Monday, December 15, 2008

Icons



















I was enlisted last week for a quick freelance job, which I did over the weekend. I havea busy week ahead so I didn't have a lot of time to fuss over them. Some I like (Poe) some I don't (the quaint sunflower and tomato, meant to represent a farmer's market in Providence).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New progress.



















I think I am finally able to visually articulate my intentions. This is a new painting, about 100 x 100 cm (3.28 feet square). It's unfinished but I am glad to see that I've been able to do what I want to do after a lot of failure.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sock it to me.



















A new effort here. My intentions aren't really clear, and—as I told Tomaz today—it's in the "ruination phase." I murmured to myself on the way home this afternoon that every act of creation includes destruction and while this idea is exciting it's also frustrating. Every painting starts from zero it seems, and it feels like an entirely new set of variables. This is an intriguing, eternal challenge, but sometimes I wish it would just get a little easier.

I had an interesting talk today with Ezio about the whole group of things. He was reassuring, and volunteered some enthusiasm. I trust his word—having worked with him for a while I don't think he's one to blow smoke. That gave me a little boost.

I had been telling Tomaz that I am really feeling a little panicked about how there's no common language in anything. I am describing volcanoes, but never the same way twice. I am describing boats, but with a different vocabulary every time. I wrote this to Tomaz today:

I talked with you a bit about the need for some consistency in my work. I don't regret having explored different visual languages and I'm not a big proponent of style, but I think I am so "all over the map" right now that it's a bit of a problem. Take the three paintings of boats, for example. The fact that I never use the same "vocabulary" to describe the boat seems to show a lack of certainty or dedication to an idea. It's just skimming the surface:

http://robertbrinkerhoff.blogspot.com/2008/08/running-4.html

See what I mean?

Same with the volcanoes. It's obvious that I am still in an investigative mode, still trying to figure out how to show something, how to say something. And if a person doesn't have fluency of "language" how can he artfully form thoughts without drawing so much attention to the flair of the language? If the voice is changing so often, I think the attention will be on the voice, rather than the message.

I mentioned to you that this is a persistent problem of mine: I seem to either be on a quest for the best voice/language, and unable to formulate a body of work which ultimately says something in its consistency.

An analogy: imagine reading a book by a writer who is telling a story but who constantly changes voice or even language. That's what I think I am doing Tomaz. At the same time I am loathe to commit to any sort of consistency which would indicate an attention to "style" over substance—which would seem to read as a convenient "bag of tricks." This is the shit I need to sort out. It's what most painters refer to as "fetishizing."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Un'altro cambio, ancora.




















A couple minor changes in response to Elizabeth's comments about the source of the eruption.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cambio.




































I changed things drastically. I just couldn't stomach the way it was turning out. Here's the reworked canvas and a detail—some new iconography that interests me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Grazie miei amici.





















Haven't yet addressed the issues Elizabeth has mentioned below (all good points, thanks) but I think I have begun to work on the hierarchy, per Rich's gracious and intelligent suggestions. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Speak up.



















These images always reproduce with such lackluster surface here, no matter how much I try to compensate by hiking up contrast etc. Here's the latest phase of a new painting, and I'm eager to hear opinions. I am trying to limit the palette significantly because I feel like there's a disconnect in previous efforts between the nature of what I'm showing and the color relationships embedded in the imagery. So this one is a volcano, and the volcano and everything around it is affected by the essence of volcanoes—heat.

These are paintings of volcanoes. On two occasions, people have failed to see the subject matter and this is a little unnerving.

Someone recently remarked that my work is somewhat dark. I think that in some ways that's a welcome description, since I have been struggling to grow more accepting of my propensity for cartoonish form and a little darkness may compensate for what could tip the scales toward frivolity. I don't know if it's my relatively primitive method of painting, the manifestation of impulses that shouldn't be denied or something else, but I feel like I need some clarity about the way I am painting. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Something new.



































This is a little larger, about 3.25 feet square.

I went to the Jean-Michel Basquiat show today. His impulsive use of materials and incredible gift for form and design was really inspiring. I agonize over trivial details, get myself into fastidious snits both conceptually and materially.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finito.



















I'm calling this done. For now. The contrast looks very dull, and it's a bit more vibrant than indicated in this image but I am tired of fussing with it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sono tornato.

Ezio and I had a great dinner last night at the American Academy. Those folks consistently deliver: good company—smart, earnest people with fascinating intentions.

Next week promises a return to the studio—no two ways about it. The freelance work and tour necessitated some delays and then we arrived home with a seriously injured student, who fractured her vertebra with a 35 ft jump from a cliff into the water in Riomaggiore. She's hospitalized and will have surgery this weekend.

We're almost halfway through the semester. I am sad to think about leaving Rome behind.

A few photos from the tour:








Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blow-by-blow, below.

Sketches, process and finish for an article about the Governor's falling popularity. At one point the author asserts that he's a bit of a cowboy, but without much success, hence the wild west imagery in a few.





























Monday, September 8, 2008

Eight places. Wait, make that ten.

Gym
1:10
Treadmill, free weights.

Someone asked me recently to identify eight favorite meditative spots in Rome, places which might facilitate focused introspection and rejuvenation. I have to confess that I'm not really the silently meditative kind and I have a little trouble keeping still. While I regret this aspect of my personality, it comes with the territory, so there you go.

This doesn't mean I'm not a thoughtful person who seeks and finds inspiration in quiet reflection. I like to write when it's time to sort out my thoughts; and rather than finding answers in motionlessness, I tend to use the rhythm of walking, running or the systematic making of things to figure things out. I get a lot from physical experience. I guess I prefer a significant amount of sensory input when questioning things.

I confess that while I had hoped to collect a ton of photos myself for this travelogue, I haven't had time to shoot everything listed. So I'm filching some of these pictures from the internet and hoping they'll do justice to the promise of these places. I shot Piazza Mattei and the bottles in the river. The rest are the products of my thievery.

Eight places isn't a lot in a city as wonderful as Rome so I'm upping the ante to ten, in no particular order.

• The Pantheon.
It's a stone's throw from the apartment, and the Pantheon at any time of day is a great kick in the ass when you're feeling put upon in life. It's a truly phenomenal testament to the genius and resourcefulness of mankind and I challenge anyone to say "I can't" when considering this achievement. I sometimes bring a cup of coffee to the piazza and sit on the steps of the fountain in the morning, facing the temple. It's especially beautiful on a cool, cloudy morning in winter, when the gray color of the stone, the pavement, the sky—everything in sight—elide harmonically. At night, when the piazza is filled with exhausted tourists, the lights are beautiful.












Fontana dell'Acqua Paola.
While everyone else is clamoring for photo opportunities at the Trevi Fountain in the center, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola on the Gianicolo offers a stunning vista of the city with a grand backdrop of gushing water, lit masterfully at night and cooling the atmosphere while the sun is high in the sky. Go at dusk and plan to spend a little time like the two-faced god Janus (after which Gianicolo was named), gazing out on the domes below and turning 180 degrees to watch the cascade. It's a bit of a walk (about a mile) from my place, but it's well worth the effort.


















• Piazza Mattei.
Just outside the Jewish Ghetto (where you can observe some great neighborhood dynamics among young and old), this spot has two great things going for it: the Tartaruga fountain with four youths languidly reaching for Bernini-crafted turtles and a little place called Bartaruga. If you have the money to spend, get a glass of wine and sit outside. It helps if you have company (at least to split the bill). A couple of glasses of wine cost about €14, which is pretty high in my opinion, but you're paying for the atmosphere. The interior of the bar is pretty kitsch, but very comfortable with an opportunity for intimate conversation and the people inside are very nice.














• San Luigi dei Francesi.
Near the Pantheon (with your back to the Pantheon turn left at the far end of the piazza) San Luigi dei Francesi is the parish of the French Catholic community in Rome. The exterior could use a good cleaning, but perfection awaits inside. The last chapel on the left holds three large Caravaggio paintings chronicling the story of St. Matthew. It's always crowded but well worth the visit.


















• Santa Maria del Popolo.
In Piazza Del Popolo another pair of Caravaggio's—The Crucifixion of St. Peter and the Conversion of Paul—are free for the looking at Santa Maria del Popolo. It's not always easy to sit in silent meditation of these paintings. A good long look, however, followed by some quiet reflection in the church, is very rewarding.


















• The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Santa Maria della Vittoria.
This is far enough away from the center to be a little less populated by tourists, so I think it's worth the hike. And unlike the Caravaggio paintings you can sit to face the sculpture head on.


















• Temple of Aesculapius, Villa Borghese.
This is a 19th century folly, not a true temple, but it's a nice place to sit and read, think, write or draw. The park is also a great place to run and the Galleria Borghese holds a lot of fantastic art.


















• A Walk Across the Bridges
Begin in the morning or as the sun begins to fade with Ponte Fabricio, the oldest bridge in Rome. Make your way to the Trastevere side after crossing Isola Tiberina (the island). Turning right on the other side, you'll reach Ponte Garibaldi which you'll cross back to the other side. It's worth a stop on Ponte Garibaldi to behold the mesmerizing dance of the recyclables in the falls below the bridge. Don't miss this strangely beautiful phenomenon. Repeat this zig-zag pattern until you reach Pont Saint Angelo, with Bernini's angels flanking each side, and then head back. Some mornings around 9:00, on Ponte Sisto, you'll find the most emotionally demonstrative accordionist in the city. He's a little Asian man who faces the sun with his eyes closed, his entire body swaying with the music as he plays. And he can really play with sincerity and emotion, unlike a lot of the clowns who make money in the center.


















• The Protestant Cemetery
Behind the old city wall and spilling out of the base of the Pyramid is the Protestant Cemetery, the burial place of non-Catholics and foreigners in Rome. Shelley and Keats are buried here and it's a remarkably peaceful place whose walls keep the din of the city at bay. There are plenty of places to sit and you can wander for a couple of hours from row to row in search of interesting lives which have passed through Rome over the centuries.














• The Palatine Hill at Sunset.
From the top of the hill at Piazzale Ugo di Malfa (the crest of the long hill running along the south side of Circo Massimo), take in the ruins of the Palatine on the other side of the field. At sunset, the warm bricks and austere arches and towers are really beautiful, and you can really gain a sense of the privileged vantage point of the aristocracy in Ancient Rome, when chariots raced in the Circo below.














• Bonus Spot.
If all else fails light the torches on our lower terrace at night and sit at the table. Looming above, you'll see the remains of the great round entrance hall of the Baths of Agrippa, constructed in about 19 BC. The past, and Rome has plenty of it, gives pause to present concerns.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

More.



















See earlier entries for a history of this picture, which is still in progress.

Not sure if it's such a great idea to show things every step of the way. Perhaps it simply confuses people and I suppose I risk having opinions offered before I'm finished.

Assisi.























Running
10.2 miles in 1:17:43 (7:39 per mile)

I've lived in Rome a little more than a year yet I had not yet seen Villa Ada, on the northern end of the city. I set out along the river to Piazza del Popolo, then to Villa Borghese and north into illa Ada. So this is where are the runners are! Nice park with lots of people. Took a short cut down Via Veneto on the way back.

I spent the day in Assisi yesterday. It's not too far, just about 2.5 hours by train, so I repeatedly put off the journey. After all, I could easily get there any time. But the ghosts of San Francesco and Giotto summoned me to the Basilica and the surrounding hills.

The weather is pretty hot again, which is a bit of a disappointment, but there was a nice breeze from the mountains, so there was some respite from the sun. I lost my cell phone on the train, and this signaled an opportunity to once again leave aside the complicating forces of daily life. I wonder if San Francesco had something to do with it.

The enormity of the Basilica, and more specifically Giotto's frescoes of the life of St. Francesco, overwhelmed me. His sense of design, the cognition in his decisions and his cleverness in establishing relationships among parts of an image are revealed in details. In The Renunciation of Worldly Goods, Giotto establishes a dynamic constellation of hands to call out the narrative essence of conflict in the story: St. Francesco, having shed his clothes in a vow of poverty, gestures to the heavens in explanation; a bishop holds secure what remains of Francesco's clothing; the hand of God mystically beckons Francesco from within a cloud; his father's angry hand is restrained by another; and a witness on the left directs us toward the central action once again. What a master of narrative he was.

I visited the Basilica twice yesterday and spent a couple of hours in between walking the trails toward the Carceri, which I never reached. The climb was quite challenging, as I scrambled over the pink and gray stones on a very steep mountain trail. I got a late start and the temperature was probably close to 90ยบ so after an hour I stopped to rest, dedicated some thoughts to my mother, and tried to conjure up an image of St. Francesco, emerging from the cool shade of the woods and offering me a drink of water.




Saturday, September 6, 2008

A great mark.


Saw this a while back and at the time I think it may have been animated. I think it's one of the most spirited logos I have seen.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Tattoo to-do.

I'm seriously considering a tattoo these days, after years of saying I couldn't commit to a symbol which would maintain significance for a lifetime, as my flesh withers and everything goes south, including my reasons for getting marked up in the first place. I'm cognizant of visual communication, hence my tentative approach to this. But a few symbols have been important to me over the years for personal reasons, and I like their forms, so I'm mulling it over.

When I was a kid I read about the cave paintings at Altamira and how they were discovered accidentally by a girl accompanying her father as he worked in the caves. In college, when I was about 18, I learned about Lascaux and the paintings there: elegant images, some "primitive" but some very sophisticated, with all the principles of "gestalt" and "closure" which had begun to fascinate me.

In any case, I have arrived at a few options:

Horse, Lascaux:
My favorite. This is one of the oldest images known to man, dated between 13,000 and 17,000 BC. I like the connection to the spirit of mark-making which existed in our primitive ancestors and which endures today in us today. I also think it would be cool to liken my skin to the walls of a cave, especially when my flesh begins to resemble the geological undulation of a cave wall.


















She-Wolf:

The Roman numerals translate as 2008 (I'd change it to 2009 if I had it done after the new year). The time I have spent in Rome has been transformative, a rebirth. This is a sort of tribute to the city and a bit of memorabilia about the importance of this year.


















Mercury:

My favorite from the mythology I read as a kid, Mercury (Hermes) was the messenger of the gods and he ran like the wind. An odd coincidence—my surname translates as something like "Messenger of the House." I'm pretty deeply invested in visual communication and I consider running a big part of my identity, so I think it would be appropriate.


















Antinous:
After drowning in the Nile, Hadrian had hundreds of likenesses made of Antinous. The sculptures take your breath away.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Progress.











































Displaying some progress on a new painting, which I mapped out about a week ago but let stand until now. It's not huge, but it is bigger than the last group, certainly.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In retrospect.

Gym
1 hour of weights after warmup on treadmill.

Thought I'd share some process documentation. These images record the evolution of an illustration (featured on my regular website) for an article about budget cuts in Rhode Island. I rarely have the time or inclination to record the process step-by-step so this is sort of unusual.