From Modigliani to Olena Via Akhenaten & London Art Week 2016
Monday, June 27, 2016
When I saw that ad in my NY Times I wrote this blog
. I was inspired. I was particularly inspired by the middle image in the London Art Week 2016
. I located it at the gallery in London featuring it and found out it had been done by Amedeo Modigliani. Here it is:
Standing Nude in Profile (Nu debout de profil)
168 1/8 x 103 9/16 in. (427 x 263 cm.)
Date of work:
Stephen Ongpin Fine Art
This charcoal sketch reminded me of this Egyptian pharaoh called Akhenaten. He believed in one god, the sun. He was almost certainly Thutankhamun's father. The many statues and reliefs of Akhenaten show a man with a slender upper chest and wide hips. This has been either attributed to some rare disease or to an artistic style of the time. I believe that even though the opening of King Tut's tomb happened in February of 1923 and Modigliani had died he may have noticed Akhenaten's image in some museum.
When my new model and friend Olena
sent me pictures of her new hair (very short and very blue) I had an instant realization of what we would work on in our next session. This happened (as I write this) on Thursday. I would like to point out here that Olena is the kind of model that any artist (even one like this one who dismisses that epithet) would do anything to have. She is tall, has a lovely body, she has those cheekbones of a highfalutin model (which she was in Colombia), she is smart, serious, punctual and best of all we talk Spanish!
For our Modigliani session I used my Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD with Kodak T-Max 100 film and another back with Kodak Portra 160 (and yes Kodak still makes film), and my Fuji X-E1. The photos here were all taken with the Fuji and for the last one instead of my usual soft box I used my large ring flash.
Madame d'Ora in Buenos Aires
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Just a few days ago I wrote this blog
about a Polish Art
Deco painter called Tamara de Lempicka. Especially interesting was a portrait of
her taken by Vienna-born photographer Dora Kallmus. She was such a successful
fashion photographer who also shot the celebrities of her time that in 1924 she
opened a studio in Paris. It was there that she took the famous portrait of de
By strange coincidence I noticed an interesting old
photograph at the Biblioteca Nacional Argentina where my friend RobertoBaschetti
works. I was in Buenos Aires in April. The old photograph had an
almost illegible signature which I was able to decipher to "Madame d'Ora.”
When I wrote the de Lempika blog I did some research on
Kallmus and I found out (!!) that for her Paris studio she used the name Madame
d’Ora as her professional pseudonym. There is no record of Kallmus having visited Argentina. She died in Austria in 1963. Perhaps the photograph came from an art collection. Baschetti's job is to go through book collections that are being donated to the library. He told me that he found the loose photograph between the pages of a Chilean translation of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.
I asked Baschetti to send me a scan of the photograph and
here it is.
A Boudoir In Purple
Saturday, June 25, 2016
mother often told me in Spanish “De estas aguas nunca beberé,” “Of these waters
I will never drink.” I was a stubborn little boy and I would refuse to eat this
or that or do this or that. I eventually learned that she was right and by the
time I was 22, I finally sampled peach yoghurt and I have not stopped loving it
I never ate
fish in a meat eating Buenos Aires, but in these last few years I have begun to
like good fish and chips and I will tolerate barbecued salmon.
I have prided myself that although I shoot lots of racy nudes I have never “done”
cheesy boudoir nor have I ever planned to begin.
6x7 cm transparencies of a lovely woman called Karen Firus reveal that I did do
such photographs. And in my failing memory I remember that I was assigned by
Vancouver Magazine to take these pictures. I remember a house in North
Vancouver and a completely purple bedroom. I do not remember if I suggested
taking her photographs on her bed or if this was Ms Firus’s idea. The fact is
that here they are proving that even from her grave my mother was always right.
Firus where are you?
Las uñas - The Toe Nails
Friday, June 24, 2016
In the blog below you might be confused by the fact that
some of the novels in Spanish have title where only the first letter of the
first word is capitalized - and, in some not. This curious discrepancy seems to
be an Argentine one (they don’t capitalize) while other countries do. The same
applies to accents of authors’names. And remember to further confuse things
Argentine books until relatively recently had their table of contents at the
end. But then in the past Argentines used to finish their meals with soup.
more often than not.
My mother often said this to me but I never bothered to ask
her who she attributed it to. I have not been able to find the source.
In quite a few crime novels that I have read authors through
their protagonist often state, “There are no coincidences.”
One of the most remarkable books in my diminished book
collection since we moved from our large house in Kerrisdale to our small one in
Kitsilano is Jorge Luís Borges’s El hacedor which he published in 1960. My
fifth edition is from 1981. It is permanently ensconced on my bed table.
Borges most definitely had a sense of humour but it was dry
and sometimes I find that too many people take the man much too seriously. A
case in point is his little one page essay La uñas. In English that would
translate to The toe (or) hand nails. The essay is about his toe nails.
When I read it (again) just a few days ago I was thinking
about a Gabriel García Márquez novel Del
amor y otros demonios which he published in 1994. It was rapidly followed by a
translation into English called Of Love and Other Demons. In this novel a young
woman dies of rabies and her hair keeps growing in the grave.
– Jorge Luís Borges
medias los halagan de día y zapatos de cuero claveteados los fortifican, pero
los dedos de mi pie no quieren saberlo. No les interesa otra cosa que emitir
uñas: láminas córneas, semitransparentes y elásticas, para defenderse ¿de
quién? Brutos y desconfiados como ellos solos, no dejan un segundo de preparar
ese tenue armamento. Rehúsan el universo y el éxtasis para seguir elaborando
sin fin unas vanas puntas, que cercenan y vuelven a cercenar los bruscos
tijeretazos de Solingen. A los noventa días crepusculares de encierro prenatal
establecieron esa única industria. Cuando yo esté guardado en la Recoleta, en
una casa de color ceniciento provista de flores secas y de talismanes,
continuarán su terco trabajo, hasta que los modere la corrupción. Ellos, y la barba en mi cara.
- J. L. Borges
stockings coddle them by day and nail-bossed leather shoes buttress them, but
my toes refuse to pay attention. Nothing interests them but emitting toenails,
horny plates, semi-transparent and elastic, to defend themselves–from whom?
Stupid and mistrustful as they alone can be, they never for a moment stop
readying that tenuous armament. They reject the universe and its ecstasy to
keep forever elaborating sharp ends, which rude Solingen scissors snip over and
over again. Ninety days along in the dawn of prenatal confinement, they
establish that singular industry. When I am laid away, in an ash-colored house
provided with dead flowers and amulets, they will still go on with their
stubborn task, until they are moderated by decay. They–and the beard on my face.
Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Mildred Boyer
coincidence made me think of another. I have this lovely little and very slim
book, El Último Rostro (1978) by Colombian-born (but he lived for many years in
Mexico) called Álvaro Mutis. In that four-story collection, the title one is
about Simón Bolivar before his death. The story is remarkably similar to
Márquez’s novel (I have it in English) The General in his Labyrinth published in
1989. I would never cite plagiarism but I would state that inspiration is a
wonderful thing especially when you are aware of it when it hits you
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Rau Antiques places ads in the NY Times
and I always notice
them. I wrote about it here
. In today’s June 21 NY Times (I am writing this today) I especially
noticed the ad. This time around I knew a bit (a tiny bit) of the painter
featured. The reason for this is that in my last two trips to Buenos Aires I
have been buying Piazzolla CDs to replace my aging records or simply to buy
stuff of his I don’t have. Some of these, in what is called Edición Piazzolla,
lovely (to me) paintings by Tamara de Lempicka who it seems was an aristocratic-looking Polish artist very popular in the Hollywoodand Europe of the 1930s.
My Wikipedia says this about her.
commonly known as Tamara de Lempicka (16 May 1898 – 18 March 1980) was a Polish
Art Deco painter and "the first woman artist to be a glamour star".
Influenced by Cubism, Lempicka became the leading representative of the Art
Deco style across two continents, a favorite artist of many Hollywood stars,
referred to as 'the baroness with a brush'. She was the most fashionable
portrait painter of her generation among the haute bourgeoisie and aristocracy,
painting duchesses and grand dukes and socialites. Through her network of
friends, she was also able to display her paintings in the most elite salons of
the era. Lempicka was criticized as well as admired for her 'perverse Ingrism',
referring to her modern restatement of the master Jean Auguste Dominique
Ingres, as displayed in her work Group of Four Nudes (1925) among other studies.
I noticed a striking photograph of her taken by a
photographer called Dora Kallmus in Paris in 1929. What particularly struck my
eye was the last sentence of the above Wikipedia citation. I found the painting
mentioned and it is reproduced here.
Since I do not have the standard art education (in fact I
never had one) all I can say is that I love her images. I note that the
Piazzola CD covers have an interesting interpretation of her paintings but in
the back they have the full painting just as it is.
We have had enough of Frida Kahlo
and it is time to do
something with Tina Modotti
. I believe that at my insistence Chilean born, Vancouver
writer/playwright and actor Carmen Aguirre
is working on a play about her. I
wonder now if someone should not work on a play or film of Tamara de Lempicka
as well as Man-Ray’s muse (and a terrific photographer in her own right) LeeMiller
. And of course that leads me to a treatment of Margaret Bourke-White
Rosa 'English Elegance' 20 June 2016 On Its Way Towards Oblivion
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
There is something about being idle in one finding oneself away from the obligations of work and no longer being an important cipher is the making of things, the thinking of ideas for stories or the invention of photographic possibilities for obtaining a job that is no longer of any importance.
This means that I can read and look and think. Unfortunately I find myself out of the loop of people who are in a position to be an influence on changing how we perceive society, even our immediate one.
As an example I noticed my bloom of Rosa
'English Elegance' in a transtion to the droop and the inevitable decline of a lovely rose past its prime.
So much of what we see now is brand new or protected to look brand new. As an example we have long forgotten that the purpose of paint on a car is to prevent corrosion. My Rosemary is upset at all the bumper (front and back) nicks which are inevitable results of having to parallel park on a crowded street. It doesn't affect me much. I know we could spend $2500 to make the bumpers look pristine and within a few days the little marks would be there.
My (and our) little garden is a good place to notice what plants do when they retreat into that stage close to the perennial oblivion of roses and the other plants that have a season and then decline into fall and winter dormancy.
This bloom ( its petals) has lost the regidity of the rose that has just opened. For the Vancouver Rose Society Show this coming Sunday those who will be exhibiting cut roses will cut their choices at their prime and place them in the fridge to keep them from going any further.
For me, while I understand the purpose, I also appreciate the beauty of something that is letting go, that is in that process of entropy that is a process that nobody can escape.
Fashion magazines have models, male and female, in the prime of youth. With the help of photographic correction methods skin pores are whisked away as well as unsightly bags and creases here and there.
And yet to this man, soon to be 74, there is beauty in that after stage of perfection. If metals can have patina and antiques look like antiques why cannot roses and people be seen in the same way?
Most recently a friend of mine who lives in Lodon had her birthday. The good words going her way thanks to that terrible facebook reminder are about, "You are still beautiful," "You still look good," or this damning one, "I know I say this every year but it's still true. You never seem to age."