My most recent paintings are once again based on scenes from my morning walk up Driver Road.
Below are two photos that served as source material for the paintings above:
Peace at last. All that was dross and residue vanishes from my soul as if it had never been. I’m alone and calm. It’s like the moment when I could theoretically convert to a religion. But although I’m no longer attracted to anything down here, I’m also not attracted to anything up above. I feel free, as if I’d ceased to exist and were conscious of that fact.
In my back studio I often meditate as the New Zealand winter afternoon turns stormily into dusk then dark. Dark inside – pitch black if not for the small candle and gas heater spreading warm yellow amidst the shadows. Outside rough jerking wind-sound and trucks on River Road.
But inside on the out breath all clarifies into a deep peace the colour of a winter sky in a painting out of Africa. Thoughts still move like northern lights across the mind screen. Breathing deep into the hip sockets, the pelvic bowl expands – becomes a Milky Way. Another out-breath….and then the bell.
Peace, yes, peace. A great calm, gentle like something superfluous, descends on me to the depths of my being. The pages I read, the tasks I complete, the motions and vicissitudes of life – all has become for me a faint penumbra, a scarcely visible halo circling something tranquil that I can’t identify. The exertion in which I’ve sometimes forgotten my soul, and the contemplation in which I’ve sometimes forgotten all action – both come back to me as a kind of tenderness without emotion, a paltry, empty compassion.
Winter has come to New Zealand, and with it grey skies, moody days and biting cold on my morning walks. I have fallen into a steady meditation schedule, early morning in my studio, my light the glow of the gas heater. Sacred minutes. My cup runneth over.
The urge to paint is back – after almost half a year. My paintings make me happy. In the half light of the days I peer into the emptiness at which they point.
I have been vacillating about my blog forever. Not routine procrastination, just doubt about the need for this world to have one more blog post released onto it. Most of all I am stalled by the lack of a strong opinion about one side or another, having seen all sides have a backside, and the artificiality of the personality and its opinions.
Gearing up to write a blog post became for me almost an act of in-authenticity. In the words of T.S. Eliot, the action of one who prepares “a face to meet the faces that you meet”.
Not to imply anything, but my doubt about speaking or staying silent reminds me of the near silence of T.S. Eliot at the outset of his career as a poet and critic. Perhaps he too was stalled by the notion that any venturing out in the gesture of opinion was a move away from authenticity.
In the brilliant book, The Invisible Poet, T.S Eliot, author Hugh Kenner wrote that the study of the philosophy of F.H Bradley helped Eliot by freeing him:
“…from the posture of the ironist with his back to a wall, by affirming the artificiality of all personality including the one we intimately suppose to be our true one; not only the faces we prepare but the “we” that prepares; …A view of the past, a view of himself and other persons, a view of the nature of what we call statement and communication; these delivered Eliot from what might have been, after a brilliant beginning, a cul-de-sac and silence.”
On my walks I think about authenticity and its ghostly fragility. I am not surprised that the concept provided enough material for Lionel Trilling to write a fascinating book about Sincerity and Authenticity. In my reading, Trilling regards authenticity as a more mature cousin to Sincerity, which is dismissed as a social construct:
In short, we play the role of being ourselves, we sincerely act the part of the sincere person, with the result that a judgement may be passed upon our sincerity that it is not authentic. (Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity)
Authenticity takes us in a different direction:
A very considerable originative power had once been claimed for sincerity, but nothing to match the marvellous generative force that our modern judgement assigns to authenticity, which implies the downward movement through all the cultural superstructures to some place where all movement ends, and begins.
This is part of the same discussion in which Trilling quotes (again) Eliot:
‘The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality’.
Should we speak or remain in the authenticity of silence? As always, Rilke has the last word on this. In his poem, “We must die because we have known them”, he ends with:
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and supporters who have recently encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.
Phew – life moved really fast these first two months of the year! In my last post, I showed a few works done using Acrylic on paper. To be honest, I have always been a bit of a snob in my attitude towards the use of Acrylic paint as compared to Oil paint.
It guess it is a combination of the “plastic” nature of acrylic, combined with the quick-drying nature of it. And then there is that luminous, mystical transparency of oil paints. However, I have had some success with Acrylic done on paper (normally heavy Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor paper), and here I would like to share some of these with you.
These next two paintings were inspired by a view of farmland just west of Hamilton, New Zealand. I was driving on the freeway and as I glanced to the side I saw this open farmland, divided into blocks, with the sun and shadow playing on it.
The painting below is an invented landscape. It started off as an abstract but – as so often happens – it slowly evolved into yet another landscape!
The weeks since the start of the year have been quite a ride. Last December, a close family member passed away after a long, brave battle with cancer. The few and short interactions I had with her and her two young, brave children in the last few days of her life had a profound impact on me.
I decided to deeply review and look into my own life, including my health, fitness and my personal direction in life. As I hinted in my last post, this drive has had an interesting cooling effect on my enthusiasm for painting, which has since evened out again.
I am now about two months into a surprising change in my life path. What started initially as an attempt to get rid of near-chronic fatigue has morphed into a passionate drive to improve my health, fitness and baseline level of happiness – in short, my total way of being.
I started with a zeal for weight-loss and fitness, but one of the first five lessons I learned centred around the brevity of inspiration. It runs out way before you reach the goal. So I soon realized any long term transformation – if it is to be lasting and significant – will be have to be based on humility and patience. In fact – character transformation, rather than body transformation.
The humble person understands that experience is a better teacher than pure reason. He understands that wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom emerges out of a collection of intellectual virtues. It is knowing how to behave when perfect knowledge is lacking.
I have managed to sustain this transformation drive now for almost two months, and I have learned many lessons on this first part of my journey – some expected and some surprising.
Although my blog started as a painting-related thing, I would love to share some of the insights and lessons learned on this journey with the followers of my blog in the hope that it may inspire you and allow you to learn from my experience. So watch this space!
In one sentence I will give you the key to absolute spiritual freedom: to be a self-actualized being, all you have to do is know, feel, think, and act like one.
If you are primarily coming to my blog for the sake of the paintings – I will continue to post some of my recent works, but be prepared for some motivational reading also!
Before I go – an excerpt from a poem by Wang Wei:
Oftentimes - with joy in my heart -
Alone, I roam here and there.
It is a wonderful thing
That I am aware of myself.
When the streamlet ends my trip
I settle down and catch
The moment of rising mists.
Now and then I meet
A furrowed dweller of the woods.
We chat and laugh;
Never do we want to go home.
Wang Wei, quoted in
Creativity and Taoism, by Chung-yuan Chang
It is a wonderful thing that I am aware of myself!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.
A while ago I became frustrated with a landscape I was doing in pastel. It was looking a bit too pastoral and pretty for my taste. It left nothing for the viewer to complete with her imagination. It lay around on my studio floor for some days while I walked and shuffled over it as I came and went. The image improved considerably!
I then reworked it a bit, took a photo and then edited the photo (adding warmth and editing the contrasts), until I came up with the image below. I loved it. It has the warmth and emotional honesty of a true landscape – that is – a landscape seen through eyes of someone who actually feels, fears, lives and breathes.
I posted the above image on my Instagram feed and (sigh) it has received the most likes of anything I posted! I set out trying to reproduce this style of image on paper. My strategy was to lay a foundation in watercolor to get the right warmth, then add the rest in pastel and stomp on it to add some random marks. This is what I came up with:
The image was not quite the same – it lacks the glowing warmth of the edited photo. But it is real and has a charm of its own, so I decided to try some more paintings in this style. Below are some results:
It has been a hard year for our family. The original family unit was down from five to four when I was eight years old. Now in the last half of this year year we lost two more. They live on in the minds of the remainder and the many others that loved them.
I keep seeing in my dreams landscapes where the light has another color. Perhaps something like the painting above? Rolf Jacobsen wrote about this:
In countries where the light has another color
the faces along the streets at dusk
can turn to pearls in a slow sea of indigo.
And you must ask yourself - what do these
fiery diadems reflect here, and whose hands
have scattered them across these dark waters?
Rolf Jacobsen - from:The Roads Have Come To an End Now, translatedby Robert Bly, Roger Greenwald and Robert Hedin
Read that again – that last verse. Those are big questions, aren’t they?
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content as the year roars to its end.
The painting above is charcoal and pastel on paper. I mount the paper over a rough board with some old, dried acrylic paint blotches on it. The rough surface forces me to focus on big areas and not get lost in details – one cannot draw anything small on such a rough surface!
I recently decided to paint on paper rather than board or canvas – mainly because I have so many paintings standing around making me mostly sad. I cannot move around in my studio anymore. Just by coincidence, a fellow painter/blogger commented on my last post that he had started to paint on paper for the same reason.
This got me thinking more about why I put so much time, effort and emotional risk into my painting practice. I can tell you one thing, it is not for the money! (oh God I wish it was!)
I went back in time to my past self, sitting in a small apartment in College Station, Texas in the early 1990’s, getting up at 5 am to practice drawing and make charcoal sketches. Why did I do that?
Moving over my odd 20 years of on-and-off painting, I think in each fresh assault on painting, my motivation evolved in three phases:
Phase 1: I see art that touches me and inspires me. Something in me awakens and says – also want to do that! Motivation: to make something beautiful.
Phase 2: I get feedback from other people (my wife, and these days, blogging or Instagram friends mainly). My motivation morphs – I like having the approval of others, I want more of that.
Phase 3: I strike a plateau. I now turn out paintings steadily, find some pleasing, others not. I still enjoy the praise of others, but part of me starts to wonder: (a) do they really mean it or are we just “liking each other’s stuff”? (b) What do I do with all the paintings?
I think I now go through the above cycle of motivational change in small (monthly) and large (annual) rhythms. Phase 3 is not an easy one. When I am here, I face into the fact that I will most likely never be a famous painter, and – commercial aspects aside – there are simply not enough people who know or are interested in my art to even pay postage to receive it. So what now?
I understand that some may respond to this stage/question in a pragmatic way: “paint better and market yourself and your art better”. But the way I am put together, this state only makes me question deeper.
And the answer I arrive at is always simple, and always the same: I paint because I want to be happy.
Some instinct tells me that painting could be a way to be happy. But one can only be happy in the Now, while painting, not only when and if the result is satisfactory.
And always this points me to the attitude I assume while painting – it is either a gentle, rhythmic, humble form of communion with Something mysterious that is greater than me, or else it is a small, scared pursuit tinged with greed and trepidation.
And to be honest, one the days that I do assume the attitude of communion with something greater than me – working alone and quietly in my studio – I invariably find that there is very little need for strain and control, because the image emerges by itself with only some gentle coaxing from me. And the joy I feel in those moments lasts for hours, makes it all worth while and draws me back again and again. Maybe one day that could be enough for me. I hope.
I am reminded always of the lines from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding when find I drift away from the communal, spiritual attitude into more self-absorbed materialistic one:
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
(text copied from this site)
Thanks for visiting my blog. If you are interested to see more of my paintings, please visit my (slowly) growing website: Fritz Jooste Fine Art.
Two weekends ago I had my first solo exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in Hamilton, New Zealand. It was exciting if slightly nerve wracking and very rewarding to see so many of my works hanging together. Below is a collection of images from the exhibition opening:
As luck would have it, one of the most respected teachers in the USA, Martin Campos, was in New Zealand to teach and he also attended. Martin is an Adjunct Professor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. You can find an interview with Martin Campos on Painting Perceptions.
I was quite thrilled to have roughly half of my paintings sold at this exhibition. I have reflected on the experience extensively. As a child, I was taught that “showing off” (i.e. exhibiting yourself!) was a bad thing. Something not done by people of character. So being there as a center of attention drawn to myself took adjustment. I tried to mindfully observe the experience as neutrally as possible.
At a solo exhibition I guess it is common for people to point out what paintings they like. Even though no one said what they don’t like, one senses somehow what is not so popular. This creates in me a huge risk of being diverted from what I believe is my true goal in painting – getting to know myself and my internal world better, and providing an outlet for things in me that I value deepest.
I recall reading about the dangers of having an audience in the book “Art & Fear“:
The risk is fearsome: in making your real work you hand the audience the power to deny the understanding you seek; you hand them the power to say, “you’re not like us; you’re weird; you’re crazy.”…catering to fears of being misunderstood leaves you dependent upon your audience. In the simplest yet most deadly scenario, ideas are diluted to what you imagine your audience can imagine, leading to work that is condescending, arrogant, or both. Worse yet, you discard your own highest vision in the process.
Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (pp. 39-40). Image Continuum
Naturally, this does not have to happen. But one becomes highly aware and sensitive to this danger. After all the excitement abated, I took time to reflect deeply on my art and what I wanted to achieve with it. This period of introspection was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this exhibition experience. I feel I have since deepened in my mission as an artist and heeded the advice of Bayles and Orland in “Art & Fear“:
The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work.
Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (p. 48). Image Continuum Press. Kindle Edition.
Amiel said that a landscape is a state of feeling, but the phrase is a flawed gem of a feeble dreamer. As soon as the landscape is a landscape, it ceases to be a state of emotion. To objectify is to create, and no one would say that a finished poem is a state of thinking about writing one.
and something from one of my earlier posts:
Time and time again, a hurried pace, ambition and lack of self awareness takes me to the place of humble-making. There I find myself. Gold is found where I stumble and fall without hope.
I am not that steeply sloping hour that Rilke wrote of:
My life is not this steeply sloping hour
in which you see me hurrying.
I am the rest between two notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death's note wants to climb over -
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling.
And the song goes on, beautiful.
Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Robert Bly in
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you are happy and content.
In my last post I was up to painting #258 (count started when I took up painting again last year). I am now up to #280, not counting smaller mixed media abstracts and pastel landscapes such as those shown below. I am painting faster than I can blog, I have found out!
So for the time being I will not attempt to post all of my paintings anymore, but perhaps just a selection of a few favorites. You can see more paintings at my web site, or if you are interested to see what I am up to on a more regular basis, please follow me on Instagram (#fritzjoosteartist).
Below are some of the paintings I have recently made:
Some of these will be on display in my upcoming exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in Hamilton, New Zealand this weekend (24-26 November). There will be an opening at 6 pm on Friday 24 November. Please come along if you happen to be in the area!
I wrote in an earlier post how, not too long ago, I picked up two books on TS Eliot in a dusty second hand bookstore in a small holiday town in Australia. One of these in particular has been very rewarding – this is The New Poetic, by C.K. Stead.
I have never been able to make sense of some of Eliot’s poetry, and ‘The Waste Land’, in particular, has been a challenge for me to warm to. Yet I could not help sensing there was something there – I felt it but did not understand it. Stead masterfully addresses this common response to Eliot’s poems:
‘The Waste Land’ is composed of a series of projections of ‘states of feeling’ having no fixed centre but their common origin in the depth’s of one man’s mind. The poem traces in its rhythms, in its music, and in the sequence of its images, the evens of that mind at a particular time and in relation to a particular set of external circumstances – circumstances of which we can only ever know a very little.
…it is the feeling, not the experience, which is the poem’s ‘subject’.
This resonates with me at this particular time – very seldom when I paint do I have a particular image in mind. Most of my landscapes are invented (my small sketches in particular). But at a certain point, while painting purely abstractly, something starts to emerge, as in the sequence below:
Often when I attempt something like this, it turns out to be nothing. Or something briefly appears but in my greed for it to be more, I take it past the magic moment. But when it works out, it is something quite special. I sit in my old leather chair in the corner of my studio and watch the painting dance into the darkness as the sun sets.
I found that the best results are those when I leave the world completely behind while working – especially spectators and invented critics. It seems TS Eliot had the same idea in mind when he wrote about the poet (as quoted by CK Stead):
…he is not concerned with making people understand anything. He is not concerned, at this stage, with other people at all: only with finding the right words, or, anyhow, the least wrong words. He is not concerned whether anybody else will ever listen to them or not, or whether anybody else will ever understand them if he does’. (TS Eliot – The Three Voices of Poetry).
I close off with a short poem – one of my favorites:
To Magistrate Zhang
Late, I love but quietness:
Things of this world are no more my concern
Looking back, I’ve known no better plan
Than this: returning to the grove
Pine breezes loosen my robe
Mountain moon beams play my lute.
What, you ask, is Final Truth?
The fisherman’s song strikes deep into the bank.
Original Poem by Wang Wei (translated by J.P. Seaton
in The Poetry of Zen, by J.P Seaton and Sam Hamill)
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and that you are content.
After a trip away from home in August and September, I really struggled to get back to painting. Pressure at work and a mind that was too busy meant I was only in the studio for short periods of time and those were mostly short and distracted. In this mind-state I just played around with paint and slowly emerged three abstract paintings which I decided to keep. Some others did not make it…
The one above was the first time I painted on canvas in quite a while. I rather enjoyed the feeling of canvas and will probably revert back to canvas more often in future.
This second one was painted the next day, and I started leaning into a more green and blue atmosphere. This is oil and cold wax on panel:
The third one was made in the same week. It seems to be the most popular, based on Instagram likes – if that is anything to go by:
Robert Henri wrote:
THE WORK OF THE ART STUDENT is no light matter. Few have the courage and stamina to see it through. You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways. We like sympathy and we like to be in company. It is easier than going it alone. But alone one gets acquainted with himself, grows up and on, not stopping with the crowd. It costs to do this. If you succeed somewhat you may have to pay for it as well as enjoy it all your life.
When I made the last painting (O258) I was feeling my way through the days. My father had recently passed away (I wrote about this in another post), and since my return to New Zealand I have been ambivalent about my art and what I want to – or will be able to – achieve with it. I mean – why do this?
The emotion I felt reminded me of the phrase from Rilke’s poem “We must die because we have known them”. It is the sort of uncertainty one can perhaps only keep silent about – like wandering “Pathless at Night”:
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
Oh yes! I have a silly little website up now for my art! For my upcoming exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery in November, I needed to have something more than an online blog presence, so I created my site Fritz Jooste Fine Art just to showcase some paintings. It still needs some work to make it more professional, but it is there at least.
Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and long-time supporters who have encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.
One of the larger landscapes I have done. This one is about 70 x 70 cm (Oil and Cold Wax on Panel). The images below show a close-up as well as another painting done in the same week.
It is difficult for my iPhone camera to capture the nuance of light and color correctly. In the photo above, the painting appears to be almost uniform in tone and color in the fore and middle ground. But as the closeup below shows – there is a bit more color and variation than the camera captures:
The painting below is one of my favorites, but sadly it does not seem to appeal that much to others (going by my Instagram feed). That’s OK with me.
My numbering of paintings got mixed up – there is no O253, but I do not have the energy to re-number all the ones afterwards, so this will have to do!
In a sleepy, seaside second-hand bookstore, I came across two books on TS Eliot (one of my favorite poets). The one is The Invisible Poet: T.S. Eliot, by Hugh Kenner. My morning coffee has new life all of a sudden. Kenner densely but steadily persists to show how Eliot found his way through the no-mans land of artificiality in his art, partly through his study of the philosopher Bradley:
It freed him from the Laforguian posture of the ironist with his back to a wall, by affirming the artificiality of all personality including the one we intimately suppose to be our true one; not only the faces we prepare but the “we” that prepares; and it released him from any notion that the art his temperament bade him practice was an eccentric art, evading for personal and temporary reasons a more orderly, more “normal” unfolding from statement to statement. A view of the past, a view of himself and other persons, a view of the nature of what we call statement and communication; these delivered Eliot from what might have been, after a brilliant beginning, a cul-de-sac and silence.
For me, Eliot’s poems are landscapes of the inner landscapes of people who may or may not be Eliot himself. It exposes, but does not focus on, the petty decisions (“I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled”), to larger ones, including: “Do I dare disturb the universe?”
But always the question “Who Am I?” seems to hover around Eliot’s poetry. Kenner quotes a segment from Eliot’s play “The Cocktail Party”:
Who are you now? You don't now any more than I do,
But rather less. You are nothing but a set
Of obsolete responses. The one thing to do
Is to do nothing. Wait.
This may seem fatalistic or nihilistic; but Eliot I think was pointing at a more humble form of waiting, as hinted at in “East Coker” (one of his the “Four Quartets”):
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
This is one of my dearest paintings. There is a warm depth in the middle ground that came as a gift. Sadly, the photo does not really do it justice. In soft evening light it tends to glow.
For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself. He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation. He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see into the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.
The painting below is another effort which is quite special to me. It is the first painting I made in the first confused and sad weekend after my father passed away. It am quite happy with the emotional nuance conveyed by the painting:
Rollo May wrote:
Perhaps the most ubiquitous and ever-present form of the failure to confront non-being in our day is in conformism, the tendency of the individual to let himself be absorbed in the sea of collective responses and attitudes, to become swallowed up in das Mann, with the corresponding loss of his own awareness, potentialities, and whatever characterizes him as a unique and original being. The individual temporarily escapes the anxiety of non-being by this means, but at the price of forfeiting his own powers and sense of existence.