Working in Series
I imagine this famous scene of the post-coital cigarette seen in so many movies: the couple of a one-night-stand against the bed headboard, under the sheets, in the dark, intertwined by the fumaroles of a cigarette. It’s over. They seem jaded. “Well, that’s it. Goodbye, I’ll call you. ” Nothing more. It was fast. He puts on his trousers and exits the room and so does the other person.
Here is another version of the same scene, but that exists between two lovers. But here, against the bed headboard, on top of the sheets interlaced; everything is slower, we discuss, we laugh, we talk about the construction of the last minute and also, the future. We think. It’s uplifting.
It’s the same for painting. Too many times, in my painting classes and painting workshops, I have met students and “artists” who after finishing a painting live a feeling of emptiness as if the painted subject only aroused a slight satisfaction, nothing more. However, just before doing the painting, these painters had said that it would be interesting to do this or that, “here is a challenge”. As soon as the work is completed, they say, “Well, what am I doing now? A moonlight? A door scratched by time? A pot of geranium on a windowsill? A chickadee? “Checked! Done! And now what? “. And comes the linearity of an enumeration of painted subjects. Oh! I saw so many artists who lived this “pictorial post-coitus” (PPC)!
Does this PPC void occur because the artists cannot identify emotionally with their own works. Perhaps because these works do not reflect the artists’ identity or what their vision of life is?
Fortunately, there is also another post-coital work. Once finished, the artists are satisfied to have pushed their work a step further, and yet we speak here about the same painting subject. After they finish, they are already thinking about their next painting, which will be inspired by the one recently completed. “Well, how can you push it even further, to make it stronger? “Henceforth the need to work in series, because it is only the series that allows this kind of reflection, hence the circularity, the holism of creation, a reflection of the universe. We welcome a reality that preceded us on which, now, we must work. This series of works of art on the same theme becomes in a way the partner of a long moment, even for life; I am thinking here of Murakami’s work with his memes, or of Ron Mueck dealing with human fragility or Banksy’s social comments. Doing a work of art is like making love. There is the passion of the moment, the abandonment of time, two beings becoming one flesh that expresses through harmony and circularity… and not linearity.
We agree that a completed work can bring a great sense of boredom, even disappointment, or a sense of euphoria that encourages pursuing a career as an artist. We have a choice; “Well done! What do I paint now as my next subject? Or “WOW! How can I push this canvas so it becomes better and more complex in the reflection of my time and my life?”
7 thoughts on “The Post-Coitus Works of Art”
I couldn’t agree with you more Yves. The acute doldrums and downer I experienced upon my return from Italy was devastating! How does one do a second act to Studio Italia and still be inspired? But, as every sojourner knows, if you don’t know where you want to go then begin where you are at! As in music I found it helpful to start with a simple study or etude that reflected my own emotional, technical and even physical locus. I just painted what I saw in front of my face in the moment in any way or with any cheap equipment that was accessible to me. No pressure. And then from the same point of view I did a second and then a third, fourth and fifth improvising on the techniques or experimentations I had tried in the previous study. Where I ended up had no similarity to where I started and I arrived at some other level of learning and creative space that I hadn’t quite realized before. I was jazzed up and enthused about where I now wanted to go. Musicians do this all the time. Its in the doing itself – the practices – that makes the performance a reality!
And Yves, if you are looking for an exceptional piece of music to ponder all this among the fumaroles of your post coital cigarette, may I suggest k.d. lang’s thematic and serial album DRAG. “Remember darling, don’t smoke in bed!”
In gratitude, love and friendship….
A la prochaine,
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Thank you Twylla for enhancing my thought. Totally agree with what you have written; “if you don’t know where you want to go then begin where you are at”. Looking forward to seeing you again. We did have fun in Italia.
Have just completed my first exhibition. I remember your words “series/focus” which, at the time, I struggled with until I searched my soul. Why was I painting? To fulfill a commitment to you, made years before, during a Tuscany workshop? What did I hope to achieve? Exhibition but of what? I looked again at my old work…was there a common theme?
The colours of Australia where there in front of me; my attempts of bringing those colours to the canvas in different mediums with varied failure and success. Again the “why” was I painting remained. Colour had become my focus; I was indeed living with colour. My remission from lymphoma had continued, the months and even years increasing, yet every day still a clear reminder of my mortality; my painting provided the outlet I needed to express myself.
Exhibition over, and yes, I did go through the “but what now”. I know that I can produce more of the same, but now, I am looking at how I can extend myself. How can I make that connection between my life and colour even stronger, more exciting, more demanding of attention, an awakening for others.
So thank you for this post Yves…well timed.
Why don’t you create three large paintings; 5 x 6 feet minimum. And stay on these paintings for a few months. Dwell, dwell, dwell! But not in the past. Your next paintbrush stroke refers to the very now and future. Looking forward to seeing these paintings.
Whilst I do not have the room/area to paint on really large canvas (currently) I do indeed value your comments and suggestions. I can feel my brain whirring off into the “how can I”?
For a different perspective….From my experience as a painter (“artist”?) I find that painting “in series” stiffles creativity. I believe that an artist, whatever type of artist, should “say/paint it once and say/paint it well”, or to the best of his her abilities and most of all with integrity. I find that painting in series, especially in regard to amateur artist but also in regard to too many professional artists, is a slippery or a direct slope to painting to please a market, and capitalizing and exploiting (in the pejorative sense) a theme, composition, colours etc because they are popular. Galleries promote this, they want their artists to have an identifiable look and feel which again, can stiffle real creativity, especially if the artist is vain. I admit that I have, in the pursuit of trying to “say something” gone from one painting to another, working on solutions both technical and creative,and that the viewer might look at these attempts as a series, but the goal it produce one definite work, and to me all the previous pieces are failures and not showable. That being said, if i were jackson pollock and somebody wanted to give me six figures for drips of paint on a canvas, i’m no fool, i’ll take it so that i have the means and liberty to paint and say what i really want to paint and say, regardless of what the market says. (and maybe that is what JP did) And if i were joe public with six figures to spend on a jackson pollock, the last thing i want to know is that the artist did the work because he was exploiting a market, i would much rather here that the six figure painting is all about the artist’s inner turmoils and pains etc.
Thank you very much Mark for your comments which I read attentively. Your comment is threefold: 1) opinion 2) admission and 3) art and the market through Pollock. I will comment on the third part of your reply.
When you work by series, you work on a particular theme and you need to develop a concept. This method helps to foster creativity (reflection) because the artist can focus on how to apply the concept in different ways to different paintings. So, all the works are different but linked by a theme and a concept.
Before Jackson Pollock reach the “six figures”, he was at the three-figure prices — all annual selling catalogues report that. What contribute Pollock in being one of the most famed artists of the history of art is his astounding research in painting that we see from “Male and Female” to “Cathedral”. There are no “failures” between these two paintings. In just ten years, he changed the course of painting (done with easel painting, birth of the all-over, no more contact with the canvas, etc.) just like Apple changed the course of communication. The critic and art historian Clement Greenberg noticed all that and, of course, all the New York gallerists — the latter are looking for that when choosing an artist for their gallery. Was Pollock “vain”? Absolutely not, like 95% of the artists. He was so much in “turmoil and pain”, one of the reasons it led to alcoholism and to his death during a car accident.
All artists work through series, even Odd Nerdrum making him one of the most valuable artists today — as you know. Last March in New York City, I went to see his works at Forum Gallery and his paintings were in the six figures.
Thank you for reading my blog!