PAINTINGS OR PICTURES?

Review of recent exhibition of some nature painting with Eilean Eland’s sculpture with some thoughts on the differences between paintings and ‘pictures’.

       

  Eland Blue woman               Meyer Sweetpeas in a blue jug

Having just taken down my exhibition with ceramicist Eilean Eland at RHS Rosemoor, I fell to reflecting on its success (or lack of it) and the responses of some sturdy folk who visited having braved the often pretty awful weather, and have once again come to the conclusion that most people look at pictures, not at paintings.  Let me explain, and I’m not speaking here of watercolours, they are a quite different kettle of fish!

In galleries, paintings are usually scanned cursorily, and not examined or studied.  But let’s distinguish between pictures and paintings: a picture is always a picture, but often not a painting. In other words, the ‘artist’ is primarily concerned with a pictorial effect: something perhaps intended to please the casual eye, or maybe summon up a memory or some other pleasant feeling.

‘Real’ painters may be concerned with this too but something much deeper is going on.  Those who enjoy real painting (verb) and real paintings (noun) will peer deeply into its heart to see the construction, the harmonies, the composition and the sheer physicality of the actual paint itself (the texture and ‘brushwork’.  Herein, I submit, lies real joy and satisfaction.

I stood beside people and showed them the way the work was created: some see it immediately, some get it, many do not or they are simply not interested.  Their interest starts and ends with pictures – the superficial surface effect – there is nothing wrong with this even though I regret it, if only because it means my paintings do not sell very well!

You might be drawn to a picture by its superficial character, a bit like one might find a pop song catchy at first even if it soon becomes irritating.  An awful lot of pictures are like that: you stop seeing them – they become wallpaper.  That won’t happen with a real painting because its depths are infinite and each viewer brings to it their own unique perspective.

In the arts, let’s briefly compare painting, which has prehistoric origins, with more modern media.  To read a book requires investment of time, as does listening to a piece of music, so why is a painting just glanced at?  It  always strikes me as odd because a painting, unlike the other two examples, is independent of time – you can stand mesmerised by it for ages, no pressure.  So why is it that most visitors look at a painting for about 5 seconds?  One study showed that in major galleries, viewers glance at a painting for less than two seconds, read wall text for 10 seconds, glance back at the painting to verify something, then move on to the next.

I’ll leave you with a couple of examples from paintings at Rosemoor to show the detail and texture which cursory viewing misses and leave you decide your own response. Thanks so much for reading this.


Detail of ‘Daffodils in a blue glass’, Oil on cardboard 76 x 53.5cm

Detail of  ‘Barn in a landscape with dancing figures’, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm

RHS Exhibition and Christmas Greetings

Just a chance to wish everyone a happy time this Christmas season.

Apologies if you’ve already seen this but it’s been such a difficult year, what with losing £15,000 to a building company than went bust after agreeing to convert my studio into a small dwelling and build a new one, I’m not too sure what I have done and haven’t! But we carry on: little money but lots of rain and mud, and good spirits (most of the time).

Thankfully there is always Art and Poetry.

EXHIBITIONx2 RHS Rosemoor.jpg

Please contact me direct for more information and/or visit my website https://richardmeyer.co.uk/index.php/news.

New RHS Exhibition

Barn in a landscape with dancing figures, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm (1)Barn in a landscape with dancing figures, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm

Hallo,
Just to let you know that Eilean Eland and myself have an exhibition at RHS Rosemoor in the Exhibition Room opening this weekend, running through till January.

As you can see from the picture at the top, they are not all flower pieces this time, so if you are in or near North Devon please do come along. It would be great to see you, I’ll be there off and on, and if you’d like to meet up send me a note and I’ll make sure I’m there.

Additionally, the Winter Sculpture exhibition is also on and in the evenings there is the beautiful Glow event (see https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor/whats-on/rosemoor-glow for more details).

Hope you can make it
All good wishes for the Christmas season.

Richard

Gratitude, a two way thing.

With my visual art’scape barren, I’ve been writing a lot, having finished a trilogy of adventure stories for ‘grown-up children’ (that’s my category, so not, definitely not, ‘children’s fiction’) and writing mainly environmental poetry (some here) in which I find great solace away from the ravages being wrought on our poor little lonely planet by warmongers, wildlife abusers, religious zealots and industrial powerhouses… oh, let’s call that ‘civilisation’ shall we?

So, with my studio being dismantled (‘wrecked’ would be another word) and with little thought of painting especially since my portrait of the ‘February Girl’ was rejected for the summer exhibition by the Westward Ho! & Bideford Art Society, I was hit for six by finding I’d sold six paintings in one week; or rather, to be strictly truthful, sold 3 and bartered 3 (for a new studio roof, oh, I love bartering!). The three sold went to a collector in California – who already has one or two of my works.

Feb head, Oil on hardboard 41x30cm (2)            Feb head, Oil on hardboard 41x30cm (3)
Rejected Portrait of the February Girl, Oil on hardboard 41 x 30 cm (detail right).

I find it interesting that the three sold were from my last days in Cornwall, with the three bartered ones being more recent.

One of the sold ones was very dear to me, and I’m grateful it’s gone to a good home somewhere far away across the Atlantic – over which that studio looked – almost! It is ironic that literally right now, 20 years later, I’m having to destroy another studio, this one next door to Cornwall in Devon! Oh, life’s little ironies.

After receiving them, my Californian collector wrote the following words – which I quote with his permission. I’d like to share them because, a) it’s so rare for buyers to be quite so complimentary, and b) if his words help encourage other struggling non-standard artists to carry on so much the better. By ‘non-standard’ I mean in the sense of objective technique (knives, no brushes, wet into wet quickly) and not subject matter – which I accept (very happily) is as old as art itself.

These pieces are better and deeper than words can convey, though I will indeed attempt that task.
Thank you!
I wept at seeing them and then again at seeing them on my walls.
I had removed a few of my own pieces and put yours up.
God, they are just perfect!
I love them.
I adore them!
I can’t stop looking at them!
How much for the shipping?
Forgive me if you’ve already told me, but I don’t recall and want to get the total right.
They inspire me to collect more.
Thank you for letting me acquire these. They are magnificent. Their detail enthralls me.
DKN
These words are genuine. No fraudster or self-aggrandising artist would dare say such things about their own work, would they? When I thanked him and mentioned problems of work being assessed too hastily, he replied:
BTW, galleries are lame!
They don’t know poop!
ANY real curator will immediately see the importance of this work.
The fact that you’re getting rejected is good news! Eyes of the day CAN’T see important work. It takes heralding from pioneers. Remember that critics of the day crucified Jesus and assassinated Gandhi.
I will be writing more on your work over some great wine.
The three paintings he bought are here in small format; visible here in more detail.

If anyone is interested I’ll show and talk about the three bartered paintings another time. Do let me know, also anything else on ‘Leave a reply’ facility so that others can get a different perspective. I’m always really pleased to hear – it’s a lonely old business this.

Thanks for reading. I’m as grateful for DKN’s comments as he seems to be for the actual paintings, hence the title of this piece.

 

On not learning from history: The fate of the badger.

Sometimes events in your life collide…

In this case ecology and painting of the human figure

First…

On the history of the fate of the badger.

A new article just published in

The 

Home

 

Badger

https://theecologist.org/2019/mar/25/fate-badger

Please read, it is really important. Many thanks.

After that something completely different: a painting in a new exhibition… (see previous entry)

 

 



 

Mono Standing Nude, Oil on board 71 x 58 cm

Standing nude in mono, Oil on canvas on board 70.5 x 57.5cm

This painting is at  the White Moose Gallery in Barnstaple from Thursday (4th) in a North Devon Arts group show.

A surprising example (for me at least) of an early stage in a painting which I decided to leave midstream under the theory that ‘less is more’ (advice I usually find hard to follow).  It is therefore mainly monochrome and ‘raw’.  Loving black & white photography, I felt it worked all right and liked the totemic monumental thrust.  Consequently it was submitted to The Royal Academy (for their ‘Raw’ summer show show a few years ago); needless to say rejected in preference to work much of which seemed to me to be trite, arch and not in the least raw.  Others twisted ‘raw’ to ‘roar’ and ‘war’ for example – literary games that left me cold.

I liked the work so much that it has a splendid expensive frame and is consequently quite heavy.

Winter shorelines of the north

The winter shore is a magical place partly because there are no trippers, in fact, there are few if any people at all. This opens up space for the birds, especially winter visitors fleeing here from fiercer conditions north.

‘Opened up’ it certainly is. There are wide expanses of shore, earth, sea and sky raked by wind, rain and a slanting sun. Dusk is even better. When I was much younger, I would go down regularly in the winter – a three mile walk from my home in Prestatyn in North Wales – when home from school or later after work. Even though I now live in soft Devon, a big part of me remains resolutely Northern.

These walks came back to me this winter in North Devon, I don’t know why apart from loving northerly places, and I wanted to crystallise the remembrance of those melancholic beautiful lonely walks with a poem Winter shorelines – it contains this stanza:

The winter beach was my escape from home.
Life-frayed decades have passed since there I’d roam.
Myself, birds and a lonely cold refrain
Would release my ‘little idiot brain’.
Where I could wander and be truly me;
Then came a Sibelius symphony.

Sibelius pastel

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was dying just as I was beginning to live; he has spoken directly to me ever since. A critic, Olin Downes, in 1913 said about his Fourth symphony, my favourite, “Sibelius speaks of grey skies and silent expanses of lakes and forests, of bristling crags and winds and supernatural sounds in a wild land.” And “[It] is the solitude of a man alone with nature, bitter against fate, cursing the heavens.”

Much later, in the year of my birth, he said Sibelius had “…gone too far and remotely into the fastnesses of his own spirit, following a path from which there would be no returning; that had lost touch with his fellow man.”

The doyen of Sibelius critics, David Hall, said of his “… grand, solitary … mood … its sombre but intense beauty, are still heavy upon us as we try vainly to communicate in words the quality of Sibelius’ Fourth.” It is an “evocation of the stark and the superstitious.”

David Hall is right. My poem does not try to do that; it is just a personal connection.

The raven – Evermore!

The raven –
Evermore!

Then it was January already
And I see a raven atop its tree.
Very early in the year it’s come
With sparkling life so barely begun.
Here now the king and queen of crows
High in the pine with me far below
Wishing for certain I wasn’t here.
But, for my part, wish he had no fear.

Those centuries of persecution
Have caused this undeserved exclusion
And brought about such calamity
By those with sighted eyes that can’t see
The glory of its magnificence.
Despite all their poison, guns and sense-
lessness they’ve failed in their regicide,
For safe in London’s Tower Rex survives!

Scorning humdrum landscapes, the raven
In its vaulting poise will freely reign
Over tree, mountainside and cliff edge.
Tail fanned full free, they say like a wedge –
But not really, much more arcuate
For the soar and swoop of mate on mate.
It reminds us, wherever it be,
Of primeval pre-man history.

You prehistoric fantastic beast!
Remembered from where we used to meet
In limeston’d quarry when I was young,
Where once I stopped a kid with a gun
Even though myself scarcely older.
Passion made me angry, nay bolder.
And becoming a man from fey youth
Surprised even myself by such proof.

* * *

The raven’s rasping corronking call
Gives notice; fearing nothing at all
Except endless man – arch enemy –
Who darkly shadows his destiny.
Now see the Raven, still beguiling
In its lonely ancient travelling.
This gaunt grim ominous bird of yore.
What is meant in croaking ‘Nevermore’?

Over our Welsh pinewood winter home,
Where the goshawk and red kite have flown,
Came a strange cork-extracting popping.
Not the usual pruk-pruk toc-tocking
Nor the oft heard bubbling and creaking.
This bell-like liquid gong sent me seeking
Off to Heinrich’s ‘Ravens in Winter’;
Myself once more eager researcher.

In his pages I found a treasure –
That this call is of peace and pleasure.
Now in Devon I hear it a lot
Though from childhood remember it not.
Bold comes its cousin, the common crow
(Less bold the jackdaw) to our window
And raps thereon to be fed some more.
But no raven tapping at my door.

Foolhardy to be any bolder:
Keep your distance from human murder;
Groups of crows are so designated
By man to raise fear of the hated.
O, ebony bird, so beguiling
You set my face gratefully smiling.
Stately raven, quoth I, from my door
I would give you shelter…
Evermore!

© R M Meyer (with respect to Edgar Allan Poe)
Devon, February 2019

Anthropocalypse apocalypse

Last night I dreamt the world was brown.
Lost in space.  Occupied only
By cockroaches and scorpions.
Gone from every city and town;
Gone from every ocean and sea;
And gone to hell all citizens.

So when our fragile planet dies,
It won’t be like the dinosaurs:
A death shadow from god knows where
Blotting out all heavens and skies
Clogging and desolating pores
To suffocate life far and near.

The clever ignoramus might
Betray to treason his own kind –
The once called Homo sapiens,
At least he thinks himself so bright.
What’s it capable of this mind
That would so invite its own ends?

Granma said “Too clever by half!”,
Aimed at myself over some girl.
But how wrong!  Not clever enough.
If only I could see the path
That led away from a pure world.
But alas for me far too tough.

One small man assesses the fright
And scratches his beard in turmoil.
The woman at his side groans and
Fears his anthropogenic plight.
What drives this brain to over-boil
Reduces her to wringing hands.

But it’s unfair that this should be
For it’s her children, and then theirs
Who will die of this human cess
Pit, who have no choice to be free.
It was ours that had too few cares,
Blazoning on madly careless.

The blank complacency of men
Will tolerate with mockery
A death cloud that’s pre-eminent;
And, aye, even more, his children
Confirms in me pomposity
And mocks the word ‘intelligent’.

Of all the living things worldwide
How strange it should be just our own –
The one species which perhaps should
Not – but which will bring ecocide.
Yes, human kind have for sure grown
Far too clever for their own good.

The cleverness which drives our lives,
Do not mistake it for wisdom.
Do not mistake intelligence.
In the businessman who survives.
And, yes, thrives within his kingdom,
By making money with no sense.

Did we think it would be all right?
Did we think it would not transpire?
Did we think techies could sort it?
Did we think it was out of sight?
Did we think it was not so dire?
Did we think it would not persist?

Yes, our leaders thought all those things.
Their lives were good, their wages fat.
They won’t be here to see the war.
To piss on their graves will not bring
Back all the wonderful life that
Garlanded this planet before.

Spinning in perpetuity,
Never to be replicated;
Unless we’re watched by jesters in
Some galactic laboratory
Pushing us until we are dead
Just to see which life-form would win.

This was what woke me fearfully:
A little planet still spinning –
Indescribably small and lost –
And over all, pathetically,
The golden sun still was blazing
All cellular green life to toast.

 © R.M. Meyer
Devon, December 2018
Dedicated to Emma