Thursday, September 5, 2013

Open Studio/Blank Canvas --- Day 2/236

Walk: Corte Madera, Terra Linda
Distance: 8 blocks and home yoga practice

Tomorrow I'll visit an artist friend's studio.  Just the two of us and her art, the third presence in the room.  I'm really looking forward to it.  But also a bit anxious, as I'm sure she is - even more so. It's an intimate almost hallowed experience - with no rituals or form to follow.  Seeing, being seen, choosing words or silence.  Every moment is fresh and sort of fraught.  An intense privilege.

I think about some paintings by artists of either their own studios or those of their artist friends. These paintings often carry this same, hallowed energy.  The studio is the apparent subject, but often what is being painted is soul: the soul of the artist whose studio it is and the painter's deep relationship to that artist's work (either another artist's or their own).

For me, one of the most touching and powerful paintings of an artist's studio is Studio at 'La Californie' painted by Picasso in 1955 shortly after Matisse's death.

It is known that above all artist's Picasso revered Matisse.  This began in the early 1900's when, in many ways, Matisse's work challenged Picasso, thus opening artistic doors.  One genius speaking to another - and Picasso heard, rivaled, grew. It was an intense and complex friendship all the way through.

After the Second World War Picasso became a regular visitor to Matisse in the South of France, and their relationship entered its final and closest phase.  When Matisse died at age 84 in 1954, Picasso was deeply stirred.  I would submit stirred on the level of his 1947 Guernica (which he painted in a sustained state of rage in reaction to the Nazi's bombing of that Basque town during the Spanish Civil War).  Immediately after Matisse died, Picasso went into an almost painting frenzy producing numerous canvases using the the decorative profusion, vivid hues and odalisques associated with Matisse.  How much of this came from the conscious or unconscious, whether he was somehow painting Matisse alive cannot be known. But to me Picasso seems to have finally given up on that possible doomed resurrective quest and acknowledged his profound loss and grief in the color-drained Studio at 'La Californie' with the inexpressively poignant blank canvas in its center.

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