Thursday, March 22, 2012

a painter's world is good

Ultramarine blue, dioxazine purple, cadmium yellow medium, quinacridone violet, phthalocyanine blue, umber.

I've linked to Zbigniew Herbert's poem "Study of an Object" before, but here again, is the beginning of the poem:

 The most beautiful is the object
which does not exist 
{the rest of the poem here}

 I spent yesterday morning trying to arrange these paint tubes into something resembling a poem.  I began with a small selection, but aim to try again, another day, when the light is right, using a different combination of colours.

This is my kitchen table, and not the studio where R. paints.  His studio is unromantic, dingy, very workmanlike.  I have plans to photograph it as well, but the light down there in his corner of the unfinished basement is challenging.  It's hard to believe really, that he can paint there.

How many paintings has he already created from these tubes of paint?  How many more?  Well, some of the tubes are obviously finished.  But there's more in the dioxazine purple (we might call this pink).  There's more of the cadmium yellow medium. Not so much of the quinacridone violet.

  I wanted to capture the sculptural quality of these spent tubes and to imagine the gesture of the hand coaxing the paint from them, and onto the palette.

When I showed these photos to Rob and said to him - you should paint these, or something like these -  he immediately ran off to grab his monograph on Avigdor Arikha to show me the painting "Tubes of Paint in Their Drawer."  {Scroll down to see it here}

I think this last one is my favourite of all of these.  

There's another poem by Herbert I'm fond of but can't find a link to it on the web, so here it is, from his Collected Poems.

I N   T H E    S T U D I O

Zbigniew Herbert

With a light step
he moves
from spot to spot
from fruit to fruit

the good gardener
props a flower with a stick
a human being with joy
the sun with deep blue

nudges his glasses
puts on a tea kettle
mumbles to himself
strokes the cat

When God built the world
he wrinkled his forehead
calculated and calculated
hence the world is perfect
and impossible to live in

on the other hand
a painter's world
is good
and full of error
the eye strolls
from spot to spot
from fruit to fruit

the eye purrs
the eye smiles
the eye remembers
the eye says you'll last
if you manage to enter
right into that centre
where the painter was
he who has no wings
wears floppy slippers
he who has no Virgil
with a cat in a pocket
a genial imagination
an unconscious hand
correcting the world.


  1. so lovely, would love to see the studio !!

  2. Such interaction between you and 'the painter', in the photos, in the words, and the bright bits of colour in the wrinkled old tubes of paint with their grand names.

  3. I too think he should paint something like these.
    ... "the eye purrs"

  4. I never really thought of used up tubes as sculptural but I guess they really are! wonderful shots, as always. I hope you get to photograph his work space soon. That would be an interesting journey, as well.

  5. And in one day I read of Zbigniew Herbert twice. Once here, and once in a book by Sebastian Moore, a 91 year old, gay Benedictine monk and theologian. I always take these things as signs. Like when God wrinkles his forehead. And of course I fell headlong into this post.

  6. How gorgeous would these tubes look posted on a board ~ they are an artform ♥


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