The Nebula paintings – look up to the stars

It’s been years since I last saw the stars covering the sky from side to side but the habit of looking at the sky never left me. This series of works is meant to draw pleasure with the help of those photographing the landscapes up there. It is a decorative series, painted on thin wood boards. The paintings are then put at high places in the house, somewhere to remind us to look up.

P.S. I named the series “Nebula paintings”, but the subject is any starry landscape

Here is in short the painting process

two Nebula paintings ready at the studio; last touch is varnishing them
two Nebula paintings ready at the studio; last step is the varnish
board with only the preparation on
wood board prepared with black acrylic
first lines of "colliding galaxies"
first lines of “colliding galaxies”
some substance added to the galaxies
substance added to the galaxies
colour and details added
colour and details added
galaxies connected with golden colour
“colliding galaxies” (connected with golden colour)
... and a magic image, with artist
… and a magic image, with artist included

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Painting: a quest to catch infinity

Oh, Painting, what a difficult art you are!

It is not really to wonder why it has been set aside in the name of whatever. I have felt it too, several times: real painting started after the first 4-5 hours of working; it could last until end of physical forces, or mental…

I am somewhere close, at times of satisfaction, and yet, when I look again it’s gone;  the “thing” is moved somewhere further. Painting is a quest to catch infinity; a hopeless act and vain too. That is why frivolity and triviality are out of place, out of the context of painting.

How you interpret that depends on your flying hours; basic thought that comes up: the hours spent drawing, even before the art school, were not mainly meant  to teach us how to draw but to teach us to draw.

P.S. 1 in the soup of it all drawing is often confused with tracing and painting with putting paints together

P.S. 2 exercise: draw a hundred times the word “draw”.

the images are from the exhibition ‘ISENHEIMER’ by students & alumni from the Fine Arts department of the Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague, 18-22 November 2013

exhibition at KABK The Hague
works by ….., at KABK Gallery
work by Akycha Tegelaar, KABK
work by Akycha Tegelaar, at KABK Gallery

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The lost painting – before the summer

This lost painting, already 13 years in a basement or an attic, I don’t know, last stop hanging in Madrid; it is the rain, I know, fetched it back, as rain does; is it me, don’t dare to think, this woman, this mistress, this painter, at 33, just, before the summer?

"Before the summer", 200x189cm, 1999
“Before the summer”, 200x189cm, 1999

Painting at the Venice Art Biennale 2013 (no55)

Yes, of course painting is alive. I never believed it dead  despite the official prognostics and the orchestrated proclamations of “history writers”. Painting does not make the show, when the show is the requested and probably – rather surely –  does not win the subsidies. It takes courageous curators to propose paintings in any context. The 55th Biennale of Venice does have painting works, even if chosen in the spirit of “encyclopedic romanticism” and presented as “curiosa”!

Two powerful presentations of painting can be seen in the “Encyclopedic Palace” the main exhibition at the Italian Pavilion: the works of the Belgian Thierry de Cordier, b/w oil paintings of sea-scapes, mostly in vertical synthesis. He paints the North sea at its darkest, in a classical way and avoiding any glamour; he paints on mdf or scruffy canvasses. His works are almost out of place, too good to fit in.

Equal amazement comes from an artist happily present in her nineties; her oil paintings can not pass un-noticed (…); Maria Lassnig from Austria, calls her works “body awareness paintings”, a series spread in the last 60 years, depicting her body as she experiences it. The works are of large format with a lightness of colour and simple straight forward drawing. See also here about a current big exhibition of her works in Hamburg.

There is much more painting around; only toward the Chinese exhibitions there are meters and meters of painted surface; a look on that will be noted separately in this blog.

P.S.1 Paintings that do not correspond to an idea of grandeur or triviality fall under “curiosa”, in case we were wondering…

P.S.2 It crossed my mind: now that  state subsidies drain out, painting is again proposed as acceptable art form (since at least it is a sellable object?)

Mother Nature, 1999 by Maria Lassnig (Austria)
Mother Nature, 1999 by Maria Lassnig

Waking up a painting

A painting is created in a timespan of hours, days or months; sometimes years. Usually, especially in the case of creative saga, there comes a moment when you have to shake the painting, to make its soul fall in the contours. It is a final spurt of passion; the kiss of life (or death) totally fatal for better or for worse. The shaking is not necessarily a passionate gesture; very often it is more an ultimate focus, the correct solution, a line that connects everything. Think of the space making lines/ geometrical forms in Francis Bacon‘s paintings, or the coloured contours of the German expressionists, or a final lazure that you let drip over a dear part; the closing bravery of wiping out totally something that you had hoped to keep. That’s it then; the painting is finished.

A painting starts and ends with an action of bravery.

The painter ought to keep the painting awake; that has nothing to do with being nice nor satisfied.

Preparation work for framing "Darth Vader and me" of 1999 (190x208cm)
Preparation work for stretching “Darth Vader and me” of 1999 (190x208cm)

The ups and downs of motherhood

What a luck to witness the appearance of new roots; those of my son who took his space without a doubt from either side, mine or his. The ups and downs of motherhood, a series of works I made in 2010, was a stream of thoughts on this blissful and at the same time devastating (physically and intellectually) experience. The works are based on the simplicity of the drawing which carries roughness and clarity, an everyday life filtered through the reverie of a mother. Five of them are big canvasses of 200×140 cm: “asleep” shows the subtle touching as we rest, “kounia-bella” shows the mother swinging the child after the bath on a tune of her own childhood, “the other child” catches the mother in trance about other spirits that could have been her children, “together we walk” shows the weight of responsibility of motherhood and “escape” is dedicated to all the mothers who have to carry their child on their back and run (away). The other works, of smaller format either in b/w or in red colour, are made on paper: “connected” is an image of shared breath, “in rage” is a moment of lost balance for both mother and child. “One look” shows the happiness that comes with conscious sharing and “rolling into life” is the image of trust from child to mother and back. Trust as an accomplished word is what always strikes me when I look at these works; the meaning of the word comes back clear just like when my son, Mickey, lets himself fall into my arms from the steps of the staircase, knowing that I will never fail to catch him.

P.S. 1 The series can be seen here

P.S. 2 The work “connect” was exhibited at the on-line show Mama: Motherhood around the world, organised by the International Museum of Women

the other child, 200x140cm, 2010
the other child, by S.Kapnissi, 200x140cm, 2010

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Superficiality as purpose

There is a load to carry; stories that cannot be told without harming. As kid I was drawing what should not be said and then tearing the paper in small pieces so that no one would see. Drawing and its extensions was the path to concreting myself so that the burning coals would stay in, built in the solid me.

Life duties and their screwing routine are digging in with the persistence of a remorseless zombie, knowing of course that I am not able to work faster to secure the block in my guts.

Once I left my country, burying by choice habits and familiarity of every common aspect, I became a voluntary mute and a perpetual stranger; all to let the superficial image float around me and draw over it in big movements, as high as my arms could reach and wide as the borrowed space would allow. It had to, correcting: has to, become as accurate a superficies as possible; ten years for the brain to structure what good drawing means; some equal time for the eye to clean the colour even when working on oil  surfaces. I don’t paint with oil since long but I do paint. And through waves of doubts mostly externally brought, I always come back to this: when you look at a painting you should not need an explanation text nor the name of the artist, even less a price. You have  a surface and you have guts; use them.

studioOCT2010 012

The art of wandering

“cover gently as you would cover a sleeping child”

It was one of those days when the act of painting seems a nuisance hissing from the back of my ear “you can not do it”. Sliding from the darkness outside to the dome light inside, I thought it was not too cold and not too bad of a feeling after all to sit in front of the painted canvas. In a move of rebellion I put on music of Bharata Natyam dance of Southern India. My son is becoming six; I can allow myself to be lost again in the space that music makes and then tune up the painting until its sounds prick my skin. Fear and despair made way for gentleness while covering all parts that were out of tune. I left it there to settle but kept the rounded space within until the duties flattened it again. A space to wander; now I was reminded where to look for it.

the studio at Kempstraat (demolished)
the studio at Kempstraat (demolished in 2009)