Studio Talk; Old Fashioned Painting
Without question. And this is why.
When you write write softly.
Our guest this evening is John Havens Thornton Boston painter and teacher at the Massachusetts College of Art.
On the panel this evening are in the moments assistant professor of Massachusetts College involve working during President fol. associates.
When I ask you about doing this program you said that you'd like to talk about old fashioned painting and you are not an old fashioned thing so I'll explain.
Well I knew you were going to ask me that and as I was coming over I was thinking what my response would be and I think I might as well I could clean breast of it by oh fashion painting I kind of really mean school of Paris painting and there are lots of ways of kind of hedging around it and saying let's go in Paris assess the school of Paris more.
You know if everything from about 900 10 to about like the Second World War and all the great figures of French art as it were who much more I know of Brock because our sugar our leisure. So and I would teach you know expand it to include people like Clay and me around and I would and they had a attitude toward painting making nice paintings painterly paintings well painted paintings easel paintings oil paintings cabinet pictures and the whole phrase both school and Paris and that kind of painting has fallen into disrepute as it were I guess because of what's happened in this country since the Second World War. But I still have a great affection for that kind of work and those artists and what they did and so I admit it now my friends ridiculed me for my bad taste for liking such a sort of out of date thing and so I would call it old fashioned in that respect. And.
What you're calling old fashion is something that the lay public would look at and call Modern Art.
Well I guess you might say but remember this lay public it was you know this is pretty happening what with popping off and a lot of other manifestations that are there very highly publicized that they they consider themselves to be quite vocal of the latest trends and what's going on so I think in a way they might possibly think that the kind of painting I'm talking about is modern art but I think they would say larger in our mind.
Do you think that the abstract expressionists were part of the movement of pulling away from what you're terming old fashioned painting.
Well no actually yes and no and that's another thing too is that not only do I like old fashioned or and call myself an old fashion artist but I also call myself an abstract expressionist.
When I use the term in a much broader sense than it usually is abstract expressionism is usually used to define just a few painters in New York who really they would like to categorize under the name of action painting perhaps.
Whereas with abstract expressionism that term I would like to embrace people like convince Paul clay and go all the way back to the turn of the century. So I think what you're referring to there is sort of what happened in New York after the Second World War and that did indeed make a break with the previous kind of the well painted picture and it introduced all kinds of other elements into what we call painting.
In retrospect when we look back at the abstract expressionists from what is happening today I must admit they base certain feeling that these paintings are very much within the realm of old fashioned painting your addition of thing beginning with the Father as it were of America and I was struck expressionism is first of all European by birth and by feeling he's primarily an oil painter and an easel painter the majority of his work has been not particularly large the whole Women series and not one of them exceed 60 inches in width.
And he is really he has a feeling for painting for a nice paint quality in a handsomely put together painting is a lot more to his work than just that it's not really this pretty but it's primarily that I try to think of John trying to think of what the painters that you've mentioned have in common.
And it's seems to me that the only thing that they have in common is that they all make paintings with a brush.
And when you mentioned old fashioned This of course implies some kind of new fashioned something and then the next question is Well what.
What would this new fashion and I think it's newfangled whole new fashion. What what is new that would make the old fashion and then the next step would be well. For example paintings done without a brush things done with electricity. Paintings which have pushed out from the wall becoming relief and so forth.
So all those I would categorize in the in the other in the on the other side of the wall. I was a refresher in Boston who who would come up one of my paintings and he would get long and silently and he'd finally say have you got a nice wrist.
You know it was all a wrist action and that's really what Kerry does much of brushes you can use a palette knife and a rag a lot of other ways to put paint on but it is that thing that you do with your head holding an implement which applies paint to a flat surface.
And so you might categorize the painting is as large but not too large flat. Always and usually showing the mark of the artist's head.
And this would be different from almost all constructivists or in which be the hand of the artist is pretty much removed or isolated.
And it would also eliminate all.
All near 0.0 or dot art which tries to eliminate this gesture painted by it see it seems that the Dada painters want one of the things that they were revolting about if I remember correctly was the so-called French aesthetic. Sure people would like to call it high cuisine of paint cookery on all the lovely juicy pasta it was and glazes and things were got to be quite you know decadent and I can see why that was a terrific reaction to that kind of thing when you look at some of the school Paris the sort of second string or third string school Paris painters.
They're pretty weak artistes and they were they were basically making decorations wall decoration. But it just seems a shame to throw out what is it the baby with the bathwater to throw out all of what the great school parents artist taught us or you know gave us his or her tears just to try to do something no one.
Well he'd let us. Well they g they taught us a sensitivity to color and shape and form and composition and movement and the lessons of what life does that have to do with our problems today.
What are my sins on him now. Well I'm thinking now in terms of emotional intellectual problems of identity.
That's what I was about to say we say just to do something new that this misses much of contemporary art with just a gesture of the hand you know. But I think after just put the question to you it seems to me that with changing times other art forms come to the surface out of necessity and it may very well be just as other art forms in centuries past have given way to too new for new ideas that it's very possible that the so-called school of Paris or even abstract expressionist movement must now give way to other ideas which are much more much more current and more deeply embedded in this decade as they were embedded in the last decade.
You know well and I.
To me what that presumably means is examining the processes of your model and where the ideas come from what they look like when they do come out to me painting. Now the interesting areas that being the exciting sort of frontier painting lies really on the frontier of the mind in the frontier psychiatry's the frontier of psychological understanding of yourself and the kind of shapes which we put in our reactions to colors and shapes and forms from a psychological point of view. Are the new and interesting area that was something that was really done were pre World War Two and and in Europe and this can still be done with oil with with sort of old fashioned oil paint drying. Right. And that's that. The kind of point I'd like to make is that you can read the gamut of expression with all fashion oil paint it's really terrific. The first Lichtenstein's I saw apart Lichtenstein's were oil painting so they were particularly big. You know everyone things with oil paint so I'd better stay with me.
It is rather how much pain. That's right it's a classic but what isn't proof. No it doesn't prove anything it just proves it is a is a nice deep rich vein to continue working in and just to explore it with some new materials and new media is not really enough it's ideas new ideas that are important not so much.
Now why were you talking about the the rich painterly quality of the French school I'm reminded of the first show that I saw in New York and it hit New York like a big sledgehammer because all of the refinements of painting were pretty well removed from the New York scene at that time the Abstract Expressionist were moving and kind of taking over and civilize was was a great. Kind of look remember the great tradition of painting.
But the interesting thing to me is that the civilized paintings didn't last in terms of their good friends Clyde completely overshadowed him and there was such a fast and that was one of the great contrasts that almost proved the vitality of the New York school because Franz Kline in a sewer was next to each other there's a lot of look like history can make it look like a book cover more commercials duration whereas the France Klein had about it and a sincerity an awkwardness.
Oh I don't want to see a ruinous to it which was vitality which was everything about fidelity. And it was the way they approached the painting now.
I am an American and I had to you know ignore that heritage it just be foolish and there is a rawness and there is a bigger almost a physical vigor to American painting.
And there is an honesty all the way from Copley and Winslow Homer to the present day a kind of directness whereas the civil laws as a whole deal with many places in sort of very deep lustrous effects whereas the French guns were just a can of white paint a can of black paint and him.
So there is a difference there's a tremendous difference in quality between the two that I remember has a great impact because we have not seen that type of surface and within the movement and then to see it and it held great fascination with remember the event it's been only winners at that time they were people like this yeah.
And Basie you know this is this sort of third string group and they were lovely players but they just didn't have what you were speaking of that is that is the stuff somebody do something to communicate something and that's where I'm interested.
Leeward and bird do you believe John that there has been a loss of sensitivity to shape and color and movement. You indicated no the things that were most strongly taught by the ole fashioned school.
Well no I wouldn't say there's really been no loss as far as sensitivity should go and movement after all look at current fashions and all the resurgence of work nouveau designs and I think I would I would say very definitely yes there's been a tremendous You think this seems to me that looking at many of the hard edge painters and a good deal of the art part that there is a unique lack of sensitivity to the result of the sledgehammer as it were I would think I wouldn't mind that because outburst as that of an Mondrian does it they hit you pretty hard. But somehow in the development of it there's a feel for the shape and the relationships that this lady is not just doesn't have.
Well the other two were I think there has been a definite loss and Isaac is so much a loss is because there never was much of that to begin with.
But there's not much response to the spirit of the artist know that he's to his to his personal spirit to his intimate spirit this is pretty much overlooked.
And I have a feeling that the museum show and the museum kind of painting has been partially responsible for that because when you paint a painting pre-suppose even a big painting you think in your mind Gee how would that look up on the wall Museum of Modern Art and you know people are going to come in this room and every all these different paintings right he was only sucking really does hit you right away. And so you eliminate all those little subtleties perhaps or a thought which might be too delicate or too weak or too sensitive and you pick up something which is much more immediate much more powerful and in doing that I think perhaps some sensitivity is lost if if you're well if you make a very large painting I think that just as Franz Kline did.
In order just to physically cover the surface you've got to paint safe from your shoulder and all the little wrist actions that are both scum Billings and delicacies are have to be ignored in order in order to just physically cover this canvas with paint. So so instead of instead of almost accusing the painters of big paintings with being insensitive they have they had to develop a different approach in order to physically cover the paint the surface when you have knowledge of what why and when you think of the grand shot.
The Seraph's painting you certainly you know that's a large painting and that it's made up of little violence and some of the big coulee that I see a lot of little women when we said now I thought he meant late say let's say from the middle of the 50s to the 60s I mean the last six years because there hasn't been much much big handsome painting at least shown in the last six years. It's big powerful painting big mo meaning big meaning big you know strong single statement meaning like No still. But as far as having subtleties of surface to there hasn't been much of it you know.
We were going for I think a lot so that you could describe the difference in terms of less attention to content. Perhaps that's a lesson I think that maybe what you're trying to say when you say a single statement painting Don't you think that's a characteristic of old fashioned painting too that there was more attention to content. I definitely you know I think so and I think it's a loss that that that there is now or has been since 1920 and so on.
Well the tension to content you know I would end and I would say from this very for me for this specific point of view a painting or a work of art is to me pleasurable or valuable because it is well you might say the coherent expression of personal records the artist personality or his thoughts at the time and when you go in the middle in front of us and you see an Egyptian meaning. Piece of sculpture and it's as if in that piece of rock is in view of all of the sensitivity of a man several thousand years ago who made this. And so it's a fascinating thing to walk in front of. Well when this quality of personal sincere personal expression is eliminated for from Haiti in an attempt to make machines as it were which will deafened your public or get your name on the cover of Time magazine you you lose you lose the purpose of painting to me you lose what painting is really all about that expression of personality however complicated or sensitive it may be.
You know very often the discussion comes to some sort of a at cleavage like we have right now. And the defense I've usually heard of the painter the last decade is that what he is trying to do is express. He is so involved in his time in this in the current chaos of the world that what he is trying to do is express this hardness this coldness this impersonality this dehumanization of the world and therefore that is what he is putting on there. And therefore it is that which is he is a deep personal expression.
Well now that's interesting Lee because when I was New York I lived nearly 62 I spent a couple of years before I left New York beginning a series of paintings which were expressing just exactly that they were people who were all caught up and dismembered and trapped and imprisoned I remember doing one particular couple heads that were on a like a prison photograph and they were all covered with numbers sort of stencil and oh and I said exactly what you just said right there.
It just finally occurred to me that.
That this was a kind of protest painting this was like letters home from summer camp by a 12 year old boy complains about her six year old boy complains about the food you know what the council just beat me. Oh and I don't really think this is what an artist is best at doing I think art is his best doing something I love something and I think something is perfect and something is beautiful and I'm going to try to record that feeling with that thing somehow or other and not to complain about the way the world is but to try to find even perhaps in a chaotic world that which is that which is coherent and that which is to him beautiful.
But how can you do that in the midst of all of this chaos in the midst of well the best way to come to Boston to give that is unlike the rest of the world here.
Is like a little god water it's very lovely and I think the word because it relieves you and I live on Beacon Hill I live in a house that's 70 80 years old and most of the houses are under a lot older and they have brick sidewalks and gas lamps and what does that mean in a sense or do you have a deliberately does that mean in the sense that you have deliberately separated yours out from the way the offered trick.
You're not involved in the art of the intense variances in that I am not I wouldn't as you know also I would I would modify your statement there John just a little bit I don't know whether you're you're in the business of necessarily recording something. You might you might be in the business of out of the chaos that you find yourself in creating something that is coherent.
You may not find the coherence in what you're living in but in your own work you can find it and I think that that an important distinction.
I get up sometimes in the morning and you feel you know if you're slightly or slightly confused that the Bills have mounted on your desk and the kids the chewing wife says get to work and so on and it is a moment in one day when you kind of wish that they didn't begin at all.
And I go to the phonograph I put on a party that is played by my my friend Clint cool and use that word loosely and it restores my faith in the fact that there is water because the properties of bark are are the most orderly of music and they are the most logical of music and when you hear them somehow or other you feel that there is reason there is right there is logic to this world and it makes you go out.
You like all science and music are like off actual music. That's right. I'm going my way. The Book of it answering Lee.
Other media of our time have taken over the protest. At one time the artist was the primary probably the primary vehicle for any kind of protests as can be seen in Goa especially. Yeah a non-A and so forth. But with the advent of press photography journalism you know press German journalism French press photography and especially with television protest can be brought into the home in such a direct and immediate form that it certainly supersedes anything that the artist could ever have done and I think that over the in the the first part of the 20th century we found that artists have slowly outside possibly of the castles Danica which is really quite an isolated case. Artists and possibly Katy coverts and George Gross who are probably the greatest social protesters protesters of this of the century outside of them we fine artists.
Turning to more of a statement of concern with Fawn and then with social protest because other media have certainly much much more powerful influence than paintings do not time.
Well Mary I agree with you there. There is a terrible trap and that at least to my mind that is the trap of constructivism.
And I know you are a construct of this artist and to me I think I find is that an opposite pole because I think that there is still something left to express which says a lot about the World Cup Guston who well we may or may not like I don't know whether I'd really like it any more myself but his work at least does express a kind of an anxiety or and nxt which is common to all men so that even though he is working with what seemed to be quite formal problems he is able to express some of the tensions of our age in very formal. Right now for work.
The reason I said that I constructed it was because I spent several years as an adult resigning and I felt humanized by the process of that and I felt that you could design the most beautiful telephone or dish washer in the world and it still would record none of the real soaring beauty of personality or of. He mystic beauty.
Well I think I feel that there are many areas many aesthetic areas and expressive areas and I certainly feel that there is room for both are if there are more for many of them.
OK. And I wouldn't I would not agree with you on that. Granted that you don't get from a dishwasher. You know what she what you could get used to monitor it. But this was really good. It was a thing.
Well I don't think that I'm willing to us would be willing to assume that just because something as constructive as that is not dealing with human problems. Yeah it's real you know ised in any sense.
Well you know the thing of Mondrian is it wanted to be able to telephone the painting really up to his printer and you know in the printer and oversee the graph paper and he had a sheet of graph paper and being able to communicate his idea over the telephone you don't write it in. And there are some words today like Franks to the style and Kenneth Noland who tried to remove the artist's personality or his feelings as much as possible.
Well not only that I not only those throughout US but there is was a call a group Anonymous Armaan anonymous cyber 0 0 0 of the Where where are they don't sign their paintings I and they they prefer to produce audio which in essence is anonymous you don't know who did it.
This is another manifestation of our age of course and I don't think we can reject it but rather view it as a one aspect of them obviously rich.
Kind of odd the sensitivity that some of these discussions is that it seems like it isn't just that there's one kind of thing called hard anymore there's a whole lot of them and it's exciting and you know I really like Lichtenstein's work a lot I think and love art is extremely perceptive and funny and poignant touching stuff.
And there's no reason why you and a lot of other kinds of art can exist side by simultaneously. Well the the tragedy is that well you know I was soon that that many many years ago. That an artist would paint and if new movements develop during his lifetime he would see he still painted in his own particular way his own idiom and was can continue to be recognised like. I'm sure that Rouleau who lived you know almost right through the first half of the 20th century saw three four five different movements are born on. And yet he continued to paint unaffected by this research whereas today we're living a kind of public relations world and the artist has two or three years in which to make it. The movement the relics has a 10 year span at the most and then suddenly everybody feels that they're all old hat and useless.
And you don't hear them again or listen nobody five artists under 40 whatever you know it's a kind of when you're a writer you know I think it's a it's a kind of tragic development because I'm sure that many of these artists don't deserve to be ordered once they have.
Having participated in a movement which which came to light such as the Abstract Expressionist suddenly you don't hear from them anymore even though they continue to paint on. And I as I say I think it is a public relations certainly a public relations world and it's not terribly healthy for the artist in that sense of the word and another way of expressing that is that.
God that must be worshiped as the God of being totally contemporary totally involved. Illusion of the new. You know that's the tradition of the new is a good way to put it too.
And I think this is takes a terrible toll and it also completely eliminates the idea of it. To my mind genuine person no productivity and protest. Now for example I think that the idea of saying as John said that a key factor behind his painting is that he loves something and wants to express the idea that I love something whatever it may be. That's a kind of protest too. And I think a very effective and loud protest in our time when not very many people are saying I love something. People are very clearly defining what they hate and clearly defining what they are against and what they're supposedly protesting. But there aren't many who are willing to be in that corny that committed that personally laid out on the table in front of everybody has to say I love something.
Well I would like if I could answer that. I think that. Of the many many professional artists that are painting at them at this time. Even though they don't say it as directly as John here has just said that he once he does something that he loves all he paints you know he wants to express what I love something. Actually that is what they are doing just the same.
Just as much as if I may call him is our author produces his book to give a kind of constructions. The statement is there by the very fact that we do it and we do it with what appears to be a kind of loving care.
You know you guys nobody is going to cut all those pieces of wood in tandem and paint them with us.
So now this is a seriously I think that even the pop artists you know them but they must get some some kind of a a pleasurable so well so yes Green Valley and all of the things that they know but there is there is a terrible terrible danger that a person like me can fall into and I have I am constantly frightened by it but sentimentality here reactionary first one sentimentality being out of it is to buy the most of what is being a crank these you know because there are already off man.
That's right and I have met these people and they are the most frightening things in the New England states especially up here and women in Maine are full of towns where the they will tell you there's an artist who lives in the town and you go over to this nice old house and he has his big point is well fixed up and he's got a lot supplies busy. He's a plumber and Assad is Milica and for years he's been in these things he's gone one of against the war and maybe 30 years ago some gallery New York told a neighbor that had given the shelves and he's been sort of thinking about this and they're handsomely painted things with a truck and in ski or you know some kind of the 20th century artist and he turns them out by car lot and he just is not easy going TO ME.
And their works their works will probably never see the light of day or if they do they give it away to friends find his widow will think about him for years and years and years and she'll have a terrible tax problem when he died. I used to run a reading studios and hunting after all these years and things like that I did a lot of it's in like in New York. You run up time and time against the artist would have you know the widow of some guy who just vanished after turning out this tremendous body of work that no one ever paid any attention to. And this is the danger of being terribly private going your own way and divorcing yourself from the rest of the world and it's a risk you run. You run it in many ways. Oh what wonderful by being sentimental but what is the risk there Jon.
Well there's the risk that you will be saying things that communicate and I guess that's mostly it. You see especially in abstract painting in abstract expressionism you run a terrible risk because what you're saying is I'm painting me and hearing what I think. And first of all maybe nobody else is interested. And second of all you're not being very clear about who you are. And those two things can happen and you just do where you just you're making apocalyptic wallpapers on the other. And you never know you would know. You just don't know you have no way of knowing whether you know what you're doing is meaningful and is communicating you know a little bit because some person comes over studios and looks nice I like that.
How can it be otherwise it can't be and it can't be and it's very frightening if you and you really look at all the great artists really weren't recognised until they were very low for the most part or these they had produce of large body of work you know. I mean from Schubert on they started young they started when they're about 18 so when they were 35 they had the first symphonies produced and the situation hasn't changed at all.
Artists just traditionally don't they don't have a director for with an audience which kind of you know is happening. Look at his direct report is very easy for any particular type of artist hop Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg lovely example Chris fitters died at the age of 70 in London one thousand forty seven. And he produced a body of work which Robert Rauschenberg had to pay. Now Robert Rauschenberg really as far as I can see could've produced any Al Gore didn't need to produce any of his work without the example of courage for his critics was doing his maps collages a 1959 hundred twenty he was using pop art with candy gum cigarette packages and songs in the same kind of clubs additional spaces Rushbrook is used and you have rushed back because he was kind of a clever with it guy was able to take this highly derivative R and was able to make it into a big thing and Schwitters penniless penniless in London after a whole lifetime of really good solid work and being persecuted by the Nazis by being you know almost ignored in London to have his cause and it's happening right now.
Know it's going to I think the only yack conclusion that comes out of it is you just have to do what you think you have to do.
Sure it's kind of nice actually because you feel adventurous and that's why you do it is exciting it's a risk. It's like driving really fast McGraw you make a kill and this was fun.
Let's you just through the safety campaign back.
How do you do it out there.
I think you do a lot of these things out of a kind of inner necessity. You have to paint the way you paint you paint it all because you're a character to start with because you're involved in the whole world of art.
And then the kind of painting or whatever your medium may be just comes out of your own in a necessity and the result is is almost irrelevant.
Even in terms of an individual painting and this is in the table in the food but it's almost irrelevant.
This is the hardest thing for me for me to to understand is that each painting you do has to be a fresh story. It's like playing slot machines in Vegas I mean every time you pull the handle it's you have a whole new set of chances just because you've you know had bad luck a long string of bad luck it doesn't mean it's not going to continue on hot in front of it.
And when you start a painting you have to really turn over the works you've done to the wall and start fresh again.
Otherwise you find that you begin to accumulate the sort of parodies which you keep sort of running through over and over and over again and you run you know you just wind up copying you know your earlier work.
How do you keep yourself involved with a current world of art. I mean what other options are a healthy ways of actually winning. How do you keep yourself involved in that way with what is going on in the world of art and still an individual list.
It's hard it's very hard to do the magazines alone I think are a single force I mean when you start reading the art magazines you can read maybe far six magazines a month and get all these esoteric sort of journals Look want to review art literature and.
And it begins to fill your head up with a whole lot of extraneous junk. I think at a certain period in your life though you do kind of come off I just let my subscription to an international website.
It was a good thing.
And in answer to the question it's a rather interesting phenomenon that even though an artist may keep thoroughly abreast of the current I scene that that his development seems to go along and. His development occurs outside of all of these things he's aware of and I think that it's interesting to sort of look back and to be able to trace back the various influences that that have been very very strong in one's artistic career. And it usually is a very very strange and erratic path backwards. The fact that you were aware of things going on just differences just because Pop Pop is going on now we can look at it and we can say gee isn't that great. It's not funny or even what I could do vast but. But the proof of the pudding is that you don't you see. You just don't do it you do what you have to do because there are so many four internal forces which are determining what you must do.
This doesn't mean that necessarily you're not influenced by it or that it doesn't tell us how very very thing you can have a very.
They can be very subtle influences are they can be influences which which affect you because all of a sudden you are ready for it and something outside occurs.
And even though it may not be a direct taking of an idea the idea will sort of insinuate itself and show up eventually.
Of course the way things are moving today Lee. If you allowed yourself you know this has you working that if you allow yourself to be overly influenced by the current mode that you'll be out of style by the time the pain is great it's you.
You know what Ed. This is generally true that you want you want you will persist your style as it will persist for your work.
I was just looking today and it portrayed I did when I was an international kind of 10 years ago and in it were some of the same colors and the same kind of treatment of paint as an abstraction I was working at the same time I have it today.
But you know one thing will happen is that when you were for you when you were painting one of your constructions say and a little thing inside of you says she'd like to paint that you know. You wonder what you should give into this impulse to do it but then all of a sudden a whole lot of other kind of nice things are in the back of your head you know yellow isn't the color the yellow wouldn't go well with the purple it would look like Easter you know.
You know it just you know I had none of my other work is yellow. And I know the other artists are using yellow I ran a yellow paint you know any one of a number of things to keep from painting you know and if you believe in yourself and also if you kind of shut your mind a little bit to the other things that are going on you can finally pick the thing you know and then begin to step on a step on the step of fragments of your own intuitive personality which will then lead to a kind of very specific style So what happens in a little way your edge is taken off I think by too much awareness of what I do.
I would I would agree with that the idea. Too much awareness of what's going on is can be detrimental. Every once in a while I know myself. I feel like reflecting on a newspaper strike. You know I look back on the last week too and it's just been sort of very kind.
You look how you know what's happened to peanuts. Right right.
It's rather amazing I used to go into the street every morning and read the paper you know and be aware of what's going on.
And then the penny strike came on and you suddenly realize that life goes on just the same.
You know even though you don't know all of these dumb things still terribly cut off though I think also out as such so yes sometimes yes even in the wrestling world is going on to you know you know the rest of the world is getting the news and so forth then and this is sort of it's a sort of conflict with you know have feel left out.
Well I think even if you do feel left out the interesting thing to do is to examine what is the meaning of the fact that you feel left out maybe it means that you've been over seduced into the need to be so immediate to be so involved. Maybe it means that there's a longer look at things which is a better look that oh let's say the Christian Science Monitor is devoted to the idea that it's headlines don't tell you what happened in the last 20 seconds and it doesn't. Require that it shall be the paper that got the scoop. It deliberately says to heck with the scoop who needs a scoop but we want to do is know what is really happening and understand. And it seems to me that kind of view comes a little more clearly to your mind if some of the scoop the papers are not there.
And I suppose you could you could say the same thing about OTT magazines which are the way that does get you know what's going on everywhere else sort of instantaneous you know international happening and I your messages will destroy themselves very nicely because it would appear that almost all the recent ones are now having more more photographs of gallery openings society ladies.
The prices at auctions you know and they will eventually be read only by the people who are being manipulated rather than rather them by the law itself off as I buy the artist not read by the artist but rather by the general society people who go I want to line up a remarkable audience young rules because I think John has done a very good thing in holding up to examination this whole idea of the great significance of immediacy and of involvement the sort of words that we just take for granted are our good words and words which we take for granted in this discussion that they're necessarily bad words. Oh certainly not. Absolutely not.
No what I think everything we've said has been because I'm sitting here trying to think of a good argument for the news for the daily papers.
Remember I tell you Can one of the regulars me before I do there's no doubt that at the time that the by the time the program and we're going to have achieved a marvelous balance of the immediate and the long range and I love everybody happy and it just has to come out that way of course the immediacy and the involvement in the Times is absolutely essential to.
But I think what we've got to look at is what the primary pressure is and see that our primary pressure is not working exclusively.
Well what I think we are thinking of other points of view and I'm thinking about right now is how much does an old farmhouse in Maine.
You know that there is here's the way to do it is well Winslow Homer did you know he went to Prout's neck and everybody thinks he was just an old crank up there but no not at all.
He came to Boston or to New York for at least two months every winter and he stocked up with all those fancy provisions for Mrs. Pierce he attended the opera he bought a new suit closes Taylor and he went back to perhaps neck. There was he had his cake and eat it too. He was a crank Yes and he was able to commune with the city.
But he kept in touch and I think we all have to do that after all he was a New York boy and he knew that you couldn't get beguiled by the siren used.
You say that he kept in touch or you know he went to Europe and he was completely untouched by what he saw there. That's true just as you. Yes I certainly didn't know what it was all about it has many people here he came back a neighbor and he and he just continued on his merry way with a you know the easy scapes and he went in one day and you think that could happen the day you think that an artist could come from New Zealand say and come to New York and he could really miss the Paul says urns of today in New York.
I bet she good.
Pretty good there's no reason why the good painting is right up there.
I m sure it's not needed even even today you can go to New York and you're going missing a lot of good stuff just because the salability of galleries. It's not all there is not always there all the time but every time I do go to New York I do go to the Museum of Modern Art and I do walk upstairs where the school of Paris starts with poses and I look at those pools of apples and there are incredible things is done there are the walls are so beautiful because there's they're always beautiful and they never Paul never you never get tired.
John how did you get the way you wow wow wow wow actually what I'm trying to say actually was a kick in the head. I actually was getting really a mentor to her.
Is there any is is there an influence in our education now that can bring out the kind of attitudes that you've been expressing in the today's art students aren't they being pushed to what a very narrow mold.
Well not necessarily of this involvement of this immediacy of and so I would brag about our pain department or master Art but the one thing that the pin brought in there does is that it does keep the students pretty much abreast of what's going on and students do make regular forays down in New York.
But I must say that they are sufficiently sophisticated to be able to take it all with a grain of salt and one of the best junior painters came to me today and said he'd seen the Frank Stilwell show which is all the rage and it has jelly Gary and he had that he know he's followed this kind of any for a long time and he had the courage to say he just didn't like it because he found it to surface into kind of superficial form not into much dealing with problems of aesthetics and not dealing with problems of the heart.
Now for a young guy he was 19 years old and he has a sports car and he runs around and there's always that that's something to say that's it in mission because you see it's admitting a kind of sentiment sentimental or emotional involvement which you wouldn't expect in a young person and I think the mass of our students are that what I think that at least while we have them they are. Fairly honest about their own feelings and I think it's probably later when they go on into into worrying about what they can sell their work.
You know I think the I think the art world kind of sets up defenses too by which such arguments are held aside if somebody criticizes something that's very new and it's usually Tadd lack of understanding.
Sure you're just you're labeled as a no.
Yeah that's I guess this is classically true John candidates really set the pace and that he has traditionally gone and complained about everything it's been good for the last 15 years and one by one important artists have come up for review and he said they were his target which he later had to go and recant. And so I guess the certain critics you know traditionally make a point of getting angry at what is vital and interesting and contemporary work.
But it doesn't mean that you can say you don't like something it's once again it's a terrible ambiguity that it is a paradox that you find yourself being put into the realm of will I find myself being put into the realm of the vanilla for they did it because I like school best painters.
It's up to ridicule like you know to see George Brock studio with all the brushes on all the tubes of the Talons oil paint you know.
So that's really pretty to be the old crank I want to cry to when he's of the Okies as you know where they crank it up on its own.
And that's to me it's really his own kind of thing that it inspires me to go in pictures.
Where is the line between being an old fuddy duddy and someone who just has very high standards.
Are they actually.
Well that's true equality when we get right down and I'm going to choose a good picture no matter whether it's painted today or a hundred years ago or more.
There is a good thing as good painting and I'm afraid that good painting is not going to be very good sensible to very many people. It never has been and never really will be. And so when we do when we talk about art with a capital A. We're talking about a popular conception of art and we talk about art like I would like to talk about art that last for centuries art that stays in museums. We're talking about art that is really only enjoyed by a relatively few people who are either educated or sensitive enough to appreciate it and who have the background to understand how it was made and that's what that's the area in which I'd like to work.
It's a very narrow and it's not very popular just by definition.
Well John just mentioned about.
The museums and quality and so forth the thought occurred to me that just as in say 1850 there were probably many thousands of odd us painting in Paris. All all but what all but maybe one tenth of one percent have disappeared. And I see no reason why the British are listening.
Yeah well the point is that today we are right in the middle of a tremendous ATA boom with tens of thousands of artists a down in New Yawk.
And there's no reason to even begin to feel that well you know like when we're little the work that we're doing now that is being done now was judged well.
In a hundred years we'll know what it's all about because all of the stuff that is really relevant today will have just disappear all we do is for yourself.
Can you say what is your favorite pain and then when you think about can you paint something you'd like to see hanging next to it you would be embarrassed by.
And it's a pretty hard question and I mean you know favorite place of mine or those pages of says a resume or for me or the Metropolitan. And to think you know to have the audacity to think that you could paint something up there next to him.
Well I think you've got a drug story. I mean you can't give up what you just you may commit yourself to obscure definition.
Well I think there's there's a certain amount of comfort in not being popular early in your career. Yeah in that in that historically you can say well you know all of the great guys really weren't recognized and cry until later but I think you can also at the same time you know just be a lousy pain.
Dr That's the reason why nobody's looking at you or as Richard who is very true.
You know that's one thing that happens in Boston so often is that their bosses almost a city of cynical artists who are constantly complaining about a public that doesn't understand doesn't see collectors they don't have any money you know it's only easy to catch it if you and little by little the kind of dollars when you say you need to work. It's possible I was or you want to deal with the babies that are then terrible diseases that offer us all that I think I see other collectors been in he says. He named over the head collectors of Boston that each did it and you know had some one of them comes in regularly once a week and I said well if any of them saw anything he said no. And so you know the question just sitting there pregnant question is What did you have that it was worth bottling.
It's a hard question to ask you didn't ask you know I did and I was very politic I don't have a go at the moment. We're trying to be as particles we possibly can. LEEWARD.
John do you feel yourself actually aware at the time that you're working on a painting that it might be that painting that good that you don't feel it go right down they head into the brush.
Because. If you get tied up and that's a good move. Just trying to read it it's clear you know if I'm happy because you know there's a little bit of truth.
This is where it's at me most of the varistor you but at this microphone. Now you know you this is obviously he used to feel so foolish paying attention to begin with who's going to buy a whole studio full of paintings you know really have hundreds of Brittany never have and then we still have a stretch of a canvas that I say I have Paul say it. Is a real deep special chair and I didn't build it very big so I have one of the biggest loss of the whole and it's incredible I had great loaded great plant that's right and I have a very handsome studio and I go through this whole mistake of believing in some absurd thing when you're obviously out of your life and you have a sense if you ever get there.
And move it.
Well you say it's absurd because you know you could laugh.
I tend to think that there's a little bit more attention oh there's a little bit more to that than.
Just meets the ear at the moment. The whole act in a way can be kind of absurd and what is amazing is that there are so many men who have devoted their lives to this absurdity you know who have never recognize that and and yet there are some kind of drive which is rather rich and rather silly rants like you have a theory is that the artist exists in the interface between sanity and insanity.
And if he steps one way or the other he errs if he steps back into the mind say sanity his work becomes boring mundane pedestrian. If he steps over the other edge she steps into he doesn't communicate his work becomes obsessive. He's crazy. And so you exist.
And even in terms of individual work some works go one ways and works go the other way and you hope for those works which just sort of hang right in middle.
They hang right on the boundary line where your mind begins to lose reason nuisance. And it's a very very hard place to stay and it's and it's frightening and yet it's very exciting three things a time.
I think it also very deeply involved this question of time. Youre also trying to relate yourself to the future because thats when you know your work is going to be judged a certain timelessness of quality values. Youre I think without even becoming philosophical about it you must have some sort of Zen attitude if you're going to be a painter at all.
Earl object to the words. He was just the quickest word I could not express the I write as a mike you fairly used to do this you know when and when he went into his studio to to write.
He used to dress up in his face bellows and go in you know with an attitude I'm going to go and then I'm going to write something great today.
And there may be something to it. Do you dress up in your finery.
Well actually no I have a really Italian mechanic's overalls which I wear while I play.
There's your trouble I should be French mechanics overall.
Have you sold very much yourself. No I have. Actually I thought I saw the one of the local museums of the court museum and I've had paintings exhibited with some frequency and the ICSA and I remember that when contemporary artists Association and I showed in the last show there and I had a couple shows in Boston wanted a gallery and one of the stand up guy films down town.
I don't shop much and I haven't shot in the last two years but you continue to turn up at work and you haven't tried any other media than the ones you using.
Yes I do I occasionally occasionally my painting becomes sort of surrealistic you might say I get I get images in my mind which I would like to paint pictures of and as a result I find myself painting in a sort of three dimensional illusion. And so what I do is I go to make sculptures of these things and what they turned out to be strangely enough is it. I make machines only I make them out of terra cotta I made it to record a roll of wax Can you imagine it was a laser as a roll of flex was a precision little knobs you know and you make a terra cotta that's what kind of wabbly it I think I mean it's a lovely thing.
I made it to record a coffee grinder made of terra cotta traffic light traffic lights a beautiful thing.
And I was one of the traffic light you know and so I made one and so I have in the studio in sort of an omen and it watches with and then you have really a pop artist.
Sure I do pop painting too I did a popping of myself with my wife which was my first show with a stand up comic. There's a very strange show because I had maybe 25 paintings and they were all traditional derivative has dragon's freshness paintings and then he was this big pop painting because I thought I want to do it was in 62 and I want to paint a pop painting and I paint one and I pop as you know what I find is that after I painted I painted it you know and I wish a lot of the pop artists in the same thing too I wish they would paint the painting in a shop.
They parody themselves because they want to make they want to make paintings they're manufacturers you know there is some kind of light manufacturing. And after they get the idea for the first six creative Marilyn Monroe you know they got to do what the first cables who can't get a brillo boxes and you know I go on and on the manufacturers rather than Duchamp was that it was the only one who I really march missed because he did an idea once and then he stopped and he didn't make a parody He didn't repeat himself and he was not a manufacturer although he does have his daughter making replicas of those lovely things in the green box for a couple of dollars and cents kind of nice things but his daughters he doesn't.
Well considering everything that you've said this evening John thought and now looking at the scene and kind of understanding your own position and relationship to it and the danger of becoming a crotchety old man etc. I don't do you continue do you think that you will continue in your present position. Are you going to try to swing with a door.
Off you go. Yeah sure I want to know what else to do.
I like dating a lot. Looks like I want to continue doing it. I consider that painting and a career are two separate things. Careers are to make money. Keep your children yourself along with being something you do because you like to do it.
I think I'll be good. Sounds like fun. Defeated is that John.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Studio Talk
- Old Fashioned Painting
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