May 06th, 2023
The Beauty of Transience
Recently I discovered two new words. They are not in the English language. They are: Wabi-Sabi, and they intrigued me no end. So I thought that I would share these two deep and meaningful words, and the thinking behind them.
Wabi-Sabi is a very ancient Philosophy. It originated with Buddha and early Eastern way of life, but has, since the fourteenth century become totally Japanese. The significance of the words was first of all a bit more on the solemnity and mortality of humans and objects, referring to loneliness, remoteness and living a ‘lean’ sort of life away from society. Now, to my mind, it has taken a rather more uplifting, enriching and inspirational connotation.
But let me first of all try to simplify these two words. For Wabi you can read; Rustic simplicity, quietness, and understated elegance. The quirks in our life or that of an inanimate object that makes us or it so unique, especially with the passing of time. And Sabi, you can say, is the beauty and serenity that comes with age. The impermanence of life on objects; rust, wrinkles, the ‘wear and tear’ that is seen only through the passing of time, where one knows that an object (or, indeed a person) has had a history all of its own.
From an artistic point of view, Wabi-Sabi is really found in every object created by the artisan’s hand. Whether it’s a painting or a piece of pottery or object d’art, when you look closely, nothing is really flawless. And that is why we appreciate hand-made things! You can design flawless objects using a computer these days and then send it to a factory and you can have a million Perfect objects looking exactly the same. But that doesn’t inspire anyone does it?
The Japanese invented the art of Hagi ware, where tea cups or bowls used in tea ceremonies are all different, all imperfect.
It is this ‘Flawed Beauty’ that attracts us, makes us want to own an object like that, knowing that its imperfection is what makes it unique, one of a kind. They even celebrate imperfection when a piece of ceramic is broken. In Japan they do not throw it away, but repair it, using gold! It is called Kintsugi, the art of repairing something using lacquer dusted with gold, silver or platinum. So the breakage is treated as part of its history to be celebrated rather than hidden. And I say what a brilliant concept!
After a while I started to think about the history of painting and artists (me being one of course) and a few things occurred to me. If you look, for example, at Greek art and the form they were after, it all had to be so perfect. Perfect vases with perfectly shaped humans painted on them. And the Renaissance artists continued on the same notion. The search for perfection was the number one priority for artists and their patrons. For hundreds of years, a faultless piece of art was the aim of every Western artisan. Italian and French painters fought for that illusive flawless precision in whatever they painted or created.
Then came the Impressionists. They put, albeit probably unintentionally, the art of Wabi-Sabi on the western art world. It wasn’t totally coincidental, however, as their biggest influence and inspiration came from Japanese prints that all of the Impressionists seemed to acquire. Just take a look at the paintings of Monet, Degas, Cezanne and Gauguin, to name but a few. You don’t see perfection there. Just a fleeting impression of an object or place. No golden ratio, no Divine proportion, no Fibonacci sequence.
Of course the epitome of this is the mercurial Vincent Van Gogh. He was a flawed character himself, he was a mixture of Wabi-Sabi, and Hagi ware incarnated and so was his painting. In fact I would say that through his art he was trying to Kintsugi his life and soul! The word ‘perfect’ does not fit into anything he was or ever painted, and yet he is arguably the best loved person in the history of art.
Have you ever asked yourself why? Because although we might think that we want everything in our life to be perfect, we love and connect more with imperfection, with the Wabi-Sabi around us. In fact we appreciate and value the idea of Flawed Beauty. All of us know that about ourselves (unless we are totally conceited) and so we feel a certain concord and inner peace when we connect with imperfection.
Rather than looking for perfection, accept and appreciate people and things as they are. Remember, going to the Mall is good because you will find all that you need, but isn’t it more exciting going to a car-boot sale, not knowing what you’re going to find? A sunny day can be called ‘perfect’ but a storm is more exhilarating to watch!
At the end of the day, the only logical thing for us to do is, when something is broken, whether it’s within us or a cherished person or inanimate object, is to repair it using Kintsugi, so that every time we look at it, we appreciate the Wabi-Sabi value within it and prize it even more than before.
Our whole life is ultimately transient. So make the best of it, and if somehow, somewhere, sometime, it gets ‘chipped’ a little, make that experience a part of your life, treasure it, learn from it, ‘Kintsugi’ it, and smile with the knowledge that every other being and thing in the world experiences the same thing at some point in their life. As the writer Richard R. Powell put it: ‘Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.’
John Paris Dimech
Jesus, Muhammad, Isaiah, Jeremiah. Nostradamus and… Andy Warhol! You of course would be correct in coming to the conclusion that I am actually talking about Prophets, but what does Andy Warhol have to do with this distinguished group of people, some of whom claimed to be ‘the voice of God’?
While a lot of Faiths have interpreted prophecy to their own advantage and for their own time and place, (sometimes no matter how stretched that interpretation was). Warhol gave us a prediction that is the Twenty First Century phenomenon of our time. Now Mr Warhol is, of course, most famous for being an Avant-garde artist of the Twentieth century. But he also loved talking a lot (mostly poking fun at the people who did not fully understand his brand of Art.)
In February 1968 Warhol exhibited his first international retrospective exhibition in Stockholm, and the catalogue for that exhibition contained the now famous line “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” That was exactly fifty years ago! And since then no words have come to be proven so right as Andy Warhol’s. Little did he know how unequivocally true his words would ring in the near future.
One must remember that back in 1968, there were no ‘TV Reality shows’ no ‘Celebrity culture’ and most of all… no internet! I bet that persons under the age of fifteen can’t imagine how we possibly could have lived under such conditions! Alas today we live in the very fulfilment of that ‘prophesy’.
Look at much of the television programs today that focus on some unfortunate family’s day to day life. (Preferably a dysfunctional, swearing, smoking, drinking interbreeding mess of a family). Thousands of people follow their antics, talk about them at home, at work, and anywhere we happen to flitter time. They are for ‘fifteen minutes’ truly made ‘famous’. Till the next one comes along, that is.
And then came the birth of the Internet. And with it came Facebook, Instagram,
You tube, and a thousand other social media Apps that can connect us all together. One thing I notice is that to become ‘really famous’ all you have to do is count how many ‘LIKES’ you get. And how do you achieve this? Well mostly if you’re female it’s by, 1. Taking your clothes off and shaking your ass, 2. By ranting about some social injustice to womanhood, 3. Having your kids or pet do some silly (but cute) thing and capturing it on you iPhone and posting it somewhere and everywhere on social media. Of course if you’re male it’s much easier. All you have to show is how stupid you are and get your friends to do the rest!
There are good things that have come out of the internet age. You cannot run a business successfully if you don’t have a website because now all the world can look at your wares and decide if it’s for them. And this is also where putting your stuff on social media is helpful to achieve your goal of a successful business. The first thing people ask you when you tell them you have a product for sale is: ‘have you got a website?’
So one way or another we are all fulfilling Andy Warhol’s prophesy about being ‘famous’ (or in some cases ‘infamous’) for a period of time. Whatever we think about technology, however we behave when we have the occasion to be part of the world wide web of social media, we have a responsibility to respect it. Unfortunately, we also have come to the age of the ‘Selfie’.
No longer do we use our iPhones just to talk, communicate, or even voyeur others. First and foremost it’s become about us! The ‘Selfie’ has become the number one ‘look at me world’ weapon in our hands. It seems that the more apps we get in order to interconnect with the world, the more we have become obsessed with our own self. It is not just a matter of us being in touch with the world; the world has to be in love with us. All it takes is a simple touch of a screen, and hey presto. Andy Warhol himself could not have imagined how accurately his prophecy was to be fulfilled!
I have a painting ,,, an abstract painting on here with the title 'White on'. And this week it was very appropriate to remember how I painted it considering the weather we've been having. Everywhere you look it's WHITE.... white white white.... Beautiful white; treacherous white; cold white.
When I started said painting, I had no idea how it would end up. Yellows, reds, blues, violets and greens all intermingled and juxtaposed next to each other, on top of each other. It was one of my first abstracts that were inspired by the great Gerhard Richter. but for days, no matter what I did and how how I changed, added or took off colours I was not a happy bunny!
Ruth and I were in our first gallery in Valletta, Malta. it had a big space as the main Gallery/studio. and it also had a recess and kitchen... I did this painting in the recess. Believe me when I tell you that after working on this painting I would end up breathless and sweating. It was a completely different experience to me... one that I found much more difficult than painting my figurative work.
Although I started painting it with brushes, I used the method favored by Richter... that of swiping a squeegee (although I used pieces of mountboard) across the whole painting...then magic happened! Most of the painting turned white except for a few places where the colour from underneath still showed in little patches. And that;s how 'White on' came to be.
With the snow covering most of the land this week, I'm really looking forward to seeing it melt when patches of colour start appearing again, hopefully bringing the glory of spring with them.
Every picture tells a story
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
Everyone loves a good story. And everyone loves a good picture. From the hand print of baby Johnny stuck to the fridge to the framed ‘painting’ hanging on top of your settee, every picture tells a story. Of course, the picture with Johnny’s handprint does not need any artistic merit. What matters in that particular case is the pride Johnny's mummy and daddy feel when someone comes to visit and notices the ‘painting’. And with good reason too. After all you never know what that painting could be the start of, do you?
But what about the picture decorating your living room wall? The one that’s there covering that important space behind your sofa? Is it just hanging there because that’s what everyone does with that particular space in their house? Of course there's nothing wrong with that, if all you want is to fill a space on your wall that is. These days you can go to a lot of shops and for two Euros you can have a 'print' hanging in any wall of any room in your house.
What puzzles me is this. Most people will pay a fortune for the precise piece of furniture they always wanted. They will even fork out a decent sum of money for the 'right' vase or ornament to sit on or with that furniture. But when it comes to a painting, many times it becomes a different issue and all that seems to matter is 'Does the frame fit in with the decor'!
Now I am a professional artist, and as such I do believe that it's a matter of attitude. The issue is that a lot of people still think of paintings, prints and anything hanging on the wall as just that; something in a frame to cover a space on the wall. So even if you have an original Van Gogh, it will only get hung if it’s in the right frame, that is the one that matches the wardrobe.
But let us consider a few things to, hopefully, change a few people’s perception towards this general viewpoint. You spent months, even years, making sure you live in the the right environment, that is making your house a home. You choose your neighbourhood carefully. You go to a hundred different shops to select your furniture. Room by room, the style, colour and shape of everything you posess has to be perfect. You purchase all the relevant magazines to see what is beautiful, trendy and really ‘you’ and then try your utmost to have everything in your home just so.
So why stop doing that when it comes to what you will hang on your walls? Why not buy a painting with the same attitude as when you bought the rest of your belongings? After all, what becomes more precious with the passing of time than a painting? Most things you now have in your home will devalue in no time, but a good painting will always go up in value.That’s why, when you go to a relaible Art Gallery, one of the things you expect them to say to you is the word ‘Investment’. Because when you purchase a good painting from a decent well known artist the value of that painting will most likely go up in time.
So buying a painting as an investment is an incentive in itself. But more than that, as with Johnny’s painting, although for a different reason, it is also something to show off with pride. It will make your home feel special. It will tell everyone something about yourself! And you don’t have to spend a small fortune to possess a good work of art. And you will find that once you have an ‘original’ hanging on your wall, it won’t be just a one off, but the start of a ‘collection’. For me, and I’m not only talking as a professional artist here, it is better to have one good piece of art, than lots of ‘wall-space coverings’ with no meaning at all.
Let that ‘picture’ tell the story that you are a person with exquisite taste and a good sense of what is truly valuable and aesthetically pleasing, making your home that little bit more special than it already was. Remember if that picture says a thousand words, they are mostly about you.
Old Harry Rocks and me
When I first came to live in the UK, I knew I was going to settle in Dorset and slowly I began to explore the county. Coming from a place like Malta, a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean, I was in awe of the hills, the forest, and the beautiful change of the seasons throughout the year. But most of all my artistic mind and heart fell in love with the Purbecks. Now part of the World Heritage Jurassic coast, it has been and probably continue to be so very special to me.
I can say it has served me well too. I have painted and sold more paintings of Old Harry Rocks than anything else since I’ve been here. Every time I visit that place I find myself looking, not just at some rock formation, but a stunning natural monument coming out of the azure Dorset Sea which makes me want to discover it a bit more.
There are various stories about the naming of the rocks. One legend says that the Devil (traditionally known euphemistically as "Old Harry") slept on the rocks. Another local legend says that the rocks were named after Harry Paye the infamous Poole pirate whose ship hid behind the rocks awaiting passing merchantmen. Yet another tale has it that a ninth-century Viking raid was thwarted by a storm and that one of the drowned, Earl Harold, was turned into a pillar of chalk
Whatever you believe about Old Harry, (or you can make up your own story of course!) when you are on top of those rocks you can’t help but be inspired by its beauty. I know that whenever Ruth and I go there we both want to sketch, paint, and take even more photos than we already have and get back home to paint yet another interpretation of Old Harry Rocks.
To me Old Harry Rocks are what the Water Lilies were to Monet, and Mont Sainte Victoire was to Cezanne. They never tired of painting the same subject, always trying to find something new and exciting in them. Yes, they found other themes to put on canvas, but those became a part of who they were, what they are remembered and revered for, what made them stand out as artists. I am now painting Abstracts, in all shapes and form and colour, but Old Harry Rocks will be a part of my repertoire for the rest of my artistic life.
September 04th, 2016
Sunday.... rest day... yeah right!!!!
Today started with helping Ruth in the garden. I really wanted to continue working on my paintings (having started several at one time this week!) but really enjoyed the 'end of season' work we did. Taking down the bean stalks and getting covered with black insects! But it was fun!!
Now, this afternoon I shall continue, first my huge abstract and then my new 'New Forest' painting.
And while I'm doing that I will probably be listening either to music or some artist sharing his or her wisdom on Youtube.
I don't know about you other artists out there, but I get really excited squeezing my tubes and seeing the dollops of colours sitting next to each other waiting for my brush to pick them up and putting them on my canvas as if they're all putting their hands up like little kids and saying... "Me next, me next!" Oh well, that's my cup of tea finished. Colours.... here I come!
In confidence... or not!!
So today, while painting on my own, I thought I would listen to a few artists on Youtube. As an artist I always want to know what's going on out there and try to get in the mind of those who have 'made it' in the art world.
Right now my favorite artist, especially to listen to, is Grayson Perry. Winner of the famous/infamous Turner prize, potter par excellence and many other arty/crafty things. He is the only potter to win the Turner prize, by the way.
I went through three videos of him either in his studio, talking at some art college or being interviewed on television. The last one I watched was a part of a series called... In confidence. He was utterly brilliant on all of them and an inspiration. No high brow, bullshitting or 'look at me I'm famous' just an ordinary guy telling it as it is. His pots can be controversial and humorous, but always brilliant. He is now making tapestries relating to today's society. All very intellectually resplendent!
Then I spotted the same program (In confidence) featuring Tracy Emin. Now those who know me well know what I think about her and her art.... but I thought 'let me give her a chance and see what comes out of her this time! I really started listening with an open mind and ear...
But...... oh dear oh dear... The first fifteen minutes of her interview I did not hear a word about art...instead the usual drivel of how many abortions she had. It went on (cause I was determined not to let prejudice overcome me) about how she got raped, how all the critics hate her, how she was abused... oh, and how she is more intelligent than many of us!!!
By the way, can please someone tell me how she was made 'professor of drawing' at the RA?
Waiting to hear from you all !!!!
RA summer exhibition
So at last Ruth and I managed to go and visit the Royal academy summer exhibition in London. One thing you get to know about the exhibition... the biggest of the year... is that you never know what to expect!
We have been going to see it for quite a few years now... and it is never the same in that some times it has been quite disappointing and other times very inspirational. This year I thoroughly enjoys it while Ruth ...well not as much as me. The main reason for this , I think is that Ruth loves to see the more traditional work, whereas I nowadays prefer the more modern look. Nothing with with any of that!
What we both loved though, is that there were a lot of 'good art' mainly coming from unknown artists, who, every year inspire to have a their picture hung next to the 'established' and even 'famous' artists. (or in the case of Tracy Emin... infamous!) And there was also a lot of this 'unknown' art that was sold.
Every year the members of the RA are given there own spaces to hang amidst all this, and that's maybe one thing I get disappointed with. Because whereas these, unknown artists are making every effort to produce and exhibit there best creations, it seems that these 'established and honorable' members don't put the same effort in it and just seem to hand over one or two of the work from their studios knowing it will get hung whatever!
But all in all one thing we came out with was our determination that we will be trying our 'luck' next year and put in a couple of pieces of our work for 2017.
So watch this space!
A year on...
Doesn't time fly when you're having fun!! It also flies when you get busy.
So what have we achieved during this first year back home? Well for a start we have established that what worked in Malta regarding our prints... is working here too, starting with the beautiful Dorset. We already have twenty prints which are selling from quite a few outlets in the south, including some big establishments, like Haskins garden centers and the National Trust in Corfe Castle, to name a couple.
Ruth is working very hard on our new pieces of Equipment. The Mac and the digital printer are being tested as I write! Although it is just my paintings we are selling (for now) Ruth does all the technical work. In other words I couldn't do it without her!
We have a lot more to accomplish and it will be all shown here on the website in due time. (I promise)
One thing I really want to do, and which Ruth has been; I was going to say nagging me about (though encouraging is a more appropriate word) is to become more active on my blog and keep up to date with what we're doing and achieving week in week out. It has been hard work, but exciting so far and we're determined to make it even more so.
And hopefully later this week we will be visiting the RA for the summer exhibition and the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the Tate. I shall let you know our thoughts and judgement on those on a later post.
Till then... fill your lives with colour!
September 05th, 2015
Saturday 5th September....
So Ruth and I decided to go to London today... just to see a few exhibitions, visit galleries and ......... of course go to Fortnam and Mason where the Christmas decorations were already out... and was treated to a beautiful Jack Daniels by Daniel (no connection!!) on the third floor; and Hatchards the book shop, right next to it.
The weather wasn't very promising to start with, but as the day went on the sun came out!!! yeah!!!!!!!!!!!! Ruth made a few sandwiches to take with us so we didn't spend too much on food (as one can in London) though we did go to Jamie Oliver's for a coffee... surprisingly not more expensive than any other cafe really!!!!
We took the scenic route via the Mall and of course had to see the lovely exhibition at the Galleries there... African Australia and Oceanic... beautiful objects.... Frasier would have loved it!!! Bought Ruthie a lovely book on paper cutting... she's now next to me reading it and getting inspirational ideas!!!
All in all a beautiful relaxing and inspiring day ... we're home now tired but full of even more ideas for our next projects.... And dinner smells lovely!