Robert Morris: "We have only to experience late Donatello or Cézanne or Titian or Goya to see that it is in old age that the most extraordinary art is made by those few survivors who realise how terrifying existence is, and at the end of life live totally in their art to escape this crushing world." (New York Times International Edition, March 18-19, 2017)
My semi-abstract landscape idiom ground to a halt at the end of last year. I felt the whole approach was based on clichés and approximations of other artists’ work, and a bit of serendipity has kick-started a switch back to acrylics and abstraction, at least for a while. After looking at one of my paintings from 2009 which had been hanging in the toilet (prime location), I thought it didn’t look bad at all. A simple grid of colours, with no pretensions to be anything else, but somehow ‘working’. Based on another cliché (the grid) of course, but it got me thinking. At New Year’s I visited a Shinto Shrine, where you can find boards made up of rectangular plates displaying the names of donors, arranged in rows, an approximation of the ‘composition’ of my painting. And then I happened to listen to a BBC podcast of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and John Adams talking about their compositional methods using repetition, sequence variation, etc. Is this a sign, I wondered (No, I replied.) But it suggested a way out of my semi-abstract quandary. Shift was the first in the series. I suppose this kind of approach is slightly similar (albeit much smaller and much neater) to what Frank Stella was doing when he rejected Abstract Expressionism. So now I’m about 60 years behind the times instead of 70.