Two People In A Room, 2015– Two People In A Room, 2015 –

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TFIPM is taking a short break – it’s time to reassess the old routine. Plus, there’s a big pile of books in the corner of the room that won’t read itself. And there are four collaborations, (including Between Scarlett and Guest, a visual conversation with Ashley Lily Scarlett), to work on, so I’m busy as well. Excuses, excuses…

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I Can't Own Her, 2015– I Can’t Own Her, 2015 –

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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Outside World, 2015– Outside World, 2015 –

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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Dying, 2015– Dying, 2015 –

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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Wonderland, 2015– Wonderland, 2015 –

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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Street Portrait (for and of Ruby), 2015– Street Portrait (for and of Ruby), 2015 –

Ruby was crossing Neal Street, London, UK when I spotted him. And he was moving fast, so my weary old bones got to see some action. Once I’d caught up with him, Ruby was great about me taking a few shots (in front of the Nike store’s orange window, I think). This is the first of two and is my favourite. Thanks very much for stopping, Ruby. Hope you like your picture.

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Since May 2012, I have been asking strangers if I can take their photograph. I’m drawn to the stylish and the interesting. Thanks to Alice, Chris, Chris, Clive, David, Edith, Egon, Eva, Frances, Gian, Glug Glug, Jason, Joanie, Kelpie, Lee, Leon, Maloviere, Marcela, Maria, Max, Nixon, Robin, Rony, Ruby, Sarah, Sofia and Willow, and to everyone who has stopped for a portrait.

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If you are interested in learning a bit of background to any of the shots above, a quick search of TFIPM by the person’s name should bring up the original post. This post is dedicated to George Skeggs, my first street portraitee – without him there would have been no beginning…

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog called Between Scarlett and Guest. It’s a dialogue in pictures. You can read/ eavesdrop on the conversation here.

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No Language In Our Lungs, 2015– No Language In Our Lungs, 2015 –

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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All Of A Sudden, 2015– All Of A Sudden, 2015 –

22nd May 2015, David Cook and I visited the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. Here’s the third and final part…

David: I am not sure I can really work the historical links out – his work has caused some of the slender threads that hold my conception of art history in place to unravel. And I’m not sorry about that. One of the things that I dislike about art history is its predilection for a style based taxonomy. That goes for people who think they can identify a genuine Rembrandt based on a few brush marks or for more modern critics (including Greenberg and Rosenberg) who seek to define movements based on superficial similarities of style. Although I admire Greenberg in particular for his advocacy of what was at that stage controversial art, ultimately his intellectual underpinning has stuck his guys to a particular piece of turf. Diebenkorn has eluded that limitation by including some other influences in his work. And in the end I think he will be seen as a greater artist than many of the Abstract Expressionists who were in the end limited by their own innovation.

Curiously I think it is the European content of his work that has meant Diebenkorn is less well known here than Jackson Pollock for example. We want our American artists to be Pure American, and Diebenkorn confounds that. Similarly I think Michael Andrews has less exposure than he deserves because his work feels international. I mean why not depict the West Coast of the U.S. as the South of France? Or the urban architecture of California as London or Paris?

Richard: Yes, I think that’s true – by not fitting the Abstract Expressionist profile, or being part of that particular marketing package, Diebenkorn slips through one of art history’s cracks. I’m guessing he is more widely known in the States. He reminds me of Peter Lanyon – (particularly because Lanyon used the Cornish landscape as an imaginative jumping off point for some wildly abstract works) a British painter who, like Michael Andrews, is difficult to pigeonhole. I don’t know, but I imagine Lanyon is not that well known outside the UK, although he was part of the St. Ives set. They are all three very interesting painters, possibly easier to appreciate now that the notion of relentless forward motion in art history seems to have been derailed. (I wonder if the idea of movements and groups in art were partly a device for giving the audience an “in” – categorisation allows an easier mastery of the knowledge and some firm land to stand on while surveying the choppy, chaotic waters of artistic production).

Let’s talk about Cityscape #1.

Richard Diebenkorn Cityscape #1

Cityscape #1, 1963
Oil on canvas, 153 x 128.3 cm
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchased with funds from Trustees and friends in memory of Hector Escobosa, Brayton Wilbur, and J.D.
Zellerbach
© 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn FoundationOil on canvas, 153 x 128.3 cmSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchased with funds from Trustees and friends in memory of Hector Escobosa, Brayton Wilbur, and J.D.ZellerbachCopyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation 

David: What strikes me first about Cityscape #1 is that it is a painting about light and the way that light moves across the landscape. So it has its roots in Impressionism, but it’s clearly an American picture. There is that openness about it, and the dense planarity of the architecture and the shadows on the left of the picture place it firmly in the Twentieth Century. The absence of people too is interesting. It seems a very different vision of California from that of David Hockney which was only a few years later (this was painted in 1963). Diebenkorn’s painting knows the land, is of the land. Hockney’s is an outsider’s vision capturing the superficial ephemera of peoples’ lives at a particular moment. It is a European’s vision of America…timely, but intentionally lacking in depth. It glorifies America’s perceived lack of history and connection to European tradition, whereas Diebenkorn is reminding us that actually there is quite a lot of it there!

David Hockney, A Lawn Sprinkler 1967

David Hockney, A Lawn Sprinkler (1967). Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art, Toyko

Richard: Yes, I think Diebenkorn brings a sense of physicality and (emotional) experience to Cityscape #1, which comes from living in California from the age of two, a connection with the landscape Hockney could never have. There’s no sense of (ironic) detachment in Diebenkorn’s version – just an acknowledgement, an acceptance of the facts of the landscape, and a struggle to convey them in paint.

According to various reviews of this exhibition, Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series (in excess of 140 paintings bearing the title), was very popular in the UK in the 1990s – there were posters everywhere, (to the extent that a print appeared as part of the set dressing in episodes of Brookside (now defunct UK soap opera)). Apparently, this huge popularity attracted snobbery in the 1990s. The paintings appear to be unthreatening, and easily explainable as aerial views of the neighbourhood around Diebenkorn’s studio. But there’s an appealing hesitancy left on show in the final images – ghosts of marks past, washed out, sun-bleached palimpsests. A very human geometry. A Ballardian unease that’s less easy to digest.

The series was almost Diebenkorn’s final word on painting (and, of course, the second room we walked into).

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #27

Ocean Park #27, 1970
Oil on canvas, 254 x 203.2 cm
Brooklyn Museum. Gift of The Roebling Society and Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Blatt and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Jacobs, Jr., 72.4
© 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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22nd May 2015, David Cook and I visited the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. Here’s part two…

Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #5, 1953

Berkeley #5, 1953
Oil on canvas, 134.6 x 134.6 cm
Private collection
© 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard: That’s a very interesting point. Diebenkorn titles his paintings with version numbers indicating he doesn’t consider he can deliver a definitive take on a given subject. Which reinforces the idea that he is not interested in making grand statements, but in taking a more reflective, objective, distanced approach to his subjects – and perhaps, in turn, commenting on the act of painting itself.

Berkeley #5 looks like a loose landscape with suggestions of body parts creeping in and a lush, sweet use of gesture and colour that could only exist in painting. Berkeley #5 is at once surface and subject, each causing signal interference with the other. The games it plays are not straightforward. It’s almost a Conceptual approach to painting.

David: This conversation has highlighted for me that I am not open minded enough when I look at art, indeed you can never be open minded enough.

I was going along with the notion that Diebenkorn was An-Abstract-Expressionist-who-Painted-Figuratively. We have seen traces of European influence, of Matisse and Dufy, we can see his abstract credentials clearly. You have identified a conceptual approach and I was about to compare Girl On a Terrace, 1956 to School of London artists R B Kitaj and Michael Andrews. Truth be told Diebenkorn went his own way, and I should be ashamed that I have such a historically biased taxonomic approach to what is one of the freest modes of individual self expression.

Richard Diebenkorn, Girl On A Terrace, 1956

Girl On a Terrace, 1956
Oil on canvas, 179.07 x 166.05 x 2.54 cm
Collection Neuberger Museum of Art
Purchase College, State University of New York. Gift of Roy R. Neuberger
© 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Is it possible that Diebenkorn was perpetually in at least two minds about the marks he was making? Sometimes they seem very ambiguous. In Girl On a Terrace, 1956 there is space around the figure to the left, but to the right it flattens out. In some places the underpainting is allowed to show through, elsewhere it’s totally covered. Some marks are descriptive, some abstract. And it all seems very spontaneous, as if the painting could have veered towards or away from the figure, or from abstraction. Not only that but he is keen for us to see the evidence of his deliberations in the final pictures.

Richard: Yes, I get the feeling every brushstroke was considered. They’re very deliberate marks and I think Diebenkorn’s enjoyment in constructing the painting is plain to see. It’s like a subtle balancing act – there’s an image there and it’s perpetually on the point of collapse. He’s toying with himself and the imagined viewer. The image in Girl on a Terrace, 1956 is enigmatic and the paintwork is sumptuous and involving – it’s a great cocktail. This painting in particular also reminds me of Michael Andrews – there were several in the exhibition that got us talking about him. And I think this painting shares the slow tension at the heart of Andrews’ work – one that leads to contemplation rather than quick thrills.

I think we should talk more about the art history Dienbenkorn seems to contain – the paintings are fascinating to me in that sense – it’s as if the whole of modern painting is churning away inside him and different elements come out to play at odd times. A bit of cubism here, Matisse there, De Kooning etc. I wonder how aware Diebenkorn was of deconstructionism…

To be continued…

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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