Friday, 22 May 2015

Honoré Daumier

Honoré Daumier. “Le Faudeau.” The Heavy Burden. 1850–1860. Oil on panel. 39.7 x 32.2 cm

Collection: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
     I can’t now remember why I knew the Daumier painting, “Le Faudeau.” was in the national collection at Cardiff.  I was not aware of having seen it there but the moment I read the proposal for our present project it leapt to mind as the work I would like to re-interpret and re-make..  That’s not very interesting, what is interesting is that I had remembered it wrongly.  Vividly but wrongly. I was sure the woman in the picture had a child tucked under her arm and was hurrying away from some scene of danger.
    I have often wished that I was a political cartoonist or that I could at least sometimes do a work that was politically committed.  I feel full of protest at all the usual injustices of  life . ”The insolence of office, the oppressor’s wrong...etc” and yet I never do anything to oppose those wrongs.     Painting is not a good vehicle for protest, it is most glorious when it is celebrating something beautiful. It is very out of fashion to aim for something beautiful these days, perhaps that is because it seems almost frivolous in the face of the horrors we know exist around us, every day and nearly everywhere.
      I understand how compromised I am, a tube of good cadmium red or yellow costs enough to feed a family for a week in a refugee camp. With thoughts like that in my mental baggage it’s easy to see how attractive Daumier’s basic use of paint would be to me.  Earth colours, large simplified areas of light and dark with few tonal variations deliver the emotional content economically and with a sense of urgency.
       Yet in the end it is because of the aesthetic qualities in his work that Daumier stands out as of lasting value among cartoonists.                                                                                                                                                                                                        .     The other aspect of Daumier’s work that I would happily be influenced by is his modelling technique. There are two small relief plaques in the “D’Orsey” . The figures,  a line of refugees, emerge from the clay in a wonderfully organic way. I always intended to do a piece of work of that sort, in his footsteps.
His relief style is modern, almost cubist. Compare the plaques with the baptistry doors in Florence by Ghiberti; there the background is very low relief almost like a drawing on a flat ground and the figures are like little dolls stuck on top. Daumier welds the figures with the background, the figures EMERGE  from the background.  As they do indeed in many of his paintings.In fact many of the paintings might have been done with sloppy clay, smeared and dragged into an image. Painting with mud, the poor man’s paint. The cave man’s paint.
   .   The little laundress hurrying home with her heavy burden is more fully emerged than most. There are six or seven versions of this painting, I prefer the Cardiff one. The others seem to show the signs of the difficulties Daumier had with painting, for three years he struggled to make his living as a painter rather than as a journalist-cartoonist. He failed and had to go back to journalism.
      Whether it was done first or last our Cardiff one seems spontaneous and easy, a quick little sketch of something he has seen. It is the innocent vision of someone in love with life, not using his images to portray what he hates but to express what he loves, what makes him happy. But also someone who has seen a fellow human being one day and understood her problems with his experienced compassion.  He admires her. His empathy shows, the way she is using her hip to help support the weight of the basket, that basket is very heavy. She is brave with the commonplace bravery of the millions who have to get up every morning and go to work, and determined, she does what she has to do to live, and she’s a good mother, she trusts her child to keep up with her.. The child is intent on doing so. Neither of them is critical.
   Daumier was critical as well as compassionate, he was imprisoned at the age of 24 for being on the wrong side in one of that era’s endless twists of political chance.  He can be savage and ugly, where he hates. That’s fine when his villains are the epitome of callous and corrupt power, lawers and their political and military masters. (When they are liberated women, bluestockings and suffragettes the drawings make him seem to be a typical male chauvinist pig, part of the problem. Oh dear!)
          Well my laundress is fleeing from poverty, her enemy is faceless. Her background looms over her, thick and threatening; she has to get the washing done and dried before she and her child will eat again.
          I want to do a piece of work that protests but does not add to the squalor.  I hope I will get the backup I need to do it partly from my chosen painting and partly from the  fact of being engaged in this project. 

continued on Eleanor's page

Michael Andrews


Michael Andrews. Lovers. 1956. Oil on board, 15 x 19.7 cm
Collection: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
Copyright the Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London.
Extracts from a journal
 Noel McCready
............I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of images available and thought how much easier the whole exercise would have been if we had been given a restricted list of (say) a dozen works to choose from.  There were no Manets, Vuillards, Gauguins that interested me, so I hunted about for inspiration.. The difficulty was that the “masterpieces” were so

compleat and definitive that making a transcription seemed pointless  (………………..)

I looked at and sketched mainly from respectable but minor landscapes from the 17th and 18th centuries and was particularly taken by a Daumier, (a grand horse)

      On the train journey home and during the next few days my thoughts became occupied by a small painting,  “ Lovers “ by Michael Andrews (1956).  It is so understated and mysterious and suggestive that it seems to offer lots of scope for variations.                  So that is my final choice.       It is tiny, 8ins by 6ins. One of the smallest painting in the gallery, but it engaged me….I feel at home with it.
continued on Noel's page

Gilly Thomas page updated


I don’t much like my last picture – so neat and tidy.
I prefer this.

In one of the infinite probabilities of the multi-verse, scarily this is actually happening.

Flap Flap the Big Wings

I am a long long way from squeezing oil paint in my fist straight from the tube onto a surface.

I don’t strike the picture like a murderer stabs a victim, or crush the paint out into slashes.

Karel Appel did. He paints like a well angry man. Not always, but definitely when he made The City, letting go of the skills he surely had. He purposefully relinquished them, not even allowing himself a brush in the old film I saw of him working.

Just the inch wide top of a 10inch tube that he squeezed from the middle to the sounds of some postmodernist jazz.
Cool. But I wouldn’t want to share the toothpaste with him.

Attempting to bounce off Karel Appel is like trying to share a head

Sharing a Head

Artistic Risk

Sounds ideal to me, probably rarely fatal. But a cluttered mind provokes external hoovering. If there were flies in your head as well as on the window ledge it would become unbearable....
Got to remember – however bad things are they can always get worse.

22July 2015

I just discovered this word UHTCEARE
It means pre-dawn anxiety in Old English and is nothing to do with ultra heat treated milk which is also horrible and the ruination of tea. I could make good use of this word most days.

A also just read ‘Fludd’ by Hilary Mantel – a perfect book. Strangely the main character is a faux priest who may be an angel, or perhaps an alchemist, of possibly the Devil.

And oddly, the effect he has seems to be to rescue an unbelieving real priest and a sad ‘professed’ nun. But here’s a funny thing – nobody can say what he looks like even while they’re looking at him, and the food on his plate disappears but nobody sees him actually eat it. He drinks whisky but the level in the bottle never goes down.

In the same way the Appel woman and her creature stand over the city, and no one sees her coming and no one sees her going. And she’s far too fey to eat anything I’m sure.
But suddenly she comes and suddenly she goes.

Here she isn’t

1 Sept 2015

She’s an enigma to me still

I saw her once, I can see her now

What’s with the arms?
A magical gesture?
A congenital malformation?
A peculiar valediction?
A horribly secret sign?
What do you symbolise?
O Servant with white gloves?

And where, may I ask is everyone else?

18 Sept 2015

And what about the skyline of the city? Like Venice, conjured but not understood. And what about writing in the style of a forgotten poet, probably dead, whose work I knew well when I remembered anything at all.
The world, my world, my city, spins around me at night while I lie still. Or I spin and the world doesn’t. Not good either way.


This may be my final image.

The drowning city – not a metaphor – a drowning city.
All relics will drown.
The Appel woman and her whatever-it-is survive to see the 11th Century abbey adrift and awash. Lights still blaze from the wobbly gherkins of a flawed modernity. The sea roils more as it reaches the walls.

You can be as solid as you like – one day the waters will close over your spinning head.

All relics will drown.

The Great Filter may have already been and gone, or is waiting somewhere along Time’s Arrow.

Ponder the Fermi Paradox.

Some relics will drown before they even become relics because they didn’t have time to become relics.
Waves come in various forms. We have to watch out for them, mythic or mundane. Afterwards there will be no relics, and not even a solitary angel with stunted wings to worship, and no worshippers either.

There is another witness who stands beyond the 4th wall, the invisible wall through which the viewer gazes from a lofty place, with wisdom, indifference and powerlessness in equal quantities.



So here I am, still in Appel land and trying to connect with my inner WILD.

But just standing here trying.

I’m thinking about Guardian Angels. What are they like?

I suspect they’re on their i-phones constant, where all messages languish forever on unanswered voicemail.

Do we each have one? Or are they like the Macmillan nurse who never turns up? Where are they when you need them?

Are angels impotent like Appel’s viridian monstrosity?

continued on Gilly's page

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

John Renshaw page updated

Currently continuing the struggle, exploring issues arising out of the paintings of Morandi. Although small drawings and painting continue, I have also, quite recently considered making some work in three dimensions using  ‘found’ objects and ‘found’ pieces of wood.

continued on John's page

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Marged Pendrell page updated

My main focus this month has been on Material in particular the peat which I collected from Rhosydd bog on 25/03/15 and has been drying in my studio ever since.

I began experimenting both in 2D and 3D:


I began by working on paper both in the journal and in a larger drawing (which is in progress) .

I found that there were subtle differences in colour and texture according to location.


I worked one layer upon another exploring the contrasting qualities of lightness and fluidity on paper as opposed to the density and darkness of the material in solid form. This is ongoing, left for now as I am not sure how or if to push it further.

Continued on Marged's page

David Jones

Iwan Lewis is looking at Elephant by David Jones.

David Jones Elephant. 1928. Oil on Canvas 51 x 69 cm
(c) The National Museum of Wales / Amgueddfa Cymru


Continued on Iwan's page