Tag Archives: reflection

Rhetoric and Hadyn

Sir Kenneth Clark posits that the Classic nude is aesthetically and culturally beyond us. The completeness of rhetoric and technique are averse to our prediliction for the fragmentary and accidental. This came up again with Prof Lancaster and Hadyn. He points out that Baroque musical form is based upon the rhetorical devices of Quintillian. One states a premise,and another,then develops an argument and arrives at a conclusion. The “premise” is stated as a musical theme or idea.I assume, the same would have been applied to painting and all the other arts, particularly given the multi-arts sweep of Baroque. The wit, Professor Lancaster says, has an “aha “quality, not a “ha ha”. A large part of this would have been the conspicuous displays of erudition,linking subthemes and motifs,legends and narratives, as a commentary on the main theme or subject. Of more interest to me,is the notion that the pictorial language of pure composition must have been considered in the same way.Note that “rhetoric” here is more than “allegory” and “technique” means more than”finish”. Thats where it ended up in the worst of Salon Silliness.In Renoir’s Grand Baignuese we can see an impressionist realising that the dissolution of form itself had to be resisted in the nude, but is happily accommodated by the landscape.Renoirs painting is an argument as rhetorical as can be.


Why is it that a violinist can play Mozart , an actor breathes life into Shakespeare, a dancer dies as a swan yet again memorably, and all these artists receive acclaim, but if a visual artist declares ” I will now “do Rubens”, a completely different set of assumptions apply.?

I contend it is the assumptions that are misguided, and completely miss the point. If Rubens(or any other master) is my composer, my playwright,my choreographer, then judge my performance accordingly,starting with whether I know the script.

After all, if your role is to provide illustrations to,and demonstrations of, the theories and pronouncements of art critics and impenetrable French philosophers; so should your work be judged-as just that.

On “Progress”

Richard Wright uses the image ” on the ladder of progress,kicking out the the rungs below us “.If this is Jacobs Ladder, what if we get to the top to discover we are not in heaven? And I use the “snakes and ladders” game to indicate that the ladder has as many unintended consequences as intended, and( commonsense with a vertical and horizontal axis resulting in four quadrants beloved of seminar presenters) some of these pleasant as well as unpleasant.. Now there’s a conceptual frame to interrogate a discourse,with. Hmm.

See it my way

Ever notice how much painting language we use?

“from my point of view” ” look at the big picture” “keep it at arms length” ” the point to focus on” ” try another perspective” “keep it in the frame” “throws a different light” “from my standpoint”

Venus restored

Saw Kay Kane exhibition at QCA on Saturday 20th March 2010. Some very good life drawings which had been incorporated into a large 7? panel mural. The nudes were set in the landscape at Springbrook. Quite beautiful but puzzling.

Why only female figures? Why is noone smiling? Only one figure looks at the viewer. Its all very democratic or egalitarian with no figure dominating as traditionally Venus would be acompanied by her attendants and admirers, as would befit a goddess who mirrored the social status of a Queen or royal figure. But can all be Venus? And how can the Goddess of Love ( and lets face it-sex) be fulfilled without a male admirer, even if implied in the viewer?

But, its got me thinking.


I do not know whether arthritis in my right thumb is the problem, but certainly it is forcing me to adopt handling strategies to compensate for the loss of control. I am finding I have to spend so much energy on this that my work is slowing down and becoming boring , laboured and tentative. So much so that I am beginning to concede that I will never climb that mountain. I am simply too old.

Provided I have the wit to realize I am no longer a sherpa, I can devote my time to raising chickens. This may turn out to be even more useful ……..and fun!

And it being winter, I stuck a branch of wattle in a bottle and proceeded to paint it. It took and hour to register that I simply had no idea. “Mastering” the nude is only a beginning!

Related Images:

What does a nude do?

An answer to this question is vital. Drawing the nude in any form, good or bad, traditional or contemporary can only survive where there is an answer . Sentimental allegory and symbolism expressed in almost photographic academic realism is not , well, “edgy” enough to cut it. Deliberate or unwitting childishness and crudity are just,( sorry) childishness and crudity. Shocking perhaps, but high angst does not excuse adults behaving badly.

A naked figure can reasonably be expected to be doing a limited range of things. Bathing, dressing, sunning ,or sex are about it. Pretending to be gods, standing up as “Virtue” or “Truth”, or engaged in a historical or legendary battle( even with contemporary linkage by erudition) , all these options are fraught. As surreal as nudes at the bus stop or checkout counter.

I think I saw the beginnings of an anwer. I was reading a book about the Art Students League at the time.

” The function of the nude in art, is to render the artist naked.” And there, is a tale to be told.