Monday, April 13, 2015

Art and war

'Conquer with love' (Anonimous, 2015)

Dear Helene,

Found on the Internet. I think the saying is by Ghandi.

I didn't now the word thug. 'A common criminal, who treats others violently and roughly, often for hire.' 
Seems like an accurate description.


Lion of Ninivé, Mosul museum, art and war

Hi Pauline, 

That is heartbreaking. These thugs are destroying the world’s heritage and irreplaceable beauty. It’s a wonder that there are always a band of thugs every century who hate humanity and art and it’s a miracle that anything remains. At least we have photos of some of the art. The destruction is incomprehensible, and it’s so often done in the name of religion or utopian dream of something more important than life and beauty itself.


Assyrian: Dog in a lion hunt. Fragment of a relief in the British Museum

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wounded lion of Ninivé

Dear Helene,

There was some very sad news here about the destructions in the Mosul Museum. The good news in the international press, that the Assyrian art destructed by IS were mostly plaster copies, was apparently not correct. De Volkskrant of April 10 published an interview with Hikmat Basheer al Aswad, archeologist and former director of the Museum of Mosul. He fled Iraq in 2011 after death threats to him and his family (they are Christian) and got asylum in the Netherlands. According to him, only about four of 40 Assyrian statues in the Mosul Museum were plasters, and only a few smaller statues were moved to Bagdad by Saddam Hussein. The rest were over 4000 kg. each and difficult to be transported. Basheer has directed the excavation of the statues. He thinks they are all destroyed and says he feels sad that he hasn't left them under the ground. 


Assyrian (Ninivé-Mosul 645-635 BC): Wounded lion of Ninivé, British Museum

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Vector art, Tastes, Basquiat, Kline, Malevich

Hi Pauline,

I feel the same way about synthesized music or music with drum machines; I like to hear the breath and heart of the musician in the music. I love very rough and expressive painting like Basquiat and Kline, but I’m excited about many kinds of work like Malevich.


Franz Kline: Opustena

Vector art, automated shapes, limits of expression, Hirst, Guyton

Dear Helene,

Thank you for your persiflage on Hirst. My reservation about Renoir has something to do with the frienship albums we cherished as a girl. Did you have them in de US? Your friends wrote a 'poem' in it, and pasted a colorful image next to it. The images you could buy as sheets. They were very sweet and yes, pink.

You made me think about vector art once more. Since the Guyton exhibition I wonder if automated shapes (in that case, coming straight out of a printer) can express feelings. I find that, without the artist's personal brand of clumsiness, I can like or admire a work, but not love it. If lines and shapes are formula's, especially if you loose the free-form line, it seems to me that a lot of freedom of expression is lost. The eye recognizes automated shapes instantly. My brain associates them with emotional vacuum. After all, a human hand cannot make such shapes, and a machine has no feelings. So far, I've been using them sparingly, only for contrast. But then I saw your work, and later Amparo's, and I thought, yes, it is possible. I learn from you, and from Amparo, how vector shapes could be used. A wonderful surprise and inspiration.


Helene Goldberg: Happy dance

Amparo Higón: Squid

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Taste, Hirst, Goldberg, Guyton, Renoir, Monet, Koons, Warhol,

Hi Pauline,

Thanks for the Banksy. You might enjoy this too. I painted it in 2012. The title is “If Damien Hirst were an Artist…. fill in the rest” (painted on my iPad with one finger in 5 minutes) 

Helene Goldberg: If Damien Hirst were an Artist…fill in the rest

I do like some of Renoir’s early works, but maybe it’s all the pink cheeks that turn me off. With Monet, it bothers me that he didn’t credit Turner in the painting that clearly copies him. Again, there is much I like but he’s not a favorite. I agree with you it’s often just personal taste, but with Hirst and Koons it’s deeper. They are kitsch made to appeal to rich thugs who need to launder their money. While I’m on a rant, I really don’t like Andy Warhol very much either. I guess I don’t like artists who are cynical about their own art. I agree about Guyton too. Just not very interesting to look at.


Turner's water and sky in 1840

Monet's water and sky in 1902

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hirst, Banksy, Guyton, taste, innovation, Monet, Renoir, Degas

Banksy on Hirst

Dear Helene,

To make you smile, Banksy about Hirst. For Hirsts sensationalism I feel a strong dislike. More strong opinion! I saw Wade Guyton's huge letterprints in the Whitney Museum in 2012 and was reminded of the emperor's new clothes.

Something odd with Renoir and Monet. No doubt they were great innovators, but if I look at Renoir he feels rather old school to me (though I like his portrait of Sisley) and Monet's large pond paintings strike me as positively weak. I dont feel the same at all about Degas and several other contemporaries. We look with our past and genes of course, no escape. But is this just a matter of personal taste, or would the quality of innovation over time perhaps be knocked out by the quality of the work?


Renoir: Portrait of Sisley, ca. 1875

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lines, Picasso, Malevich, Koons, Hirst, Renoir

Hi Pauline,

I understand your reservations about Picasso and Malevich. There are artists who just don’t move me that are quite good or at least well regarded. One I don’t like very much is Renoir, though I like his early works. Then there are Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst whom I can’t accept as serious artists at all even though they are the richest “artists” alive right now. Some of my favorite of Picasso’s works are his late etchings and prints. His lines are so beautiful. I’m glad for your candid opinion. I have some strong opinions too, but it doesn’t mean that other opinions are wrong.



Picasso, Malevich, Hockney, Brushes, Lion of Ninivé,

Dear Helene,

I feel great respect for Picasso and Malevich with my head, but I do not love them with my heart. Of course, this is entirely personal! We had a large Malevich and Russian avant-garde exposition in the Stedelijk Museum last year. I was surprised to see how Malevich has hurried through many directions apparently in great haste, only to find depth in his later abstract, angled work that has become so well-known and influencial. As if he knew were he was going and didn't want to waste energy at intermediate steps. It may have been a distorted impression due to the selection, but I doubt it. In some of Picasso's work I see haste as well. Please forgive my candid opinion! Anyway, it can hardly be a sin to be a little bit in a hurry, if you cover so much distance!

That's good news, if the destroyed statues were plaster. Let's hope the originals are safe behind bars in London and Bagdad. I'd love to see them, one day.. in London.. Perhaps.. Especially the wounded lion. I wonder if the artist intended it to be beauty and nature attacked by brutal force, or if the symbolism was bestowed on it accidentally in the act of destruction. Not that it needs a meaning.

Picasso, self portrait

Enlarged Digital painting by Brushes-monopolist David Hockney
Digital raster by Brushes-monopolist David Hockney

Hockney, yes and no. I haven't seen him experiment with the digital medium at all. You will find none of the new techniques and expressions in his work. He started to paint digital around 2009, not an early adopter, and has been painting with Steve Spang's wonderful program Brushes ever since, apparently being the only painter in the world who has access to the enlargement software that originally came with that program, the discontinuation of which around 2012 has forced a whole generation of digital painters out of Brushes and start over in ArtRage or Procreate, with the inevitable change of style that comes with a change in software. Their work since then trapped in Brushes at the size of a postcard, unfit to print or exhibit. It is raster, a straight extension of his non-digital painting. But of course, there was the step of going digital at all. He was the first well-known painter who showed that digital painting can be art at a time nobody thought it could.     


Monday, March 16, 2015

Consistency, Picasso, Malevich, Hockney, Lion of Ninivé

Hi Pauline,

I’m not focussed so much on consistency of style as consistency of quality. I love experimentation and variation, especially in the works of Picasso and Malevich. They invented different forms of art and that is exciting. That gives the impression that they thought about the limits of their style and liked to play with new possibilities. I like to switch off between abstract and figurative work if only to learn more from each effort. One thing I love about David Hockney is that he experiments with new media in a very thoughtful way.

I read somewhere that the art that ISIS is destroying is plaster reproductions. I hope that is true.


Kasimir Malevich: Black Cross, 1920

Consistency, Lion of Ninivé

Dear Helene

You used consistency as criterium. It is something I admire in your work, and a useful criterium. (Though Picasso and Malevich have been forgiven some serious inconsistencies ;-)). (I was never very fond of them.) However, a lot of experimenting is still going on. At least for me, it is not always easy to distinguish the style of the software from the style of the artist. It might be difficult to meet your standard. I for one can't meet it..

A blessing in disguise, that the wounded lion of Ninivé (Mosul) is in the British Museum.


'Wounded lion' (Assyria 645 – 635 BC)