October 18, 2015
After receiving the first issue of well-known arts magazine i have subscribed to, and filing through several reviews, I was struck by the amount of nonsense written about nothing at all; work that is derivative, seen before, etc. The temptation is to write some myself about artists and work I care about, but who has time?
THE HAPPY DAYS OF LOUIS HAUSARBEIT
Louis came to visit, then stayed to work. Below, his Happy Days Nos. 1-5.
Claire’s Planet, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, 2015. Luigi Monteferrante
Girls Rock/The Furies, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 105 x 100 cm. Luigi Monteferrante
The Winters, Madame et Monsieur, 2015, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante
Above, my most recent paintings, Girls Rock being the last of 2014, and The Winters my latest work, a throwback to my days in Montreal.
Between the two, I have written a 325-page script for a graphic novel, adaptable for cinema, too; and a children’s story, only 50 pages, also a graphic novel.
Neither, however, have been illustrated. The original idea was, indeed, to illustrate them myself. The first was only meant to be a one-episode self-contained story; a second episode followed, then a third, etc.
I debated deep and long about what to do; if I did the art work one script page at a time, it would take me a year.
Did/do I want to spend a year illustrating a story?
The simple answer is: NO.
The main reason is I’d rather spend time writing Part Two; I have a few ideas written down, and would rather pursue and develop a number of characters and plotlines, and so on.
Same goes for the shorter story. It, too, has room for development.
I have managed to find an artist who is considering whether to do the illustrations; she does very nice work, and I think it would be perfect for the job.
But she has to like the script.
So we shall wait and we shall see.
Meanwhile, I am surprised I have started writing again, in a big way; and my visual work has translated and transformed my writing – the scripts, at least.
Now I should spend some time looking and finding a suitable publisher, at least one other illustrator for the children’s story. And a gallery, of course. Even two, or three, but one would suffice, as would a collector who actually buys a painting.
Nothing like cash to measure your Worth, eh? Or at least what society thinks it is.
But my main job is to do the work, so it’s back to the drawing board.
Full gallery: http://www.luigimonteferrante.com
MOLOTOV CITY BLUES
Molotov, a metropolis riddled by corruption and crime, where mobsters, bankers, and city officials collude to run the city, clean the streets of the poor, the derelict, the petty criminals, and make themselves rich by manufacturing, distributing, and selling from drugs to body parts, and everything in between.
In the midst of this dark city where the aflluent live well, isolated from the burroughs across the river, two honest cops in a guttersnipe world.
Miles, ace driver, top-notch shooter, is a relic from the Disco Era, the music playing from their patrol car; his partner, Pogo, an unreformed punk.
They patrol the streets where the poor snatch pedigreed dogs from the rich for food, where FUN drugs are sold at concert stadiums to pacify the fans, where protest marches are quickly quelled, where petty criminals are brutally handled or killed by the police, while Banks, Organized Crime, and a new power-hungry Mayor, manage Big Business as a Team, or Consortium, to eradicate any and all opposition or rivals.
A chink: Pogo’s brother, Leonard Pegaso, an ambitious outsider, who owns and manages a transport company.
We ship. Anything. Anywhere. Anytime.
Successful in transporting arms, drugs, vital goods from war zone to war zone, he has now returned to Molotov to expand his business on a local
and national level. He is making waves, growing increasingly ambitious, powerful, so the Consortium makes several attempts on his life after warning Pogo to speak to him, have him cooperate.
But both men are rebels, loners, as is Miles.
Only Leonard is shot, hospitalised, in a coma induced by his niece, Pogo’s daughter Natascha, who has a defense-and-security-related research company in Sweden. Her start-up financed by Uncle Leo, she returns to Molotov to take over his business, keep Leo coma-induced, and further their interests mightily, despite her father’s warnings. Pogo is, in fact, from the same old neighbourhood of the de facto heads of the Consortium: Johnson, Santantonio, Liebovitz.
Pogo and Miles patrol, intervene on crime: the homeless nabbed from the street by Sanitation Dept and sold for body parts, in collusion with the Consortium; students marching for the cancellation of student loans, with police cracking down hard; a teacher made redundant holding up a class;
expensive paintings being copied, replaced, and resold – and here, Pogo’s sometimes-girlfriend, Louise, an artist who runs Lou’s Diner, the cops hang-out, is involved, with Pogo so close to discovering the truth he doesn’t want to know.
There is also a sniper, more than one; some dressed like Pogo, the intention being he will by shot by mistake, or even intentionally, by his own colleagues in a cover-up. And Miles. Big, slow, placid Miles, who reads philosophy, after yet another unjust incident, shoots an arch-criminal, released, unconvicted, by a corrupt jury and judge.
But he, too, folds; throughout, they two cops are reminded they, too, are vulnerable; Miles has a daughter, and two grandchildren; Pogo, his daughter, and brother, Leo, with whom, as several scenes depict, has little reason to be loved by Pogo.
Miles folds, goes along, while Pogo takes beatings, literally and morally, from all sides. Louise he discovers for the art fraud; she has her reasons he seems to accept. Natascha, a power-hungry Young woman he calls a monster, is pushing for the increased militarization of the Police Department, and the Mayor is soon infatuated with her beauty, her brains, her naked ambition. He proposes to her.
Everywhere, the mad dash for money, power, more money; and all Pogo wants to do is play his music, walk the streets, a punk with a badge, and a mission: survival in a guttersnipe run by rats.
Most everyone I know knows me as a writer and poet, one who’s been writing all his life, declining other pleasures and work, to focus on his writing.
At the end of 2013, that all changed radically. I started painting. I painted incessantly, from morning to night, day after day.
Not having a real job has, in fact, its benefits.
Over time, I built up a significant body of work, which can be seen at:
A month ago, however, I began work on a comic strip. I started with its two main characters, two cops in a guttersnipe world, and finished an episode.
Then a second, third, fifteenth, twentieth episode – until I finally wrote:
It needed revising, of course, and I revised and rewrote, and am close to finishing.
What started as a 15-page episode is now a 250 page script.
Once the written script is completed, what to do?
I ought to illustrate one episode at a time, but this first script has already spawned a second part with characters to develop, subplots to expand, questions to answer.
If only I had infinite time…
Below, my most recent work. It has been quite a while since my last post. I have been busy painting. While painting, I listen to podcasts from BBC and WNYC, or I listen to rock music on Virgin Radio. I take frequent breaks for tea, prepare lunch and dinner, teach five hours a week, try to go for a walk in the evening on the seaside promenade literally steps from my house, and go to bed thinking about what might my next painting be. That’s it. I can’t even read in bed, or elsewhere, because I need to shut my eyes, shut down, and dream or envision things, scenes, plot lines, scenarios. And I need to sleep.
I suppose I should go out a bit more. I was out on an errand up in town a few days ago, and on walking on the main street, what words suddenly came to mind?
Yes, there is a world out there, as real or fictitious as these, each a stage wherein you play your part.
And move on, or move aside.
Today, though, I am taking a little break. I sketched my next painting, but instead of putting on my work clothes, I put on my running gear and went jogging on a sunny beach. No podcast, music. Just the sound of the sea and a northerly breeze.
I noted the colors – sea, sky, waves. They might go into this next painting.
I jumped over a sea monster emerging from the shore – driftwood too large and immersed too deep into the pit of sea and sand to pull out and drag home.
I ran on, this sea monster impressed upon me, a possible feature of a future painting in another country of the mind, one with its own mythologies I may create one day.
But for now, other priorities; I have to cook ragu’ for my signora, after which I am teaching for an hour.
Since I am up in town, I will certainly stroll about Piazza Rossetti, maybe take some pictures, cross paths with acquaintances, stop for a chat.
Yes, join that world, the real world, grant myself the time today to grasp, feel, act and move in clean new clothes, an ironed shirt, crisp trousers, polished shoes to remind myself I am a character, minor, in a larger picture.
But life is in these miniatures …
Why I went to Art School, acrylic on wood, 137 x 87 cm, Luigi Monteferrante
Clearly, attending art school serves a purpose. You learn technique, history, the lingo, the affrontery, brashness, abuse of being critiqued by peers, and you may not learn how to defend your self, your inner self, but you learn how to strike back.
No, no. You are not supposed to strike back, counter-attack, volley verbal even physical violence on all assailants, but rather defend your work in a pacific, if impassioned, argumentative, reasonable, even-handed, cordial, gentlemanly civilised fashion.
And beat the shit out of the most ardent critics.
One by one, in the days, weeks, months, even years, as they emerge from the repertoire theatre, the romantic dinner with a fellow intellectual at a bring-your-own-wine trattoria, or schmaltzy diner, or sauntering free of admirers, a glib one or two, after a vernissage, a finissage, a talk.
You strike flesh, bone, muscle and nerve beneath flesh, bone, muscle, nerve, rage and frustration – oh, the sweet, anarchic, bloodlustful freedom that comes with vengeance!
To talk, discuss, debate, rant and rave, scream and shout, insult, even push and shove – yes, these are fine and good, acceptable, but violence, ultraviolence?
Well, why not?
Yes, okay. He, too, will write critiques, slag off his peers, laugh at the nonsense on display, scorn at essays describing trash proclaimed titillatingly fresh art of new, up – and – coming, established artists by mediocrities, but also by Professors Emeritus, Distinguished, and their tribe if woolly hangers-on via his own essays, blogs, posts, talks, seminars, conferences, and questions during his peers’ events.
But why rule out the power of physical force?
Why not use the stick when the carrot, one presumably huge and inflatable set floating in the currents of the Thames, Hudson, and Seine Rivers, when the carrot proves insufficient?
A club, cane, umbrella, a tome, bottle a well-aimed kick, or slew of bare-knuckled punches, applied like strokes to a brigjt, witty, now darkening, wistful face.
A good-hearted, generous beating as performance art!
A happening which continues when Ignoramus is wheeled into the hospital, tubes sticking from his arms and nostrils, contraptions beeping and blinking, nurses wailing for more blood.
Yes, more blood.
Of course, there’s the Law.
Tell that to Signor Gallerista, says this artist, cutting short, putting on the mask of Caravaggio, tomorrow Chris Marlowe, the day after…
Well, I won’t tell you, will I, in case your sleight of hand has proved harmful, ineffective, or you’ve failed to notice, and now you are looking behind your back in a crowd, an admiring crowd of art school students, peers, artists, journalists, critics, a general public wherein stands, is approaching, a man faintly resembling, can it be..?
End of Part One.
Shipwrecked, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014
This is simply how I feel when I am not painting. A stormy sea, a ship on the horizon that appears to be afloat, but for how much longer?
I feel the same. Not being in a gallery, not getting attention, not drawing a handful of collectors, journalists, curators is beginning to weigh heavily on me. It takes me longer to jump from bed, but once up, I am fast at work, buoyed by my visitations, visions, muses, and love of the physical act of painting, the full ritual: putting on an old blue robe, preparing a fresh pot of tea, turning on the radio, filling a cup with water for my paintings, rolling out my tray of paints, squeezing paint from tubes, applying that first stroke onto the board – I am off in a blustery breeze, rain or shine, on deck to face the oncoming squalls and storms into the unknown, excited, enthralling, exhausting – my right arm sometimes aches – but ultimately fulfilling.
Now I do sail. A sailor at port is pleased, satisfied to stretch his legs, talk to people ashore, have a shot of rum or two, but it won’t be long, he will begin to be assailed by a malaise; the only cure, to board ship, and sail off again into territories, new and unexplored, or old and familiar; so, too, I with some recent work.
Notwithstanding my own malaise, spleen, ennui, listlessness, deep frustration for the above mentioned reasons, to be expected, a feeling shared by many artists, writers, poets, and I happen to be all three, there is at least one other interpretation to this picture.
Look closely, and what appears to be a ship on the horizon, also looks like a turned head; from there, follow the distended body, shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips of a body washed ashore.
Wet, tried, beaten and stormbashed, but alive, blood and firewater in his gut.
Ready for a new rumbunctious adventure.
Dancing at The Jive, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante 2014
The Pygmalion, a Family Portrait, was not the original title, but on its completion, I sat down exhausted at the end of the day, and glanced at the picture. And then I fell in love with the woman standing on the right. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
Now, as a student, I was decidedly on the side of Plato. The idea of form, the ideal of Beauty, Beauty as Truth, were all so stunningly real to me – me in a class of rough-and-ready DYI Aristoteleans, teacher included. Likewise, Evil, Ugliness, Falsehood – one had no doubts when you saw, experienced, suffered them. When you came across Beauty – a girl, a woman, a novel, a poem, a song, a cityscape – it hit you hard, plain and simple. No lingering doubts, no room for debate, nothing to explain, declaim, describe. You either got it, or you didn’t.
Love at first sight, love at first listen, love at first read.
Let’s skip the first object/subject of love, as it is the last love object/subject, but at first listen, I know it was Elvis and the Beatles, this just barely into elementary school, with the album cover of Elvis in a gold suit, while the latter was a double album with a silver graffitti-like cover, an album I still have.
The first movie I ever saw at a cinema was The Song Remains the Same, by Led Zeppelin, and they were number one on my list of favorites for a short time because then Saturday Night Fever and, more importantly, the Sex Pistols became the huge life-transforming experiences that changed my cultural mindscape.
At the same time, sane time, I loved Fellini movies, went to the Seville Theatre to see art and cult films on a regular basis, and read Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and the Russian classics also on a pretty regular basis, simply because they did something for me, to me.
They blew my mind. They were objects of beauty – beautiful, intricate, rich, abundant, corpose or full-bodied Language, huge spirits formidably described and depicted, and reading made me a participant, or maybe just a nosy neighbour with voyeuristic tendencies, which every writer ought to possess.
(Oh, and since we’re harking back to those formative years, few would dispute the striking looks of Brooke Shields, in the famous jean ads, or in Pretty Baby, the starlet an obvious jaw-dropping mind-altering beauty.)
Visually, too, the works of Michelangelo, paintings and sculpture, were of Platonic Perfection; whatever it was he wanted to portray, there were no doubts he got it absolutely right -and why he Towers above all else.
Picasso turned things on its head, why he is a great, but there are, too, the small more intimate delights, luminiscent beings in poetry, or lines of poetry, and we each have our favourites.
And then there’s Macbeth, King Lear, Richard III, etc.
Now what do you do? You want to possess this beauty, read it over and over again, discover heretofore undiscovered nuances, the object of beauty like a disco mirror ball – rich, multifaceted, a being beautiful in itself, enrichened by the infinite number of reflections of which it is the source and centre.
You observe it, watch it arise from the painting, imagine a prequel, sequel, an afterlife external to the painting wherein it is trapped, and it is one with you as only a few of the previous paintings are. Most are like discarded lovers,or lovers who dropped you, or unrequited love, or brief flickers of love, palliatives against loneliness, or plain sex and a need for intimacy, and bodies, but in The Pygmalian, there is more, something deeper, more profound: the summation of one’s powers, weaknesses, an element of chance, a fate, joy, loss, sadness.
Fortunately, life is grand, life is beautiful and rich because, in the end, we know deep down what makes it all worthwhile, why, in fact, we keep on dancing and painting to our favourite Tunes.
Last Night a DJ saved my life, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante 2014
Fictionalism. A new movement. Its manifesto: fantasy, imagination, lies, mythologies, currents and undercurrents of desire, fears, ambitions, aspirations, anxieties, and the vast range of human emotions contribute to creating the work of visual art. Hm, not much of a manifesto, but rather a description of the process that may or may not lead to the production of a work of art, great or poor that it may turn out to be .
Fictionalism. The set piece, the painting, as a fiction, an alternative history, a meta-history, an unwritten chapter of the life you might have lived, or would like to live, or simply a page in a book, a large page given the size of the above painting – 106 x 96 cm – that the observer enters, plays upon, participates in, loses him/her self in what becomes a different commedia, play.
Fictionalism. It requires your participation. A performance piece. A mental, imaginative one.
Not for the first time, but less frequently than I presumably ought to, I sat in an armchair on completing La Chinoise. I sipped my tea and looked at the painting. I just stared.
The more I looked, the more I was drawn into the picture, into the room, onto the bed, the women. I smelled the perfumes, scents, incense, the body odour. I could hear the noise from the Street outside the wooden storm Windows. I could see the curtains move and reading the ancient proverbs inscribed on the walls. I touched the bodies of the two women, and saw myself with the pale Chinoise lying naked and pearly White on the stark black satin sheets. I tasted the absinthe, smoked the opium. I lay in bed staring into her eyes, stroking her legs, while more liquid gurgled into a glass, and a match was struck. A flicker, then darkness, silence.
I would never leave this room.
Down at the Disco at Midnight, 106 x 96 cm, acrylic on wood.
I spent the last week in London. I visited several galleries in and around Albermarle, Cork, New/Old Bond Streets and I meandered through and across the following museums: Imperial War Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Friday Night & Monday Morning, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.
I also visited Somerset House to see Blondie, the Advent of Punk, featuring the photography of Chris Stein, and I paid fifteen pounds to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Right from the start of my wanderings, I wondered and debated the question:
Why go to museums?
Every image is available via our smartphones and computers. It is all on the web and is accessible 24/7 without the least inconvenience. No bus, train, taxi to take. No braving the rain, snow, sleet, heat and smog, nor the crowds. And it doesn’t cost 15 pounds.
I went to the aforementioned museums and galleries because I love walking and it gave me a sense of purpose. I saw art that was interesting and art that was drivel, the equivalent of drip painting by anybody who is not Pollock.
Pool Hall, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.
Self-portrait, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.
La Nuite des Maudits, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014
Menage a Cinque, photography, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.
Of course, some art had me wondering why my own work was not on exhibit in any number of galleries, and since no answer was forthcoming, I concentrated less on my own work, and tried to understand and enjoy the work I was seeing.
I was not blown away. Kiefer’s work, but not all, was powerful, willingly dreary, German. Grand in scale, they filled the immense walls of the Academy and could not but impress.
And viewers or spectators gazed in silence or, at most, whispered commentary, which leads to my next question:
Why is everyone so quiet? It’s not like going to Church or the Synagogue, or is it?
Maybe anything we might say would sound trite, stupid, pretentious, misplaced, and few of us want to sound uneducated, especially after spending so much money on becoming schooled.
(I dropped out of the Classics Programme at Concordia U, Montreal, so I qualify as seriously ignorant, and why, presumably, have no answers, why I appeal to you, reader, for commentary here or at my Facebook page.)
Everything in the museum is so sanctimonious: the guardians, custodians, standing around like altarboys and girls; the distance from the artwork itself that must be respectfully kept, the lighting, and there is even a scent to museums, but it is in our own animal behaviour, comportamento, as we approach and entry into the museum: we gape, we gaze, we hold our breath in anticipation of wonder and imminent revelation, describe sidelong glances to our mates, eyebrows arched, at being impressed, confused, understanding, bewildered.
Hands clasped at our backs,or arms folded, or grappling with the museum guide, the Bible, the alms book of daily prayer, we shuffle along from painting to sculpture to installation to paper works and artists books,in and out of rooms, and onto the next, until we emerge from the museum, purged of our own insignificance, enriched and empowered, members of a sect, a religion, a faith that sets us apart from those who do not go to exhibitions, do not go to the opera, do not read Literature and History.
You stand apart from the hordes. Entrenched behind books, culture, art, knowledge, sensibilities or sensitivities, Kultur, you believe you are safe from the boor who will deride the art that has so touched and moved you you cannot sleep.
When the huddled mass of ignorance, sweat and intellectual hogwash and stink laughs out loud to say: it’s bullshit!, you cringe, turn away, sneer, distance yourself as fast as it is discretely possible to do so without being noticed because you know you don’t have a chance against the horde, or the crazed boor who insists Rothko is a fake.
“Okay, I got the two-tone bleak on bleak the first time, the second time, but a whole career spent painting the same painting is, yes, frankly beyond me, and b-o-r-i-n-g. And reading the explanatory notes too hilarious. I mean, what are these guys on to write all that bullshit on a white hole of nothingness.”
Better not mention the white-on-whites by deKoonig, or the boor will never stop barking like a hyena; oh, a propos:
To be honest, I wasn’t impressed by Kiefer’s pile of lead sheets, either; I had the same – no – similar pile when I tore out my bathroom last month, but context is vital, critiques and critics, too, and an alchemical combination of good fortune, time, place, people, confidence, bravado, vision, arrogance, and talents.
Evidently, I lack most, if not all, of the above. And I probably abound in ignorance. I do what I do, paint, in the safety of my own grounds, oblivious to much, and ignored by all, grateful to the Muses and McFate for granting me this space and time to create, bring to fruition the odd mixture of components and elements of which I am composed.
It’s what I know, in short; that, and museums are full of gorgeous women and openings are great places for starting a conversation with smart, bright ladies.
Redhead at National Gallery, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante, 2014.
P.S. You were dressed as above, with black-framed glasses, at the National Gallery, 11-19 November; me, Mr Miserable, bearded, thunderstruck:
In she walked
tight white shirt
grey skirt to the knees
black stiletto heels
red hair and a chignon
most perfect complexion
and a Mona Lisa smile
across the floor
in a long bare-legged stride
she walked to gaze
at a Renaissance nude
that she was
in the mirror.
P.S.S. The Abstracts in this post were produced before my trip to London, while the paintings were made on my return just days ago; the former were, however, side trips, excursions from what might be considered my style, ie Figurative Narrations, while the Others herein posted were painted on my return, the first being Down at the Disco at Midnight.
Now the next question is: what are the effects of going to galleries and museums on one’s own work? What is your experience?
Looking forward to your comments and replies.
Last Rebel, Inc., Luigi Monteferrante, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm.
In my previous life as a poet, I wrote a poem entitled Heroes, the narrator asking where had they gone to, the punks, mods, hippies, rockers, disco dolls. And the like. The poem I transformed to song and it was improved because during the recording I improvised and ad-libbed a few rather inspired lines. The tone, or timbre, were also perfect – a denigrating sneer. My acoustic guitar-playing capacity amounted to nil, but the overall performance was satisfactory.
As for the painting, we face this Colossus of a building, a Leviathan of a Corporation, and the man depicted has paused before reaching the large dark entrance door; whatever his choice, Last Rebel is the Corporation, the Brand, the Lifestyle. For one, rebellion has long been comodified: from rock & rock to rap, the money is in the merchandise, the collective experience, not the music. Secondly, the true rebels founded the company, laid the foundations to create the colossus, the monster’s appetite allayed by greed: more cash, larger market share, buying out or crushing competitors, the stuff of daily financial headlines.
Their stock in trade is rebellion against the status quo. Were everything fine and good, nothing would ever be improved, invented, changed. We take things for granted, are averse to change, enjoy our routines, are pleased to sit quietly after a day’s work watching TV, or reading a bestselling book, but these rebels, these upstart entrepreneurs don’t sit still. Not one second. They are dreaming, scheming, schmoozing, toying with ideas, gizmos, conventional thinking so as to find a way to get you to dig into your pockets to buy that product or service which you don’t really need.
Open your cupboards – full. Closet? Packed. Desk? Cluttered with PCs, pen drives, flash cards, DVDs – remember those? And we won’t even go into the garage or attic where we have boxes and crates of video and audio cassettes, old skis, skates, roller blades, city bikes and mountain bikes, and a whole lot more.
Quite frankly, I have been fooled into buying stuff I don’t need, but I can safely say I have a lot less junk than most people. And I will include books too, just to assure you I won’t distinguish between high and low culture, hi- and lo-tech.
Last Rebel is making itself richer, me poorer, and the more we buy, the higher they rise in social status, the greater their economic power, while ours diminishes day after day. Pardon me – mine does. And plenty of people, too.
We conform. We settle down. We don’t want to change. Change might mean disaster. But the Colossus grows ever-more powerful, its scope wider, broader, deeper, and it governs. It governs, and we are governed, pleased with feeding in crumbs, and left alone on the Sabbath.
But all this is fine and good. We can choose and we can decide. We are responsible, sentient beings with a capacity for thought and foresight. We regularly make investments with our limited resources in time, energy, affections, cash.
Long ago, wanting to be a writer, a poet, I chose to cut back. I needed time, a lot of time to write a novel, plays, poems, and I could not afford regular job; granted, I taught for over 25 years, but not usually on a full-time basis, leaving me plenty of time to writing.
Of course this meant less money, but there were increasingly less things I wanted to buy or do: going to bars, ristos, movies, for starters. Walking, running, swimming, cycling are free. As is talking, but outside a tiny circle of friends and relatives, this past year, since reneging The Word, writing, and turnedbinward upon myself, imploded and started to paint, I speak to very few people. Though married, sometimes it feels like I open my mouth only to eat, sip tea, answer direct questions, fail to respond to a phone ringing. It can wait.
I work quietly at home listening to a radio I bought 27 years ago, using wood panels that are far cheaper than canvas.I re-read books, mostly thick classics from Ancient, English, Russian and French Literature, and walk to wherever it is I have to go when, of course, I do have to go anywhere outside the house past the gate. And in emergencies, I do have a large motorcycle.
The Last Rebel, like Government, Bureaucrac tax and bill collectors are at the door, on the phone, in bulletins, emails, ubiquitous. I stand, ineffectual brush at the ready against intruders: strangers who come calling because they want something from you.
And I say: Sorry, not interested, and turn away from the Last Rebels.
Unless… unless….hey, wanna buy a painting?
ln the end, success is an act of rebellion, success in your own terms, large or small, known or unknown. When the painting is right, you feel it, you know. And little else matters.
And a propos of paintings, the little man depicted owns the building.
16 Chapel Rd, Suite II, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96, Luigi Monteferrante
When does repetition become personal style, a clearly defined, easily recognizable signature piece in art, music, literature?
Michelangelo, and lesser artists, are easily found out even by the layman; so, too, Bach, or Shakespeare, or a David Hockney.
And so, we have another 16 Chapel Rd, but we are in Suite II, what might have been Helter Skelter at the Babylon, a collection, or album of people summoned to perform and act their fates before a live audience: you.
Much can be said, but won’t. The style is reminiscent of other paintings, indeed may be very similar to one in particular, but then again, you’ve seen one Cubist painting, Abstract Expressionist, Post-TransAvanguardia, Arte Povera, or whatever your choice, you’ve seen them all, right?
And Romeo & Juliet is just another boy meets girl story that ends badly, or well, if you like tearjerkers; it employs words, has a whole bunch of people in leotards and lace running around gasping, swordfighting, cursing, falling in love, sighing and dying, not necessarily in that order.
So, too, Michelangelo’s David, a well-built young stud standing naked – plenty of those around, I suppose, not necessarily naked, but that’s what imagination is for, no?
And the reason for Art.
In a world without art or artists, and as important, humankind’s sensibility to beauty and aesthetic experience, Michelangelo’s David is just that: a stud in marble, a dude in stone, a block of marble.
There is more beyond the familiar substance, subject, theme and matter, and because the world is a stage, and there’s nothing new under the sun, and you can’t step in the same river twice, if you look closely, if you live closely, feel intensely, think deeply, there is an infinity to witness, experience, discover as there is when you look at that same old person you love’s face really closely.
Hm, do I really know you?
(And Juliet, or the Lady of Shylock, oops, Shalot, waving: it’s me, it’s me.)
And time has passed, your eyes have begun to fail you, so you step closer, smell, sense, touch that new, live, richly inexplorable sentient being, and marvel at infinitude.
So, too, my 16 Chapel Rd.
(To name the first that comes to mind, naturalmente, and not to be immodest.)
But to conclude, nota bene, my next will be different.
Wait and see.
And then I am off to London for a week.
November 9, 2014
The Oracle, Luigi Monteferrante, 106 x 96 cm, acrylic on wood, 2014.
Art is a quest.Life is a quest. Getting out of bed is a quest. You have got to have a reason. Be it a salary, a career, a class to attend or teach, pride, ambition, and/or a host of abstract and damn practical motives, you do things for a mixture of pragmatic, ideological, faith-based considerations – work vs slacker ethic, etc.
Deep inside, some of us feel as if we have experienced a Visitation, a Calling, a Vocation.
The rough business at hand is for you to sort, clients to please, customers to satisfy, the opposition to appease or quell, relations to provide for – an endless list of chores dealing with persons and things which require intervention: yours, ours, mine.
Nothing comes from nothing.
Armed with self-belief, a faith in self, I am impelled to paint, trans-substantiate ideas, visions, dreams, a voice to form; alas, two-dimensional, but even in my sculptures of stone and driftwood, the third dimensions lacks the fourth and vital dimension: time.
It is in time, that we play out the scheme the Oracle has whispered to us, to me, an oracle I could easily choose to ignore – go to the cinema, read a book, meet with friends, real or otherwise; instead, the Oracle is by your side, whispers in your heart, holds a flame to your brackish mind, pushes you on, indeed wakes you in the middle of the night, or day, drags you from slumber, and you are compelled to create, draw, start painting before it is too late, before you rise no more, your duty forsaken, your calling ignored, the Oracle, here an fair attractive woman, transformed into a screaming Harpie, or a Medusa, but instead of your turning instantly into stone, she kindles you back to blood, bone and gut to torture you the more, holding the mirror to your face with you, and nobody else but you, to blame, to blame, to crucify.
Expectations, Luigi Monteferrante, 106 x 96 cm, acrylic on wood, 2014.
Expectations? We have them. We might choose to feign harboring none, the cynic, the disaffected, the moody melancholic, and those too cowardly to raise that castle in the air, erect, build and establish their dreams and expectations. Large or small, bright or gloomy, morning dawns with expectations. And expectations don’t sleep; they lie in wake.
In this painting, time was short, and there was an abundance of energy, an overflow that sundered the restraints of time, and carried over from Expectations to Oracle, the next painting.
In Expectations, set in post-Classical darkness, the woman on the left is expecting a child, her future pregnant with aspirations, certainties – an heir – the warmth, love, fears and vicissitudes of motherhood.
The man, a warrior, knight, nobleman – he is handsome, young, clutches a stiletto at his belt – gazes forward, not far in time or space, but at the present. Guarded, cool, unsmiling, bared of faith, but his own self-confidence, and strength. Master of his Castle.
To his left, a woman, disproportionately large, attractive; prophecy, distraction, or more earthly: a mistress, a mother?
It reminds me of Hamlet, not the tragedy, but what was a tentative title: The Comedy of Hamlet, King of Denmark. Comedy because it ends happily. He kills nobody, marries Ophelia, currently expecting a child, and Gertrude is at peace, Uncle having died of old age. Or perhaps attacked and killed by a pack of boars. And in any case, Gertie resigned to playing off-center stage, with Hamlet and the Mrs clearly in command.
But all is not well in the Danish realm. Ophelia will bear triplets: envy, jealousy and violence.
And the skies grow dark with bloody expectations.
Luigi Monteferrante in Caravaggio mode.
One day, one day without painting, was hell – no, but purgatorio, si.
Yesterday, work on the house had me assisting the bricklayer and plumber, and so I was on call for errands, cleaning, and moving furniture back and forth. Nothing heavy, nor tiring, and with small talk, the morning passed by easily enough.
By afternoon, however, the realization that I had nothing in mind, body, or spirit regarding my next painting had me feeling wretched, my mind not a blank, which conjures a clean, fresh, bright page, canvas or screen; instead, a thick, turgid, muddy green/grey swamp dully bubbling at an ever-decreasing rate and temperature.
My body, too, began to creak, my muscles growing taut, my spirit sluggish, dull, a smoky fog as heavy as a lead mantle.
The day’s work done, I walked into the night by the sea, head slung low, the only rumblings the crash of waves ashore. So, too, dinner and after, a quiet evening of dull despair and emptiness failed to bring deliverance.
I woke up at 3:09, ready to plug my ears with a BBC podcast when suddenly a vision.
That is: two consecutive, successive visions.
Clear, perfect, two bodies of work delivered bedside.
La notte porta giudizio, says an Italian proverb, night brings wisdom.
And something more. Levitation. And the exit sign out of Limbo.
Meditations, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante
Meditations is the second painting of Year Two, the first lengthily and superficially described in the previous post below. I painted Meditations outdoors in my garden.
Studio at Villa Monteferrante.
The subject matter may indicate a sense of peace, serenity, or possibly, the end of an equilibrium, the start of something new, a zero zone, a no man’s land yet to cross and explore. Maybe so.
In a week, I shall be in London with no set purpose. I will, of course, visit museums and galleries, but also club, bars and pubs.
And I will draw from the experience.
As for Meditations, a curious or striking aspect are the artworks within the artwork. The Triangle of Elements, or The Ages of Mankind: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron. (My Classics education kicks in inopportunately, still upset I dropped out like a Golden Ass.)
The Ages hangs on the wall, dominates, possibly reflects energy and vibrations from the aforementioned metals our two human characters absorb, and are transformed; for one, they’ve stripped naked, meditation as foreplay to wild Saturnalian sex? The Ages as commentary: ours is which of the four represented, or have I left ours out: silicon? Whatever.
The room also features two sculptures, red and rounded, the woman’s possible projection; lava-like and angular the second to the man’s side.
Art within art, books within books, bios within alternative biographies, is an old trick, a game of labyrinths, Russian dolls, Borgesian parables, but here nothing more than a bare wall with a couple of holes that need to be covered. That, or the artist running out of panels to paint, or too lazy to actually begin a sculpture, get his hands dirty, or burnt, the second sculpture being metal, requiring torches and hellfire.
Or maybe he is just showing off, smiling wryly, reminding a small world that it might have been easier to paint Abstract, instead of Figurative Narrations & Modern Mythologies, but he and I say: I don’t know the lexicon.
And I don’t want to B.S. you because you are smarter and wiser. So you tell me.
Oh, but don’t get me wrong; as a writer of bad endlessly complicated and long novels I could write heaps, create ten characters standing before Meditations, each person offering their interpretation to anyone with the time and patience to listen, but we have neither time nor patience, and words are sometimes best left unspoken, each one of us pleased, satisfied, and gloating in our own solipsistic nuclei that the truth we hold dear is ours alone.
And nothing can be taught, the reason for Meditations.
A year ago yesterday, 2 November, 2013, I started my first painting: Boating to Alphaville. Since, I have built up a considerable body of work, as anyone can see at the Paintings link:
A year has gone by, almost entirely dedicated to painting. Each and every day, except for trips to Bruxelles and London, and August on the beach with family, I worked in the turret and in the garden grateful for the time, space and opportunity to do and paint as and what I pleased. No pressure, but my own solitary pursuit of some insubstantial ideal transformed via my rough hands into icon. From idea to icon. Irreligious, no; nor sacred, but for the blind faith and almost stupid devotion to a need to bring order, pattern, expression and color to an inner vision, an ethereal plan made concrete. Or painterly.
Today, Monday, Year Il, I will celebrate by starting a new painting, one I have already harped upon, and I already know what my next will be after that. On their completion, who knows? All I can do is celebrate the occasion, this moment in space/time/energy, to be at my easel, and leave you with an invitation to collect my previous work.
P.S. Yes, of course, there is much more to be said, and I may return to elaborate on this post, but I hear the approach of a fast-falling object…
The fast falling object was exactly what I expected, and as I suspected, facile, a toss, or throwaway, the picture of a man falling from a dry dam. I painted over it, and it was transformed into an abstract impressionist painting of a downpour in blue, the pictorial rendering of a late night in Dublin, on my way home from a club.
Recall is not always automatic, and why the image and memory was conveyed to me, I don’t know, but there it was. Rain, blue night, and lamp posts.
That, then, might be what this year actually represented: head down, shoulders hunched, hands sometimes fretful or shaking from the cold, an adventure in the dark, an unhoped for companion, and a bit of old-fashioned gallantry for my lady muse in the dark, but for a luminous orb overhead.
Now to repeat this scene every day, take these actions, repeat them for 300 days or so, and I can only be pleased to have the work piled and stored away like old much-cherished love letters one needs to burn, metaphorically speaking, to start anew. Oh, how one might want to change, but can you really change? Or really want to?
Change, yes, burn thirty or more years in the middle I deem insignificant, but were obviously steps leading to the present time and mirror-image of what I am, or appear to be; welcome or not, I am what I am, but cannot help thinking or feeling that this entire year has been a positive step backward across three decades of being and nothingness to what I would like to delude myself into believing a more creative time, when in fact, the present and very recent past have been most creative and fruitful, first with writing poetry that has been widely and extensively published, then in painting which has not had a large audience, but the force and energy have been powerful, their focus laser-sharp.
A success, except for the lack of supporters, collectors, attention from critics, journalists, a visiting public, followers.
A success, creatively speaking, and yet, it seems a part of being an artist depends on your ability to ‘con’ people with the most fantastic tales of your greatness, mesmerizing people with hypnotic tricks, schmoozing with those that count, the powerful few, but this is not my game. Nor can I act up for any significant amount of time without feeling emptied, despoiled, made to feel like a clown when succesful, or a fool when it fails. And is it worth it, being unable to work because of talks, meetings, chats, everything necessary to get your work seen, talked about? A short time, yes. Then I may fail. And location does not help, being as I am, in a small town. Who, by chance, might see my paintings and show interest? Few and unlikely. Hence, an ulterior fault preventing my self from achieving any amount of success, large or small. No reason for optimism, little room for hope that anything outside the walls will affect or be affected. The sole consolation is in the work itself.
My fear, and the fire fuelling my devotion, is that sooner or later, pressure will mount from outside to get a job, make money, get out of the house to keep or stay sane, but until then, I keep the door open for my muses, listen to their suggestions, and do my best to follow a higher order. On earth as it is in heaven.
And perhaps you learn to do what it takes, and with a little luck and persistence, the alchemic composite formulated by Fat Chance and McFate, there may come a calling from afar – a collector, curator, critic, journalist – with a word to spend, and some cash, because in the end, even after reading two excellent biographies of Picasso and Matisse hoping to gain some insight, what I most learned is what I already knew as as a poet and writer: all we want is some bread to create and run our own circus.
So, mes amis, don’t be shy. Query:
Where do paintings come from? Where does art come, the singular piece?
The above painting, Genesis, is not a painting I would have conceived or, once conceived, wanted to paint. Dark, disquieting, open to a variety of intetpretations I might find interesting, intriguing, right or wrong though they may be.
Compared to the previous most recent work, Genesis would not be the first to hang on my walls. A woman, moribund, on a table; a woman very near tears. No use describing it; the picture is posted for you to see, judge, dismiss, revile.
In fact, on the back of this painting, is another piece I had started sketching, near completed, a wholly different painting, one that would have been much less exhausting, and aesthetically pleasing, conceptually gratifying, the literal expression of a profoundly felt sentiment, but not one I plan on acting upon for the time being.
But Genesis, too, was a vision, not one that appeared in a dream, but in my waking hours – at that twilight zone of time of 3 am when I first awake, only to resume my journey towards the dawn.
From the initial vision, the picture expanded as I stared at the unprimed board.
Curled fingers, fingers, eyes, heads and legs generated themselves from nothing, or to be honest, the natural tones of pressed unsand-papered wood.
So where does Genesis, or more generally, art come from?
Not being a neuroscientist, nor a psychotherapist, I have no idea, but I do prescribe to the idea of Muses and visitations and divine intervention; that is often exactly how it feels, a curtain pulled aside, a tap on the shoulder, a word whispered, and everything is suddenly clear, not for nothing are they called illuminations, epiphanies, inspiration – to inspire, breathe in – what? The universe, human history, tragedy, comedy, melodrama, all of it, the human very personal condition.
Enthusiasm follows fast on the heels of inspiration, enthusiasm, being one with the gods, hence creation, Genesis.
Of course, there are electro-chemical actions, flux and reactions, a neural primordial soup, more like a swamp, full of life, one that would have remained a swamp breeding pestilence, no doubt, but for a new and external agent, an accidental spark, a freak bolt of lightning, and the given normal state is upset, disturbed, altered, the elements now in motion, reacting, twisting and gyrating, transforming and reshaping itself into a new body, new stuff, an entirely new thing, but not being gods, all we can do is create art.
Art, humankind’s imitation of Divinity, creating art, man’s mimicking the Divine Act.
I have not answered my initial question; maybe you can.
Me, I am just happy my beautiful muses come knocking; a slap to the head, a shout to the ear, a French kiss to the mouth, however they wish to spark life in this primordial mud of bone, gut and blood held together by pale sack, I welcome and take what comes.
Until the time prophesied by my next painting.
The Private Study of Mr & Mona Lisa, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm. Gallery:Www.luigimonteferrante.com
I started this painting with the idea of using the colors green and cream. And depicting a woman at a table. That’s all.
I carried the wood panel from the garage, put it down on the large outdoor table, and started to sketch the table, the woman. A simple outline, but my eyes zoomed to one corner, followed the edges of another figure, and I set to tracing the personage waiting there, fully existent and cleary defined. I drew my pencil over the head and torso, fingers and hands, an annotation, or more a reminder to myself, or a fear that turning away I would lose it, the character off to some netherland, a character in search of an artist.
And so, my mythological muscular figure is firmly in place, cast in lines drawn by a pencil, no more than faint lines tying down such a powerful figure.
The gentleman on the left, he entered from the wings, in fact, unannounced. Mr Mythos has come and gone in a number of paintings, is indeed a member of an ongoing series entitled The Afterlife of Romans – I say ongoing now, only at his insistance, but the gentleman? I know not where from he comes, nor to what purpose, but now that you are here, let’s make use of him.
Stand there, which is where he was in the first place.
The large portrait in what is a painting in a painting in, possibly, a painting, eyed me bashfully from behind the wall I had already built, that is, drawn.
And who am I to say: no, go away.
Oh, he or she might have gone down the stairs, stairs not so much an afterthought as a prime necessity even in my own daily life; always make sure you can go, leave the party, run, hide, even it’s just by holding up a book, and finding succour.
So, the stairs had to be there – and maybe with all these people, and who knows how many more were hiding behind the curtains, walls and panels waiting to, I don’t know, make their requests which may or may not be amicable.
With such a grand staircase, another picture frame was an obvious aesthetic choice, child’s play, but it required content.
Voilà! A new piece by Seymour Snowe, especially commissioned for the occasion. Thank you.
After I poured myself a cup of tea, and stood ready to begin, in jumps our little painter. A bald guy, barechested, not unlike me, for I shaved my skull for years, but my hair, albeit short, has long grown back, and I wear my usual autumn beard, so it is not me, but another imp of a man who has leaped centerstage. And, I suspect, is showing off for our Mona Lisa.
Or maybe he is her toy boy, as is the gentleman who, on looking closer at his hands’ expression, appears to be directing or conducting – what, his own farce? With no one paying attention, not even the very clear object of his desire.
And Mythos, what is he raging about? Clenched fists, and bone-breaking strength, and unrequited love, a terrible mix! And jealous, too. I have no idea why he is upset and I am not going to stay to ask, in case he finds me guilty of being, well, guilty.
One thing I do know, though, is I am going to descend those stairs, and invite you to entertain, ugh, explain the Private Study of Mr and Mona Lisa to our friends, while I go search for the artist.
BIRTH OF VENUS. AND VICTOR.
On finishing this painting, I cried. Or more accurately, my eyes watered. It has happened with two previous paintings: Chemical Romance, and Memory & Loss/Festa.
The latter was the first painting after my father’s death in January 2014. It depicts the parish festivals that would take place at the local park. It featured a bandstand with brass band, cyclists before a race, a boxing match, hot dog vendor, and in the foreground, a man in his Sunday best, Borsalino hat and Clark Gable moustache my feather wore; at his side, a woman sottobraccio.
Also highlighted, a young man climbing a greasepole, an effort to claim his prize. There is meaning in the struggle, senseless to us and our stuffed refrigerators, but in a time when food was scarce, a whole prosciutto, a string of salamis, and other foods and goods would more than supplement the household. The man in his Sunday best is, too, about braggadacio, as are the sportsmen and community as a whole. The painting can be seen below, or at: Www.luigimonteferrante.com, while the original is in Perth, Australia.
Chemical Romance, on the other hand, was not so much about its meaning, or fondly held re-evocations, but a significant technical progress.
I had been struggling hard with its composition and actual painting, but as if by alchemy, it all came together.
And it is about curiosity, experimentation, a mixture of courage, bravado, and a healthy dose of foolishness, elements necessary to most endeavours.
But why did The Doscos, the painting herein, bring tears to my eyes?
Beauty, youth, industry, I celebrate.
My mother was a seamstress. I pored through fashion magazines, still do, awe struck by the beautiful women, clothes, setting, photography.
Beauty is Truth. Beauty is Power.
When I saw the original Birth of Venus in Florence, I was wholehear tedly moved, blown away. As for the males, I wish I was built like the Bronzi di Riace. Beauty, of course, takes on many, varied, and multiple forms, but sometimes, I would personally say always, Beauty is as perfect and indisputable as geometry, math, physics. And a bit of a mystery.
Is there more?
The night before I had slept poorly, uncertain about several features I was going to whitewash in the morning. I was sure of this during my nocturnal discomfort and amblings.
The setting. A factory, of sorts. My father worked in a steel mill all his life. A bit Victoriana, what with the copper and round boilers. I was going to obliterate the setting. It had been fine in a couple of previous paintings, three to be exact, no use for a revisitation.
Why not do a blue sky, palm trees, ombrellone?
These are, after all, my natural settings. And of infinite appeal.
Or maybe I could rework the background, a chiarioscuro, and place my couple in a club, a disco. Hm, I am going to reserve a place or two for that when I go to London in mid-November.
I worked at it, literally face to the board. I often make this mistake. I don’t often step back to glance at the entire picture. I simply forget, absorbed as I am into and by the characters and place as if I am plodding away after and through them with the aid of a walking cane, my brush.
When I did step back, at the end of this journey, my tears.
I like to look at this painting, this attractive young couple. I feel like I know them, always have. I feel like I am their father.
I am their father.
Chemical Romance, acrylic on wood, 105x75cm.
Memory & Loss/Festa, acrylic on wood, 105x75cm.
Through works, Salvation, the credo. Hence, following yesterday’s post, more work. I queried a few galleries in Montreal and London, proposing my work for representation; raced through Twitter, Instagram, FB, and poured myself a tea, quite emptied and exhausted after a day’s painting and this last session as my own secretary and clerk.
But instead of dying in bed with Flora or Florence du Mal, I started staring at a new panel, unprimed, a different approach, one I had not used in awhile ie instead of starting with an arbitrary Vision, or vision, or an equally arbitrary plan, I waited for the blank panel to swirl and swarm; lo and behold:
16 Chapel Rd, the Party, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm.
This, too, is a summation of past time, people, places.
Now the question is: what’s next?
When I first started painting, a person once asked me if my work was Abstract. No, my reply.
I do not do abstract because I do not have the lexicon.
Oh, I have studied art history, but did not read reviews nor specialized mags. On a handful of occasions, I was asked to write a note of description for as many oeuvres, and if forced to, I could wear a guise and play-write a critique, or be, more to the purpose, my own PR officer, but my work was characterised by narrative, and hastily described as Figurative Narrations & Modern Mythologies.
The title included a large number of early works, but I had the need to step out of bounds and paint other pleasures.
I assumed a new identity painting bright geometric Abstracts as Seymour Snowe. I could run with Snowe, to answer the question: what next?
As Snowe, I am thinking huge colorful children’s lunchboxes that are soft, warm, and rubbery, or of hard plastic, boxes you can inhabit and hide inside.
Also, Urban Air Suits, spacesuit-like outfits for surviving the 21st Century Metropolis, and its deadly germs, viruses – Ebola anyone? -radiation – how else do we power our mobile devices, homes and offices? – and related airborne earth- and man-derived toxic wastes. The suits would be brightly-colored – pink, orange, yellow, highly visible and happy!
But for some persons and purposes, you might want to be less visibile, undistiguishable from pure dark night, hence more like Batgirl or Batman, of course.
And in this world, you don’t shake hands, or kiss cheek-ciao-ciao-cheek.
And water is strictly bottled at home. Food is hermetically sealed and not exposed to the elements – impregnated with interbreeding viral pollutants that food so readily absorbs.
Intimate relations would be restricted to intimate relations. They, too, needed to be certified healthly on a regular basis, and only after a rigorous and all-cleansing germkilling scrubwash could the acts commence.
Books, alas, would be banished, paper being absorbant, and so reading would be on our mobile devices, as would most everything else.
No more suburbs. We would all live and work in one huge building, combo mall, office building, post-industrial park with no or little need to commute, hence huge savings in time and energy resulting in increased efficiency and productivity.
We are all connected into this one System, one big bright System we feed and are ourselves replenished.
And all is well. I can see it all. And it’s not even new, original. Another utopia, dystopia, we already inhabit – except for the suits. Wanna order, what’s your size?
But for the piece, the oeuvres, we have to sharpen the edges, and round or flatten others, augment contrasts, and delete differences altogether.
These are the measures, parameters, prescriptions wherein we rise and fall, from dawn to dusk, day after day, until we are deleted.
Happily, we don’t know when the Big Server will black us out, or the AngelGeek will pull your plug, or your hearty batteries will just die, so what’s next, eh?
Seymour’s off to think about how to make and pay his Macropolis; as for me, I think I’ll have a scrubwash.
P.S. Seymour’s previous work can be seen at: Www.luigimonteferrante.com
Printemps enl’Enfer, Luigi Monteferrante, acrylic on wood, 106x 96 cm, 2014.
Printemps en l’Enfer is a time, a place, a book. It is the Café of all the Cafés I went to where I would smoke my Gauloises sans filtre, read my Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Apollinaire and Sartre.
With little money to spend, I would sit reading or writing poetry, talk to the owners or the regulars, sometimes meet somebody new, order another espresso, and then head home to dinner in the suburbs only to often return downtown to what were my favorite clubs: the Beat, Glace, Vog. I liked the music, the crowd, the ambience.
I would be out most of the week, often staying home Friday or Saturday for semi-philosophical talks with a friend or two.
Of that time, the poems have all been forgotten, except Le Pont Mirabeau, novels and poems all but lost; yet, the curiosity remains, the thirst, hunger and lust to read, write, see, and understand more remain alongside the anxiety that time is never enough; hence, I paint to the exclusion of all else.
Relations are reduced to a minimum, the phone goes largely unanswered, and the idea of hanging out in the local bars holds little interest.
Oh, but I have to work, so the woman on the left with the busy hands seems to say.
Work, produce, study, create, move on without delay, without relenting.
Yes, true, true, true.
On the right, another woman, younger, taller, slim, more elegant, glamorous, holds an apple. Eve tempting Adam to the pleasures of absinthe – notice her green glass – and other pleasures, friendship, love, conversation, a relationship, a walk in the park, dancing, breakfast at noon.
Our man remains seated, but for how much longer? And yet, he too must write, produce, make something of himself, and not be a mere idler; idler, no, he will be the bon vivant, rush off for alcool and love and… life.
And yet, might it not be possible to sit here, book in hand, finish this poem, and start another novel, be nothing but a reader in a Café called l’Enfer?
Critical Mass, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, Luigi Monteferrante 2014
Yesterday I finished Critical Mass, the menage a’ trois set inside a parlor room of sorts on a dreary dull day, the large window opening onto what may or may not be a gallery. On the table before our threesome, a teapot and only two teacups.
I called it Hm, a hm of many thoughts, meditations, reflections, decisions, mostly murky. All interpretations welcome, and not for me to explain – unless asked.
As I always do on completion, I forward the picture of the painting to my oldest and dearest friend, an established artist based in LA, wait for feedback, and start fidgeting about what I am to do next.
It was already late afternoon. I had not gone out of the house in two days, except for a loaf of bread and to retrieve some cash at the nearby post office, so a walk to piazza was in order, a two km hike to Vasto’s centro storico I relish.
I paused. I had several cut-out from a weekly news magazine I subscribe to on the table and I started to shuffle images, mixing and amalgamating a narrative.
I hauled a wood panel from the garage into my studio. I had previously primed the panel with a sponge for I’d been planning to paint a snow storm, but instead of braving the white maelstrom, my two actors were cozily tucked inside a glass-walled room looking onto a snow-blasted building.
As you can see, a man is typing on a tablet, and a woman is bringing a cup of tea. There is very little color, and imperfections I might have daubed over. More color might also have been added; to her dress, a red or blue color, or a wild floral pattern would have been appropriate especially against the white background; he wears a whitish T-shirt, and the best thing to have done would have been to cast him into the trademark black T-shirt, but white is as plain and expected as can be.
To the windows opposite their room, for a brief moment, I thought curtains, each a different hue, texture, and pattern, but I as quickly settled for no. It was fine as it is.
Sometimes painting, or writing a novel, a poem, a song, is about subtraction.
And so from a big, bright and colorful world of fiery neon lights and splashy tones, and tunes, I withdrew, closed the paint jars, washed my brushes, and sat for tea before this unexpectedly complete painting.
And then, pain, my gut wrung twisted and taut, and an explosion – my heart ached with expansion, and I felt simple and pure elation – and, oh so, rare.
I called it Bliss, or lover let me down I’m so high. And that’s all there is to be said.
Bliss, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, 2014 Luigi Monteferrante
What to write, what to paint? This afternoon I started on a new painting I had been thinking about for days.
The scene: a long figure walking down a dark snowy street lined with duplexes, the man going to work early in the morning, still dark, a snow storm raging, the sky luminous orbs of the street lights.
I primed the canvas, three wood panels rather, as another snowbound painting was to follow. I then outlined the row of houses, balconies and staircases, all heading to the vanishing point up the street where the man, whom I also outlined with a brush, would turn left at the corner and head for the bus stop. The bus would then take him to the Angrignon metro station; from there to school and a class of art students. Today, we’re going to talk about…
But something was wrong. What? The perspective was okay, as was the storm, and I even took a picture. Complete, I could even judge it that, and walk away satisfied, but I didn’t.
I whitewashed the painting, grey and blue, and the outline of a young man emerged and the result is as below. I only understood what I had done when it was finished and I stepped back.
I know where this comes from, why the only name I could give it was ‘Us’, and what it meant. I was deeply moved, marveled at how mysteriously the piece arose, emerged, appeared.
Exhilerated? Only a moment. The underlying and persistent feeling is humility, but also a sense of lost opportunities, or simply loss. And painting may well be a way to regain or re-present the loss in a literally new or different light.
Writers write autobiograpical some of the time, using bits and pieces of their past, rewriting personal histories, altering facts to fit the fiction to the author’s pleasure and, hopefully, the reader’s delight. In the visual arts, mining the past for elements assumes a different character, more ambigous, the approach oblique, the mixture abstract emotion rather than the hard rock-hard bricks of word upon word required to evoke what the painter creates with a brush stroke.
Only a brush stroke is not a word, the equivalent of a word. Kcuf you, two words, in two brush strokes may be rendered by some more imaginative painter than myself, but if a picture is the equivalent of a thousand words, two words, like the aforementioned, are the neat quick summation of countless strokes, presumably black across the scorned targets portrait, or a tearing up or slashing of that same picture, performance art that, I suppose.
At the same time, if from the picture below, I were to explain the what and why, it would be take hours and/or fill a novel, and if I have had any success as a writer it has been as a poet, not a novelist, despite the time and effort in writing my novels.
Poetry, then, is more like painting. It strikes fast and hard, or it simmers and lingers with time, in time. Like one’s own past that I won’t let die for all the love, all the hope, friendship, loneliness and melancholy, the expectation and curiosity, the thrills and mystery, hardships, work and frustrations felt and experienced on the way to becoming what I shall never be: satified.
And so I work with what I have, plasmate from within and without to present nothing more than another piece of the fiction that, forever incomplete, is… yours truly.
A Piece of My Heart are only Words, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, 2014
When do you know you’re finished? You don’t. You stand back, observe, reflect, go for a walk, sleep on it, and in the middle of the night, you realize there’s something wrong.
An uneasy feeling, specks of dust that make your nose twitch, becomes a rock-hard punch to that same nose, each speck of dust transformed into a lead and concrete block, so heavy getting out of bed becomes a burden.
The eyes are all wrong. Not all wrong, but need a touch of paint here, three strokes there, more shade, less shade, more color, lighter, darker, more variation, but without spoiling the chosen palette.
It’s not easy, but nobody’s chasing you for results.
You’re your own boss, your own critic, and nobody’s watching.
But you know where it’s wrong, and where it can be righted.
So, out with your paints, brushes, cup of water, rag, and tea.
The problem is that essentially, you are satisified. It does look okay, and it can be improved, but the fear is that you overdo it, you alter the painting and make it worse or even: the painting is ruined.
If it were a geared machine, I am thinking Victoriana, one loosed screw, one lost screw, and the entire contraption starts to wriggle and shake and, ultimately, its parts loosed, the Gargantuan contraption shatters, its parts spilled to the floor.
Looking at this painting the morning after I finished, and judiciously thought to myself, I’d like to see what the colors are like in the morning, I can see that the colors are more or less satisfactory, but the x and y are eyesores as is the z. But compared to Girlfriend with Loft, for example, which precedes The Triangle of Circular Squares, where the girlfriend is a suggestion rather than a true figure, why am I after a more realistic depcition of these people?
I’m no hyper- or photo-realist. How could I be? I have trouble being a realist.
But in this painting, the mode was set, and I have to proceed within its own logic. That may mean I have to repaint it. Time stops. And then action.
I suppose it’s like rehearsing a play. You go over the lines, the motions and emotions, scene after scene, act after act until you reach the end and you are satisfied. And the curtain comes up and it’s the true and final and first performance and there’s nothing between you and the audience and they laugh at the wrong places and don’t laugh at the right places and the critics will tear you apart and you mumble and stutter, forget your lines and oh, disaster.
Why I feel lucky to be in my studio, my paint, brushes and me – alone, except for the dozen or so paintings I see waiting to be painted before me.
I will make this painting ‘better’, but I have those other lives, characters, Actors caught within the framework, to save, resuscitate, unpack from their boxes, unleash from their beds, and so on.
After all, I bet that Mona Lisa smile was a mistake. I mean, nobody smiles like that, but Leonardo, being the frenetic Genius that he was, told himself he’d get back to it someday, then things came up, and he died.
So, perfection is fine, if ever you are granted infinity, and a hyper-realist will tell you that it’s highly unlikely, but I Always think of Shakespeare. The pressure was on, the fury of his Genius enraged, and who the hell has time for notes and folios when I’ve got put on this show, and give Birth to this next child – and oh, let the Others bawl, dirty, scantily dressed, snotty loves of mine who now live, beautifully imperfect, accidentally becoming, yet complete, while this next cries for life and I cannot delay…
Ambition, the painting I posted on my first twitter Yesterday, came to the fore. Of all the paintings I might have posted, it was not a painting I chose at random. It summarised how I felt during the period which led to this new series of paintings. What was I going to do? Paint? Paint what? Take pictures I would manipulate and publish in my photography portfolio at www.luigimonteferrante.com? I wanted to do something different. But how could I do something different – think, act, ponder, create anything different with these same hands, heart and soul? The solution: Ambition. A man holding a knife stands behind a man who is seated. The former will presumably murder the latter. Brutus/Caesar. CEO and his right-hand man, the CFO. Father and son. Buddies. A jealous husband. There are countless reasons for murder as we learn from history, literature, film, the news, TV drama. Nor are our own inner rage and deeper instincts immune to murderous conflagration, but in Ambition, the Ambition of late has taken on a wholly new meaning: murdering me, or killing one’s self to overcome one’s elf. No Nietzchean Superman, or comic strip here, but dying to become an Other who is one day stronger and better than Yesterday’s. No more, no less. At each sunrise/sunset, the maker of a new fate. And so we proceed as Merlo Ponti across Blackbird Bridge, working title of this Lasalle/Montreal series of paintings, singing Ridi, Pagliaccio. And laugh as we paint.
I have not read 7 Days in the Art World, but did order it this morning.
The title set me going on a train of thought. A commuter train, more than anything else.
In the life of the writer, or the poet, there was little else besides the physical act of writing. Morning writing sessions would be interrupted by the need to eat. More than the need to eat was the fact of having to feed my working wife who would come home at noon, and so I would cook a plate of pasta each. Off she went in the afternoon, and up I went into my room to write some more to dinner time.
The only variance to this routine was I would often go for a walk along the beach or in piazza just before dinner. After dinner, I would normally read until I would simply fall asleep. Routinely, too, I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would hook up to my earplugs and listen to a podcast until I fell asleep again. Podcasts were downloaded from BBC – Bookclub, Play of the Week, The News Quiz – and shows hosted by Leonard Lopate and Brian Leher on WNYC.
In the morning, same routine.
Write, eat, write, walk, eat, read, sleep.
As a painter, it became even more intense and more exhausting. The physical act was, yes, more physically and sensorially engaging and all-encompassing.
Sourcing and carrying the fresh-cut wood panels I normally use, hauling them into the garage, and then one by one, into my Ivory tower – a veritable turret that is mostly pink externally with Ivory White cornerstones.
Opening jars, smelling the paints with those fantastically strange names as if they were book covers from faraway lands. Filling a ceramic hand-decorated bowl-like glass with water, balancing that up the stairs so as not to spill the water, choosing a brushing, feeling the hairs, squeezing paint from the tubes, mixing paint and colors, painting stroke after stroke, wiping brushes, washing brushes, tidying up after the morning session to stumble down the stairs, cook,set the table, wait for wife, eat with wife, speak to wife, wait for wife to leave, run up the stairs to turret, resume work and painting until just before dinner when I would need to go for a walk by the seaside until dinner time when, again, I would cook, engagé with spouse, and lie in bed as if in state.
From November to the present, this was largely the routine – except for a weekly 2-hour art class I attended only half the time, busy as I was painting, and when winter turned to spring, I would go for an hour-long swim which I thoroughly and immensely enjoyed.
I also managed to go to Bruxelles and London to see the art fairs, and as usual, found the cities more interesting than the art work presented at the fairs. (I also took a lot of pictures in London, in and around New Bond Street, some of which became paintings.) August I was on vacation and played full-time uncle, but as soon as my niece and nephews left, it was back to painting, back to the same old routine.
One thing I learned throughout this time and process: routine is good. Clear, well-defined, without alteration except for what this routine amounts to, its scope, aim, objective, produce: the painting, the art work.
Ah, two other significant kinks in the apparently seamless narration.
One, I mentioned in a previous post: I spent off-hours emailing galleries.
Two, hoping to gain some real insight, I read two excellent biographies: Patrick O’Brian’s Picasso and Hilary Spurling’s Matisse, the life, and Stone’s novels about Van Gogh and Michelangelo.
You see, I had studied Art History in college, but my reading was pretty much limited to novels, so I had looked foward to a number of eureka moments when reading the aforementioned books, but what I learned is the artist is mostly concerned with producing art, hoping it sells so he can pay the bills and keep producing art, and when he or she is not producing art, some bacchanalian moments never hurt, but in the end, all they want to do is get back to the drawing board to start again on that same old glorious routine, why the true no BS biography of any artist is no more than a book containing pictures of their collected works in chronological order.
Or the actual stuff, the art, the embodiment of every hope, dream, nightmare, heartbreak, anxiety, thought, sentiment, allure, love affair, shame, and secretion of the artist.
This is me. Questo sono io. Ca, c’est moi.
The rest is about you, mon lecteur.
The Bachelor’s, acrylic on wood, 2014, Luigi Monteferrante, 106 x 96 cm
I started a new painting. No big deal. I have started and finished about 200 paintings. On wood, canvas, paper.
Most are in the garage. One’s in Perth, Australia; another’s set for LA. Twenty or so are in a couple of locales. Most are here and not going anywhere fast.
The point is not what I have painted, but I am going to paint next. That is always the point. On occasions, on finishing a painting, I was stumped for my next, but it would come soon enough. In a dream, or a daytime vision, or from the support itself – plain white paper, wood board, canvas.
Not knowing what next to do was and is unpleasant; to date, the restlessness is/was shortlived.
I thank the Muses and the Great Unknown.
I always tried to do something new. It is, and was, important not to repeat myself. A new stage, new characters, a new visual plotline and story.
About two weeks ago, the next painting appeared in its entirety, but so did the second, and third, and the entire series seemed to expand like a deck of flash cards which I would have to accurately and hurriedly paint.
Life gets in the way, so two weeks passed, and I only started today. Back where we began. In more ways than one.
I never moved to Italy.
I stayed in Lasalle, followed a dear old friend to art school, but he dropped out to follow a maestro, and I stayed on to complete my studies.
Never gifted at drawing, or painting, I read much and widely, much more than any of my classmates, and did well on my exams. I also happened to write relatively well. There was no great competition. The class of visual art students were not big Readers and were largely uninterested in the written word – unless it was backlit with neon!
I enjoyed studying; combined with writing extensively with notions picked up from the texts assigned, and many more besides, I did well on my exams.
That my life drawing was weak, my perspectives surreal, my shading unlikely was largely overlooked.
I was also well-behaved, engaged with professors before, during and after class, and was pretty much liked.
Teachers liked my enthusiasm and scope – and would start skimming through my papers after page five, my answer to question one, for example.
Thanks to a teacher, I found a part-time job at an arts supply store located downtown. I worked Thursday and Friday from six to nine, and all day Saturday.
I needed the job because my family had moved to Italy without selling the duplex, but I was lucky they still allowed me to live in the bachelor’s, a one room semi-interred flat in Lasalle.
Tenants occupied the two upstairs flats, the rent forwarded to my parents’ Italian account. My flat was free, of course, but I would have to attend to maintenance and small repairs.
Still, I felt lucky. Having a roof over your head, a place to live and work, paint and study, was no small thing and I was grateful.
Of course, I broke my mother’s heart, my sister cried, and my father thought they should have stayed in Canada anyway. But they left.
I finished school. Cegep, that is, and went to Concordia. I continued my studies: art history, art education.
I knew I would teach. I wanted to teach. And I started teaching in Cegep, having completed my MA.
I liked being in school, life on campus, smart colleagues, bright students, the competition, the desire to outshine your peers with publications, exhibitions, notoriety. Sure, that was all good.
I wrote reviews. There was no point in reviewing bad work, lending a spotlight to an artist that did not deserve the attention, and so I persisted in featuring works I did like, artists I enjoyed, thought interesting, intriguing, deserving.
The community, being small, in Montreal, I won the tiniest notoriety when first one artist, or gallerista, then others, were noticed for not being reviewed by me.
The ignored struck back by reviewing my own art, not ignoring, but writing a bad review.
Writing a bad review, not a review about how bad my art was, but the review, the writing itself, was bad. Bloated, hyperbolic, abstract, incomprehensible, or so insightful it hurt the author, if nobody else. A game, nothing more, nothing less.
And I was amused. I was teaching, but kept my job at the art supply store. I liked walking the aisles, being ho-hummed by a would-be costumer looking for a specific brush, or paint, or instrument, or advice. The occasions would sometimes lead to small talk – life, art, the hardships, the joy – and sometimes these would lead to friendship, relationships – deep and long, brief and intense, and as likely, one-night stands.
After work, I would walk around downtown, sometimes with colleagues, often alone, go to shows, and inevitably meet with students and former students, struggling artists juggling ambition, craft, ego, vision, careers and aspirations.
A pint of bitter was my drink and I raised a few in the endless talks, discussions that finished late into the night, and always left me exhilerated and exhausted.
Back at work, sooner than wished for, it was only after four or five late-nights that I would begin to suffer, and so it turned out that I’d be home on a Saturday when everybody went out.
And Saturdays I would start on a new painting in the bachelor’s where I am now painting: the bachelor’s.
The Bachelor’s, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm, 2014, Luigi Monteferrante
I have only been painting since November 2013, having spent all my years writing long bad novels, a few plays, one produced in NYC in 2011, some good short stories and lots of good, perhaps, very good poems, many of which were published.
But then something happened.
I went into hermetic mode. I needed silence. I tired of setting words in a pile, putting them into order, fashioning characters, background and backstory, twisting plots and creating drama, tension, and a satisfying finale. Words, words, words. Basta.
I started painting full-time in near-total retreat.
What to paint?
Images emerged at night, while sleeping or during my waking hours, unexpectedly. Or they simply appeared to me in all their completeness and finality directly from the blank canvas, or more commonly, primed or unprimed wood board.
Once I had a good body of work, I started writing galleries in cities where I could depend on friends to have me as their guest, if I did get an exhibition; and if I did, I could count on them to show up with friends and friends of friends: London, Montreal, New York, Toronto, LA, Philadelphia, Brussels. Closer to home: Milano, Rome, Bologna. And then, Holland, Germany.
I had hit upon the Artforum list and tried them all. Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Estonia.
But no luck.
Some replied they were not taking on any new artists, and some never wrote back. Simply not interested.
Meanwhile, I had a group show at Palazzo d’Avalos in Vasto, where I live, and a solo show at the Politecnico di Milano university in May 2013. I was also accepted for a group show in Ireland, to take place in November, and I was really looking forward to returning to Ireland, but the gallery was damaged by an inopportune flood, the show put off indefinitely. Sigh. During the summer, though, Galleria Ramundo, Vasto’s only commercial and longstanding gallery, decided to put two of my paintings on display. A hotelier friend who organises cooking classes and Abruzzo tours at Palazzo Tour d’Eau in the hilltop town of Carunchio also suggested a show, especially as he caters to mostly American clientele who might appreciate contemporary Italian art.
But by the end of the summer, the fifteen or so paintings were all still there. No sales.
All the while, I kept painting constantly, grateful to my muses, and the great unknown that granted me the time and opportunities to dedicate myself wholly to painting full-time, and during intervals, who would I contact?
Then an acquaintance called. An architect, she has a beautiful little studio she has used for exhibits, and would I like to have a show? Sure.
Date: 20-23 December 2014.
Location: Piazza San Pietro 16, Vasto. From 6 pm.
And you’re all invited.