And the show was more about love and sex than books. You can add a variety of erudite references but, at some point, you need to acknowledge the human being writhing upon a toilet! The Grand Palais show revolved around Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, who killed himself the day before the opening. As Jonathan Jones describes in a wonderful piece in The Guardian, it was Bacon’s muse, in the form of Dyer, who made the show what it was and, with his suicide, nearly brought it all tumbling down. The new show at the Pompidou Centre, interestingly enough, covers the time after the celebrated Grand Palais show of 1971. Again, this has nothing to do with the connection of books to paintings, but it’s a nice theme to wrap around a body of work that defies the curator’s nimble touch.

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Filed under Art, Artists, Painting, Paris

Review: POP PAINTING by Camilla d’Errico

Pop Painting Watson-Guptill

“Pop Painting,” published by Watson-Guptill, is an essential guide for artists and anyone interested in contemporary art. The art world can seem like a murky and mysterious place depending upon where you look. However, some things about art are pretty straightforward: successful art requires a focus on theme coupled with a dedication to craft. I know this as an artist and art lover. As a working artist, I juggle a number of tasks. And, at those times when I could use some inspiration, I’m always pleased to find great art books from Watson-Guptill that demystify and enlighten.

Pop Painting Watson-Guptill 2016

Camilla d’Errico is a professional artist who follows a certain routine and way of seeing the world. She presents a highly engaging collection of work that falls within the category of Pop Surrealism. This is an art movement that, in a nutshell, takes various elements in pop culture and places them in a dream-like environment. The results can be quite stunning. In her new 248-page full color book, “Pop Painting,” d’Errico shares with the reader her views and her methods. She takes an honest step-by-step approach providing real examples with real solutions.

Pop Painting Camilla dErrico

In the world of art and art-making, there are many things that remain constant and always will be: art training still involves life drawing, perspective, and actual hands-on work. As we bring in other disciplines, we still respect, and need, traditional methods. In the last twenty years, right alongside digital art, we have seen an explosion in interest in art-making stemming from the basic sources of drawing and painting. This had led to the comics medium being acknowledged as an art form in its own right. And this is something that Watson-Guptill has whole-heartedly embraced with books specifically on all aspects of comics from drawing to writing. So, it is no surprise to see this latest book, “Pop Painting,” with its unique focus on Pop Surrealism. It will be of interest to anyone, from the generalist to the specific fan. For more details, visit our friends at Watson-Guptill right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Camilla d'Errico, Drawing, Painting, Pop Surrealism, Watson-Guptill Publications

Art: SPRING LIFT

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s a new painting I did entitled, “Spring Lift.” First day of spring is this Friday, March 20! This painting incorporates thoughts of Seattle in the spring and the Macefield Home, a symbol of resistance.

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Filed under Art, Ballard, Edith Macefield, Henry Chamberlain, Illustration, Painting, Seattle

Jeremy Eaton Holiday Art Show in Seattle, Saturday, December 13, Noon to 6pm

Holiday-Art-Show-Jeremy-Eaton-Studios

For our Seattle readers, be sure to stop by and check out the boldly ironic paintings of one of Seattle’s favorite sons, Jeremy Eaton. He regularly graces the pages of our favorite alternative weekly, The Stranger. Jeremy Eaton is a published cartoonist, illustrator and painter living in Seattle. For his paintings he utilizes discarded plywood he finds in the shipyards of the city, applying acrylic paint in bold splashes of color and overlapping strokes of black in order to replicate the pulp printing of the comic books and magazines of his youth, often sublimating this with wider cultural themes and commentary. Be sure to visit Jeremy right here.

More details follow from Jeremy Eaton:

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Filed under Art, Comics, Illustration, Jeremy Eaton, Painting, Seattle, The Stranger

Art: SUPER BOWL 2013

Crescent City Girl

Crescent City Girl

We’re all settling in for Super Bowl 2013. We’ve got all kinds of pre-game entertainment. Here’s a recent painting in honor of New Orleans.

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ART: The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen

With winter fast approaching, here is a recent painting I did, “The Snow Queen.”

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ART: Pumpkin Pie

Here is a close-up view of the pumpkin pie in a recent painting I did.

I love pumpkin pie and I’m always on the look out for the best version I can find. So far, I’ve kept my search down to various eateries I come across. I’m not sure if I’m up for making one from scratch. The basic recipe seems easy enough. Most involve buying the pumpkin pie filling already made. And there would be the challenge, to make your own filling. Anyway, if you’re in Seattle, and especially if you live in Ballard or are a regular at the Hi-Life restaurant, see if you can find my painting currently on display.

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RACHEL MAXI’S “DICK’S DRIVE-IN,” OIL ON CANVAS

Check out this wonderful painting, by Rachel Maxi, paying tribute to Seattle’s own Dick’s Drive-In and evoking Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” It is a recently commissioned oil on canvas, 26″ x 40″. For more of Maxi’s work, visit her here. If Maxi hasn’t made prints of the painting above, she should. It has everything an inspiring and iconic image should have. It makes you wonder who commissioned the work. I think it would make for excellent cover art for crime fiction, maybe some delicious noir mystery set in Seattle.

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ART: “Picnic at Gas Works Park” at The Hi-Life, Seattle, WA, June 26 thru September 16, 2012

“Picnic at Gas Works Park,” a painting that is part of my Summer Series, is now on view at The Hi-Life, in Seattle, WA, in the lively neighborhood of Ballard. I love sharing my art with you and look forward to many more posts.

If you happen to be in Seattle, The Hi-Life is a great restaurant with an eclectic American grill menu. On Sundays, they do some amazing fried chicken. And, if you’re choosy about your cocktails, the bar is regularly adding new delights. It is in the heart of Ballard: 5425 Russell Ave NW, just off of NW Market Street.

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ART: Picnic at Gas Works Park

Here is something I’ve been working on this weekend. I really like the way it came out. I had a pretty good idea of where I was headed but there’s always things that happen while you paint. This is a happy scene of a couple of kids having a picnic with a variety of animals at Seattle’s Gas Works Park.

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Filed under Art, Henry Chamberlain, Illustration, Painting, Seattle