There’s nothing nicer than a glass of ice-cold absinthe on a hot day.
I wrote this story about Pamela Wilson’s paintings of absinthe drinkers in celebration of both the decadent Bohemia she imagines and the drink itself. I love absinthe, I love feeling that coldness spread across my chest, and I love the dreamy buzz it causes.
Pamela’s paintings capture a wonderfully theatrical and bizarre world – a world that I wish existed in reality, and would cheerfully participate in. However, it’s also a world that could quickly tip into becoming a nightmare.
Writing the story gave me an opportunity to think about the nature of real Bohemia – with its attractively idealistic individualistic anarchism, and its sordid and evil consequences flourishing alongside it. The desire for utopia is always stained by the fact that entropy eats away at the ideal as much as it gnaws at the material.
How do studio artists teach drawing and painting with the requirements of social distancing limiting the interaction we are allowed to have with our students? I’m worried about next semester, with so much uncertainty about how to work in a world of social distancing.
Fortunately Graham Toms, art boffin at CTEC, in Salem, Oregon, has shown me how he has quickly transferred his classes to a partially online basis.
Graham produces simple, thirty-minute demonstration videos using a video camera, some lights, and his laptop. He has a friendly, chatty approach that works well, and he obviously enjoys himself while drawing. His students still need to have a phone or access to a computer, but he keeps their costs down by having them use cheap butcher paper, charcoal, and chalk. While watching the video with Graham, students can comment in the chat window. He is free to reply to their questions while the video plays. After the video is complete, the students make their own drawings, and Graham progresses around the virtual classroom using a video conferencing program (I’ve used Zoom, and it’s pretty user friendly) checking on their work through their iPhones.
Graham’s method could quite easily be transferred to a course in traditional atelier-style figure drawing by asking students to purchase the Bargue Drawing course book by Gerald Ackerman, or Juliette Aristides’ Classical Drawing Atelier and use it as a text book.
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My editor asked me if I would write a story about Eddie Martinez, whose work is selling for spectacular sums at auction. I was unimpressed by the work, which I think has no artistic merit whatsoever, and annoyed by his gallery’s lack of response to my request for an interview with Martinez, and with them. Here’s the story, a harsh reflection on the failures of Martinez’ work, on what art is for, and on what we might need in the present.
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Latest in the growing list of commercial victims of the virus, Last Rites Gallery in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen has just announced that it is closing down after a twenty-year run of selling macabre and dark art to a devoted audience of connoisseurs. Owner Paul Booth hopes to reopen in a year or two. His last show was “All of me is Illustrated,” a collection of photographs of tattooed people used in a new edition of the brilliant Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man.” and “The Illustrated Woman.”
Many of us who watch the art world with more than casual interest expected that the covid virus would bring catastrophe to our domain. I am skeptical both of excessive claims that it will somehow be magically transformed into a new and perfected world, and of apocalyptic prognostications of the end of art, with mass closures of museums across the world.
The biggest art galleries possess assets worth incredible fortunes, and boards of directors with wealth so great that they have not flinched in their acquisitions of expensive works of art at auction. I see no reason to expect Covid to make any long-lasting, serious impact upon them.
On 1st June I’m participating in this online forum, moderated by Elina Cerla (who is in possession of a remarkable mind). It will be interesting to talk to Conor Walton, who is a formidably intellectual artist, who doesn’t paint a thing without thinking hard about what it is doing for his painting, and Jane Clatworthy, who I haven’t met before. She’s a British figurative painter, who knows her way about a canvas. Apart from me, the participants are very European – Elina lives in Spain, Conor is in Ireland, I think Jane is in England, and although I’m English, I’ve lived in California for thirty years. I’m interested to see if there are differences in outlook between the two continents – and even between the four countries. To sign up for the Zoom meeting, email: DACWorld@protonmail.com for details.
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In this story, I was attracted to the idea of pathways through paintings, music and writing, and wanted to bring these three arts together. It was a huge pleasure working with Roger Dean, who is a real gentleman. It was especially good to be the first to show a couple of his new paintings in public.
When I bought the Yes album “Relayer” as a teenager, I was more attracted to the art than the music. I thought it was wonderful and wanted to go into the world that Roger created. Album cover art was incredibly influential upon us. It’s a pity that the relationship between art and music that the album covers provided has mostly been reduced to the tiny images that accompany digital music, but nevertheless, covers like these have influenced generations of artists to produce the imaginative realist art we enjoy today. Other album covers that particularly influenced my interest in art were the Iron Maiden records, and covers designed by Hipgnosis, like Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
The article is a continuation of my previous story “The Money in Imagination.” Roger’s painting is an icon of imaginative realism and is destined to belong to a museum one day, where it will be venerated as one of the canonical images of this important strand of art history.
I’m an enthusiastic fan of imaginative realism, which I see as the art of our time without equal. I really enjoyed writing this story, especially chatting with Patrick Wilshire, who founded IX Arts with his wife Jeannie. IX Arts is responsible for the annual IX celebration of imaginative realism, the IX Gallery, museum exhibitions.
Imaginative realist paintings and sculptures are images of things that don’t exist, but they’re made so well that they convince you that they might. These are dreamy images of impossible landscapes, beautiful creatures, terrifying monsters. They combine science fiction, and epic fantasy with the great heritage of folk stories and fine art.
Watching recent auctions has convinced me that imaginative realist art is an excellent investment. Of course, this idea meets with gnashing of teeth and howling from the guardians of the old world of the 20th-century avant-garde, who complain about the erosion of their elitist positions in their polished kennels inside the ivory tower. Let them chew their furniture.
I was horrified when I heard that many US art museums were turning their backs on their community of workers during the coronavirus, especially their most vulnerable part-timers and freelance educators, even though some of them have gigantic endowments and spectacularly valued assets, and with directors earning salaries in the millions.
At precisely the same time, other, more honestly capitalist businesses were taking much better care of their employees.
It’s time American museums were more honest about what they are – treasure houses.
For years I’ve watched Steven DaLuz rightly gain a following for his sublime luminism. He makes ecstatic paintings that literally glow thanks to his clever practices of using metal leaf and chemical patination to produce shimmering effects. His paintings border on abstraction, but always keep a grip, however slight, upon the landscape. But I always wondered what gave his work its depth – why did they resonate so strongly with the ethereal, the mystical, and the transcendent?
I interviewed Steve twice for this profile piece, and he opened up about strange experiences in his studio that gave him certainty about the reality of the invisible, but real, multi-dimensional universe.
Adam Miller was stuck in Florence when Italy shut down because of the virus. I interviewed him as he looked over the shuttered city, and we spoke of his quest to understand the skill of Raphael and his admiration for the great painter.
I’m keeping a close eye on Adam’s work, because I think he’s one of the finest painters alive today. Watch this space – I’m writing an article about his new paintings for Fine Art Connoisseur’s winter edition.