Learning from ‘the man and the beast’: amazing Picasso exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Conversation with Picasso

“Go and do the things you can’t. That is how you get to do them.”

Things I have learned from Pablo Picasso:

– keep an open and curious mind – it will inform your creativity
– be open to change
– keep exploring and learning, don’t get stuck in your ways
– be free in your expression, don’t censure yourself
– be succinct and clear
– reduce to the max

Conversation with PICASSO

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. ”

Conversation with PICASSO

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.”

Conversation with PICASSO

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

“Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) remains one of the most celebrated artists of all time. Contemporary art critic Robert Hughes wrote: “No painter or sculptor, not even Michelangelo, [was] as famous as this in his own lifetime.” Picasso was a champion of abstract art, which has come to define the avant-garde in the 20th century.

A Spanish-born artist who spent his adult life in France, Picasso’s artistic production spans over six decades, making him one of the most prolific artists of the modern era. His celebrated Blue and Rose Periods (1901-1906) marked his first decade in Paris. These early canvases are known for their deep, cool palette, often featuring people from Picasso’s circle of friends, while the Rose Period brought warmer, brighter hues of orange and pink, with figures from the theatre, ballet, and circus.

Cubism in its Analytic and Synthetic phases (1909-1919) developed when Picasso joined forces with French artist Georges Braque, and the two began experimenting with the composition of the object and picture plane. As they dismantled and re-assembled forms into various states, often with multiple perspectives and angles, Cubism was born.

While embracing elements of Classicism and Surrealism in both artistic and literary circles into the mid decades of the last century, Picasso never stopped exploring new themes and techniques in his art. His total artistic output is estimated in the thousands, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and ceramics. He married twice and had four children by three women.” (Source: WAG)

For more information about the amazing exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) – ‘Pablo Picasso, man and beast’ (May 13 until Aug 13, 2017), click here.

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Morley Myers – Sculpting the shape of the human condition

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Morley Myers and ‘Blink of an Eye’

An interview with the B.C. artist by Daniela Herold

Morley Myers, as a self-taught sculptor, you have been working with stone since 1991. One of the most common purposes of sculpture in history was some form of association with religion, or an expression of politics. Why do you choose to create sculptures?

Morley Myers: I started sculpting as an unconscious attempt to explore my self. I hate to call it ‘art therapy’, but it does have that quality at times. What I do would be a combination of religion, and possibly gender politics as well as the broader form of community or national politics.

In your mid twenties, you were enrolled in the Humanities program working towards a degree in social studies.

Morley Myers: We all had to take classes in Ethics, Political Science, Sociology etc, and I chose to also do a class on Religion – is there a God or a proof of divine existence, that sort of thing. It all fed me well, giving me a lot of grist for what I have come to do later in life as an artist.

Over the years I have done bodies of work investigating my relationship with God or a spirit world. Another body was investigating the relationship of spirit and sexual identity, or the lack of. My ideas of what it means to be a man within the constraints of our culture, or my thoughts on this push to have our own children and what it might mean to be a woman or a man desiring to have children.

Human experiences as the basis of your work?

Morley Myers: Indeed. These explorations have helped me to get an understanding of some of the cultures that influenced me, for instance First Nations art from all around the world.

Do you find that the process of creating can be an end in itself?

Morley Myers: Absolutely. There is a joy that is difficult to explain, that you experience when you are in the groove. Once you have experienced this ‘bliss’, you tend to chase it. It is possibly one of the closest things to a spiritual experience I know. In a way, it has become an obsession for me – with the next piece being the cure.

Male Torso as Armour.v3

Male Torso as Armour

When I had the opportunity to visit your studio, I had the impression that your work evolves from a direct encounter with the material itself. You told me that you often start with the fault line or some other perceived defect when creating a sculpture from a raw block of stone. Why?

Morley Myers: Yes, it is a questionable approach to engage the faults and then move with the dialogue from there. This approach is something I tend to do when I am stuck, when the flow has stopped or when I am forcing my will and it all grinds to a halt. At times I have taken a piece of stone and saw large cuts in it creating a challenge that helps move beyond the impasse. Similarly our relationships with others often are deepened when we experience the imperfections of ourselves or others, creating new directions and understanding.

Do you prefer subtractive carving techniques – when removing material from an existing block of stone or wood – or rather modelling techniques to shape or build up your art from the material of your choice?

Morley Myers: When I started sculpting, it was to some extent a reaction to what I was doing as a builder. I had been working for years as a carpenter and found little to no outlet for my own expression as I was building other people’s dreams. I also wanted to get away from the noise of the power tools that I was using all day long, so I started working with hand tools on soft stone, moving slowly and quietly towards my own inner vision.

I worked subtractively for sometime, then slowly introducing power tools as i began to see the images quicker and wanted to speed up the process – ironic, isn’t it? It took me about 10 years before I was comfortable enough to move onto modeling or additive work. Starting with foam and plaster, then moving into steel assembly work.

Does additive work feel different to you?

Morley Myers: There is a wonderful freedom with additive work. You can continue to work and rework the image, adding and or subtracting at will. This is very different to stone work where you can also rework a piece, but it will get smaller and smaller until you end up with a pile of dust.

Both techniques work for me at this point and I find myself comfortably moving between them.

Linear Thinking 005

Linear Thinking

For a sculptor, the classic materials with outstanding durability are usually metal, especially bronze, stone and pottery. What ways and materials do you seek to make art?

Morley Myers: I work in stone, foam, plaster, wood, steel and bronze. And as I mature, I see the possibilities of other materials or dimensions, having done a body of second work playing with colour and texture a few years ago. As an artist who is interested in exploring ideas you are not limited. We can go back to the likes of Picasso who did it all. He helped to set us free.

It has been said that ‘your work is meticulously composed, but open’. How would you describe your style?

Morley Myers: Interesting – I find this description both flattering and mildly confusing. I personally would describe my style as direct and strong, almost a 3D form of drawing.

What I do is definitely meticulous as I come from a line of perfectionists. So when we set ourselves to a task, we look closely at the details. I have a difficult time with ‘wishy-washy art’ – by that I mean art that doesn’t say anything or is too soft and round. I like sharp lines and clean intersecting planes.

As far as the statement goes that my work is trying to project – I like that to be clear, however this is where the “open” part might come into play. Since my statements tend to be about our human experience, each viewer will respond to it with mild to massive shades of difference.

When I travelled through the Netherlands last year, I visited the sculpture garden of the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in Otterlo, which opened in 1961, and has since become one of the most renowned in the world. Situated on carefully chosen spots on 25 hectares of woodland, sculptures ranging from work by Rodin to that of contemporary sculptors can be enjoyed by visitors. Where in North-America, do you think, come visual art, nature, architecture and garden design together in perfect harmony?

Red Face.v4

Red Face

Morley Myers: I can’t come up with one place that is the ultimate, rather many possibilities. I am a country rat by nature and have never been overly comfortable in large cities, so my preference would be something in nature, preferably something here on the west coast.

I have seen wonderful sculpture ‘gardens’ in city landscapes as well in the country, above ground and below water. I do not think it has to be limited to one place or type of environment, be that urban or rural. But there needs to be an openness to the experience, to both the art and place.

Your career is long and eventful – what influenced your evolution as a sculptor?

Morley Myers: Living within a community of artists here on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, has had a large impact on what I do and who I have become as an artist.

– Firstly, when the mystery of being an artist was dissolved, closing the gap between artist and mortal.

– The opportunity to see things differently and to start engaging within the creative process with endless encouragement. From here the art world started to open to me and fearlessly I stumbled into it (and for the most part continue to).

– Meeting new artists who point me in different directions, giving me new views of the world and other voices to investigate.

Within this ‘one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-approach’ there have been satori moments, awakening moments. Like the ‘Aha-effect’ when something becomes clear. For instance when a friend invited me to watch a movie showing Picasso in motion and I was watching Picasso’s creative process flowing through many possibilities until there was this sense of completion. This is the moment of freedom I spoke of earlier.

“Our relationships with others are often deepened when we experience the imperfections of ourselves or others, creating new directions and understanding.” Morley Myers

Who of the following artists has inspired you and why? Barbara Hepworth, Picasso, Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Marta Pan, Constantin Brâncuși or Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Morley Myers: Of these artists, my primary influences are Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Picasso and Constantine Brancusi.

It is hard for me to separate Hepworth and Moore as their work was very similar on many aspects, eg their explorations of space or void, or the same sense of flow and statement. Their work gave me an understanding of negative space or void.

Picasso demonstrates the freedom to explore dimensions and materials, the easy flow from 2D to 3D and back again, often within the same piece of work.

Brancusi is the start of the language all the moderns base their work on. His break from Rodin and access to the influences that were coming out of Africa at that time were the start of the language that my work is based on.

How do you see and understand public space and the role of art in public space?

Morley Myers: I think that public spaces can do many things. They can open our eyes to different ways of seeing the world and our place within it. Don’t they represent a chance to explore ourselves and others through many forms of art? As they provide a space for artists to realize their visions, they give space to their voices. Public spaces also create an opportunity for us to experience beauty for its own sake or give a visual voice to the injustices that surround us.

These parks can also reintroduce us to the natural world that we are apart of or re-frame our urban environments so that they are no longer just a place of survival or opportunities to merchandise. We can regain a sense of who we are as a species in relation to our environment. They can create an opportunity for profound change or simply function as a great place for family picnicking.

How do you deal with issues surrounding your art involving interior and exterior, solid and void, time and space, weight and weightlessness?

Morley Myers: I don’t give much conscious thought to these issues, I rather feel or intuit. It is similar to knowing when you are finished with a piece – there is a sense of completion, a feeling similar to a satori moment. A recognition from within.

What are you currently working on?

Morley Myers: At the moment I am looking at the next phase of my career as I am soon to be 60 years old and looking at who I am or becoming.

I am experiencing big life changes. My father, 90, is in the throws of Alzheimer’s and will soon be gone. This is a big moment in our lives, the loss of a parent, which forces deep reflection. It is in a way bringing me closer to my family, giving me a sense of continuity as I experience or visualize my father throughout the time frame that I have memories of him. I have been very unsettled by this experience as this last part is bringing my own demise well within view. I have a keen sense of how much time I have left, wondering what I will do with it.

I also have a much better understanding of my connection to all things at this point in my life. A wonderful place to be as it provides an endless realm of possibilities to create from.

Daniela Herold:  Morley Myers, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with my readers.

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ABOUT:

Morley Myers was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1956, and grew up primarily in the Medicine Hat region. A self taught sculptor, Morley has been working with stone since 1991 and has been involved in exhibits on the west coast and has displayed in galleries in New York, Vancouver, Victoria, Tofino, Salt Spring Island, Calgary, Winnipeg and Medicine Hat.

Artist website:
morleymyers.com

CONTACT:  Studio – Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
128 Graham Drive, Salt Spring Island, Canada. V8K 1J5

Credits / photographs copyright: David Borrowman

Painting by Francis Bacon sets auction record

‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ sold for astronomical sum

Francis Bacon was once described by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. Today, Bacon’s piece on his friend, Lucian Freud, sold for the astronomical sum of $142 million – the largest amount ever paid in auction.

The 20th Century artist’s oil painting ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ eclipses Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which sold last year at Sotheby’s for $120 million. As the top-end of the art market is experiencing an incredible surge, the price tag of $142 million still leaves many scratching their head. But Bacon’s triptych had never been offered at auction before, which made it very appealing for high-end buyers. Also, Bacon has a relatively small body of work. He wasn’t nearly as prolific as someone like Picasso, whose total output has been given estimates around 40.000 pieces.

Bacon (1909 –1992) was born in Dublin to parents of English heritage. He had a troubled childhood and was forced to leave home at 16, living a rootless existence in London, Berlin and Paris. But in 1927, a Picasso exhibition in Paris inspired him. He began painting in his early 20s, struggling to find a style that suited him. After he was being declared unfit for military service in 1944, he gained a reputation for being “an observer of the darker aspects of humanity” and soon became known for his bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery. In 1945, he met German-born British painter Lucian Freud who was 13 years younger than him. They became close friends.

Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s Europe, described the 1969 three-panel painting as a “true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship”. It shows Freud sitting on a wooden chair within a cage. Behind each figure is a headboard of a bed, originating in a set of photographs of Freud by John Deakin, which Bacon used as a reference.

Bacon turned “traditional paintings of people inside out, with grotesquely distorted faces and twisted body parts”. Some of his most famous artworks were inspired by old masters, such as the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez.

The ten most expensive paintings ever sold:

  • “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969) by Francis Bacon, 2013 (sold for $142.4 mio.)
  • “No. 5” (1948) by Jackson Pollock, 2006, sold for $140 mio.
  • “Woman III” (1953) by Willem de Kooning, 2006, sold for $137.5 mio.
  • “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907) by Gustav Klimt, 2006, sold for $135 mio.
  • “Der Schrei” (1895) by Edvard Munch, 2012, sold for $119.9 mio.
  • “Akt mit grünen Blättern und Büste” (1932) by Pablo Picasso, 2010, sold for $106.5 mio.
  • “Junge mit Pfeife” (1905) by Picasso, 2004; sold for $104.2 mio.
  • “Dora Maar mit Katze” (1941) by Picasso, 2006 sold for $95.2 mio.
  • “Adele Bloch-Bauer II” (1912) by Gustav Klimt, 2006 sold for $87.9 mio.
  • “Orange, Red, Yellow” (1961) by Mark Rothko, 2012 sold for $86.9 mio.

Sources:

The official website of the estate of Francis Bacon

BBC / Der Spiegel online / Mirror, online 13 Nov 2013