Lecture: Anne Gérard-Austin Gustave Caillebotte, the ideal collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
I don’t think I’ve heard of Caillebotte before, but he was heavily involved with the French Impressionists as friend, supporter, collector, organiser of exhibitions and in leaving the French State an amazing bequest of artworks (only some of which were accepted). Caillebotte was also an artist whose paintings in Gérard-Austin’s view demonstrate that rather than a narrow, cohesive field there was a range of work which fell within (or near) Impressionism as a movement.
Much of Caillebotte’s work may suggest Realism then you notice the unusual subject matter (often domestic interiors, or workers scraping floors in an urban apartment rather than rustic work in picturesque rural settings); flickering brushwork; radical composition and play with the geometry of the city (Caillebotte was interested in early photography). There is a coherence and modernity in Caillebotte’s compositions.
During the lecture we saw many beautiful, some familiar, images of works by Renoir, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Degas, Pissarro, but with my current grid and geometry interests it was Caillebotte’s own work which really excited. I’ve traced out a few as the basis for experiments.
Panel discussion: Andrew Christofides, Rhonda Davis, Leonard Janiszewski, Lizzy Marshall and Paul McGillick in conversation, within the Into Abstraction exhibition at the Macquarie University Art Gallery.
The conversation started by considering what is meant by “abstract art”. Possibilities included: all art – it’s a question of emphasis; thought patterns not simply process and outcome; representing the world without appearing like the world; mention of Kant’s viewing that which is unseen.
There were some politics – starting with the 1860s and the teaching of art at the École des Beaux-Arts (does the student start by drawing old masters and learning the canon, or with their own markmaking?); the teaching of art in schools of the 1950s and 60s (in Australia looking to British conservatism, and definitely don’t encourage thinking for themselves in the masses); Wilhelm Worringer’s linking of art to the political and social, and the level of impact of German art theory in the UK and Australia…
Lots of different views (some of them coming from the same person) over the “meaning” in abstract art: sometimes spiritual elements; dependent on context; dependent on the perception and engagement of the viewer; none.
There were artists and ideas somewhat familiar to me, others not so much. I have pages of notes full of asterisks and underlines showing things I want to follow up.Andrew Christofides was the only practicing artist, his work pictured here clearly relevant to my current research. He suggested abstract artists create languages that allow us to understand the world, to see it in a different way. Over time he has tried to extend the geometric language and syntax that he uses. He describes some of his work as “non-hierarchic” (aka modular) – a word that got a buzz around the panel. In response to a question from the audience Christofides explained that he brings together all sorts of things from his past experiences, into an image that people can respond to based on their own, different, experiences. He hopes people experience it in the way they experience music. There’s some more really interesting explanation of Studio Practice on his website – andrewchristofides.com/. There’s also a rather long but illuminating interview of Christofides by McGillick at www.cultconv.com/English/Conversations/Christofides_Andrew/HTML5/testimonybrowser.html.
As well as being fuzzy, my photograph doesn’t capture the richness of colour, nor that the colour isn’t flat. That rust red background seems to have its own grid within it. I think it would actually translate very well into a woven piece – I’d try 20/2 silk, finished very carefully to minimise without eliminating the dimensionality of the weave. So not really the direction I’m expecting to go at the moment.
Christofides also had copies for everyone of a diagram he has used in teaching, showing a continuum of more and less abstract and representational in art, plus concrete as the opposite to abstract. Including brief lists of words and artists associated with each, it makes a very useful guide.
Macquarie University Sculpture Garden
Later we walked through a little of the university’s Sculpture Garden.
I spent around twelve years on and off at Macquarie, working part-time to a BSc. The building housing the Art Gallery didn’t exist back then and I suspect this grassy area and the lake may be newer too – certainly I was entirely unaware of them.
This is a (planned) development or series of developments to the sample I showed 12-Jun-2016. First plan is simply corrugated metal and much crisper/neater. Next is undulating the folds of metal so they suggest an image, then use the gridded mesh weft to create tone. New third attempt could be to highlight the view through, or Fontana’s infinite dimension…
While at the Gallery I was delighted to find out more about the one work I remember from my student days. It turns out to be Hojarasca En Oro by Olga de Amaral, acquired by the university in 1976 with the assistance of the Crafts board (the Gallery staff found the original catalogue card for me). It’s now in storage, but I found an image here.
Made of wool and sisal, I remember it dusty, providing a little colour and texture on a large grey concrete wall in the cavernous E7B building. I’d spend a little time with it if I arrived early for COMP 101 (6 – 10pm Monday nights after work – brutal, like the architecture 🙂 ). See more of this amazing artist’s work on her website olgadeamaral.com/.
In particular there is a video olgadeamaral.com/video.html which gives rich context to her work and also shows pieces during creation. It fits in well with the day’s topic of abstract art, to see some of the places, colours, textures that inform Olga de Amaral.
Followup – Matisse Large Reclining Nude
Last week (19-Jun-2016) I mentioned this work painted for the Cone sisters, and the series of photographs of progress. From the video referenced (https://vimeo.com/108139017) I’ve made a page of images to look at the changes in the grid(s) and the influence on the overall composition.
No 1&20 sketch this week, and not a lot of reading completed. Currently new things to read, do and think are coming up more quickly than I can deal with. I feel the need to look long term and pace myself.