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November 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
April 19, 2012 § 5 Comments
“When I… started painting from observation, one of the reasons was that I didn’t want to be so damn self-conscious about my paintings… Why not just look at something and paint it the way it is? Plop! And that’s what I did.
People often say to me, why do you pick such banal subjects, and I don’t understand that at all. They don’t seem to me to be banal in the least. They’re full of magic.
I came from a very flamboyant household, very theatrical – a very histrionic household. Everything was exaggerated; you never knew what anyone meant, and I didn’t like it. And I didn’t trust my own histrionics either, or strong affect, or whatever it is… in my paintings I try to get all that out and state it exactly – ‘no no, that’s not the way that air conditioner sits in that window. Do it again, Downes, and get it right this time, the way it really is!’ And I love that! I love feeling I have now got it, banal or not, I don’t care.
The detail comes in because you have to figure out how to move from here to here; then to here and to here… you make this block without any windows and you’re not sure whether it really is comfortably that size. As soon as you get those windows in there you get clearer and clearer and clearer about what it is. And in order to move about and keep these things in proportion I need all these things.
It’s my job to find places that answer to some internal need. I think that there’s this internal need before you get to the place and that the place answers the need.
…Could you paint a mountain without being sentimental about mountains, without falling victim to the mountain rhetoric; you know: look at this tremendous canyon, it’s so deep, and look at this terrifying crag up over your head, and all that business… I’m not interested in rhetoric at all.
I think that artists, or people who are active in another art form, even if it be writing or music… are often very, very perceptive critics of a different art form… a writer writing about painting or something, because they realize the limitations of criticism. Criticism can’t do everything, it can’t explain everything, and it can’t make certainties. There are no certainties in art.
There was a statement of Stendhal’s he wrote to his sister… “Only write on matters that you feel very strongly about. When you put them into words, try to do it as though you didn’t want anyone to notice.” I thought that was stunningly brilliant, and I felt exactly the same way.
I will say this… that all of us that are painters or artists or poets, or whatever it is, we spend quite a big chunk of every day doing the thing we really want to do. That cannot be said by lots of people.
– Rackstraw Downes, from video and interview by Betty Cunningham Gallery, 2007.
October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
While angry, politicized axe-grinding, and issue-laden work dominates the news of the contemporary art scene, Philadelphia painter Jeffrey Reed is one who has always kept his head down, making modestly scaled paintings from his immediate surroundings. In this video, which showcases the recent work he has done in Ireland at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation and in his home in Philadelphia, Reed shares some of his thoughts about his process and about the meaning of being a painter today.
“…with these paintings, as small as they are, one might be surprised, in that most of the painting, probably 80%.. I do with a brush that’s one, one-and-a-half-inches – Flats – very much in the mode of Hawthorne, laying in blocks of color, blocks of tone, and then pulling it into focus with smaller brushes later. But I paint from those big relationships..
I’m not locked into a certain palette. I usually set up in front of a subject and ask myself how many colors can I get away with, meaning how few colors can I use to capture what’s in front of me. I feel like that bracketing helps me have a more cohesive painting and sense of light…
For me painting is a way of connecting to the world around me and I hope that’s also the experience a viewer might have, that they can have something evoked or triggered in them when they look at a painting, something they can identify with. I struggled with this, as I think most artists would..when I was a senior in college. I was starting to feel as if painting was very selfish; that I was doing it just for me, to get recognition or somebody to acknowledge I had talent. I’ve come to realize that it’s not that. Certainly I’d like to be accepted for what I do but it’s really to make a connection, whether it’s with the landscape around me, the world around me, like the world around Vuillard with him painting his mother, his sister; or it’s through the interaction that someone might have looking at my painting.”
August 30, 2011 § 2 Comments
In memory of the summer just past, a selection of some of the great landscape painting being done today.
Click the link to see the entire Contemporary Landscapes album.