… It took a while for me to understand that what I am doing is shifting from showing to seeing, and that this makes sense to me.
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, given in bold. I’ve picked out the bits that I like. This first is from Eduardo Berliner:
A painting begins long before one applies paint to canvas. For about fourteen years I have maintained the daily practice of making notations in notebooks. For the most part these are drawings. Some of them are made from memory, others from observation, and still others can arise from a simple mark on the paper. These drawings spring from the act of drawing itself, and sometimes I look at them and don’t quite understand where they came from. But once they are in the world, I must live with them.
I take my camera wherever I go. Some of the pictures I take are based on ephemeral situations, others record objects — photographs of people, animals, architecture, changes of lighting. Each month I choose a large number of photographs, which I print and leave around the studio, and use them as a basis to begin to draw and make small watercolors. Sometimes I mix parts of different photographs in the same drawing and complete it with a drawing from memory. At other moments I become aware that an image has started recurring.
[line break added] When it arises from a mental image, I feel the need to find something in the world that serves as a visual reference to begin a painting or take it forwards: I perceive a great power that arises from the borderline territory between what I see and what I imagine; between what the things are and how they function as a mirror of what lives in my thoughts and my memory. But a moment comes during the process when I begin to be guided by the material information on the canvas and by the relationship between my body and the support.
I believe that throughout the painting process something unforeseeable needs to happen: it is at these moments that a painting comes into its own.
Eduardo Berliner, Woman with Dog, 2009
This next is from Anna Bjerger:
The process of collecting photographic material (from out-of-date reference books and magazines, for example), looking through images, finding arbitrary connections and making a selection of what to paint, is a big part of my work.
I think of this process — painting a photograph — as a way of deciphering an image. I want it to be an intuitive and almost subconscious act, which is why I like to start a painting in the morning first thing when I get into the studio. I don’t think of it either as an original, or a copy — the painting is a hybrid. When I paint the photograph I don’t change the composition or the framing, but I might exaggerate certain areas.
The process of collecting photographic material and looking through images is meditative and allows me to think about my practice in a constructive way. Spending time with images, reversing them, imagining scale and becoming familiar with the details, the color, the light — to me they are a great inspiration. If I were thinking in terms of painting ‘live,’ I would find it daunting to consider the boundaries of the space I am depicting [to frame the image.]
The following is from Ulrich Lamsfuß:
My painting technique is basically non-existent. It’s just about putting the right color directly on the canvas exactly where I find it on the original. It is more about plotting. I want to have a straight, non-artistic, dry, honest and evident surface. You can follow every brushstroke, you can see and understand how it is done. No tricky tricks. So my artistic development is just about getting more exact. My drawing technique is the opposite. It is more spontaneous and juicy and faulty: it is therapy.
It took a lot of willpower to ‘keep on keeping on.’ It took a while for me to understand that what I am doing is shifting from showing to seeing, and that this makes sense to me.
[ … ]
On the choice of subject matter
It is more about themes, about zeitgeist. I am more interested in subtext than in the story and in the end everything is media. I can read everything, but the point is that the painting does not talk. Actually, the contradiction and diversity of the subjects is meant to make them stop talking.
My previous post from this book is here.