Category Archives: Books

Shifting Perceptions About Vincent Van Gogh


Van Gogh and I

It’s kind of funny. A few posts away I was writing about PERCEPTIONS.

And how everything is a question of perception…

Well, my perceptions about Vincent changed. Of course, they changed for a long time and will still change but now I’m talking about some DRAMATIC  shifting in my perception of Van Gogh. It won’t make much difference for anybody else but myself but for me, a life long Vincent Van Gogh unconditioned fan, it does…

First, let’s say that the reading of Naifeh & Smith, ”Van Gogh:The Life” is the cause of this shift. I did not finished the book (900 p and more, common!), I just browsed here and there, the most interesting periods of Van Gogh life (in my perception, of course), the Antwerpen period, Paris, Auvers sur Oise… But that was enough to have a different, less idealized and a lot less flattering image of Vincent……

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The Vanished Van Gogh


Van Gogh and I

It takes no doubt some very big intellectual “cojones” to reveal a Vincent Van Gogh like the one Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith just did, relative recently, by publishing ” Van Gogh:The Life”. This book goes a long way against the tide, against the legend and conventional myth of Vincent Van Gogh. Of course, the myth admits Vincent was a “mad” genius (and essentially, he was, but the accent is on GENIUS not on mad…) but the way the 2 authors extend the madness to, practically,his whole life is, to say the least, unusual, singular.

A weirdo from the beginning to the end, a maniac, a paranoid, quarrelsome, sometimes generous, sometimes blatantly ungrateful human being, the Naifeh & Smith’s Vincent is quite an unpleasant person to deal with. Failure after failure are minutiously described, with an almost scientific accuracy. And these 2 authors are very convincing. Not that…

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Premonitions in Painting: my Premonition


Still kicking…maybe the premonition was true…

Van Gogh and I

Yesterday morning, the 01 01 2014, I woke up with my face to a painting of mine on the wall close to my bed. This is the one I’m talking about:

Trieste Trieste

Until yesterday, this painting, one of my favorite (and subjectively, one of my best works until now) was not “personal”, so to speak… It did not have a personal, visceral connection with me. But yesterday, sliding from my dreams (whatever they were – usually I do not remember them…) to reality, I saw that slender, kind of skinny naked man (maybe that’s why it wasn’t personal… I wasn’t skinny until recently…) was lying there, encircled by a dark, black green shadow. I had a minor epiphany: that was me, shadowed by my cancer, menaced but still calm… All of a sudden, this painting (one that I’ve started painting years ago and then repainted in the present form in…

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Art Therapy, here I come!


Until I got the time to write my new post about Vlaminck & Van Gogh…

Van Gogh and I

It seems that doctors die, statistically, at around 57-60 years old, a lot sooner than the “coach patatoes” (statistically), so why trust them entirely and blindly when it comes to our lives? (the statistics are for the US of A)  

Well, most of us are conditioned a lifetime to do just that…

So, it was not easy for me to say NO to the surgery they in a hurry programmed me for (even if I feel quite ok and my cancer seems to be stabilized…I’ve started to paint and draw again…)

But I did, even if most of my friends said I was crazy… Well, now, artists are a bit crazy, aren’t they? (at least a little bit…) So, instead of lying “gutted like a trout” on an operation table and then for 2 months (if everything went ok and they wouldn’t forget a scalpel or some gauze in…

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Art Therapy, here I come!


It seems that doctors die, statistically, at around 57-60 years old, a lot sooner than the “coach patatoes” (statistically), so why trust them entirely and blindly when it comes to our lives? (the statistics are for the US of A)  

Well, most of us are conditioned a lifetime to do just that…

So, it was not easy for me to say NO to the surgery they in a hurry programmed me for (even if I feel quite ok and my cancer seems to be stabilized…I’ve started to paint and draw again…)

But I did, even if most of my friends said I was crazy… Well, now, artists are a bit crazy, aren’t they? (at least a little bit…) So, instead of lying “gutted like a trout” on an operation table and then for 2 months (if everything went ok and they wouldn’t forget a scalpel or some gauze in your belly…) lying in bed with a caca-bag (yes, those details got me disgusted and taken aback too…sorry for that…)

I’ve prefered to take my chances with God and to trust my body to recover with diet, meditation, prayer and exercise… And if not, at least, I’ve decided for myself and wasn’t just a sheep or cow (well, bull) hearded to the slaughter-house… Painting, drawing will help me enormously too, I know it. I have a purpose and a meaning in my life: to paint, to draw, to photograph the beauty all around us (my grandsons included, whom I hope to see going to school, at least…) for as long as I possibly can… not that bad as a purpose and meaning in life…

Here there are some of the latest paintings and drawings I’ve “committed”:

Self-portrait, the 19 th of April 2014

Self-portrait, the 19 th of April 2014

I look here a lot more severe and somber than I really feel… Refusing the surgery  – at the time I was considering the options – gave me peace of mind and I’m now a lot more serene…

Madona With Owl

Madona With Owl

To paint this I’ve used one of the photos I’ve took at a Medieval Festival, when I was still in Sibiu, Transylvania, in the summer of 2013…

Model and artist

Model and artist

I even started to draw nudes again… here it is another one…

marie-claude

marie-claude

A Stalin's fan with Big, Big Ear...

A Stalin’s fan with Big, Big Ear…

Sometimes, when I still have color on my palette, in order not to waste it (since I’m still poor as a church mouse…) I do indulge myself in fantesies like this one… The ones who lived or heard about Stalin and communism (I did), know why the guy has such a large ear…

Finally, here I am with my grandsons Gabriel and Thomas and my daughter at about the time when I was about 90 % sure and decided NOT to take the surgery, taking instead my fate in my own hands… If they are not very skilled with a scalpel (don’t trust me to remove your appendix!) they still can hold a brush and a pencil and do some, supposedly, not that bad paintings and drawings…

my daughter, grandsons and me, the 25th of April

my daughter, grandsons and me, the 25th of April

So, beware Art Therapy, here I come!

P.S. If I do not kick the bucket right away or even, it’s possible if not probable, get  cured, it will be a reason to hope for all those who have (or will get; it seems it’s about one in three, right now…) “cancer”…and this WORD (for it’s JUST a word) will not scare the living shit out of people, who will croak just as the Australian Aborigenis do, when being “pointed the bone”…I’ve read about this in the book “You Can Conquer Cancer” by Ian Gawler, a real “Crocodile Dundee” of the fight with cancer, who survived for more than 30 years and is still kicking (well, at least with one leg; the doctors amputated the other one at the beginning of his cancer…bad joke, pardon me, Ian…)

 

 

A discovery: Sergio Kokis


It seems there are a lot of visitors for this post…

Van Gogh and I

A few weeks ago I’ve rediscovered Sergio Kokis. I “re-discoverd” him since I’ve seen and even browsed one of his books, La danse macabre du Quebec (The morbid dance of Quebec?) but, for some reason , I did not clicked at the time…

But, “browsing” through my old papers, I’ve fall upon a cut from L’Actualite (a magazine from Montreal, I think) with an interview featuring Sergio Kokis. And, this time, it clicked! His opinion on today’s art market, on the level of deception and falsity and stupidness and snobishness in today’s art seemed to be simply mine. He formulated the same thoughts, almost, that, for years, had populated my thoughts. The tirany of art “experts” and museums curators, the usually mean spirited and mercantile approach of art merchants, their money-grubbing and vulgar approach of art (under snobish and distinguished appearances, which are valid for the most art “collectors” too…Exceptions…

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Ugly Van Gogh’s, Monstrous Children


Every artist, even the geniuses, have their bad days.

Van Gogh did have them too, of course. And I’m talking only of the normal bad days, not the psychotic crisis bad days…

When that happened ugly painting resulted. There are a few of those in his almost one thousand catalogued paintings. Shall we love him less for that matter? of course not. The ugly paintings make him only human. And makes us kind of courageous since, usually, nobody dares to speak of those…not to diminish the genius…not the diminish the market value, also, maybe…

Anyway, here are some of Vincent’s ugly ones, the one I detest most being his cows…

Oh! les vaches!

Oh! les vaches!

Some even doubted the paternity of this painting. The local colors (except for the yellow sky, everything is depressingly local color: the cows are burnt sienna, the grass is depressingly green… I didn’t see any signature (“Vincent”) on this ugly cows, ugly painting…I wouldn’t sign it either… Of course, Vincent painted a lot, very quickly and sometimes, well, sometimes it was a flap study… Because, with a genuine modesty, he was calling most of his paintings “study”…

Then, there are the children’s portraits… (by the way, the “monstrous” from the title is not meant for his children’s portraits but for another genius children…Henri “Le Douanier” Rousseau…) Here there are some of them… None too beautiful and for certain not Vincent’s cup of tea…

Relatively ugly children's portrait by Vincent

Relatively ugly children’s portrait by Vincent

It is a Auvers sur Oise painting, one of the 70-72 paintings he produced, at a rhythm quite exceptional…He did mostly portraits and landscapes (probably more landscapes since he always had trouble in finding willing models for his portraits; usually, for money…) There is a thing about Vincent’s portraits. He declared more than one time his passion for the “modern” portrait and gave a lot of importance to the subject. Some of his greatest works are portraits, the famous Dr Gachet, Dr. Rey’s portrait, etc. The thing is well documented, though. With Dr. Gachet’s exception (but dr. Gachet was in himself a queer birdie…) very few of Vincent’s models appreciated the finished work… A good sample is Dr. Rey’s portrait (a very good one by today’s standards) which ended as a chicken’s den repairing material! the parents of Dr. Rey detested his representation of their son…)

But neither Adeline Ravoux (you see his portrait below) nor Marguerite Gachet were enchanted by their image…

Adeline Ravoux portrait

Adeline Ravoux portrait

Truth to be told, I kind of dislike it too, especially the color of her skin… it looks like that of a cadaver after staying in water for a week or two… Nor did Adeline liked the other portrait of hers…

Second portrait of Adeline R.

Second portrait of Adeline R.

Truth to be told also, Gauguin had the same problem. For instance, his portrait “La Belle Angèle”, a gift he gave to his landlady in Bretagne, was not at all considered as a successful representation of the lady and rejected …

La belle and mean angele

La belle and mean Angele

Of course, model’s tastes were, more often than not, very conventional and a lot of feminine vanity was (as always) involved… I had myself this situation, as a street portrayer, for instance with this old lady which considered herself ill-reproduced (I’ve tried to draw only a small fraction of her many wrinkles and creases…)

My refused portrait of and old hag

My refused portrait of and old hag

Imagine that she asked to be refunded the measly 7 $ in change she paid for this portrait… Oh, vanitas vanitates! (or something like that…)

Anyway, the most unsuccessful portraits were the children ones…The one with the twins is one of them…

the ugly twins

the ugly twins

The brick color of the faces, the forced smiles, the very old looking hands…ok, not the most brilliant representation of children… True, this is a genuine Vincent, with his style well imprinted on the painting… Still, his children are kind of sinister… Speaking of sinister and monstrous children, Rousseau’s children come to mind… here there are some eloquent samples:

Arse on rock picks "children" by Le Douanier Rousseau

Arse on rock pick “children” by Le Douanier Rousseau

Shy little ? girl

Shy little ? girl

queer child

queer child

These were commissioned works, I think, and I don’t know how they were received and if the clients payed their due… If one wanted a nice, cute portrait of their child, I wouldn’t have advised Rousseau as the man for the job… Even if, the thing has to be said, these paintings are perfect; perfect colors, perfect composition, perfect harmonization and unity… Well, the design is not conventionally perfect but yes, these paintings, considered from an objective point of view (not from parents’ point of view…) are great, perfect paintings… strange, of course, even sinister, a bit…but perfect…

Back to Vincent’s portraits… Some say Vincent’s works in his Auvers sur Oise period were uneven… They were, as it happens. Nobody, no genius, can always produce masterpieces. These are a hard thing to come by.

And Vincent has plenty of them even in his last 2 months of life. No shame and no blame in producing some less enjoyable (at least for the models or the model’s parents – a long time dead and buried anyway…) portraits and cow’s rare end portraits… All those make Vincent more human, more close to us, imperfect, non-geniuses painters…