Unreal Nature

September 27, 2016

A Place, Not a Landscape

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… I try to figure out what people do in a place like that.

This is from A Brush with the Real: Figurative Painting Today by Marc Valli and Margherita Dessanay (2014). In this book, each featured artist has a section where he talks about his or her work under somewhat (but not always) consistent headings. I’ve picked out the bits that I like. This first is from François Bard:

On creating a personal style

Work, work and work: through work I could gradually find a way to express my artistic intentions. I tend to be suspicious of styles. I try to remain as instinctive as I can. Style is too often confused with a personal technique, which is a big mistake.

François Bard, La Croix, 2012


It takes ma approximately a week to paint a portrait, with a model who sits for me three hours every afternoon. I also use these moments to take photographs of the models. Usually I pick my models from everyday life. Initially, their own stories don’t interest me. But the more I work with a model, the more I get to know them. They all have their own history and past, which eventually shows in the way they behave with me. At some point, whether I want it or not, this dimension, this human ‘effect,’ appears in the paintings.

From Tim Eitel. (The square brackets in the quotes are in the original.):


Each work contains multiple narratives. The first of these is the fact that it’s a painting and I thought it had to be done and so I made it, and I want you to look at it. And you’ll see it as a painting and see where it fits within your conceptions of that. I don’t see any kind of underlying storyline [in the paintings] myself. Of course there is a lot of great art that tells stories we already know so you can pack a lot of action from the before and after into one pregnant moment. … But my interest is more in situations, in constellations [alignments of chance], in what meaning there is [left] when you strip them of all narrative.


… I don’t do preparatory sketches. I feel like this would spoil the fun. I like the unexpected to happen. To finish a painting can take quite some time: up to a year. I know that it is finished when I experience the work as if somebody else had painted it.

From Maya Gold:

Beyond politics

I feel that as an Israeli artist I am always expected to refer to the complex political situation and to the occupation. This expectation can be tiring. I am sure one can find the influence of living in this reality in my paintings. Yet I wouldn’t like the discourse around them to be political. For me, art is beyond politics. My work deals with the connection between art and daily life, with the unique ability of art to be a part of daily life but yet be ‘unusual’ at the same time. My paintings depict ordinary moments that, through pictorial actions, such as changing the point of view or the perspective, lose their balance and thus are excluded from the pre-existing order.

From Serban Savu:

Process and subject matter

… The landscape is important: it acts like a character, defining the other characters and giving meaning to the whole scene. I deliberately choose a raised and distant point of view in order to have a better perception of the landscape. When I see a place in reality (I prefer to call it a place, not a landscape) I act like an X-ray machine, trying to understand why it looks like this, and I have to dig a little bit into recent history. Such a place often is a catalyst for a painting; I try to figure out what people do in a place like that. I follow that place from time to time to check out what’s going on there.

From Liu Xiaodong:

Against style

… The history of painters is merely the history of forming one’s own style. But once a style is formed, it is difficult to reflect directly and effectively on contemporary society. To reveal the truth, painters must undermine their own style at any given time. This is the hardest problem for an artist to handle.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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