#112. Emyr Williams writes on Patrick Heron at Margate

Patrick Heron, “Cadmium with Violet, Scarlet, Emerald Lemon and Venetian: 1969”. Tate, London 2018 and estate of Patrick Heron. DACS 2018

Patrick Heron at Turner Contemporary, Margate.

The hanging of this exhibition has had a lot of column inches devoted to it. The paintings looked really good in these spaces and in spite of the missing traditional chronological reasoning did not compete or confuse. The spaces are not huge, so it is easy to move back and forth, cross-checking things if so desired. I failed to see what the fuss was all about. I understood there were themes but to be brutally honest I didn’t pay attention to them and proceeded to wander around and take each work on face value. The signature Herons (the “wobbly hard edged”) such as the huge “Cadmium With Violet, Scarlet, Emerald, Lemon and Venetian: 1969” looked immediately familiar and impressive. These works are characterised by their fully saturated higher-keyed primaries and secondaries straight from the tube, activated more by a literalness in the brushstroke rather than a painterliness per se. The brush being a markedly smaller than thought Japanese watercolour brush. Sitting uniformly on a white ground gives each hue the same reflective force. Complementary colours buzz optically against one another as their shapes flip-flop between positive and negative areas, à la Matisse’s cut outs. Heron’s optimism in an almost hedonistic colour, is supported by his wilfulness to drive each colour shape through to its conclusion in the same way as it was started – the brush scribble, more often than not. They have an insistency which, with hindsight, is possibly their undoing at times; in these works he seems to have put himself ahead of his own curve. By this I mean he understood fully what he was doing, not quite moving himself into the more profound areas of discovery – the speed of acknowledgment of each work’s merits is condensed into a shorter space of time. Colour will always surprise but they teeter ever so slightly into the realms of design (this is not to consider design in any pejorative way but to define its nature in terms of more predictive outcomes, for design has to have a preconditioned purpose at its heart).

What is significant in these paintings though was his rejection of North American modernist symmetry, preferring to connect with the checks and balances of European easel painting instead. The sheer bloody mindedness of putting huge amounts of a single colour is startling to see, yet they never become “fields” as such, as there is a familiar positioning and counter-positioning approach of smaller elements so characterised by the term “French”. Not really a surprise given his connection with Braque and his championing of Matisse. This affirmation of the easel and rejection of the field was ultimately what caused friction in his relationship with Clement Greenberg who was trying to get him to empty out his work more. I met Patrick Heron on two occasions and vividly remember the first of these as a student when he came to lecture and repeatedly reiterated his disgruntlement with Greenberg’s promotion of American modernism and its claim for a vanguard status. The empty spaces and cropped edges were an anathema to him. At its most extreme, cropping became a decadent taste exercise, shunting all internal relationships about and finding something in there to shout about – as there was usually always something in there, it seemed a doomed to succeed sort of endeavour. Heron saw more potency in the inter-relationships of surface to shape and shape to whole. In this take on painting, the application of the paint becomes ever more important. By coming down in scale on the brush Heron was forcing a more intimate engagement with his surface and a setting up of a stronger declaration of scale in the painting. Heron’s work is all about scale and this is an issue which should not be sidestepped by painters today. American painting post-Pollock arrived at a problem which set in with the self- cancelling nature that the quest for a neutrality of format created. The assumption was that such a neutrality was the ideal carrier of colour content. For a while this was fine, but as Noland himself discovered in his second version of his circles, made on 2 ft square canvases to address this shortcoming, much of the colour field paintings kept the viewer at an optimum distance and didn’t invite a “deeper” engagement. This is a moot point for a painting is apprehended at light speed. It could therefore be argued that such engagement is in fact not what it is about; the initial eye hit carries the content in one jolt. Yet it was the lesson of Cézanne that informed Noland to return to the closely worked instances of paint rather than more generalised areas. What Heron was after was an impact that reveals all but is built on a more specific set of internal incidents to get to that impact. There is a covert assertion here that the eye – vis-a-vis the brain – can indeed handle a greater amount of detail and inter-relational elements and still perceive it with that same wholistic  jolt. Heron would point – quite rightly – to late Matisse as a shining example of what colour, space and light can look like in a painting. The richness of internal area to edge, of colour to colour, of scale, space and ultimately light all invites and wallops in equal measure. In short, you can in fact have your cake and eat it.

Although Heron saw merits in American modernism: the energy, size and originality; what was missing was this closer intimacy of easel painting. Pollock was a game changer but ultimately the game ran out of time. We no longer aspire to make murals. An oversized work will create a physical sense of scale in the viewer, but it can shut down eye movement through the desire to envelop. Heron was right about scale and through his brush-scribble started to get at the principles of movement through detail. However, this detail needed something to work with and against – enter the employment of shape. Details can be created in more nuanced ways, but we are in the early days of acrylic and still holding on to the palette. Brushes and mops meant a loss of the hand wrought so prized by Heron. He could see the bigger picture. To get at colour, an artist must first get at the paint. To get a sensitivity and feeling into the colour would also mean getting a sensitivity and feeling into the handling. A field that is empty is much the same as a field that is full (compare a Milton Resnick with an Olitski spray painting); it’s the flip side of the same coin though I would argue that the Olitski delivers the more seductive work every time). However, when the details are unable to create scale the work loses its potency for specificity and can lapse into an indeterminate pictorialism.

Patrick Heron, “5-6 September: 1996”, © estate of Patrick Heron, DACS 2018.
This work hit a tactile sweet spot getting the brushwork to connect with the size in a satisfying way. The use of yellow woven throughout recalls Matisse’s under drawing in colour and tempers the white, as do the other soft washes of greys.

I sympathise entirely with his take on scale and its relational factor, furthermore, it being in direct connection with the proportionate size of his works. Indeed it was enlightening to read in the catalogue a quote hitherto unknown to me about just this fact when discussing a particular painting from 1959: …there had been a single violet lozenge shape in the middle of a dulled green ground (possibly a bit Gottlieb-ish)…“but I felt that this denied explicit and particular scale to the picture. It made it into a signal, a sign, which might have existed on any scale, from that of a postage stamp to that of an ocean liner’s design. It removed the explicitly 4ft x 5ft- ness of the picture! So I let the surrounding square discs return!” (In my previous articles on Space in painting, this was the exact point I was trying to make.) Heron may well have employed shapes which with time can feel ever so slightly of their time. I believe that is in part down to his reluctance to work paint over paint, preferring to keep it side by side, the eccentricities thus take the form of the containing shape which carries the brush-scribble colour.

Heron started out painting silks and the touch and delicacy of handling never left him. There are rarely moments in the show of a fully loaded paint work or even instances of really pushing the oils about and wrestling with the surface. Heron eschewed that approach, preferring more of a sparring rather than heavy hitting with his paint. At times there were some layered bits of colour when he did allow himself the opportunity rather than keeping colours alongside one another, painting off a white for each hue. Heron preferred the single skin of colour as it maximised the reflectiveness of the white ground. He felt colour on colour was potentially deadening in effect due to the resultant opacities and he detested acrylic paint. Though on this latter point I think he had yet to see how it developed in quality and what potential it now has for colour and surface.

Patrick Heron, “Tall Purple: September 1962”. © estate of Patrick Heron. DACS 2018
One of the few paintings where he painted off a ground colour. This painting looks great in the flesh, quite luxurious in its use of purple. It exposes some of the over use of that colour (especially when it looks so abrupt against white) in the late garden paintings. Here the purple has a real heat which positively cuddles the other hues.

The heat of the wobbly hard-edged paintings breaks up into an airiness in the “Garden” paintings. If my memory serves me correctly, Heron talked about a film being made of him in the studio (I think he showed it or stills and the work at the talk he gave when I was a student- was it a South Bank show?) A crew visited Heron’s studio and he made a painting for the camera  in a looser way to his usual draw and fill approach  (of which there is a BBC film of artists in their studios in the archive featuring Hoyland also),  The pressure of having to perform in some way became a liberation, making him trust his drawing and work straight with paint as line and area from the off. I could be wrong about this, but I have a memory of it.

These garden works are much more hit and miss due to the increased variables at play: line mainly and a breaking up of those discs into looser areas with staccato daubs massing or meandering around, in and out of zones of different colour. The white is all conquering, bleaching out much of the fuller potentials of the contrasting hues and at times, ironically in light of his protestations to the contrary, relegating them to elements of design rather than releasing them through the painting. In this they have connection with the gouaches on show: roll them up and they’d make great scarves. He asserted he did not design anything but the feel of design lingers. The white can be too imposing, but it was a relief to see examples of him weaving in other pastels or soft yellows to add a greater expressive nuance to the white by turning it into a “light” rather than  keeping it directly “white”. It is useful when handling colour to consider any hue with the letter “a” before it to broaden the target for the colour decision… just saying.

I would not identify Heron fully as a painter’s painter, myself, though there are numerous rewarding clues, not least the directness of the attack and the ambition for colour. He has a wonderful way of handling his paint which is subtle and sophisticated. He found abstract painting but never left landscape, in so doing though I am thankful he avoided the more questionable motives that many of his contemporaries tried to bolt onto their work: numinosity, angsty soul-searching, and all the rest of the existential baggage that artistic egocentricity has an unfortunate habit of parading forth. He preferred to consider the physical rather than the metaphysical; so issues of how we perceive space, distance, form, ideas about synthesis, responses to one’s environment occupied him to the end. Thank goodness for that. However, as a path for abstract painters, it is a bit of a windy trail down to a beautiful beach, rooted in the local and holding on the intoxications of ozone and eye-watering light. Colour, space and light were his goal. It still is the biggest prize; the symbiotic relationship of this triumvirate is still so protean in potential. However, I feel that colour on colour rather than just alongside is a greater challenge to now take forward. His use of scale, edge and the importance of colour at generating space through light is significant. Furthermore, his assertion that the true humanity of an artwork lies in its actuality, its concreteness and concomitant decision-making when actually painting, rather than the employment of subject matter to guide one’s feelings in some way cannot be stated loudly enough. He drifted in and out of our artistic landscape much in the same way as his shapes drifted in and out of focus: sometimes sparky and crisp, other times soft and muted. Always heartfelt and sensitive.

A day later I was on a street in what has become my hometown. I saw a kid standing on the kerb, face stained with the residues of a cheap sweet. He was staring at some gaudy Christmas decorations. If he’d had a brick I think he would have thrown it, but after a pause, he just wandered on and kicked at some grass sprouting up through worn paving stones. Just for a moment there was a mischievous menace in the air, whistling in on an icy biting wind…I don’t think that kid has ever owned a scarf.

172 comments

  1. The film mentioned was definitely the South Bank Show with Melvyn Bragg, it was made to coincide with Herons 1985 show at the Barbican which I visited. I enjoyed the new work he showed there, looser, freer garden paintings, as I had lost contact with Herons work since the 70’s.

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  2. I’m personally more drawn to the garden paintings than i am all the oval jigsaw stuff. There are figurative devices, sure, but overall they seem more full of life and energy. Lots of interesting passages and juxtapositions that make the earlier stuff look tame . that said, I’ve only ever seen heron in reproduction so i’m commenting from a position of ignorance.

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  3. Perhaps we no longer aspire to “make murals”, but nor, I hope, do we aspire to make designer scarves, or anything resembling them. Personally, I think Pollock is a much more substantial painter than Heron, even with the problems that his layering/webbing technique presents.

    I like this piece of writing a lot, and I admire it. I also admire Heron as a writer immensely – read his essay “Is Cezanne Still Alive?”. But it is in this text he flags up the limitations of his own painting, which never approached Cezanne’s massive achievements in the reconciliation of three-dimensions with two. Heron is almost entirely a two-dimensional painter, not to say a designer, as is suggested in this essay. I cannot get very far with this, and I cannot see how this can be developed. Others have tried, but the whole project of colour/shape as form seems shallow compared with so much greatness in the history of painting.

    Heron, in the text I refer to, suggests that even a Cezanne masterpiece has its limits to communication. I think that is especially true of the content of his own, rather slender painting.

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    1. Interesting. But should this reconciliation of dimensions still be the model of success for painting? i feel like the Hofmann style of painting, for instance (very Abstract Cezanne), can also seem tidy and mannered even at its best (cake decoration instead of scarves). But overall, i agree that Heron rarely leaves his safe zone- at least until toward the end but even then its a mixed bag.

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      1. The reconciliation of three with two-dimensions I see, in Cezanne’s case particularly, as being intimately connected to the tensioning-up of the entire surface of the painting, getting everything working as part of a whole. I don’t see that happening so much in Hofmann, and Heron does not even go there.

        As to whether it should be a model for success in new abstract painting, I think that is to be proven, one way or another, though it looks that way to me at the moment, because of what the best abstract painting is attempting. But it will be a different way of doing it, perhaps, from the figurative way of Cezanne.

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    1. It difficult to tell isn’t it? We can try to imagine Cezanne with all the figurative content subtracted, or even transducted; made abstract, but the images resist it- at least for me. There are so many abstract qualities to Cezanne but they always have a primary descriptive nature that is ineluctable. Can he therefore be a useful model for today’s abstract artists? I’m not entirely positive.

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  4. The most abstract thing about that Cezanne is the deliciously illogical vertiginous angles and the flickering light that radiates through everything. But surely these elements are still subsumed into a descriptive space- an illusory sphere. Can all these ambient, dizzying effects be effectively deployed without this sphere? In all probability no, although some are still trying. Is the answer then to retain some meagre degree of illusion, but only if we’re willing to relate it to surface and undermine it with exacerbated artifice?

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  5. Weird space. He seems to be letting the shapes and colours do their own thing independently of any figuration. The resulting conflicts only disappear when you let go of the figuration, but as an abstract painting it is a bit too unbalanced to make this easy or satisfying.

    I think Bonnard might be a more interesting starting point for complex abstract painting than either Cézanne or Matisse.

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    1. Not sure about that, although I’m looking forward to the Bonnard exhibition.
      Cézanne landscapes work a little differently to his still lifes. Landscapes work via multi directional movement, while the landscapes rely a little more on colour push pull and discrete areas. The landscapes move the still lifes are stiller.
      Given that both his best landscapes and still lifes are great paintings they can both offer something to us now.

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  6. Yes, there´s loads to learn from all of them. I was thinking that Matisse relies very heavily on (mostly drawn) figuration and/or modeling for his space, while Cézanne is very concerned with giving substance to what are then unmistakably objects.

    Bonnard´s shapes have (visual rather than literal) texture, which gives them a degree of solidity without turning them into objects or destroying their flatness as painted areas. Block out the path in the painting above and you still have a very active spatiality and tangible surfaces without any obviously figurative clues or objects.

    Can abstract painting only be weightless, flat, coloured planes parallel to the picture surface? Can there be non-objective painting with objects in it? What counts as an object? I think it´s questions like these that make Bonnard interesting for abstract painting.

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    1. I’m going to hang fire about Bonnard until the Tate show, except to say that if you block out the path (or even if you don’t!) in “The Jardin”, I don’t see the achievement of “active space” so much as a decorative and flattened arrangement of pretty unrelated and rather eccentric shapes. These might well be interesting/exciting, but my experience of Bonnard has often been very unrewarding in even the fairly short term. But there are exceptions in some of his better work, which may or may not appear in the Tate show.

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    2. I´m not saying that it makes a good abstract painting, but for me the admittedly unrelated and eccentric shapes are extremely mobile backwards and forwards against each other, perpendicular to the picture plane. They don´t form any kind of coherent pictorial space but they demonstrate powerful space-making qualities that seem quite independent of any figuration. Organise them less chaotically and you might get something good.

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  7. This Bonnard is looking remarkably similar in how it is put together in an ad hoc, extemporised manner to Heron’s “5-6 September: 1996”, and indeed to many of Heron’s “Garden” paintings. Presumably Heron knew that?

    I’m not at all against extemporisation, but that’s not the whole story for me, particularly when it stops at colour juxtapositioning.

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  8. Ethan
    Now that you say it, I agree that Wragg has looked closely and productively at Bonnard, but he mostly seems (in reproduction) to mix this up with a lot of gesture, drawing, willful fracture of pictorial space, neglect of the surface and an extremely relaxed attitude to any kind of wholeness. You can rate these further qualities as you like, but they are not Bonnardian.
    Nothing to stop someone taking this in a different direction.

    I think you can probably pick up stuff from anywhere in the history of painting and use it progressively. Why not?

    Robin
    From what I’ve read about him, Bonnard must have been one of the least spontaneous painters of all time!
    It’s a bit of a mystery what he was looking for in paintings like the one above. Elsewhere he can do wonderfully coherent renditions of naturalistic space.
    Is it unfinished? Is the space deliberately unsettling in order to convey some emotional/psychological/perceptual content? Was he on the brink of a kind of ab-ex (Joan Mitchell?) abstract painting without the posturing, but couldn’t quite let go? He comes across as a very serious-minded artist of Cézanne-like intensity, so I wouldn’t want to dismiss this “weird” aspect of his work.
    There were a lot of really good Bonnards hanging with Matisse in Frankfurt the year before last and Matisse looked a little bit slick and manipulative in comparison.
    I don’t want to get too sentimental, but there’s a strange and powerful, and intensely humble humanity in Bonnard’s painting. Something to fill the void in “zombie formalism”?

    “5-6 September 1966” is much better organised than “Le Jardin”. I agree with Emyr that this was one of the highlights of the show.

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    1. Until 1920, Bonnard painted from photographs. Once he began working from life, his paintings had more depth and colour. He wanted to paint representational subjects using the science of painting, and the close placement of complementary colours to create optical effects. That is why he made quick pencil sketches and noted colours, before painting in a studio; away from the subject. He was not exploring the abstract, but the science within painting practice, beyond that of Seurat and Signac. Working from direct observation and what the eye sees, they are unlikely to reproduce well as photographs. At a similar time, both Cézanne and Matisse were using Emerald green, which has been discovered, in many paintings it darkened over time to a black. Emerald green was not the only colour, but its resulting deterioration is the most prominent. It will be interesting to actually see Bonnard’s paintings.

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  9. i wouldn’t wish to suggest that drawing from history should be off-limits.That would simply be perverse. But i do hold that Bonnard is an already over-plundered cache of visual ideas. I would even reluctantly say the same for Cezanne. Hang me, but i can’t help but feel there is something a bit fogeyish about clinging to the influence of all these Frenchmen. I don’t wish for these comments to come off as mereley polemical. I am myself a huge admirer of Matisse and Cezanne and yet sometimes they feel too close to crutches for comfort.

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  10. I would much rather suggest that “drawing from history” IS decidedly off-limits. Why go there, to copy or plunder anything from the past? So I agree it is pointless to cling to the direct influence of these great Frenchmen. Surely better to go somewhere new with abstract painting. However, that is much harder said than done, and for the most part has not been fully done yet, and not connecting in some way with the huge ambitions and achievements of these great Frenchmen, who are part of a massive development in painting that happened in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and, almost entirely, ONLY in France, seems just as perverse.

    What is in question here, from my point of view, is nothing less than whether Bonnard – and Heron – has the degree of ambition and ability to nail down something new. It would appear that Bonnard wanted to do something original, and in the “Le Jardin” he appears (from reproduction) to want to abandon the more obvious literal spatial structures of landscape in favour of something different. But it looks pretty sloppy to me, like many of Heron’s “Garden” paintings. Cezanne and Matisse, by contrast, often make the abandonment of literal structures an occasion for the achievement of something inventive and new. Is “Le Jardin” inventive and new? Not convinced.

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    1. Robin,
      Literaly ‘copying’ should of course be off the table for any mature practicing artist. This is not what I mean by saying ‘drawing from history’. When you ask us to consider the achievements of Bonnard (or his ambition) you are not, I assume, calling on artists to copy him. But then what are you calling for? You believe there is something instructive there yes?

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  11. There is much in this thread to tackle. Bonnard, as Heron, has his problems. Of this we can both agree. Of course, it is extremely difficult to conceive of a wholly new form of abstract painting, untethered from the achievements of french painting whilst not falling into the trap of novelty.

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      1. As an abstract painter I’m admittedly a novice. Poetry is more what I’m good at. But this website has ennervated me and made me passionate about abstraction. There’s a lot to learn. And discuss.

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  12. Dear Ethan, I note that you are good at poetry. I have checked in the Oxford dictionary and found the following definition for ‘enervate’:- 2 to emasculate. 3 to weaken physically; now only of things that impair nervous tone. 4 to weaken mentally or morally; to destroy the capacity for action.
    Perhaps this is what some of us feel.

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    1. Robin, I note that you have copied the image from Caroline Hislam’s recent twitter page (Caroline appears in the picture) to which you pose a query. There the painting is contrasted with two Pete Hoida paintings where the painting is quite differently constructed and the image hovers to the foreground. All the works, the Heron , the Gouk and Hoida all refute pure abstraction.
      By the way, I admired Emyr’s scholarly article, but as usual find the comments stray into issues about what might be ways of, to use the horrid phrase, ‘going forward’. Comparing Matisse with Bonnard for example is the old apples and pears. For my part, I enjoy the paintings without subjecting them to utilitarian notions of how it might affect (another horror) ‘my practice’. Rather it is a matter of honing one’s sensibility. Might I add that, yes, the language matters.

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      1. I love this idea of refuting pure abstraction. What is it, and how do you do that? Since the language matters, perhaps you’d better explain. Do hone my sensibility for me…

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  13. I feel like the space in the Gouk is perhaps more abstract- or is it just walled off? Unfortunatley I can see all kinds of devices in the Heron that are simply figurative. Tufts of grass and bushes. That said they are both luscious paintings from what i can tell and i think I understand your logic in connecting them to the Bonnard garden painting. All three of the painters appear to be “punctuating” the space in a very active way. Its the mode of this punctuation that differs.

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  14. Back to the subject…. by way of West Penwith.

    Hitchhiking between Gurnard’s Head and Penzance I was given a lift by Patrick. Everyone locally knew that he lived at Eagle’s Nest, some four miles up the road from Boswednack where I was staying. I was easily able to recognise that it was him by the colours of his striped knitted jumper – it was 1967, and though I had no ambitions to be a painter at all, I had seen some of his stripe and horizon paintings. I am sure that art wasn’t even mentioned and we parted at Penzance.

    I next met Patrick at an outdoor summer party at Eagle’s Nest in 1968, where I had been invited by a Canadian student who was employed making stretchers for Patrick. I was too shy to even think of asking to go inside the house to look at his paintings, and I only remember meeting an ėmigrė potter; I was immensely impressed to meet a living person who had studied at the Bauhaus. There was a gramophone on the grass and the potter waltzed (this at the time of the late sixties) so I was even more impressed.

    It was one morning in the summer of 1968 that I called at Sidney Graham’s house (W.S. Graham) in Madron, who I would occasionally see for a drink to talk his and my poetry. He was teaching me that words matter; the right word for the wronged (sic) occasion, and we once spoke into his reel to reel tape machine to prepare him for a Third Programme poetry recording and to prepare me to alter some misplaced line endings, punctuation and to lose a bit of mumbo jumbo. On a particular morning I found he already had a visitor and I was introduced to Roger Hilton, of whom I knew nothing at all. I recall that at some point the conversation turned to Patrick heron, and how he had by dint of a penchant for self publicity risen into the limelight leaving Hilton, Lanyon and Frost in the shade. On leaving I had asked Hilton to give me a lift up to the Gurnard’s Head, and told him that it was “not much out of his way” as he was headed for St Just. He was quite prepared to give me a lift, but absolutely furious at me for this presumptuous inaccuracy, and perhaps it is from him that I learnt not to put up with the bollox.

    Now this digression and detour is not to illuminate myself in the glow cast by the Gods, but to point out just how wrong one can be; which matter I will by and by arrive at.

    By 1981 I had completed studies at two London Art schools and felt myself to be a little more au fait with “abstract painting”. There was a Patrick Heron exhibition of his fairly recent paintings at the Riverside Arts Centre, Hammersmith, and there he was standing alone in the empty gallery; I remember now to my embarrassment that I told him I preferred his earlier work – something no artist wants to hear at his latest exhibition. He asked me if I was Alan Gouk, who he was waiting for, to be interviewed by. I denied it. Alan arrived and I left.

    I last spoke with Patrick sitting at a table in the Four Season Chinese restaurant in Gerard Street after the private view at the Barbican (1985) where he showed his garden paintings. We talked only about his sea bass, my octopus and “Old Osborne”, a grumpy farmer who lived between Boswednack and Zennor. At this time I was pretty impressed by the later garden paintings, as was Alan Gouk. I recall some years later at Montrose Alan saying he was afraid it would be said that he was overtly influenced by Heron. Actually, as you will see in the painting illustrated in Caroline Hislam’s recent tweet (@CarolineHislam), there is some similarity although Alan’s painting has a somewhat more conventional left to right orthography. I didn’t think any lesser of Alan for being influenced, I thought this lighter touch work was good; and for that matter I found that Heron’s work suffered more by comparison with Braque than Alan did with Heron, when Heron was making rather drawing-like paintings of interiors.

    At this time I criticised Heron’s very large “jigsaw paintings” (for want of a better term), due to a prejudice I had about design in painting. We know that he very quickly sketched simple outlines, and then filled them in with small strokes of a Japanese brush. For some dogmatic reason I felt that this sort of disqualified the painting! That they should be constructed with decisions made, if not spontaneously then as the work proceeded. Now here I was many, many years later at Tate St Ives 2018, confronted with my misplaced ideas. In front of these great coloured works any tenets that I had held were defeated by experience. I could only judge these paintings by submitting to the sheer enjoyment of the colour and step back and forth to a position of reading these works as an analytic exercise, and both to the pleasure and presence of the work as it held the wall and me on my feet in front of it. Let us not forget the tactile experience and beauty of the nap of the canvas brought forth by these tiny brushes.

    No, let us forget Heron’s claims to have instructed Rothko or to have surmounted his achievement in the stripe, or in the case of Hilton what might be designated his non-referential abstractions, or his masters Braque or Matisse. But here in these massive jigsaw canvases he finally became Patrick Heron, great painter.

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    1. Nice post Pete, I remember having that reaction to Heron’s work when I first saw it many many years ago, it just didn’t hit me in the same way when I saw the recent Tate St. Ives show. Might have had more to do with me than the work.

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  15. I can sympathise with Pete’s defence of Heron’s ‘jigsaw’ works. I haven’t had the luxury of seeing them firsthand but have no trouble in believing they contain subtle physical charms. Also, restraint can be just as effective an approach to painting as chance and spontaneity- when done right! But i still can’t help but think there was something a bit safe about Heron. Not in the sense that he was too ‘polished’ or unaccommodating. I feel rather that Heron was a little too concerned with making decisions that were tasteful. Perhaps at the expense of all else. Could we say the same of someone like Olitski? Probably not. Would be interesting to hear some responses.

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  16. On a point of fact — I never met Heron at the Riverside in 1981, and he would never have asked Pete if he was me, since I had known him well since 1964, when I worked on his show for the British Council Sao Paolo Biennale of 1965. He knew exactly the difference between my 6feet 2inches, and Hoida’s smaller stature.
    And I see no left to right “orthography”.

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    1. Alan, what are your thoughts on Heron as he pertains to this thread? I only ask because I know you have a lot of respect for him and have cited him as an influence. The prevailing opinion seems to be that while he wasn’t ambitious with a capital A, he was a master of sensitive handling and ‘slight’ subtle decisions. Is this on the money or are we being politically correct?

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  17. Ethan — I find it impossible to précis my views on Heron extensively recorded over many years. I’d refer you to the following:
    Patrick Heron I Artscribe No 34 1982
    Patrick Heron 2 Artscribe No 35 1982
    Patrick Herons new paintings Barbican Gallery Catalogue. 1985
    An evening with Patrick Heron. State of Art issue No 1. Flowers East Gallery 2005
    Key Paintings of the 20 th Century 2 on abcrit.com. 2018
    No one has yet mentioned the excellent catalogue essays for this show by Andrew Wilson, especially as concerns “explicitness of scale”. They left me with no reason to write any further on the subject myself. And now we have Emyr’s fine contribution, although I rate the Garden Paintings, both groups, higher than he does. Unfortunately almost all of the second group were destroyed in the MOMART fire.
    Assimilating aspects of Heron’s style freed me from any allegiance to the philistine English obsession with turgid overworked, laboured complexities in defiance of the “utter directness” which is the mark of truly modern painting.

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  18. But I wonder if directness really is the holy grail we want it to be. Someone like Peter Halley, for instance, seems to me to be utterly ‘direct’ and not ‘overworked’ at all. And yet he seems to have no allies here on this website from what I can tell..

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  19. Complexities in painting do not have to be laboured (see Cezanne, Pissarro and another half-dozen great painters of 1870’s France, or Matisse and Derain in 1900-1910, for example), and if complexity appears to dominate the painting, it is perhaps better criticised as “complications”.

    And “directness” can be both good and bad, the latter proven by Halley’s banal “modern-ness”. To be “modern” means very little to me, if all it means is simplification. Certainly the Heron’s we have been discussing are simplified in a way that has very little to engage me. But I think Alan and I will never agree on this.

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  20. I’ll try one more time —- I wonder if Robin ever stops to ponder, when he is pouring cold water on Heron’s Paintings, how it is that Heron is so marvellously precise and detailed in his account of Cezanne’s “solid space”, and Constable’s drawings, more eloquently observant than any other writer (Robin is happy to repeat almost verbatim these pearls of wisdom) and yet paints his own paintings in the way he does, without trying to emulate the structural and spatial complexities of these masters, (which are never turgid or overworked, or almost never, and take directness all the way up to eleven).
    Does he never think that there are good reasons for this gulf in method and aspiration, one reason being that Heron associates Cezannism with the Euston Road School, Coldstream, Evan Uglow, Keith Vaughan, and a thousand other academic mannerists active in England when he was growing up, and at the Slade.
    Heron grew away from that milieu, with a different life history, different foreground influences. And above all to be true to his own temperamental inclinations — economy of means, the maximum of sensuous vibrancy with the minimum of “labour” — “utter directness” — the post-fauve desideratum — space and light through the immediate chiming of colour and the sensuous delight of scribbled brush drawing. That’s where Heron came in, and to which he constantly returns.
    To constantly harp on about your own “thesis” (self designated” ) or even your own predilections, is not criticism. The role of critic is not to project your own conflicted desires onto the art in question, upbraiding it for failing to meet criteria foreign to its purpose, but to try to elucidate what is being attempted and why, and only then to evaluate. Let alone to imply that if only the artist were to follow the critic’s injunctions the art would be the better for it. Heron’s “perfect pitch” as a colourist Mark’s him out as head and shoulders above any English rivals, which is alone enough to mean that he will continue to exert a compelling influence on truly modern painters to come.

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    1. Yes, you can try once more – since this comment is nowhere near as offensive as the one I previously blocked – but there is still no reason to mention my recent painting in this context, especially since you haven’t seen it. But you are right in as much as I am not a critic. I have opinions. Never mind.

      There are lots of reasons why Heron might be a better writer than painter. There are no reasons why “Cezanne-ism” has any critical claim on Cezanne.

      And without “harping on” about yourself, if possible, since that is your favourite topic, I would be interested in knowing whether there is anyone, beyond yourself, on whom Heron continues to “exert a compelling influence” in this so-called “modern” way that you favour. And is it still true?

      Without rancour, please.

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  21. I think overall it does well for painter’s to avoid mannerism, whether they are “direct” or “laboured”, whatever these terms mean . Striving to be Modern with a capital M might be a bit Quixotic if taken in the wrong way, although I think Alan may be describing Modernism as a rejection of “indirect” mannerisms, which I’m on board with.

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  22. I know this is a really long shot but could Heron have been emboldened/inspired by Basquiat in his paintings from the late eighties and nineties?

    Of course the “subject matter” is very different, but they are both using flat colour in combination with thin, spikey drawing in what are essentially graphic works. They also have a lot of signs and motifs in common: Things crossed out, ladders, webbed circles, jagged lines.
    At the risk of getting a seriously bad reputation for this sort of thing there’s even a Basquiat crown or two in “21 June 1992”!

    Whatever the truth of this, I think there’s a point to make
    here concerning Heron’s supposed tastefulness or lack of ambition. If you ignore the “edginess” of Basquiat’s subject matter, (which time is inevitably taming and aestheticizing anyway) then his works are conventionally rather well composed.
    When it comes to such formal characteristics, Heron’s late paintings (from about 1985?) go way further than Basquiat in defying artistic convention. I’m not saying that this makes them any good, but tasteful and unambitious they are not.

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    1. This is so much of a stretch I kind of wish it were true!. Although weren’t a lot of people at that time aggressively uninterested in Heron on account of him being a symbol of formalism or something? Also it’s funny for me to think of Basquiat as conventionally well composed. Seems more jotted down like a high school doodle book. Perhaps that’s a convention we owe to him. I definitely agree that time makes rude art tame- or tamer than it was. Even Cezanne is biscuit tin material now.

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  23. To get back to Heron for a moment: When I say that Heron’s “tastefulness” was a bit of a hindrance I understand the problematic implications that come with this statement. Anything can cease to become jarring when we become familiar with it and anything unfamiliar can, even if graceful, initially seem shocking or vulgar. This is how Matisse went from a “fauve” or beast to “hypnotically beautiful” (in the words of Heron). But there seems to me to be a kind of Keatsian “negative capability” or “illogic” to the works of Matisse (1946’s Racaille Chair for instance is still so strange to me) that just isn’t there in Heron. Heron loved to justify or explain artistic decisions but Matisse was very much like a somnambulist. He would do what felt right, whereas Heron would simply do what he thought wasn’t wrong. i’m not advocating automatism here but rather I’m questioning an over-regulated or over-delineated sensibility.

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  24. At least Ethan had the bottle to say he had not actually seen a Heron.Makes you wonder about so many passionate aficionados of English Abstract Painting .How many have made the effort to get to the RWA in Bristol ,where there is an extraordinary show of Albert Irvin and the Abstract Expressionists.The space is fabulous and whether you go with the thesis ,that Bert went from kitchen sink to full colour Painting ,as a result of seeing the Tates show of American Art,is another matter.Imagine the space without anything in it ,and then look at each work separately,without any headphones,just your eyes.To me they are emotional triggers,straight to the heart.I actually prefer the more tonal oil paintings ,where tone is of the essence.However ,the list of Pollock,De Kooning ,Guston,Hartigan ,Gottlieb,Hoyland ,Beattie ,Lanyon et al ,means this show has stopped at no lengths to make its point.Personally I see Morris Louis,but as somebody said to me recently ,who is that? Makes you realise where we’ve got to .

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    1. Makes you wonder what exactly? Perhaps there are meaningful reasons as to why someone might be unable to visit galleries as often as they would like, beyond simply not being “passionate” enough.. I have however had the privilege of seeing certain works by Albert Irvin (not the LSD hopscotch stuff he’s famous for but the more tonal stuff I believe you’re referring to) and was, I’m sad to say, emotionally “untriggered”. Alan Davie on the other hand…

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  25. Ethan ,Respect .Im not having a go at you .Each to his own .Matthew Collings,who has been perceptive on occasions,notably concerning John Maclean and Frank Bowling ,even Alan Gouk. recently compared Hockney to Piero De la Francesco..Since Goldsmiths sold us the YBA s ,Saatchi.Norman Rosenthal,Philip Green have been able to wipe their arse on the Art World ,Pardon my metaphor.There is a terrible complacency at work here..At least you,ve got some credible interest.I hope to meet you at Robins Open Studio ,[where I hope you were luckier than me to receive an invitation!] Probably if I had a website ,Id feel very complacent about the state of things.The government has fallen apart,the right wing are taking over and all we can do is talk about Bonnard.Very nice ,cultured and absolutely irrelevant.Why not have a go at the spelling ,as thats very public school,or indeed the punctuation?I have a terrible fear of being forced to talk about exactly what it is that makes me an Abstract artist.I am not interested in writing down what Im doing for fear of having to replicate it.As Paul Klee said when Dying ,Im just not close enough to you,Dear Lord .Fortuneatly theres a resurgence of Bauhaus,where it all began coming up.

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  26. Pretty much everyone gets compared to Piero della Francesca as far as I can tell. But to be honest I don’t believe the dilemma for living artists is necessarily one of conservatism. Living Artists should have a meaningful relationship with the Art of the past, and not feel under pressure to renounce it. This is why I like Cezanne. He understood the contradiction in trying to respect the old masters whilst also trying not to cheapen or institutionalise them. Bonnard must have also understood this to some degree. But I sympathise with what your’e saying about ‘complacency’ as it seems to echo my own fears about romanticism and styles becoming ‘institutionalised’. But If you asked me if i believed that any of the artists who have been commenting on this thread have become complacent I would say no. I see a lot of inventiveness and enthusiasm. I see an encouraging mistrust of what is lowest-common-denominator. But I think some of the rhetoric might drift into ‘complacency’. I don’t believe it is silly or ridiculous at all to talk about Bonnard in the year 2019. Or Basquiat, or Heron. But we have to be careful not to make them into Raphael-style fetish figures.
    Heron was an amazing writer. I adore his essay on late Matisse. But it says more about Heron than it does Matisse. Heron misinterpreted Matisse the same way that Matisse misinterpreted Cezanne. But this was all necessary so as to think ‘around’ these artists and not be trapped in each others ways of thinking. Perhaps not all of them were conscious of it but I believe it’s what made them successful. That’s why I’m of the belief that If we continue to think about Heron in his own terms it might be a bit of a problem. As for the rusergance of Bauhaus I would say sign me up!- on the condition that there are less paintings and more wall hangings.

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  27. Emyr – I enjoyed your excellent analysis of Heron and the commentary that has followed. A lot of debatable issues have been raised and give food for thought..
    One, which pertains as much to sculpture as to painting is that of ‘design’. The modern English usage of the word (it does not exist in other European languages) tends to mean a preconceived idea which is most suitable for manufacture or commerce rather than the old art historical sense of the word (i.e. the ‘design’ in a Poussin);. that is to say referring to the construction of a picture (or sculpture).
    I would like to hear more views on this, since falling between two stools of ‘design’ and design as structure is a very important issue for both arts.

    o

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    1. Tim, I think the ‘preconceived idea’ is the key point here. I have in the past ‘designed’ my abstract paintings which has given them a kind of limited interest value. Something preconceived when working abstract, doesn’t apply so strongly for figurative work I don’t think, does sometimes not have the depth of something that is developed and interacted with as part of its creation, to my mind.
      The development of structure, coherence or overallness or whatever one would call it, would be integral to the process of discovering what makes a painting or sculpture work. That endeavour would hopefully be a rich experience which could find its way into the work and be communicated to the audience.

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  28. I think perhaps that the discussion of “structure” in the progress of abstract sculpture and painting must be challenged directly, no matter who the artist. The coherent wholeness of abstract art seems more of an important issue, unrelated to “structure” as we know it.

    If the connection with figurative or literal structure remains, the work looses much of its freedom. We are beginning to see a change, I hope, in how to think about abstract art as something with very a different kind of new “content”, unrelated to “known” factors, designed or otherwise.

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    1. Could ‘structure’ just be an incidental outcome as part of a coherent wholeness within an abstract painting or sculpture?
      What kind of ‘structure’ would be unacceptable?
      I am thinking could there be an abstract ‘structure’ which would be something holding the work together? Not something literal or figurative.

      incidental

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  29. Now Im totally confused.I responded to Robins comment that its possible to have a wonderfull piece of Art ,where you don’t have to FEEL anything.I suggested you could just enjoy the structure,in the fullest sense.I was thinking about a Cezanne,the empty house,with black windows.I was duly chastised,as structure wasn’t Abstract enough,by Robin.I am now in the midst of attempting a review of the Irvin show in Bristol and apart from a lengthy discussion about the colour [and paint],have had to come down on the side of a structure of feeling ,that the response to these huge canvasses cannot be cerebral,must be emotional.Hopefully this can come up at the symposium on Feb 4th on Abstract Art Now.Can Robin be a bit clearer why looking at the structure of a work,in the fullest sense,isn’t Abstract enough?Or have I got the wrong end of the stick again ,or perhaps wrong stick?again

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  30. ‘Freestyle’ is not new.
    Abstract art ‘ starting from nothing ‘ is not new.
    Structure has been understood, year on year, to be evolving.
    All of the elements of painting and sculpture have already been seen in differing combinations. The very first move common to us all was the dumping of pre-planning anything.
    We are where we are but that is NOT at the beginning. it just feels like it. It should always be a step on.
    As to the myriad of achievements it is very likely too soon to judge and define these.
    They need to stay loose and fluid. If we do not keep the fluidity of all of these elements in our own projects they will turn into designs!
    .

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    1. tony smart

      a lot of things are not new. that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t worth trying. am I wrong here? It’s surley HOW we give structure to that thing that is of importance.

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    2. Don’t quite agree with Tony on this – I think there are aspects, particularly in abstract sculpture, that might be completely new, and seem to dispense with known ideas about structure. We will have to see how that develops.

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  31. I would suggest that discovered structure is likely to be more interesting and go deeper/explore newer territory than preconceived structure, but that some kind of structure is important for a finished artwork. There´s a conceptual overlap with coherence. An artwork might achieve coherence on different levels: spatial, chromatic (harmony), structural (balance), evenness of surface “pressure” – all the kinds of things that let you take in the work as a whole but also to roam freely within, without getting stuck and without having to look outside for something that is missing.
    (For figurative art you could add narrative coherence, and maybe to a certain extent for abstract art too – those connecting stripes in Peter Halley´s painting for example.)

    A lot of art just goes for a single kind of coherence. I think that maybe the most ambitious art must be looking for multiple levels of coherence, including structure.

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    1. That´s not quite right..
      A lot of art just goes for a single kind of ADVENTUROUS coherence as opposed to TRIVIAL coherence or incoherence. Kenneth Noland´s target paintings are trivially coherent in their structure but adventurously coherent in their colour. Monochrome painting may be trivially coherent in colour but adventurously coherent in its spatiality.
      Maybe it is this trivial kind of coherence that people object to as structure. I don´t think that incoherence is good at any level. As an artist, I think you have to be trying to make something whole. If the work is original and discovers an unfamiliar kind of coherence then it may initially seem incoherent to its public – it may be contributing to a new way of making sense of experience. But this doesn´t mean that incoherence, lack of structure etc. are a sure sign of originality. I think they are more often a sign of desperation or disrespect on the part of the artist for their audience. If the only kind of coherence that you achieve as an artist is conventional and old hat, then you maybe have to accept that you have nothing yet to contribute in this particular direction. But you can´t just give up on structure, harmony, coherent space and Co. Simply ceasing to bother is not a contribution.

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      1. Richard

        I think the term ‘coherence’ is giving you too much bother here. “triviality” on the other hand is a very pressing issue. Tony seems concerned about automatism or ‘freestylin’ because it seems to him to be too elementary or obvious. Similarly, you seem worried about a lack of ‘structure’ incurring some sort of functional collapse within the work. Structure as we understand it is the just the relation between the parts and elements of the work. Thinking about structure as a formative context doesn’t preclude uninhibited improvisation or anti-composition but it needn’t be a gateway drug to those things. The recipe for avoiding cliches should probably be to ‘flip’ them the way someone might ‘turn a phrase’. Or, at least, a valuing of negative capability; the thing that’s most imaginative rather than the thing that makes most ‘sense’.

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  32. A note about cliches:

    We often think that something is cliche simply because of its rote familiarity. But there’s more to it than that. In order to be a cliche something has to hit all three of these characteristics

    .A familiar THING

    .used in a familiar WAY

    . to achieve a familiar EFFECT.

    In literature the metaphor of a “heart burning with passion” hits all three of these points. If we were to change just one thing we would no longer have a cliche. A “heart rotting with passion” isn’t spectacular writing but it’s an instant break of the formula.

    So how does this apply to Painting and Sculpture? I feel that someone like Sean Scully is cliched but not simply because he uses stripes. It’s because he uses those stripey things in a familiar way to achieve a familiar effect (i.e angsty flags). i think this process of ‘flipping’ cliches is happening all the time in abstract art – especially on BranChron although it’s never addressed in precisely these terms. Richard might be of the belief that avoiding cliches isn’t in of itself a guarantee of good work and I agree. but avoiding cliches doesn’t mean a chucking-out of all the things we love about space, colour, form etc. in painting. It just means giving them flexibility.

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  33. Thanks to Ethan for raising here the need to over-ride the cliche. It seems that Abstract Art, must in order to be Abstract, be constantly moving forward.

    ‘Freestyle’ is an adopted way of working for sculpture.
    Its being adopted here is to open up the world of three dimensionality beyond its being understood in terms of objects and things.
    ‘Freestyle’ feels like the opposite of a two dimensional, view based, ‘stage’ for stuff to be seen on.
    It seems that three dimensionality beyond all that and the object, must break with relational as it also appears must ‘Abstract’, which is not a world populated by things.
    ‘Free style’, has a more ‘close up’ , ‘hands on ‘ action with malleable material , in its broadest understanding it invents and re-invents physicality and all the elements of sculpture,and it can over-ride the ‘views’ so common in pictorial sculpture.
    All of this driven by the ‘Abstract’.
    It is as if Abstract Art is what the visual world has been waiting for.
    An Art free of the inevitable vagaries of representation.

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  34. Ethan
    I disagree. For me, triviality can be tolerated in some aspects of a painting (I’ll stick to painting here) if it deals simply with the demands for coherence in those aspects and allows the creative energies to be concentrated elsewhere. Noland’s target paintings are an example. Anne Smart’s astonishing and original paintings are not transcending structure; they have an entirely trivial, all-over structure, which leaves her free to work on space and surface, which are wonderfully coherent and well integrated.
    Coherence on the other hand is essential to all aspects of a painting. With the very first mark on the canvas you already have space, surface, structure and colour. (You also have a symbol in the sense that anything can serve as a symbol, but that’s an unnecessary complication here). As an artist you have to deal with all of these. This means (I think) bringing them each separately and as an integrated whole into a state that feels right, not in terms of external, theoretical, mimetic or maybe political criteria but in terms of the painting itself as a self-sufficient thing in the world. A painting that is incoherent in any aspect cannot be self sufficient. It is continually looking for whatever is missing to make it something whole.
    The audience may not immediately see it as coherent – for them it might be something new and liberating. But for the artist it must be coherent, or at least as coherent as is possible within the confines of their technical ability. Anything else is dishonest and self-indulgent.

    Deliberately incoherent painting – “provisional painting” – is sometimes praised as “two fingers at the establishment” and creative disruption.
    The establishment LOVES incoherent art. Paying for and owning something that no-one can possibly understand confers a sense of intellectual and financial superiority. And since it offers no viable new way of experiencing the world it poses no threat at all to the status quo.

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    1. Richard,

      I still think that what you call triviality might be different from my own usage of the word.
      It is not trivial to work with painterly problems that might be seen as traditional.
      Colour, form, space, and ‘composition’ will always be an ineluctable part of Painting.
      Triviality is not the thing in itself but rather the WAY or MANNER in which a thing is deployed. For instance, Anne smart may be addressing problems of “all-over” composition which may be seen as ‘traditional’ but the way and manner in which she achieves this is not trivial at all
      -in fact, very surprising and inventive
      Kenneth Noland on the other hand is such a yawn fest to me. His problem wasn’t that he was too ‘coherent’, in fact I think he wasn’t coherent enough. His paintings feel unresolved.

      I have no interest in art that challenges the status quo. As you observe, that’s probably exactly what the status quo wants. I am interested, as you seem to be, in traditional problems of abstraction. We shouldn’t be precious about these problems nor be afraid of trying to rethink how we conceive of them. That’s what creativity is.

      Tony

      In this context then, freestyle, might be of great use to a sculptor or painter.
      It’s interesting that you use a hip hop phrase
      Free styling in Hip Hop has always been a very hands on, malleable thing
      but it always has to conform to a sort of sensible structure, in this case, music and rhyme.
      It is not an entirely unrestrained thing, but rather a very delicate uncertain thing.
      It proposes new liberties for the artist but also familiar constraints and problems.
      I understand then what you mean when you say that freestyle
      for a sculptor is a very close up approach to making. There is a potential for discovery
      but i expect it is fraught with familiar dangers.

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      1. Carl,
        I was intending to write a review of the whole show for Abcrit – and I hope maybe someone else can do it – but I was so disappointed with almost all of the work, except for these two and a very few others, that I could not find enough to write positively about.

        These two still lives are not hugely original, perhaps, maybe owing something to Matisse, whose early work abounds in quite a number of really excellent still-life table tops and interiors, etc., but at the very least they are profound in how they bring all the content together across the whole painting, at once, all coherently meshed in very integrated and clever colour. He is very good at times (I’ve seen it in other Bonnards) in painting very simple things like fruit bowls and fruit that is articulated on the table-space in strong colour/forms that say enough about three-dimensionality to convince, without disengaging with the wholeness.

        By contrast, pick any of the other types of painting he chooses to indulge in: somewhat perverted images of naked women, in or out of the bath; self-portraits; interiors and exteriors with unconvincing figures; imaginary landscapes that are hopelessly incoherent, and you will see what I mean – as an artist he is all over the place. I came away with no real idea of what he wanted out of painting, nor any sign that he knew where to take it. The show is a complete hodgepodge.

        “The Garden” and “Studio with Mimosa” are OK; the former is better integrated in colour than the reproduction shown above would suggest. In the latter, which mostly is a rather good painting, all coherence is lost at the sight of the silly head in the bottom left-hand corner. The painting would be much improved by the removal of most of the left hand vertical strip and the figure. There are quite a few other works one might say the same about – why are they so often ruined with poorly-defined figures? As for the paintings focussing on women in the bath, they are the pits. I’m sure you can find many examples of this rubbish on line.

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  35. I’ve not seen the Tate exhibition but I think that what Bonnard wanted out of a lot of his painting is pretty much as he described it himself – the visual and psychological sensation in the first moment of entering a room/appraising a scene.
    This may or may not have been misguided and at least partly external to painting itself but I think it helps to explain the unresolved space in his landscapes, the frequently unnatural light and the “dissolving” figures. The latter must be intentional since he does it so often. My guess is that he is compensating for the way we initially fasten onto a figure in any picture, as it is other humans that automatically monopolize our attention in most situations. He almost draws attention to this by hiding the figures from first sight.

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    1. Yes, the things I dislike so much in many of these paintings do indeed seem fully intentional, not to say wilful, but these “intentions” seem very alien to genuine painterly ambition. His failures, therefore, are of a very different and depressing kind to the not-always-completed, but genuine, attempts made by Matisse and others like Derain and Kandinsky – in 1900-1910 all three were making fantastic and inventive figurative paintings that really pushed at the boundaries of what came before, yet kept everything really tight. They had ten years of progress before their work, in the case of Derain and Kandinsky, also started to fall apart. Matisse, by contrast, mostly just kept on progressing. Bonnard, however, seems to have given in straight away to the idea that progress was not to be made, but only avoided; thus, the anecdotal was given the upper hand.

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      1. I don’t think that Bonnard “gave up”. His ambition for painting was perhaps more about pushing an understanding of what it is to be human, rather than pushing the possibilities of paint on canvas. Maybe the world needs both of these, but I can’t really see the point of the second, without the first. Perhaps painting can eventually lose its ability to contribute to the first without the second.

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      2. What’s not human about having painterly ambitions? Sorry Richard, but I don’t quite follow you here. I don’t suggest Bonnard “gave up”, but that he “gave in” to what is anecdotal.

        I have looked through the books we have on Bonnard and actually I think a much better selection than the Tate show is a distinct possibility. Some of his earlier work, before 1900, and excluded from Tate, looks better than many of the later works in the show.

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    1. I am surprised that some of you don’t consider Bonnard’s contribution to that great theme of art since the Venus of Willendorf, the female nude, in or out of its environment,.notable.
      Along with Renoir, Degas Picasso and Matisse. I would have thought he merits some credit for originality with this theme.
      Bonnard’s nudes certainly do not have the plastic and structural probity of Degas’. nor the fulsome physicality of Matisse’s; but I would have thought that their integration with the physical, homely. world that they inhabit, in terms purely of tactile design and its handling is an innovative offering to the vocabulary of modern painting ?
      Of course, he was, I suppose, shutting down on a tradition rather than expanding it into new territory and advancing the field for new painting to follow; he wasn’t Braque..
      You painters will have to expand on that.

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  36. I can’t pretend to be interested in Bonnard’s nudes. Obviously he wasn’t Cezanne ( somewhat of a ‘pervert’, himself ). More gardens and ‘paysages’, please. that’s where the good stuff is.

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  37. Expanding personally as a ‘painter’.
    I think Bonnard’s contribution to the female nude in the great theme of art is a red herring.
    Disregarding the “very poor indeed” and “incoherent figures and/or pretentious landscape settings” which Robin unearthed at the current Bonnard show…why not just flick through a good book of illustrations of Bonnard’s lifetime achievements ? [maybe “Bonnard” by Nicholas Watkins ?]. In plain sight you will be amazed by an overwhelming sense of an intense study and realisation of overall-ness !
    For me as an Abstract painter the table cloths,windows,flowers,dogs,doors,wallpaper,chairs trees etc etc which Bonnard conjures up all lose their individuality to the flow of his paint and his marks into a pursuit of the whole.
    Certainly, for me he shows more “expansion” into new territory than ,dare I say, some of Heron’s painting.
    Interesting that Heron wrote in his review in 1947 “Pierre Bonnard and Abstraction”,of a “fish-net” image and a “wide distribution of accent and pictorial stress” which was “extraordinary”. Also that it “extended its rhythm, unbroken, to the very confines of pictorial space”
    For me Bonnard and Heron are presented too much as chronological “Brands.”…Heron ,whilst he saw and described so well Bonnard’s vision did nor perhaps use it to its best advantage for Abstract painting moving forwards?
    Perhaps, as muted earlier in comments here on Emyr’s review of the Heron show, Heron would always be too infatuated by design. For me Bonnard’s figuration disintegrates itself because of more over riding pressures such as for example painting right up to the edge of the canvas.
    Tim consolidates these thoughts in his earlier response that design “tends to mean a preconceived idea more suitable for manufacture…”.
    So …to Tim…
    …Obviously Bonnard has “ideas” but for me,as a painter, in fact as an Abstract painter,I find Bonnard DOES expand into “new territory” and I find it a bit disappointing that Heron did not expand on Bonnard’s discoveries more.

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    1. You surprise me Anne. Looking at pictures in a book is no substitute for seeing the real thing. And I think you would be disappointed too with much of the work in the show. Not sure what you think the new territory is. I agree with Tim that Bonnard continues with something very outdated.

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  38. “New territory”……is not a sure thing…as with any new Abstract art would be something hard to define but always going to be achieved by those who choose to bend the rules and actually do it rather than talk about it or as well as talk about it.
    Takes me back to the notion of potential we discussed years ago which is now a common notion
    Your book comment is meaningless…an attempt to put down an alternative way of approaching Art as an Artist today….I am sure I would find a lot of disappointment in the show you went to …..and of course I am familiar with much of Bonnard’s work for real…but hey……just thought I would make a comment on Abcrit as an Abstract painter !! ha ha !!

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  39. I haven’t yet seen the Bonnard show, I hope to next week, but I am with Anne in my appreciation of his method of painting. I really like the way objects and figures dissolve into a myriad of small passages of colour. I don’t mind that the form seems weak and the composition is sometimes out of balance, there is so much in the handling of the paint that is very satisfying to experience. I believe he painted on unstretched canvas and cropped quite dramatically, perhaps that’s why there are odd bits in the corners of some paintings.
    It feels like he is completely immersed in what he is doing, perhaps indecisively prodding with lots of different colours but the effect can have a dazzling quality. There is just something about his ‘touch’ that I find compelling. I agree that some works are definitely better than others but he does have a unique style, for want of a better word.

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      1. Given the obvious, that Bonnard is not an Abstract artist, I agree with your thought Noela and would add that such a need for constant addition and adjustment seems to be a requirement for making Abstract painting at the moment.
        But the question that hangs over anything new happening on ones own canvas, at the moment, can also be obliterated by this thinking.
        This ‘thinking’ , in its inquisitiveness, calls for a simultaneous relaxing of the need to judge too soon. Maybe ,at its worst, a keenness to judge could stop a natural flow.

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  40. For anyone in pursuit of an unbiased response to the Bonnard show, please consult Richard Ward’s previous article on the Matisse / Bonnard pairing on abcrit. Here is someone who has tried to understand what Bonnard is about, and why his work remains challenging and inspirational.

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      1. And yes Anne, it can be all to easy to obliterate something with regrets, there needs to be time included to assess what new elements in any work could mean.

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  41. Alan..a conundrum for me is why are Richard’s excellent comments unbiased?…and thank you for bringing this up.

    Are all artists biased?…….
    It seems to me this is a balancing act for the artist.
    How much do they depend on an overview, that is Art History?
    How inventive will their own bias be?
    ..and whether they want that bias to become part of the overview?
    ..and how much of the overview is their own ?
    ..and how much is it from people they trust ?

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  42. Sorry Anne if you felt my comment on bias was in any way a reference to you. On the contrary you seem to be defending Bonnard’s colour field approach (loosely speaking) because it strikes a chord with your own interests. But to answer your questions line by line —. Yes, all practicing painters are to some extent looking for confirmation of their own concerns, but this does not disqualify them from trying to see virtue in others, and perhaps to learn from their differences. But once adopting the role of critic, which surely is what abcrit is for, a measure of objectivity is called for. It is not good enough to simply voice one’s distastes or whatever. It is important to know what a painter is trying to do before ruling or judging.
    On an overview — you can’t escape it even if you would like to. It forms an unconscious bias, Part of ones life history, even, as I’ve said before, a muscle memory, hard to shed.
    “Their own”… that’s about maturity, and extensive practice. You have to advance by trial and error towards individuality and originality. Again, one is always more original than one thinks at the time if only following ones nose and by instinctive responses, rather than a programmatic or didactic attitude.

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  43. I thought that this might interest Bonnard viewers :
    “,,,Very early on Bonnard stopped painting from direct observation. He felt ‘weak in front of nature ‘ he said. ‘The presence of the object, the motif, is very cramping for the painter at the moment of painting. The point of departure for painting being an idea – if the object is there at the time of working, there is always a danger for the artist to allow himself to be too involved in the incidences of the direct view. and in so doing to lose the initial idea.’
    And so he painted from memory rekindled by drawings. This ‘weakness’;affected every aspect of his art, his subject matter as well as how he came to realise it and led to drawing becoming for him more important than for any other major painter.. Bonnard’s paintings are almost always of a particular visual experience, of which he made a drawing at the time, but which he painted in the studio….’
    Catalogue: Drawings bt Bonnard,Arts Council 1984

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  44. I think being a ‘critic’ (if we really want to use that word) can sometimes be about proximate failure- finding what isn’t ‘working’ as way of discerning what does ‘work’ and vice versa. I can’t speak for anyone else but I have no axe to grind when it comes to Bonnard. But what can be said about him that is new?

    Richard’s essay is indeed wonderfully written. The most acutley observed part is where he says
    “Bonnard´s light is different and more complicated (than Matisse’s) . Light in his paintings is not a property of space but one of surfaces or areas of a two-dimensional visual plane. Sometimes it would almost seem better to speak of tonal colour rather than light as such – ”

    Are Bonnard’s paintings more like drawings then? if we actually look at Bonnard’s drawings we see a lot of the scribbly tonal logic there makes its way into his handling of paint, especially the ways he attempts to ‘knit’ things together. The main difference is that he rarely uses black- he always tries to pump colour into the work, even in the shadows.

    Matisse on the other hand is always trying to sabotage or undermine the drawing in his work, primarily through the continual scraping off and reapplication of paint.

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  45. Thank you very much Alan.

    I note your points with interest.
    You have the wrong end of the stick re bias…. I am biased and very intent on staying so.

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  46. Furthermore — I’d draw your attention to this paragraph from Heron’s brilliant essay — Bonnard and Abstraction.
    “I can only repeat my belief that that which we finally value most in painting is what I must call the abstract music of interacting form- colour. But I must add that such ‘music’ bears reference at every point to particular substance: to the actual objects which the painter had to scrutinise in order that any such formal configuration might suggest itself to him. If it is abstract, it is nonetheless saturated with the quality of things; even of particular things. It is therefore to be distinguished from the consciously sought Abstract product of the present day, which is synthetic in the sense that it is the result of the application of intelligence and will, rather than of the operation of the whole Semi- conscious aesthetic faculty – of tha whole sensibility…..”
    and much more brilliant appercus in that vein.

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    1. Alan

      What kinds of ‘things’ is Heron talking about, do you think? Do ‘abstract’ qualities always have their origin in some kind of physical ‘experience’. Or is there a difference between Abstract and Abstraction?

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  47. The Bonnard article was written in 1947, well before Heron’s conversion to abstraction. Obviously he is referring to the paraphernalia of Bonnard’s world. I’d urge that you read the whole essay, which concerns the submerged “abstract” rhythms that underlie even ostensibly figurative painters such as Velasquez and Picasso.
    On “physical experience” — in my view it would be a funny old world if they didn’t. Physicality is of the essence of plastic and spatial art in my opinion — the marriage of body and mind materialised on canvas. Close to Adrian Stokes, who is close to Heron in some respects.
    And equally the submerged rhythms which emerge in abstract painting move towards an accommodation with the physical world out there. “of equal intensity, — clear, demarcated, out there, resistant to the eye”.
    Perversely somehow an extract from my Key Paintings Part 2 has appeared. I don’t want to delete it in case it disappears from the abcrit original.

    Miro. Painting 1953 Guggenheim Museum N.Y.

    Constellations 1940-41

    Figure at Night guided by the phosphorescent Tracks of Snails 1940

    L’Espoir nous revien par la Fuite des Constellations. And installation shot with a Picasso.

    The Red Sun gnaws the Spider 1948

    The Red Sun 1948

    However, there is nothing essential in Miro that is not pre-figured in Paul Klee. If one wants to understand the origins and impulses which led to abstraction, one needs to look elsewhere than the relatively extravert orientation to the external world of Matisse, Braque and Picasso. One needs to engage with the visionary imagination, the inner world of German Romanticism as it emerges in the art of Paul Klee. The fact is one can’t really understand the origins of abstraction and it’s motivating impulses without realising that, contrary to the Greenbergian thesis, positivism and materialism are not the key characteristics of modernism. And the strain of modernism that issues from Klee, Kandinsky and Mondrian is opposed to these very tendencies in modern psychology, perhaps because they are the dominant modes of action and perception. Their art is visionary, inward, and a curious blend of spiritualism and science.

    Klee Red Balloon 1922 Guggenheim

    May Picture 1925 Berggruen Klee Coll.

    Static Dynamic intensification. Met. NY. 1923.

    Polyphony 1932 Kunstmuseum Basel

    Neue Harmonie 1936 Guggenheim.

    Klee. Strong Dream 1929.

    Klee. Fish Magic. 1925 Philadelphia Museum.

    Insula Dulcamara. 1921-38 .

    Klee and Miro open up a seam of imagination even further removed from the norms of Western European art than Matisse. Miro takes Klee’s calligraphy and broadens and enlarges the feeling with a greater impulsiveness of attack, and he follows him in experimenting with the expressive range of granular grounds, different media, types of paint quality, from transparent grainy washes to viscous pourings and droplets, opening up for the eye ,as never before envisaged, the timbre and texture of paint and surfaces in themselves, with their fictive potential suppressed. (An equivalent of Schoenberg’s Klangfarbe.)
    To see how much more abstract Miro is than Picasso — see this installation shot of their two pictures side by side. Clement Greenberg, in perhaps his greatest piece of critical writing, described the difference between Picasso and Klee thus — “ The difference is that he (Picasso) sees the picture as a wall, while Klee sees it as a page”. Miro bridges that gap.

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  48. Great stuff Alan.Im going to the Bristol symposium called Abstract Art Now tomorrow in Bristol,with some trepidation.It seems there are very many artists using the materialism and positivity mode ,expecting some reward for their labours.Whereas Mondrian is buried in a paupers grave in Queens,having singlehandedly routed every other Painting movement in Europe,particularly Expressionism.In my last visit to MOMA ,he cleared the whole place ,with the exception of the Pollock called One.It is so important to dig a little deeper ,in fact Miro,Klee and Mondrian ,with their spirituality, really undermines the materiality of great artists like Matisse,Cezanne and Braque.Do you know if Hoffmann ever visited Britain ,or is our enthusiasm for his work a passed- on fashion? I travelled to BerkeleyCalifornia, to see his series and was really put off by the surface .Thank you for some terrific perceptions ,Ab crib at its best!

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  49. All very “beta” but it´s just occurred to me that the problem mentioned in the “Ten Great Figurative Paintings” thread concerning the combination of ambient, perspectival space with highly articulated local space is also (or even mainly) a problem of light.
    In the former it is the space that fills with/makes the light. In the latter it is the other way round – the light makes the space. Unifying these two is always going to be difficult. You can see this quite clearly in Rubens´ “Landscape with Pan and Syrinx” (1626).

    Courbet´s landscapes are the only ones I can think of that mainly use light rather than some kind of perspective to create space, with results that can sometimes be almost as confusing as Bonnard.

    Light and space in painting are intimately bound up with one another. Purist abstract painting for which perspective and objects/chiaroscuro are both too figurative would have to find a third way of making both light and space.
    That is maybe where Bonnard can be of interest. Matisse depends heavily on perspective to make space and so light. Cézanne depends heavily on tonality (his still-lifes are just as spatial in black and white as in colour) to make objects and so space. In at least partially rejecting both of these solutions, Bonnard was wrestling (and maybe not always winning) with one of the major problems for abstract painting.

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    1. Intriguing Richard

      I feel that the case for non-representational painting is that taking out the ‘things’ which would reveal themselves as recipients of light can be the platform for an invented light that is simply there because it is normally showing us the content of the painting.It could be light as a force in its own right and not the servant of objects.
      The question I asked in my 2017 Brancaster Chronicle was could there be an invented light which could play a purposed role in the making of Abstract painting?
      Light in a relational painting accentuates form and could render such forms semi figurative/figurative.
      Thank you for bringing this up. For me this is of the moment.
      In 2017 this was but was a vague hope!……

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  50. Richard,
    It seems to me that Matisse, rather than remaining dependent upon “perspective to make space and so light”, re-worked and reinvented all manner of perspectival or “relational” proposals in order to make his paintings operate “as real painting” differently from what one might expect of figuration, finding potentially new, inventive ways to put things together on the canvas that were not dependent upon normal/academic perspectival space. Take for example those rather overtly-three-dimensional models and their strange relationships to the semi-two-dimensional surroundings/settings/textiles of the work from the late twenties in Nice.

    This is (part of) Matisse’s great achievement, and although it is much subtler, it is also at least partially Cezanne’s, Monet’s and Pissarro’s achievements too. Making “space and light” seems in all these cases not the artist’s complete – or even partial – focus. There is a much fuller kind of ambition here in these great artists that in my opinion is largely lost in the work of Bonnard, if indeed it is even approached. I certainly still see, despite the ideas put forward in these comments, very little to connect much of the work by many of the other artists mentioned here with anything now happening in abstract painting. Much abstract painting looks distinctly out of date these days – though in a way that great figurative painting from the past never is. Why try so hard now to connect new abstract painting with the liked of Miro, Klee, Mondrian, Bonnard (who seems so academic!)… or even Heron? Better to tap into the desire for ambitious invention that Matisse works so hard at, regardless of his ostensible figuration.

    If you tried out any of the arguments made recently here in the context of abstract sculpture, and wanted to suggest its derivations or connections with figurative sculpture, you would be stumped (including even Tim Scott, I suspect) to find anything of any relevance at all, because everything has changed. Is it not time abstract painting had such a change – or is that just not going to happen?

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    1. Robin,
      I really can´t comment on the history of sculpture, but it seems to me that painters have just about always been concerned with surface, space, colour, light and (yes) composition. But I don´t think that even Matisse was painting in order to invent some new formal solution to the painter´s problems. Maybe Frank Stella and some others inspired by Greenberg were doing this.

      It may sound trite, but I really do think it´s about getting something .. some thing .. out there that somehow embodies, reflects, resonates with, bears witness to (words fail) sentient existence. If in the course of doing that there is some kind of technical innovation then all well and good – future painters may well be grateful. But that´s not what it´s about.

      And looking to the past to see how others have worked is a stimulus for one´s own painting. I don´t think it even matters much if your theories and conjectures about past painting actually correspond to how these others thought about their work. Personal insights are probably more valuable to an artist than public theories, but it is gnawing at theories that can sometimes provide the insights.

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  51. I was reading an article about artificial intelligence yesterday and a certain section really sprang out at me.

    View story at Medium.com

    “The mind apparently does not see an image as a whole.
    Rather it sees the image as a composition of images and recognising the adjacent relationships of one to another.
    Why do adjacent relationships have such a strong effect on our visual perception?
    We have evolved to take advantage of affordances to allow our brain to reconstruct images more quickly.
    Said differently, our brains immediately recognises patterns that facilitates our interpretation of a scene. Our visual perception performs a kind of semantic inference automatically such that higher level semantic patterns can’t be ignored. That is why(certain optical illusions) cannot be “unseen”…”

    Not beautifully written but interesting.
    Abstract painting seems to play this game of visual laws whilst breaking all the rules. By creating visual affordances that are illogical yet somehow still functionary. Abstract painting may make use of elements of 3 Dimensional depth ; ” overlapping objects, diminishing scale, atmospheric perspective, vertical placement and linear perspective” but never in a sense of embodied ‘reconstruction’ – I.E: something we could physically interact with.

    How this kind of thinking would apply to abstract sculpture I can’t pretend to know at the moment. Gosh! Science can be very heady.

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    1. To bring it back to the man himself- Patrick Heron would often approach these ideas in his own writing- although never in these scientific terms . He would talk a lot about the rapid, punctual movement of the eye across a surface. He understood that being 3D creatures, our experience and therefore our art will always refer to some kind of embodied interactive “experience”- even in the most oblique of ways. I suppose he tried to harness this in his later career by abstracting from encounters with nature. But is this process of abstract TRANSDUCTION the way forward? Do we start with nature and attempt to “abstract” it? Or do we start with abstraction and attempt to coax into the work just as much “nature” as it can bear to hold? Is there a third path?

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  52. On Bonnard/Matisse:

    I’m more confident now that Bonnard was in fact “injecting” colour into something very much like drawing. It was in this “injection” that the painting really happened and not so much in the wooly dissolved rendering.

    Matisse allows his the paint to EXPLODE and engulf the drawing (again, the 1946 ‘Racaille Chair’ comes to mind). In this way he was “ahead” of Bonnard in ambition because Bonnard was still subservient to his drawing- more precious in his way.

    I find it very difficult to “unsee” the figurative content in Bonnard. With Matisse, it’s still a difficult experience but a more rewarding one for me on the whole.

    again- this shouldn’t be taken as a Bonnard ‘hit-job’. i still think the poor frenchie deserves his reputation.

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    1. Absolutely not. Drawing is a complete red herring as far as Bonnard is concerned. Yes, he made drawings to record his visual impressions, but there is no drawing involved in his painting at all. Somewhere there´s an account of how a frequent visitor to his studio observed how seemingly unconnected marks slowly grew together on the canvas over the course of days and weeks. Not unlike the reports of Cézanne´s working methods in his late paintings, and the evidence of his unfinished works.
      Matisse on the other hand has line all over the place, and line is mostly essential to his space. Just look at “The Red Studio” or any of his late interiors.

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      1. richard,

        red herrings and red studios!

        drawing for Bonnard doesn’t begin and end with the preliminary sketches-it continues all across the surface of his paintings. Matisse would often use black outlines- or outlines in general to demarcate space and describe outer contours but he is not drawing (haha) upon the same repertoire of draughtsmanship that Bonnard seems to – and deliberately so.

        also-in drawing it’s hardly a rare thing for elements to converge and “grow together” as you mention. In fact that’s pretty much how I draw myself- but that’s neither here nor there.

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  53. When Matisse said that Bonnard was the greatest of us all, he meant it. He meant that he and Bonnard shared many of the same formal ambitions, and that one had to look beyond the surface seductions, the slowly pondered encrustations of paint, even beyond the symphonic enrichment of Bonnard’s unique colour (a dream projected onto reality, as Matisse said of himself too), to the radical reordering of perception in Bonnard’s vision. All the most highly sought after qualities of the innovators, transparency of colour, simultaneity of presence, (Fried’s “presentness”), and the equal pressure from edge to edge, are taken to a pitch of enrichment in the best Bonnard’s, scattered in major collections around the world. “Academic”? I don’t think so.

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    1. Well, I do, judging be many of the Tate works. But maybe I haven’t seen the best Bonnards “scattered in major collections around the world”. Have you? And the Tate show – have you seen that?

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  54. See also my description of the Phillips collection Washington’s The Terrace 1918. A similar picture was in the Royal Academy’s Gardens exhibition a year or two ago. It is hard to believe that it is twenty years since the comprehensive Bonnard show at Tate Britain. Was it a bigger selection? Allegedly I have been influenced by Bonnard, but if so it is tangentially, via Heron. The influence of Bonnard on Heron’s Garden Paintings is deliberate, overtly nostalgic, but minimal. There is none of the crimble crumble of Bonnard’s painterliness. The touch is more akin to the moire silk qualities of the later Matisse, this also quite overtly recognised by the artist himself.

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      1. as far as i can tell (and I always prefer to speak from a position of ignorance) he’s really good at injecting naturalism with funky colour. But Matissean space is like a punch in the gut. “Interior with flowers and parakeets, 1924” is another great example. I’ve had a print of that painting on my wall since I was 11 and It still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

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  55. I remember Heron in the early eighties, following a trip to the States, saying how surprised he was at how heavily painted, how thick the paint layer was in Matisse’s Bathers by a River in Chicago, with its many revisions ( and it is a problematic picture, especially with those spiky leaves coming in from the left). He also saw some Bonnard’s on the trip which must have reminded him of his earlier enthusiasm, having been one of Bonnard’s chief advocates in this country. The influence fed into the first set of Garden Paintings. These appropriations are quite conscious, perhaps a little too deliberately so. But that’s what painters do. They absorb influences continuously from admired predecessors. So did Matisse. So did Cezanne. His drawings reveal a constant dialogue with past masters, and sculptors, all the way back to Michelangelo. But it’s important that they be the right influences.(right for you that is).
    The virtue of the themed hang in St, Ives and Margate is that it reveals these threads of connection, the self reflexive nature of Heron’s development ( even a touch of vanity). There’s an early picture, Little Parc Owles, 1946? which has all the scribble brushed pentimenti and interlocking irregular shapes which reoccur throughout his work, in, say, the Australian pictures almost fifty years later. And the Christmas Eve picture of 1951 anticipates the all encompassing linearity of the likes of 19 th July- 24 th August 1994.

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  56. I hate to interrupt this fascinating debate on painting and its values by bringing in the dreaded sculpture; but surely the point about ‘figuration’ is that very recently (in art historical terms) it was found, in its purely mimetic form at least, to be no longer a viable way of proceeding by ambitious artists. The Cezanne’s, Matisses, et al HAD to turn to alternative ways of seeing and looking (at Nature) if they were to find a new path for their art and a new vision of the world, which said anything significant. The famous quote from Matisse ” I don’t paint what I see, but what I feel about what I see says much.
    In sculpture , of course, the problem was even more acute owing to the dominance of the figure as subject matter and I cannot see any way that mimetic sculpture can continue to yield anything but recapitulative results. The comparatively tortured progress of XXth C. sculpture proves the point.
    I note that in the discussions,many of the examples in painting quoted rely on a subverted form of figuration nonetheless, and I am not sure that any of the ariists involved would want to use the term ‘abstract’.Presumably, Modrian is the purest example to date,and must form some sort of criterion. But I am not sure whether even he used the term since he was rather keen on a spiritualist basis for his art..
    In this respect. could it be that sculpture at the moment has fewer problems to contend with ?

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    1. Yes, I agree with most of that Tim (apart from the bit about Mondrian and purity – who cares?) and It’s well past time all these painters who rave on about their heritage bring themselves to address the progress being made now by abstract sculpture, and put a lot more effort into trying to work out how painting might learn to change. I’d like to see a lot more experimental stuff happening.

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  57. Forgive the distraction from a really excellent thread of discussion ,about things visual.However I attended the Symposium on Abstract Art Now and sat through 6 hour long ramblings by academics ,with no mention of anything visual.Why are they highjacking Abstraction ,as a starting point for discussion of semiology? Organised by the university of Gloucester,in the wonderfull galleries,in front of Irvin ,Pollock Hoyland et al.There were 3 huge white screens on which the words intention and context were written.What ornithology is to birds in flight came to mind.Heron was mentioned,the picture plane came up once ,but otherwise there was nothing I recognised,like going into the cinema and realising after half an hour ,it was the wrong film.

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  58. Returning to the subject, on Heron, Bonnard and Matisse, and the comparison between the two Window paintings of 1925 — both pictures share common devices, but of the two the Matisse is the more conventionally, ie. rationally organised.
    In the Bonnard the space between the window panes and the foregrounded table is almost non existent, so that the windows which must open inward could never be opened. The eau de nil balustrade or bar diagonal “outside” the window similarly has almost no space distance between it and the window frames. The right hand window pane is occluded by blue/green bands which are front on to the plane of the picture, ie. perspectivally inaccurate, and out of the central window mullion there appears what seems to be the balcony of an adjacent house with ornamental arabesque infilling, and no information as to how it comes to be there or connect architecturally. Then we notice the partially hidden figure of someone standing in the balcony. But again there is no rational perspectival link with the presumed room of the main image.
    In the left hand bottom corner there is an opened out box reduced in scale, where it should loom larger in the foreground, and illuminated to near white in accordance with the overall high keying of the colour. So that the landscape view “through” the window, although having a suggestion of aerial perspective, is in fact as strongly saturated as anything else in the picture, and is continuous with the colour key of the interior wall spaces. Only the items on the table are slightly more strongly accented, and some of the bushes in the garden “ beyond”.
    The integrity of the picture plane, a phrase which I hesitate to use, but which is apt in this case, also allows for a tension between flatness and depth as keen as in any modern picture, ie. any figurative modern picture.
    One would have to return to a detailed analysis of Heron’s conversion to Abstraction, by way of Rothko, to advance this discussion further. Can painting evince a palpable sense of “depth” without at the same time the sense that that depth is mediated by the presence of material objects? Yes it can, as Heron was to find out.

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    1. Yep, you’ve made the Bonnard sound as incoherent as it looks. For example, that stupid half-figure with a door-handle out the back of it’s head! Is that intentional?

      The Matisse is in no way conventional, spatially or otherwise, but nor is it mashed-up like the Bonnard. Even worse is the latter’s ‘Summer’ 1917, the biggest work in the Tate, a crazy garden landscape that is romantically unhinged, with yet more stupid figures and screwed-up colour.

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      1. By contrast, this is what I wrote about the Matisse “Roses” a while back:

        …the build-up of spatial tension and warp is fantastic, as the room bends, the street outside presses, and the table edge and window-sill together pinch, nip and tip the back corner of the upturned table plane, where the vase sits, towards the viewer. I’d say it’s one of Matisse’s greatest paintings, and I’d take it in preference to most of his more feted examples from the “radical” years. Actually, I’m not so sure why I am so drawn to it, but I think it is down to the feel of the space, how it is constructed, which is far from naturalistic or volumetric… the spatiality is very particular and focussed, in a decidedly pictorial way. I’d strongly resist the idea that it is in any way ambiguous, but then nor does it feel locked down. I see this work as a big moment in painting.

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      2. To put the boot in, just a little, here is a wonderful Cezanne still-life – “Plate of Apples”, 1874, that surpasses Bonnard’s two table-top still-lives from the MET – his best work in the Tate show.

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  59. Robin

    The problem is hagiography. simple

    Tim

    abstract sculpture has the same problems as painting I think. Or rather the problems they share are more meaningful then the ones they don’t. you want something that feels alive and thrilling but not anthropomorphic or dependent on illusion- which would be playing the rules of perception on its own terms. Perhaps it’s just the rhetoric and the history that differs. abstract painting has a lot of Freudian father figures.

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    1. I don’t agree. If abstract sculpture has problems, they are nothing to do with figurative sculpture, but their very own, and worth continuing with. Whereas abstract painting often seems to be still scrambling around with figuration and/or design and composition. Not to mention the tiresomeness of its immersion in issues of colour and how it is applied in frontal patches.

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  60. It’s not hagiography, Ethan. This intransigent fixation on Cezanne’s kind of spatial organisation , and Matisse in so far as he echoes Cezanne, precludes access to the whole of modern painting. No wonder Robin can see only incoherence where I was describing a radically different way of organising spatial sensation.

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    1. Alan,

      Cezanne and Matisse are my favourite painters. I’ve defended them in many conversations with cool trendy artists who think they’re “old hat”. But at the end of the day, like yourself, I don’t like seeing my favourite painters dissed. But its far more useful to me know where the difference lies- between different artists and their own ideas about what abstraction is. It wouldn’t be much fun if everyone just nodded and agreed that Matisse or Bonnard was great- even if that greatness seems guarenteed ( whatever happened to Faulkner?) and I’m not so confident in myself as to say that I never misinterpret or misread the intentions or accomplishments of artists from time to time. .

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    1. Romantically unhinged naturalism. That’s a good description of “Summer”, 1917, and a few others in the Tate.

      Personally, I wouldn’t want to make paintings that echo Cezanne’s or Matisse’s spatial organisations (which is not the full story, in any case), nor wish to derive my own work from the more recent history of modernist abstraction, as per the stuff you think is so important that we just cannot ignore it. But I can relate to the painterly ambition of Cezanne, Pissarro, Monet and Matisse, alongside a hundred others who came before (and a few after). I see inventive ambition in painters as diverse as van Eyck, Durer, Tintoretto, Rubens, Poussin, Goya, Courbet, etc., even that chap Ribera whom you dismissed as irrelevant to the “modernist” project. Ha! I love lots of very diverse figurative painting. I just don’t love much new stuff that calls itself abstraction. It isn’t a sin to like older stuff, and the newer stuff you defend to the hilt is not an absolute necessity. Such an approach looks more and more like a way to drive painting into a standstill.

      How about you and your own work? Going up or going down? Moving on or standing still? Better not answer, eh?

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  61. Ethan – “the same problems…” yes, but only for their resolution (as abstract). The bases of its resolution differ radically.
    A painter puts down a blob (it is of course a personal blob and has some identity as such). But the blob can immediately and easily be seen as a cat, a cloud, a penknife or whatever – illusion.
    I assume that to be truly abstract the artist must divest it, and any subsequent buildup of illusion first and foremost, in order to inject it with the desired superior aims of colour, texture, ,movement, direction, space, atmosphere, invented form etc., etc. that will speak only of themselves to convey the intended feeling and purpose.

    The sculptor puts up a piece of material. very little identity but some; it conveys,unwittingly, recognition – recognition as a three dimensional thing – an object of the known world.
    Again to be truly abstract, the artist must eliminate this ‘objectness’ and ‘recognition’ to inject it, and all subsequent building of material, with the superior aims of invented form invested with movement, direction, spatial coherence, physicality etc., etc. to convey the intended feeling and purpose.

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    1. Tim –
      very well put.

      we seem to be on the same square here. But I still think the problems of abstract painting and abstract sculpture really are more similar than they are different- even though sculpture has a whole dimension of difference to painting (which a sculptor like yourself would be very conscious of). The supreme emphasis of form over everything-the need to evince the nature of structure- avoiding or inverting cliche’s about space and composition etc. are the most important elements of abstraction.

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  62. Here are some of Robin’s responses to Bonnard’s art. — in an increasingly strident crescendo — “pretty unrelated- pretty sloppy – pretentious – ( without) genuine painterly ambition – perverted – hopelessly incoherent – academic – crazy – the pits – rubbish – stupid – mashed up – screwed up —“
    Giving assent or otherwise to a work of art as a critic in the end involves conscious judgement — to savour and weigh and (hopefully) not find wanting. If you are not prepared to savour, there is nothing to weigh, and your response is meaningless, Little more than thumbing one’s nose at the artist. There are exceptions, for instance when the artist’s self presentation is fraudulent. Supply your own examples.

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  63. Come on now! Its no sin to dislike Bonnard. This needn’t become a “who’s more cultured” competition.

    its a distraction from the real issues at hand here- too often great conversations about abstraction and art just drift into a theoretical “boxing match” between people’s favourite painters. Why?

    Are we here to pimp our influences or what?

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  64. “Inventive ambition” –
    Confronted with several square feet of pigment-covered canvas, without any contextual information, what might seeing “inventive ambition” consist in? Without context it can’t be anything dependent on the artist’s historical situation or role in “advancing” painting.
    An isolated, contextless van Dyck can’t tell you that it’s advancing aspects of Rubens and Titian or making Gainsborough possible.
    My guess is that it is something akin to individuality in the painting that comes across in this way, and something like authenticity; individuals being inherently unique but their lies less so.

    “Composition”
    Paintings need composition because they are bounded by an edge. This finitude is an essential property of a painting. Composition/surface pattern/structure/acknowledging the edge is an important opportunity to impart life to a painting – to avoid arbitrariness and objecthood.
    I suspect that the equivalent factor in sculpture is “getting to the floor” (including in Robin’s case “getting to the ceiling”) – an unavoidable issue that has to be dealt with and a missed opportunity if it is not treated with respect.
    If painting and sculpture did not have issues like these to be dealt with they would lose their ability to communicate. It is no shortcoming to be scrambling around with composition. It’s one of the things that painters do. One of rather few basic “issues” that allows them to make art that is alive.

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  65. Rishard – I agree entirely with your comment on ‘ground’ and ‘frame’ All art forms have to have a hermetic ‘world of their own whether it be the verses of a poem or the movements of music.
    Perhaps we should also leave that loaded vocabulary – ‘advance. ‘progress’,’invention’, to the engineers and scientists ?
    Composition. surely. simply means a type of order, which again any art work must have, The real question being of course WHAT sort of order ?

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  66. The paradox among many is that Robin ought to like Bonnard since his work embodies the irrationality and freedom from constraint, the total freedom from the norms of rational “construction”,’ or “structure”, the crazinesss that he advocates for sculpture. He clearly cannot accept it in this form, or cannot see the link between his words and others’ deeds.
    The deeper paradox is that Robin claims to be a prophet of the “fully abstract”, and yet cannot name a single abstract painting he likes. The pioneers of Abstraction, Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, were good when still Semi- figurative, but when they moved on into Abstraction, fell off, according to Robin. How one is expected to get from Cezanne’s marriage of three dimensional illusion, trompe l’oeil, and “in your face” solid space, whilst discounting the paths in that endeavour trodden by Braque, Picasso, Matisse, and later Mondrian, is an abiding mystery.
    “Naturalism” is Constable, Corot in certain aspects, the Barbizon School, Theodore Rousseau, Daubigny, the low horizon perspectival recession of early Monet and Pissarro.
    But as the impressionists became increasingly obsessed with the adumbration of larger modelled zones of richly embroidered colour, which inevitably rise to the surface of the panel, they encountered the need for a resolution of surface pattern with the rise and fall of colour-engendered spatial illusion. Hence the “crisis of Impressionism”. Bonnard is thus a symphonist of this late phase of Impressionism. But that’s not all he is.
    His work covers a wide range of possibilities. The large “Summer”1917 is like a cartoon for a tapestry. (Maybe it was one). It is a throwback to the flat patterning of his Nabis phase. That’s only one string to his bow. The Window 1925 is another. And these various “styles” tend to merge into one another. Of particular interest is the way he allows variegated zones of colour to pass through his figures, the drawn silhouettes of which are like ghostly presences distended and flattened into their blankets of colour. In this he offers an alternative to Matisse’s freeing or separation of drawn outline from the coloured areas which define a plane.

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    1. “…cannot name a single abstract painting he likes”… Do stop this unwarranted criticism or bugger off.

      https://abstractcritical.com/article/gillian-ayres-paintings-from-the-50s/index.html

      https://abstractcritical.com/article/alan-davie-space-and-spontaneity/index.html

      And do bear in mind too all the essays I have written in praise of figurative painting. You might think these are irrelevant to painting now, or rather, YOUR painting now, but that’s your screwed-up “linear” ideas. For example, Constable was no “naturalist”, and beyond measure a far better painter than Bonnard, and still more relevant to “wholeness” in painting than Bonnard was, which your “wide range of possibilities” seems to admit – in other words, he was all over the place. “Cartoon for a tapestry” is one lame excuse for a bad painting.

      I’m still keen to know how you yourself fit in to the great project that is modernist abstraction, because it looks pretty dead in the water to me. Are you reviving it? With my modest previous question, I was certainly NOT traducing you work (like you have mine).

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  67. “Better not answer, eh?” — I’m afraid you are not going to get me to justify my painting to you or anyone else. That’s not what an artist should be doing.
    What Robin really wants is for painting to engage a thorny pictorial dilemma, the paradox to which Cezanne built a monument, but NOT the same one Cezanne faced, since it arose from a deeply anachronistic attempt to return or reconcile late impressionist surfaceness with three dimensional illusion and his fondness for sculptural drawing derived from study of Puget, Michelangelo and the Greeks. (See Post Impressionism – a critique, Artscribe No 22, 1980.
    I have always disputed the claim that the Cubism of Braque and Picasso was an “advance” on Cezanne. But this does not mean that there is anything in his actual working methods that would prove fruitful today. That would be Cezannism all over again. His influence is inevitably one of general inspiration, in the spirit of Cezanne, to draw the fullest out of oneself and the means, and to allow the eloquence of “in the paint” imagination to flow unhindered by dogmatism. And that is what it has been for Picasso, Matisse, Braque and others.
    But such a dilemma, if there is one, must grow organically out of the engagement with as much of the means as one can handle. It cannot or should not be thought up as an intellectual aggression vis a vis predecessors, or a historical critique of the past imposed on one’s practice. That way leads to the kind of cerebral compulsion of so much of the addled art of today — ie an art driven by intelligence and will rather than the complete sensibility, as Heron put it.

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  68. PS. The idea that modernism is dead in the water is so last century. In music and architecture there has been an increasing recognition that the best achievements of the modernists are the only things we’ve got, that they form a template of quality (though not of idiom) that needs to be furthered and matched rather than dissed. See for instance the final chapter of William J Curtis’s Modern Architecture since 1900, and programme after programme on BBC 4 and Radio 3 at the time of the Millenial celebrations and subsequently.
    I do not use the term “modernist” except to refer to others’ writings. I use the words “truly modern painting” to distinguish the best from the reactionary preoccupations of dismal figurative painters or turgid expressionists.
    I thought the implication of your articles on Ayres and Davie was that they were not “fully abstract”, too Semi- figurative for you. But maybe I’m wrong.
    Don’t worry — I’ll be buggering off for good as soon as this thread is completed, ( since Pete Hoida drew me into it with a misremembered incident which never took place.)

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  69. Not for the first time, I would strongly recommend Heron’s essay on “Constable: Spatial Colour in Drawing”, not only for the focus on his extraordinary abilities with the pencil, but – perhaps more relevant to this discussion – Constable’s unique discovery of the broken surface in paint, an aspect of his work Heron describes as “spectacularly potent and lastingly revolutionary”. It became the new means to an end engaged in by the Impressionists, and also with Cezanne and his broken hatching. Unfortunately, I don’t really see it taken to any strong end by Bonnard.

    As a great writer, Heron singularly and correctly recognises Constable’s achievement in this aspect of his work, and does so right at the start of this excellent essay, without any confusion with “naturalism”. Personally, I find Heron’s written contribution in this and other essays to our understanding of the development of painting greater than that made by much of the content of his own work.

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  70. Heron would have seen that last remark as perhaps the biggest insult one could make of him. I thoroughly recommend Matt Dennis’s article on the Margate show in Instantloveland. In fact I’d cut straight from Emyr’s article to Matt’s.

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  71. And absolutely finally from me — Matt Dennis’s article alerted me to Heron’s essay on Late Picasso, which he considers influenced the last set of Garden Paintings (those that survive). Here is an extract from the closing paragraph — “ But the huge debt to Matisse is in the very fundamental matter of the simple business of the way one brushes paint onto canvas. The luminous brush scribble, Semi transparent or opaque, which so ravished the eye in Luxe I , introduces the brilliance of colour brushed over large areas which itself has influenced all painting for the rest of the century. That picture was painted when Picasso and Braque were just venturing towards the rigid, opaque, almost monochrome surfaces of the first Analytical Cubist canvases. What is difficult to appreciate now is just how revolutionary Matisse’s brush scribble was, and how enduring as a continuously unfolding source of pictorial inspiration. without Matisse’s example, the Picasso’s of the last forty years of his life would have been utterly different. We’ve lived in a period of painting as great as any in history”.
    I’d add, that Bonnard is in there too, in spite of Picasso’s distaste.
    And so goodbye — finis — the end.

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  72. I recall very well that late Picasso show at Tate in 1988, and I thought at the time not only that it was amongst Picasso’s best period of work, but that – extraordinarily – it was a more exciting and dynamic show than the Hofmann “retrospective” that Hoyland organised, that preceded it that year, again, at Tate. Even now, I am somewhat at a loss to explain why the Picassos had such an impact, but they seemed to open out the space in a manner that made heavy, inventive, spontaneous distortion of the body into something very positive.

    And I’m with Picasso on Bonnard.

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  73. Here is a subtext.maybe unnecessary.The irony ,or tragedy ,depending on your perspective ,is that We are the Lost generation.Not for want of trying ,transatlantic shenanigans,endless ,discussions ,forums ,workshops etc.etc.Mountains of work,some of it very good indeed.A complete lack of curatorial courage ,intelligence or real understanding has meant the shows that should have propelled us into museum collections never happened,or are likely to emerge due to some late flowering of interest.The curators who should have been in the pub with the artists,don’t have the taste for the harrowing continuing ,because they could never experience the pleasure of pictorial or sculptural success,after years of frustration.We have slipped between the floor boards ,like spilt coffee.never to be quaffed.History will not judge us, just ignore us,like the 48% who voted Remain .Its political and the only thing to do is overturn the tables at every opportunity.Young Painters and Sculptors aren’t following the same Matisse ,Cezanne ,Picasso as we are ,they are geometric,rather than messy,minimal rather than over the top ,and clever in their waiting game.Apparently there is a new MFA at Goldsmiths dealing with Trauma ,not necessarily human but environmental.Thats where the new Art is and its not individualistic but collective .

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  74. And so say all of us – Patrick – BUT
    “…Young painters and sculptors are not following the same Matisse. Cezanne. Picasso as we are…” because they don’t HAVE a Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso as we had.
    It is a sad fact that no artist since the fifties has been able to provide the role. Plenty of pretenders, a multitude, but no certainty. We KNEW what to follow; they don’t,.

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    1. Thank you Tim,precisely .At 71 Im still in awe at the same artist That I was at 17 ,Matisse,and I have done the rounds.Sir Nicholas Serota could build Tate Modern ,but hasn’t changed anything ,except its got worse.Try getting a retrospective or survey show ,as an elder male in the UK,despite the commercial galleries and Arts Council.There is still downright hostility ,suspicion and hatred of Abstraction in Brexit Britain.

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      1. Both the Alan v Robin argument and your comment Patrick hit the same spot for me.
        That is, what are the aims of an abstract artist today?
        Some seem to long for something that has passed when what we have today is the possibility of really putting the Abstract artist first. We can be responsible for our own decisions and not look over our shoulders and wonder what history might say.
        Tate does not hate Abstract Art. It is simply responding to a change in social behaviour where artists are being produced in large numbers and generating huge cash flow for universities.
        There has to be opportunities for them to recoup their idea of investment.

        This is not the Freedom I feel we want or need.
        The massive overhaul of Abstract sculpture over the last 40 years could not have come about in this curated world we now see as essential to conceptual art.
        That Art and curation are inseparable and is team decision making, for projects previously the responsibility of the sculptor. Abstract sculpture today has had to be removed from that kind of organisation in an attempt to full fill the promise and expectation of being Abstract with Freedom. This Abstract with Freedom being central to that ambition now and going forward.
        If we do not talk about the now, and in specific terms, others would be forgiven for thinking we are bogged down with the knowledge of history and don’t have our own wisdom to move forward.

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  75. Some great comments here.Vis a vis Emirs article,the best Painting in the Albert Irvin show is by Peter Lanyon ,called St Ives,about 67?It knocks everything else out of the room,up against Pollock,Hoyland etc.That means England had something going for it in the 50s and 60s in Cornwall,with Gabo ,Hepworth,Hilton,Lanyon and Heron.Of course they’ve been living on it ever since without extending the tradition one jot.However now we are all spread across the country ,doing what we can but I feel a focus is needed very badly to get back to anything like an internationally significant movement ,despite our individual contributions .

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  76. Its no use getting upset up about the Tate and post modernism making everything tacky- that stuff’s not even very fashionable right now.

    young people will come back to modernism the same way they came back to vinyl. Maybe that sounds dumb but – it’ll come back around. People will rediscover Matisse and Cezanne and Picasso.

    Modernism never died- it was just put on ice.

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    1. I hope you are right, Ethan, though somehow I doubt that what we are led to believe are the ‘achievements’ of post modernism and all that it entails can remotely match those of post vinyl aural technology.
      The problem is that I, and I am sure many others, are a little tired of being in the freezer.
      As I said in my earlier article it is about timeTate et al.got round to a little democracy and started in addition to the advocacy of trendiness and fashion,showing what is really going on as well.in other ‘modern; worlds despite the claim of their demise.

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    2. I hope you are right, Ethan, but somehow I doubt that the ‘achievements’ (?) of post modernism et al. are a match for the advances in post vinyl aural technology !
      However, as I said earlier in my article, it would be nice it Tate and co. showed a little more interest in democracy by including in their programmes, as well as their advocacy of fashion and trendiness, an acceptance that another world exists despite it being written off as deceased.
      The trouble is I, along with many others, am tired of being in the freezer in what is supposed to be a ‘liberal’ country.

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  77. “young people will come back to modernism the same way they came back to vinyl. Maybe that sounds dumb but – it’ll come back around. People will rediscover Matisse and Cezanne and Picasso.

    Modernism never died- it was just put on ice.”

    The significance of modernism – the reason why it came into being – is to acknowledge that the existence of an art (like painting, sculpture, etc.) cannot be taken for granted (because no tradition can any longer perform that function or gather the spiritual authority to make its continued existence self-evident. Therefore, the faith that modernism “never died” or may “come back” is contrary to the spirit of modernism. An artistic medium like painting has a human history, meaning that it is born, and it can die.

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    1. Yes Carl – you are right in saying that the need for art could die out – or be replaced by something else ?
      But the urge to paint or make sculpture has been constantly reappearing in human culture since the stone age or even before – so the likelihood is that the urge will re-surface at some point after ‘death’; and since the last known manifestation of achievement will be ‘Modernism’, that is what will have to be built on if history is the guide.

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  78. Obviously Id like Tony and Tims optimism ,which maybe pertains to Sculpture.Next weekend Im going to Robins Brancaster for some perceptive and impartial discussion ,I hope.Sadly almost everybody needs to continually self promote,in order to survive.Abstract Painting is in a terrible state,alternatively conservative and minimal,everybody doing it ,my electrician has his own studio and takes the piss everyday.Its just an extra income ,the british couldn’t tell a good one from a bad one.They have no criteria.I miss Clem and Formalism,as at least it could decide colour needed to be reduced to mid -tone greys,as a group dynamic.Nowadays anything goes,its open season and as depressing as hell.Altho I AM surviving and selling work,consistantly…Lets see what Robins doing with oil paint ,as the painting looks like its taking a leaf from the Sculpture.Fascinating!

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