Mysteries of the Picture
A talent genetically prescribed?
There is something to it. Grandma was a sculptress, so was Mom. From very early on I knew I wanted to be a painter – to my family’s horror, for it is such an insecure job, such an instable life. Technically I could have followed in my father’s footsteps – he was a forestry engineer. After all, a childhood in a forester’s lodge was not a bad one. I watch the horses on my father’s stud farm and then I paint them.
I like, I appreciate, I admire…
…a whole range of artists. Fascinations come and go. I’m back on Modigliani and I avoid Balthus. Titian is my icon of artist, as ever. I value him for the way he worked, for his courage to walk away from painting to the popular taste and following his own path. Picasso is a master, but he is also a poser. Posturing is not my thing. History of art matters to me; it is hard to create in a vacuum, without being rooted somewhere. After all, a painter is just a human being and tends to need some reference. I have always avoided a complete commitment to a style; rather, I have tried to use one to bring forth my own thing. Sometimes I look at my paintings from a few years back and I like them more than the ones I’m doing now. But then I know they were created under a simple fascination by Hopper, a stage I’m past now.
Story or illustration?
To me, a painting is definitely an illustration, not a plot. If I were a writer, I’d probably be spinning the yarn. As it is, I can’t even explain what is happening in my pictures, because I don’t know – I’m puzzled myself. Sometimes I think that even the most ordinary scene, even a self-portrait has a hidden meaning. These paintings are mysteries. It’s better not to name them, not to interpret them, not to kill their mystery. A title? It might be a clue or a bluff. Take the Massacre of the Innocents. A biblical story – yet for me, an excuse to paint beautiful boys. OK, you can take the clue from the title and try to find a story. But it’s better just to look.
A step forward, sometimes sideways?
…as long as it’s not backward! In art, you must not aim at change for its own sake; it’s development that counts. I know that every new attempt, even if I fail, is a valuable experience. Once I wanted to be more expressive in my painting; it seemed so attractive. Now I’ve tried it and I’m not sure if it’s quite the thing for me, if it agrees with my disposition – after all, every painter has a disposition of some sort. If you obey it, you can do brilliant things, if you struggle against it, the outcome will always be insincere. I started constructing crowd scenes where a lot is happening, which didn’t always make sense. Let’s admit, I want to make my paintings expressive, perhaps painfully so, but I find I am not capable of it. Besides, the air of underlying tension can also be evoked in small intimate work, like a self-portrait.
Possessing the skills reassures?
I think that the mass retreat from technique in favour of an enigmatic progress is dubious, to say the least. I strived long to become deft at depicting a face or a hand, and now I have. And indeed, while painting, while grappling with the matter – because I do – the confidence of being able to do something well is very reassuring. But the point is not to try to win the audience with technique or skills. It’s just an element which must fit in with the general concept of the painting.
Painting as a struggle?
A struggle worth fighting, even when you stand lose. After all, how many happy painters have there been? Satisfaction? Sometimes I’ve invented a composition, it’s nicely arranged so I’m satisfied. Other times a detail works out superbly in a painting and I think – wow, this is brilliant! But these are mere flashes. I’ve just ordered new canvasses. I’m waiting for them and I hope they are waiting for me. A white canvass is always inspiring – and I’ll be on the struggle again.