Monday, April 28, 2014

Finishing touches and inner and outer journeys

On Sunday I was finalising this work below before framing it this week ready for the the expo on the 10th and 11th of May- The Fugitive Image, Deconstructing the Frame.......I still have Thursday to paint as there are some areas that still need careful attention. 

penultimate above and final work below - spot the difference......

We are back just over a week now from Lake Garda and the Dolomites and I am still thinking about the wonderful muted colours and tones of the buildings, many painted with soft pastel colours of extraordinary subtleness, and inside the churches how ornament and sculpture play with light, articulating spaces framed by moulded edges, engaged columns, cornices, pediments, friezes, etc...

Have started to read Goethe's 'Italian Journey' and am enjoying his precise observations of nature. I found this quote in the introduction of the W H Auden / Elizabeth Mayer translation and it struck me.

"We ought to talk less and draw more. I, personally, should like to renounce speech altogether and, like organic nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches."

I saw some of the sketches he made in the small Goethe Museum in the castle in Malcesine which traced his journey and the development of his book. There were few people sketching but plenty sending text messages and endlessly snapping pictures with smart phones.  Goethe and other 18th and 19th century grand tourists during the Romantic movement and European Enlightenment laid the foundations from which later modern tourism in Italy would grow. Since the war it has become a largely pre-packaged mass-marketed consumer product. Despite the cliches Italy still has much to offer an observant traveller, although I wonder what Goethe would make of it now? 

The train to school also affords a good opportunity to read Robin Kirkpatrick's translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. In one train ride from Brussels to Waterloo I can get through two or three canto's and descend further down the circles of suffering souls and deeper into Hell, one journey slotting neatly into another. I arrived today at the circle of the avaricious and the spendthirfts.  

Some of his descriptions of landscape are clearly inspired by the Alto Adige region of Italy and the  Dolomites north of Verona, Brescia and Lake Garda several of which places he mentions by name in Canto 20 of the Inferno. Long before the Romantics made the landscapes of northern Italy picturesque Dante was describing them to give a recognisable form to his Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. 

Below Heaven and Hell where we walked in the Brenta Dolomites and above Lake Garda............... 

Brenta Dolmites above Lago di Molveno  

Varone Waterfall, Lake Garda 

...and this surely is one of 'the Islands of the Blessed'.  We arrived by boat from Gardone, had a guided tour and bought three bottles of family produced olive oil.....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Un-framing time and space with digital, collage and painted frames?

When I look at the work I was producing 10 years ago I can see a consistent preoccupation with this theme of the frame being reworked in quite a different way in the current series of paintings for 'the fugitive image'. 

'Tribe' below was perhaps the one piece I made in the series 'Memory and Metaphor' that engaged the viewer directly in this experience through an interactive installation. By filming and framing the viewer in exactly the same position, looking up and out of the frame in the screen, as the crowd in the post-war British photograph of an mysterious entertainment happening just out of the photo frame to the right, an image of the present moment and the past moment, captured by the media of film, photography and paint are brought into an alignment in 'real' time. Thus the viewer is confronted with, and literally confined within, the limits of the pictorial convention and encouraged to consider the media and the illusion of reality it presents with its strange distortions of scale in time and space. 

This week I hope to finish the painting below, started during the February break, before Alex and I  leave for Italy, so there will be ten works in this series in the May weekend show.  Interestingly the frame itself and the space it circumscribes has become both the subject and context of the work. It is 'filled', as it were, with 'nothing' where there is an expectation of 'something' in the centre of the work, pushing the viewer's attention to the periphery, the edge of pictorial space, the border between real  space outside and illusory space within the framed and 'un-framed' frames.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Fugitive Image - Invitation 10th and 11th May

Alan Mitchell


Weekend Viewing


Saturday 10 May 18:00-21:00

Sunday 11 May 11:00-18:00

Hosted by

Kaoru Tashiro

Rue Louis Hap 50-B


This series of oil paintings, developed during a four month sabbatical from St. John’s International School, and painted on wood with surfaces built up from several layers of sanded gesso, is based on the direct observation of carefully prepared collages of torn paper that incorporate fragments of photographic imagery. Inspired by the tradition of trompe l’oeil, they explore the illusive and transitory nature of both the surface and the frame and the fugitive nature of both paper and image. Painting a series of frames inside frames I aim to invoke both the presence and the absence of the image simultaneously and challenge the viewer to examine pictorial conventions and representation in order to question the nature of real illusions and the illusory nature of reality.

Parallel lines: Reflections on the 92 tram

Re-reading Seneca's 'On the Shortness of Life' and 'On Tranquility of Mind' yesterday on the number 92 tram I was struck by how the Stoic analysis of 'dis-ease' of mind is similar to the first of the Four Noble Truths in the Buddha's diagnosis of Dukkha or 'unsatisfactoriness' or 'suffering'.  This is an essentially medical approach to the analysis of the problem, dis-ease- dukkha, (to be understood)  the virus - craving (to be abandoned),  health -Nibbana- (to be realised) and the cure or practical course of treatment - the Noble Eight-fold Path (to be followed) 

There are perhaps further parallels with the way that ancient philosophy in the west was practised as a way of life, 'Bios' dedicated to self-cultivation through the practice of physics, ethics and logic in order to live in accord with nature and reason which Pierre Hadot explains in 'What is Ancient Philosophy' and 'The Inner Citadel-The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius' 

The goal of the ancient philosophies, Hadot argued, was to cultivate a specific, constant attitude toward existence, by way of the rational comprehension of the nature of humanity and its place in the cosmos. This cultivation required, specifically, that students learn to combat their passions and the illusory evaluative beliefs instilled by their passions, habits, and upbringing. To cultivate philosophical discourse or writing without connection to such a transformed ethical comportment was, for the ancients, to be as a rhetorician or a sophist, not a philosopher.

The late Stoic philosopher Epictetus says this of attachment or clinging in the Enchiridion 

When you become attached to something, do not do so as to an object that cannot be taken away from you but as if it were something like a pot or a glass cup, so that, if it is broken, when you remember what it was , you will not be disturbed. 

And Luang Por Chah, the loved and respected teacher in the Thai Forest tradition. 

You may say, "Don't break my glass!" But you can't prevent something breakable from breaking. If it doesn't break now, it'll break later on. If you don't break it, someone else will. If someone else doesn't break it, one of the chickens will! The Buddha says to accept this. He penetrated all the way to seeing that this glass is already broken. This glass that isn't broken, he has us know as already broken. Whenever you pick up the glass, put water in it, drink from it, and put it down, he tells you to see that it's already broken. Understand? The Buddha's understanding was like this. He saw the broken glass in the unbroken one. Whenever its conditions run out, it'll break. Develop this attitude. Use the glass; look after it. Then one day it slips out of your hand: "Smash!" No problem. Why no problem? Because you saw it as broken before it broke. See?

The first peonies of the season have arrived in the florists shops

The true mind arises from the deluded mind. Things in their true nature and illusions are of the same basic substance.....The rose is on its way to becoming the garbage and the garbage is on its way to becoming the rose. She who observes discerningly will see the non-duel character of the rose and the garbage. She will be able to see that there is garbage in the rose and their are roses in the garbage..........If true mind (the rose) can be discovered in the raw material of deluded mind (the garbage), then we can also recognise true mind in the very substance of illusion, in the substance of birth and death. 

Thich Nhat Hanh. Transformation and Healing. Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness