green line matisse

above: painting madame Matisse – the Green Line 1905 – Henri Matisse

Nigel Whiteley – Phd F.R.S.A. (1953-2010)
with the Green Line

the untold story of how an Art Historian, writer and Art Professor,
came face to face with one of his favourite Matisse paintings

This is a story about a painting, a painter and a friend that was my privilege to have known.
The painting is the Green Line by Matisse (1905), the painter is myself and the good Friend was an Art Historian, a writer and a renown lecturer Professor Nigel Whiteley.

This story began in 1998 when I was commissioned to curate an exhibition for the Swedish Governments Estonian Trust Fund and the International Support Group (DIS) Sweden. It was a challenging commission, and for me [as an artist] it became a labour of love, one that spanned over four years. From the very beginning I realised I would need quality ‘back-up’ support which took the form of a number of fellow dedicated artists. One of the most important of those artists was a fellow that I had known ‘remotely’ for many years. His articles, written for the Art Review, was always a ‘must-read’ for me with each new issue published. The writer was Nigel Whiteley, who was also a Professor of Art at Lancaster University and headed up the Art Department. He was also an accomplished author who had a number of books behind him [when I first met him in person in the winter of 1998. i.e. Pop Design – Modernism to Mod-Pop Theory and Design 1952 -1972. and Design For Society- 1994 ]. (see. note i.)

Our first face to face meeting was in Manchester in an Art Café. From the onset we were totally in tune with each others viewpoint on contemporary art. And how painting as an art form, had suffered from the bias towards ‘post-modernism’ installationism, helped along by sensationalism tendencies of those shows, and whipped up by the media. For the Estonia Benefire Exhibition, an art philosophy based on a solid art ethic and what we perceived as an artists need to accept responsibility for their art, would be the cornerstone on which we would select the art to be would be exhibited at the Heart 2 Art Exhibition, [held at Steninge Palace, Stockholm, Sweden].

As the project progressed Nigel and I had a number of meeting in the UK.  And as spring arrived in the year 2000 it was looking as though the exhibition would be mounted by the autumn of that year (note ii.). I had arranged for the Swedish media to meet both myself and Nigel at my studios in Sweden to gain their interest and publicise the exhibition by discussing its aims and objectives with the journalists. The meeting went well and even the weather proved to be on our side with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. So, drinks in the garden was a must and enabled further constructive planning for the exhibition.

At that time I was very interested in Emil Nolde’s work who had some great examples in the Statens Museum in Copenhagen, which luckily for me, was only and hour and half from my studio. I suggested to Nigel’s that his first visit to Studio 5 should be crowned off with a visit to Copenhagen and the Museum. He was delighted. He told me about a painting by Matisse that he had been in admiration for many decades, but had never had the opportunity to see the real thing. For Nigel this was more than a great painting by the French master – it represented something far more profound for contemporary art of the 20th century.

Nigel admired ‘the Green Line’ by Matisse so much that I had to ask why he believed it was so important. It’s only a small canvas (16 inches x 12.75 inches – 407mm x 324mm) after all, but with a massive part in the progression of the art of a 20th century master. Madame Matisse – the Green Line, was painted in 1905 and it represented something of a new beginning for Matisse. His paintings had been based in the more accepted art school figuration, modelled in light and dark tones before this work. Although Matisse had toyed with the new thinking of pointillism, a style of image making which was more concerned with separation, analysis and the organisation of colour (originally initiated by Seurat around 1880 and carried further by Signac through to 1899). Which he experimented with in the ‘Woman with the Hat’ the painting created immediately before the Green Line. With the Green Line Matisse had created a work that combined tradition of formal construction with modern colour thinking, but with a totally original and authentic colour scheme. One that probably looked very strange to the audience of 1905, but now is seen as an exciting figurative work that is outstanding in originality and application of pigments on canvas. It is probable that the ‘African Masks’ that were stirring up immense interest with other artists [of the time] played an important part in the composition. (Picasso in particular was so inspired by the masks he repainted a canvas which became the basis for Cubism developed by himself and Georges Braque).

With that in mind I began to understand the reason why my good friend was so excited to actually stand in front of the Green Line – It’s place in Art history was huge and for Nigel with his art historian specialist knowledge, the physical experience would be truly marvellous.

Madamme Matisse- The Green Line portrait of Nigel whiteley
Many years later I resolved to paint a portrait of him in the same way that Matisse painted the Green Line. Photo: portrait of Nigel Whiteley phd F.R.S.A. Denis Taylor at studio 5 Sweden 07.09.2019

We travelled to Copenhagen via a ferry for the short hop from Helsingborg to Helsingør in Denmark and from there jumped on a train down the coast to the centre of Copenhagen. It wasn’t very long before we were climbing the stairs to the impressive entrance of the Danish Staten Museum. A superb building which is a mix of Greek classic architecture and modern glass and steel. At the entry point to the various galleries we made our separate way to see what we had come to see – for me it was Emil Nolde ‘Young Woman’ painting (c.1947) and for Nigel – Madame Matisse- the Green Line. (c.1905) – On meeting at the museums café after we had both had our fill of the paintings, I recall Nigel smiling broadly when I asked him if the painting lived up to his expectation – of course, it did his smile confirmed that without speaking. After returning to my Studio back in Sweden we talked art for the rest of his stay. The week passed quickly and before long he was back at the airport and flying home to England.

Over the coming years we linked up many times with me travelling back and forth to the UK. After the Heart 2 Art exhibition, which Nigel attended along with the other 27 artists that were selected to exhibit, we began to  plan another [exhibition] project – Second Nature – In 2005, I was diagnosed with Cancer which caused a major delay – And despite Nigel and I meeting up numerous times we barely got out of the initial planning stage. I recovered slowly and by 2007, things changed for the worse. This time it was Nigel who was diagnosed with a life threatening illness –  Leukaemia – It was a terrible shock to everyone, but typically Nigel faced up to the problem with stoic bravery, he eventually succumbed to the illness in 2010 – I survived.

The story of Nigel and the Green Line has stayed with me for many many years, long after he had passed as an outstanding moment of shared joy in our friendship. And our efforts to bring emotional intelligence as well as visual intelligence back to contemporary art.

In part we did succeed, I wish we could have done more. And so, in memory of Nigel I am now embarking on taking the ‘Second Nature Project’ to a reality after years of thinking if I could mount the project on my own  – possibly with the help of the new artists friends that I have been lucky to make over the last 5 years. I decided I could do exactly that in 2019.

It seemed only fitting that the first painting which will have been created expecially for the Second Nature Project Exhibition  should be dedicated to Nigel – And that it must be my take on the Green Line painting with my friend as the model.

Portrait of Nigel Whiteley
portrait of Nigel Whiteley after Matisse – Denis Taylor at studio 5 sweden 10.10.2019

I think the painting is as done as far I can take it – I signed the work on the 10th October as it is nine years since we said goodbyeto Nigel for the last time. I decided at the start of the painting to include a small pastiche of the original ‘Green Line’ – for which I make no apologies – I’m fairly sure Nigel would have smiled and probably approved of the painting [of himself as the model] with a Green Line –  on the same canvas as my transcription of the original Green Line by (one) of his favourite 20th century artists.

Portrait of Nigel Whiteley with the Green Line
painting title: ‘Painting of Nigel Whiteley Phd F.R.S.A. with the Green Line.’
painted By Denis Taylor from September 23 to October 10th 2019.
600mm x 800mm oil on canvas ©Denis2019

note:i Nigel wrote several book up to his death in 2010 all available on Amazon and from the Lancaster University Link here: Books and Articles by Nigel Whiteley Phd. F.R.S.A
note.ii – The exhibition was postponed twice due to issues surrounding the unsavoury behaviour of private journalists sensationalistic video making of the Ferry resting at the bottom of the Baltic sea. Heart 2 Art Exhibition was opened Jan 11th 2002. Photographs of Studio 5 Sweden ©painterstubesmagazine – paintings shown – The Green Line and [on the wall] a work in progress – “Homage to Pontormo” ©Denis-2019-2020

click here for part OneDenis Taylor Writer and artist“I clearly recall that it was on a wet and windy Friday morning when I found myself going somewhere that any red blooded male does not want to go…”

part 2 – The Short Walk and The Long Wait.

…I had to visit that building, one that no one really wants to be seen going into. The sign outside was clear for everyone to see and even though it was an insignificant building it was strategically connected to a large modern hospital. It was known by the guys in town as the Clap house, more correctly  it was called  the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic. I’d promised my wife to get the ‘thing’ on my dick finally sorted out. “It’s just a discolouration”,  I’d say and dismiss her worry. Besides we had been spending a lot of time outside of my country of birth,  so my excuses had the further substance of not wanting to be looked at by foreigners.  And I wasn’t ill. I felt perfectly ok and functioned fine.  I’d landed back in the old country to open a new Company and a small coastal tourist town with my brother and his friend, who both lived there. The plan was to get the business up and running quick.  However, it wasn’t very long before my wife began nagging me that I should have that ‘thing’ checked out. I was far too busy to waste time visiting doctors about something so trivial.                  

After several phone calls over a month or three I finally got around to having that ‘thing’  looked at. And even then I used the easiest and quickest method, hence my visit to the Clap house. It was the only place where you could drop in without the need of a Doctors appointment.  I was convinced the problem was something to do with my past life and amounted to little more than a course of penicillin injections.

part two of the story - the protos loop hole by Denis Taylor Artist and writerMy choice of day was calculated purposely to remain unhindered while heading in the clinics general direction. The main street would be quiet with the locals busy preparing their premises for the onslaught of tourists on Friday. So I wouldn’t be stopped for those annoying polite conversations, which usually began with, “Hi, and where are you going?”  The weathermen had promised torrential rain for that particular Friday.  It was the perfect weather for an undercover visit to the Clap house.  My accountant was  located not far from the place, so I used him as a cover for my visit.  The less that anyone knew about my knob rash – the better. I walked briskly and with purpose through the main street fighting the driving rain. The walk was short and having reached the vicinity of the clinic  I attained a direct line adjacent the entrance and stealthily walked up the path, entering rapidly by its large old wooden door and closing it quickly behind me.   ‘Made it’ I said to myself.

“Can I help you?” A voice came from the bottom of a very long corridor.  I couldn’t see anyone, I walked up to a small counter.  There, behind the small open window, was a rather fierce  looking oldish woman sat at a desk with an even older looking computer screen in front of her. “Err yes, can I see someone about being looked at please.”  I said clumsily. She seemed to know what  I meant and handed me a pre-printed sheet of paper. “Fill in this form and give it back to me when you’ve completed it.  Take a seat in the waiting room.” She instructed me and pointed to the sign by the door.  “Oh, brilliant, thanks”  I said but actually thought how badly equipped the clinic was.

The form was simple enough and needed only basic information. I handed it back to the lady at the small counter.  The waiting room was totally empty.  The words ‘thank God for that’ ran through my mind as I picked up an old magazine.

The clock on the wall said nine fifteen and I hoped whatever test  I had to take would soon be over, after all, its first come first served, wasn’t it? My brain searched for some reassurance that I would be out within the hour. I became bored with the old magazines. Luckily there was lots of medical posters to occupy myself with. They explained that sexual transmitted diseases were common and on the increase. Knowing that  made me feel better somehow. There was even packs of free condoms scattered about in presentation bowls.  To my horror other people started arriving and filling the vacant seats in the waiting room. I buried my head back in the old magazines and tried not to look at the other visitors.

They were all women. I felt awkward and guilty of being a harbinger of disease. A man dressed in a white uniform entered the room. He looked around and whispered “Laura?” A young woman stood up, “Follow me.”  He said gently. They walked out of the room and up a flight of stairs.  I over heard them saying something about ‘still awaiting for the specialist to arrive’.

Again and again the man in white came into the waiting room and whispered out a name, but mine wasn’t among them. I began to think about leaving and maybe coming back another day. The clock said it was past eleven and the rain had stopped. I expected to be long gone by now.  I looked around the waiting room, I was the only one left unattended. I stood up, stretched then arched my back and yawned.  I’d read every one of the boring magazines and began to wander up and down the corridor getting closer and closer to the door, the one that I had so deftly entered hours earlier.

My hand hovered above the handle. Perhaps I could nip outside for a quick smoke?  I thought. “No” I said out loud, what if I were seen?  I was trapped. Perhaps  I could make a run for it, I thought to myself? “David.” My name was finally announced.  The man in white was looking for me in the waiting room. I hurried back and met him half way down the corridor. “Running off?”  He asked with a smile. “Thought about it,”  I answered with an even broader smile. “Follow me, we’ll have you sorted out in no time”  He said confidently then turned and walked up the stairs swinging his bottom like a model on a catwalk.   

I wondered what ordeal awaited me at the top of the stairs?  At the top he pointed to  a row of three tall back chairs. “Just take a pew a minute.”   He asked and I sat down purposefully on the chair, having first grabbed a handful of brochures from a leaflet dispenser that was screwed to the wall. They were sorted into subject titles with illustrations and explanations underneath each one. Gonorrhoea, Vaginal Warts, Herpes, Simplex and other sexually transmitted diseases with names  I’d never heard of.

As I read each symptom I wondered which one I had? One of the young women, who had been downstairs in the waiting room, came from a door opposite the row of chairs. She perched reluctantly next to me and forced a wry smile, one that came across as a mixture of embarrassment and accusation.  Another sturdy looking woman came from yet another door to the left of the chairs and approached both of us.                                         

“Come with me Judith”  She said firmly. The young girl followed her quickly and diligently.  For no reason that  I could think of, I felt as guilty as hell. I remained rooted in the tall back wooden chair clutching the leaflets trying to avoid looking at the large vivid graphic illustrations pinned to the corridor walls.  I could hear the ‘man in white’ chatting to someone on his mobile. He was describing a night out on the town the previous weekend. He kept referring to a man who he was in love with and how they planned to move-in together.                     

It always amuses me how people speak on their mobiles as if no one else can hear them. He carried on with intimate personal secrets. Obviously, the ‘man in white’ was gay. Not that I was bothered in the least, well I thought I wasn’t.  He popped his head out from one of the rooms. “Can I check your details?”  He spelt checked my name, then  asked if  I had a partner or not, whilst assuring me that the details were for internal use only and that  I wasn’t to worry about confidentiality. I was, but replied  “Oh, that’s ok, no problem.” He closed the folder and put it under his arm and leaned against the wall looking down at me. “So, what do you do for a job” He asked.  I decided to tell him only what was necessary, obscuring any details of the new business. “I’m an artist”  I said proudly.     

“Really, how fascinating, I love art,” He quipped but before he could follow up with  ‘What kind of artist are you’ I circumvented the enquiry by asking him a question.  “Who’s your favorite artist?”  It was a tactic  I used often and to good effect. The well-built woman came from the side door abruptly before the ‘man in white’ could tell me his choice. She took the folder from him whilst he was in mid sentence and opened it, looked at my details, then looked at me.   “I’m Doctor Copland” She extended her hand and I shook it firmly.   “Come with me.”  She said. ‘Here we go’ I thought. ‘Won’t be long now and I’ll be out of here’. I followed her into a small office expecting     a quick examination and then a shot of antibiotics in my rear end.                                                 

To my surprise she began by asking me questions, all of which  seemed a little too personal for my liking. “How many women had I had sex with over the last five years?” and “in what countries?” And “had I ever been with a prostitute? ” And so it went on. She ticked several boxes on the sheet then asked me to follow her through a side door and into another room. The ‘man in white’ was there too  “Get on the table and take off you trousers and underwear, I will be back in a moment, Stuart will look after you”. The Doctor commanded.

The ‘man in white’ asked me if I needed help to undress.                                                             “Err, no thanks, I think I can manage” I said with a nervous wobble in my voice.  I took off my under pants coyly and carefully climbed onto the table. The ‘man in white’ was preparing something on the workbench. He turned towards me. “Right, I just have to swab the top of your penis with this cotton bud, it won’t hurt, I promise….”

to be continued….

Denis Taylor Artist with paintings at a recent exhibition

Q. Denis, when, how and why did you start your art practice?

Ans: Like most visual artists, my need to create images began at childhood.
At eleven years old I was taken from the inner city surroundings of my birth and enrolled in an experimental Art School in the UK. It was here that the natural impulse to communicate with images was allowed the space it needed to develop through nurture and nature.
Once having accepted the term ‘Artist’ to identify myself and who I was as a human being, then the impulse to paint images became an obsession, one which I simply had to pursue to discover the inner power that lay within the creative force. I was also very interested in the subconscious connection to that force and why it seemed important and what it meant in the creation of original paintings.

As I grew as a person and as an artist, my obsession developed from instinctive creation to a more intellectual understanding of the creative need and its process. These two elements, [instinct and intellect], integrated into the base for experimental art making. After many years it became clear to me that visual art (painting in particular), as an Art form had been under valued as a way of connecting to gain a deeper understanding of humanity. And what it means to be human. It is my attempt of that understanding that I hope to develop through the process of making Art, which is probably more important than the end result or what is actually produced .

Q. Professionally, what’s your goal?

Ans: It seems to me that the words Professional and Artist are diametrically opposite in meaning to each other. The word ‘professional’ implies a career or something like that.
Picasso once, said : “An Artist is what You are and all You can possibly become, unlike say, a Bank Clerk who can become a Bank Manager.” I think that sort of explains my viewpoint of setting myself a professional goal. My aim is to create original and authentic Art, I have no professional ‘artistic goal’ as such.

Q.  How would you describe the art scene in your sphere of activity?

Ans: That can vary depending on where I am. For example, when I had my studio on an island in Greece (1988-1995) the Artists on that island were more spiritually based, yet advanced in a contemporary way of handling and creating visual art.

When I moved to Sweden 1995- 2007, I found the Artists more insular and closed off – if not parochial in their creative mind-set. Over the last few years I have been actively involved with the visual art scene in the North of England – Here I found the art and many of the artists who create paintings to be reticent in accepting or creating what could be termed as ‘progressive art’. It’s a sort of nostalgic viewpoint that seems to rule their world. I find this to be very limited for visual artistic variation and or the expansion of painting as a medium. Many of these visual artists simply do not take the risk of creating something different.

There are exceptions to this, there always are, but the exceptions have been are few and far between. I also feel that many artists, (especially in the UK and the USA), spend much more time trying to ‘sell’ themselves and their art than they do creating or thinking about what they do. And this social media posting habit of every single stroke done is time consuming and totally unnecessary. The quantity of Art on the web is an overkill and eventually people will ‘tire’ of seeing it – It will end up a few dedicated fans liking every post – so whats the point of that? Art should never be announced – it should arrive as a surprise.

Q. Who or what has a lasting influence on your approach to creating art?

Ans: Norbert Lynton, Nigel Whiteley, David Young, Kasimir Malevich, Mark Rothko, Dominicos Theotocopulous (El Greco) – And of course, my own constant questioning of myself of why it is I create Art at all and for what reason.

Q. What does Art mean in contemporary culture to you ?

Ans: Art ‘of today’ has a kaleidoscope of meaning. Art can be anything that is exhibited within the accepted framework of an Art Gallery. Visual art and painting in particular, seems to have lost its value as a contemporary cultural influencer. Where as once it was a way for artists to question inner depths and the nature of what reality actually is, now it seems it Art mainly reflects the surface of an accepted universal reality.

It appears to me that the Post Modernist doctrine of the last four decades has reinforced that retrogressive standpoint with the re-examinations or versions of Art of what has been done before. As a consequence visual art [painting] had become even more of a commodity than it has ever been. The www has helped to encourage this overtly commercialisation of Artists work and I believe, in many instances, Art is now seen as just another sort of profession rather than a way of life. This attitude is slowly changing with the new generation of Artists who are slowly awakening to a well founded belief, that it is far better, more rewarding and much more an honest approach to….. ‘Live-for-Art’ rather than ‘Live-off-Art’.

Q. In there any advise can you offer to those who are just starting out in the arts?

Ans: Indepth discussions with other artists is important to gain alternate ways of thinking. Of course reading about the past masters of Art, especially the 20th century artists, does provide valuable information. What I mean by that is not their actual Art Works, but how they ‘thought’ about their Art – And how they arrived at their ultimate pieces or series of artworks (ones that we all know). However, it is always the best policy to follow ones own path and not rest or rely on what has been achieved  by imitation or transcription – that is just copying to sell or gain favour.

Braque once said that: “…there is Art of the people, and then there is Art for the people, the latter having been invented by the intellectual.” And that, I believe, is a phrase well worth remembering as one develops as a visual Artist.

 

Dens is an artist and writer and Editor for painters TUBES magazine (on line and print) Click here for the TUBES website.

If you are a Face Book friend of mine you can buy the latest painters TUBES magazine at a discounted price – The discount is for the main printed magazine only.  The usual price for a printed magazine is £11.00 including p&p with the ‘Editors Friend’ discount it is £9.00 including p&p

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all the best, Denis Editor of painters TUBES magazine

Denis Taylor Writer and artist

 the Protos Loophole

part one – an introduction

“You get used to being alone. In fact it seems I’ve been that way for the best part of my life. That is the life that I think I live inside this round space, one that I now call home. Hundreds of years of watching humanity watching me. I’m usually locked away, but once in a while they take me outside just to remind themselves of an alternate value of life. Out of that dark cupboard to shine in the light and allow my surface to reflect the substance of what I am now. Pigments mixed with oil & brushed onto this flat surface with magical and mysterious belief, it’s what holds me together. They value me as an object of the past. As a reflection of how they used to be. An artefact of an existence that humanity occupied in myth and legend. They don’t know that I am actually quite alive, and in every sense of the word. Most of them never understood me or the message I tried to give them, and they still don’t. They walk around thinking they are the total perfection of the evolution of a creature that lives on this tiny piece of blue rock in an infinite space, a space that they can’t even conceive of or begin to understand as a pure continuence. They are still ever so self congratulatory on their superiority, that is to everything else in the universe. And they can only think in beginings and ends, and an the ends to a means.

By the 22nd century humanity moved on from seriously looking at anything else other than themselves. Myths and legends like me are an oddity, something to see every now and then. I once existed as a human being, much like you. I know the frailty of vanity and the over valuation of self. It is the ego that is mankind’s greatest friend and devoted enemy. A singularity that holds mankind back from unifying with the cosmos in life, destined to discover the beautiful reality of the cosmos, but only in death. It’s a confusion of reality that has gone on for millennium.

The serious downward spiral started when philosophical thinkers went to the edge in the search of an absolute truth, but they dropped into the abyss of their own intellectual dogma. All of them in a search to find the very beginning of time itself. When the answer lay staring them full in the face. They probed and picked at the universe with their technology until they forgot what they were looking for.

The mission that I had accepted, way back when, was simple. To allow humanity a glimpse of their own truth from this round space. One that I have now occupied for centuries. Maybe, one day truth will once again find favour with humanity. Until then I am redundant and so I amuse myself by reliving how it was I ended up here. Over and over to myself – until it seems as if it was only yesterday. Although it was hundreds years ago or so when I first began to change who I was, or rather have the change forced upon me, from what I was.”

“I clearly recall that it was on a wet and windy Friday morning when I found myself going somewhere that any red blooded male does not want to go…”

…to be be continued

writing and images are copright of Denis Taylor -©DenisTaylor2006-2020 all rights reserved no reproduction is allowed with the express premission of the creator – ©creators global rights all inclusive2019.

hi,

if you wish you can read some of my articles that I’ve written for painters TUBES magazine – I’ve put a link her for the magazine so you can but the mag for £3 (thats under 4 dollars) the article is all about Abstract Painting, history and toady

..all the best Denis.

 

Denis Taylor Artist and writer
studio-artist-visitor

...You know the the drill: Monday to Friday – Work to be able to have a bed, fill the stomach and then get on with some proper stuff on the free days…for me that meant spending Friday to Sunday night in a run down building in the centre of the City, which I pay £30 a week for what I call it my art studio, but I can paint whatever I like – stuff that is never seen by anyone – stuff that means more to me than just meat and veg on the table… it was finally Friday. I’d dragged myself home from work, took off my uniform, fed my face then took a very hot shower, just to remove the weeks invisible layer of capitalism from my body…

…I then dressed for the weather and went off to the studio with new supplies of oil and brushes. Making sure I bought a six-pack and a packet of skins from the corner shop on the way. I was anxious, yet impatient to get to the studio to see what I’d done the previous weekend. I’d accepted the cold and the damp of the place with a stoic resistance these last winter months, the thermal fire imitation unit provided me with enough sustainable heat to work i relative comfort. The lighting was adequate, I painted with my mind not my eyes, I told myself. That single strip light hanging by chains from the ceiling had proven its trustworthiness. It was a state of artistic revelation I was after, not to witness what happens on the canvas at the point of doing it. Seeing was something I did after painting, not before and certainly not during.

I was totally hooked on that feeling of freedom, one that I got to be as self-interested as I wanted to be. To be without a worry about being paid money for my efforts, as I did in my day job. It wasn’t making money that art was all about – for me it was the ecstasy of the creative act itself, which helped make my other day to day life that more tolerable.

The smell of oil paint was my drug of choice.

That particular Friday evening, I began with my usual routine. I put the electric fire on, cleaned my brushes and cracked open a can of lager. Put all the paintings on the floor, walk around them in turn, examining them one by one. Second viewing my paintings was always exciting, until I spotted an area that I wasn’t happy with. And as usual, I lined all the painting up on the wall to critic them more intently. The end resolution was always the same. ‘The need to repaint them all over again’.  It was at was one these regular new starting points when an uninvited visitor arrived. I’d barely laid a stroke on the canvas when a voice from behind me spoke.

“Starting again?  – I’ve started over more times than even I care to remember. Always its begin, finish, begin, finish, start again – over and over – Oh my God – what a game it is!”
I turned around to view a man in a brown overcoat, a black hat and a pair of round glasses that were perched on top of a sizable nose – He donned a black bushy mustache and had a cigarette dangling from his lips. I looked at him silently for a second or two. His hands and arms were raised up slightly in a familiar gesture of perplexed acceptance of the fait-accompli. I made the usual polite yet firm enquiry…
“Err, sorry, who are you and how did you get in?”
“Your name is on my list of visits, the door was unlocked.” He replied.
He pulled out an A4 piece of paper from his inside pocket and confirmed he had the
right name and address.
“If you’re from the tax man- I don’t sell anything..and I can prove it.”
I said in a panic.
“Relax, I’m interested in your outcome my boy, not your income.”
Before I could react he asked me a question.
“So, by starting over you think you can better what you have already done?”
My reply was said as a strong indignant statement.
“Yes, I do – besides thats my choice, why ask?”.
He pulled on his cigarette and blew out a cloud of blue smoke. He walked up to the paintings still propped up on the wall and knelt in front of them.
As he looked at them he made small upturns of his nose, which gave the illusion of the cigarette following the brush strokes on the canvas.
“So, do you paint your inner self in these?” He asked.
I pulled out of the conversation quickly.
“What exactly are you here for?” I asked him.
“Maybe I’m here to help you?” I assumed my negative position.
“How?” I said with abrupt dislike of his implied offer of charitable help.
“Like, you can tell me how to paint?” I said with a laugh.
He looked at me with his big brown eyes as he blew out another cloud of blue smoke.
“Who, besides me, has seen your work?- I didn’t respond.
“Ah ha, as I thought- no one.” He said with air of arrogance.
“How do you know the communication has been transmitted…without a viewer?”
He asked which raised my curiosity and I tempered any further irritable feelings towards him.
I moved over to my electric kettle switched it on and asked if he would like
“a cup of tea? – “Or -perhaps a lager?” I said with a smile – He denied both offers.
I sat on my chair and cracked open another can and after a quick gulp gave him my position on my art.
“Look mate, I don’t who you are, or who you represent, but I paint for me and no one else.” He looked at me over his round glasses.
“But of course, so why else to paint?”
He walked around to my back and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“What is the point of paintings that nobody can see?”- I shook my head.
“You paint for you- which means indirectly your paintings are for all.”
He said, walking around to face me again.
“You paint what you feel, what resides in your emotional state – what is worth communicating – do you not?”
He asked and walked away to squat on the floor with his back to the wall.
He pulled on his cigarette again only this time allowing the smoke to escape from the sides of his mouth. I decided to make a stand against his implied lack of responsibility on my part.
“No, I paint for me – when I paint I think about my life, about my past, my loves, my family, ones that are no longer here – I paint for self enlightenment – for my own humanity. Not for everyone to trough over my feelings like some sort of emotional ‘E’ driven rave party.”

He stared at the ceiling.

“When people cry in front of a painting, they are feeling what was felt when the artist painted it. It’s a human need, to transmit and receive emotion, it’s what makes us human.”
“Who the hell are you?” I said becoming increasingly uneasy.
He answered with unsolicited advise.
“The best thing you can do is become a full time artist.” He said as he straightened his back and rose from the floor. “What is the point of pussy footing around?
You work for money all week, then paint at weekends for what, for why?
What’s the point of continually painting and repainting the same image for no one, except yourself ?”

At this point I’d already to come to the conclusion that this was a set up. Maybe a work colleague had arranged this visit. None of them understood why I isolated myself at weekends just to paint and repaint my images. I always refused to show them what I did. They all thought I was OK, but a little crazy. The visitor must be one of those ‘speak-a-grams’ you can hire.
I was sure of it and decided to go along with the gag.
“OK, Mr Smart arse you tell me why I should paint for others and what I should paint and I’ll listen – before chucking you out.”
I sat down in my chair and opened yet another can of lager.
The visitor waited for me to settle before he began what I believed would be some sort of piss-take culminating in my work friends busting into my studio and shouting ‘surprise’. The visitor looked at me and walked up and down the studio- probably trying to remember the script he had been given- I smiled to myself in the hope he would screw it up.
He drew on his cigarette, blowing the smoke from his nose as he looked at me, then at the ceiling before he began his dialogue.
“A painting is not about experience. It is an experience.
There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing. You paint abstraction and yet I will say, without reservations, there can be no abstractions. Any shape or area that does not hold the pulsating reality of real flesh and bones, its vulnerability, its pleasure or pain, is nothing at all. Why just be interested in the relationships of colour or form or anything else. Be interested only in the expression of basic human emotion. Tragedy, ecstasy, destiny and so on.”
He paused and took a long drag of his cigarette.
“Any picture that does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn should not interest you. The most important tool the artist perfects with practice is the faith in his ability to produce miracles when they are needed.
Pictures must be miraculous, the instant it is is completed, the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended. He is an outsider.”
He stopped talking and walked around the studio stopping in front of my painting speaking whilst he looked at them closer. “What about me” I shouted – “My need?”
He looked over his shoulder at me.
“Of course a painting must be for him, the artist, as for anyone experiencing it later, it maybe a revelation, or an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of a familiar need, perhaps happiness?”
He turned away from my work and walked up and down again.
“It’s a risky business to send a picture out into the world. How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent who could extend their affliction universally.”
He then stopped talking, smiled and thought for a second.
“The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, between the idea and the observer.” He looked at me and turned away again.
“If the paintings remain a secret, you will never be fulfilled and condemn yourself to painting the same bereft image over and over – until the day you die.”
He looked at me again and almost in unison we said…
…“its takes courage to be an artist.”
All that I remembered later, was waking up in the chair with empty beer cans all around me. It felt as if I had been asleep for days.
In the shadows I saw the visitor was still watching me.
My legs were cramped as I stood up and limped around the studio, staring at my paintings. “Amazing. I said with surprise, ” They are all finished ! ”
“Yes”, said the visitor.
“Now you must leave them to exist and take their chance in the world,
just as I must now leave”.
The visitor stepped out of the shadows and he headed for the door.
I asked him- “What was your name again?”
“Mark…”. He looked back towards the studio window,
“ …out there… they call me Rothko.”

Denis Taylor Artist Writer/Rothko
©Kate Rothkp Prizel and Christopher Rothko-DACS 2017

you read some of my academic art writing on painters TUBES magazine click here for links