#1 ‘Walt Whitman in NY’
My fascination with paradox in New York was more than fulfilled, as the diversity of culture and the socio-economic rift in that society created obscene contradictions. The drawings #1 and #2 represent through an extract of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” a more actutely-felt need in New York to contact one’s ‘human qualities’.
#3 Jewish Museum in Prague
#3 and #31, both refer to the Jewish cemetery in Prague, which together with the Jewish children’s museum, represents for me the most poignant symbolism of Prague. Jews visiting the cemetery would place stones or bits of broken masonry together with a piece of paper, anything from a bus ticket, or entrance ticket to a scrap of newspaper
#31 Jewish cemetary – Prague, Czechoslovakia
#4 ‘Charles bridge’ in Prague
#4 is an image based on a plaque on the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czechoslovakia, commemorating the martyrdom of the fifteenth century priest, who was thrown off the bridge by King Wenceslaus for refusing to reveal what the Queen had confessed. The bronze relief that depicts the falling figure is polished and shining where people have touched the head, and it was the juxtaposition of this sympathetic gesture against the destructive intention and tragic pose, that interested me. The gesture represents an acknowledgement of the sacred, and possessed a wonderful visual poetry.
#5 ‘Chair at the MET’ – New York
In #5 and #6 I was influenced by the rustic furniture (colonial) I found in the American section of the MET. At the time, the Gulf Ware had just started and American patriotism was high. Drawing #5 was a comment on the contradiction of passivity and malevolence (the two hands) – the chair as a ‘seat of power’ and also domestic harmony. Many of the chairs were embroidered with symbols of patriotism. They kept asking the same question, “Who sits here?” – passive contentment or authority? It reminded me of Harry Truman’s comment, “Walk calmly but carry a big stick”.
#6 ‘Colonial Furniture at the MET’ – New York
#7 ‘Wall Street bull and violin’ – New York
#7 & #8 represent a symbol I borrowed from a retrospective exhibition of Maleavich, again at the MET. One early painting depicted a cow with a violin opposite, within landscape. The image represents the two opposing forces of culture (violin) and the philistine. The symbolism which comes from Russian folklore and was used also by Chagall, has a relevance today, especially when applied to the avariciousness of the investment market and its corrupting influence on the art world. #7 is more specific in this regard. It was the ‘Bull’ symbol of Wall Street (a huge bronze sculpture of a charge bull) as the blind and furious corruptor of culture.
#8 ‘Cow and violin’ – New York
#9 ‘Me and Mirror’ city – London
#10 ‘Indian with bowl’ – New York
#10 is a drawing that comments on the neglect of the Red Indian culture in New York (one small, poorly-funded museum on Upper Manhattan) and scant reference to the original inhabitants who were duped into selling their land for a few trinkets.
#11 ‘Cornelia in Tubinger’ – Germany
#12 ‘Cornelia and Symbols’ – Germany
#13 Pesky Horey (a walk in the hills) – Czechoslovakia
#14 ‘The Frontier’ – Czechoslovakia
#32 ‘Bohemian things’ – Somova, Czechoslovakia
#15 ‘An Autumn Garden’ revisited – Amsterdam
#15 and #16 both start off in the centre as Van Gogh postcards stuck on paper. It is a comment on the environmental decline of Europe’s forests through acid rain, and with it a lost innocence – our tempered view of natural beauty in the face of the 20th Century environmental reality.
#16 ‘The Road to Paris’ revisited – Amsterdam – Version 2
#16 takes it’s title from the postcard by Van Gogh who wrote in one letter to his brother, Theo, that “the future of art lay not here but in Australia and the tropics”. The road to Parist today least metaphorically in the opposite direction to the tropics where in places like Mururoa, its contempt is manifested in a potentially disastrous way.
#17 ‘Captives’ – New York
#17 & #18 are drawings done in response to the sheer overwhelming physicality of New York. The myriad of enclosures within enclosures where all space is defined and valued by the cubic meter.
#18 ‘Captives’ – New York
#19 ‘Spring in New York’
Drawings #19 and #20 are two aspects of the artificiality of New York. Spring is a largely imported season (Central Park not withstanding). It is displayed like a painting. One aspect of winter I found hum
#20 ‘Strange Fruit’ – New York
One aspect of winter I found humorous, was the plastic shopping bags that would end up in the branches of the trees which line the streets like some strange winter fruit.
#21 ‘For me, Amsterdam’ – Amsterdam
#22 ‘Hans Hoffman’s fire escape’ – New York
#22 and #26 both refer to the physical look of New York in relation to two quintessential New York painters, ie. Hans Hoffman who had a studio just around the corner from where I was staying in SoHo. He often used the complementary opposites of red and green in his paintings in thick rectangular shapes. The drawing is a whimsical reference to that. ‘Playing Edward Hopper’ touches on a theme I’ve used on a few occasions in these drawings. The idea that an Artist can sometimes exemplify a place, city landscape or time so effectively. that their contribution becomes a powerful and integral part of the character and perception of that place or time for all those who follow. An Artist’s response therefore, is often influenced by an effort to avoid copying something that belongs to another Artist, but at the same time, represents an important aspect of that particular place. If we want to paint a cityscape because we ‘see’ it as a typical Hopper, we avoid the comparison altogether or we parody it.
#26 ‘Playing Edward Hopper’ – New York
#23 ‘White Bison – Women’ – from Sioux-Oglala Myth – New York
#23, #24, #25, #36 and #37 all relate to the Oglala-Sioux myth of the “White Bison Women”. It tells the story of a sacred woman who brings to the tribe, the pipe and 12 feathers, each symbolising the 12 moons of the year. She represents a view of idealised women in American-Indian Society (Jung’s anima) and demonstrates the important process of exploring the conscious and the sacred. The two Indian Scouts who meet her on the place provide 2 responses (continued #24)
#24 ‘With visible breath she is walking’ – from Sioux-Oglala myth – New York
… One reveres and respects her exalted state and allows her to pass. The other tries to reduce and exploit it – possess and hold her sacredness. The result for this mistake is his own destruction. The interest for me with this story is that I saw a parallel in the world of contemporary art which demands artists to reveal, justify, and if necessary, rationalise their work in the light of ‘avant-gardism’ and calibrate their contribution in terms of ‘contemporary relevance’ – both euphemistic expressions for art-fashion. Like the Indian who tries to possess and make palpable something that is essentially of the spirit, its destruction will be assured. The present climate of disillusionment in New York seems to suggest that this process is already happening. What will come out of it will not be so much to do with a new direction, but hopefully a new contentment and humanity. “With visible breath I am walking With visible tracks I am walking In a sacred manner I walk.” Translation from Sioux Oglala myths
#25 ‘With visible tracks I am walking’ from Sioux-Oglala myths – New York
#36 ‘White-Bison women and cloud’ – London
#37 ‘Sacred pipe and twelve feathers’ – Sioux-Oglada myth – London
#27 George Baselitz Exhibition – Amsterdam
#28 ‘Me, Myself, I’ – Amsterdam
#33 ‘Stability, instability’ – Amsterdam
#34 ‘Virginia’s Angel’ – New York
#35 ‘Diana and Stag’ – Amsterdam
‘Diana and Stag’, like the story of “Tristan and Isolde”, parallel in Western mythology the same story.
#38 ‘The Yellow Chair’ – Amsterdam