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Posts tagged ‘Paint’

Las Meninas: Third Interpretative Exercise

I’m having an artistic revolution, and my head is spinning with shapes and colours. Ever since my last encounter with Velazquez’s Las Meninas last November, a seed has been sewn and new buds of Spring are rapidly taking shape as they shoot forth from my imagination to the tip of my paintbrush.

The latest result of this creative flowering is this, the third in my own Las Meninas exercise, each canvas taking a new approach to painting one step further. While in the second of the series, I reduced the famous figures of Velazquez’s work into simplified abstract forms, but maintained the familiar composition, in this third experiment, I have stripped the painting almost entirely of its compositional values, maintaining only the basic three dimensional construct of the room. As for the remainder, all of the shapes which can be found in the second painting are now displaced, recoloured and fragmented, distributed in an energetic whirl of abstracted movement which is entirely free in its composition.

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Las Meninas: Third Interpretative Exercise (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Had I come across a work such as this in an art gallery, I may have assumed that it was easy to paint. Yet as this painting taught me, it was far from simple. The delicacy with which a composition of this nature needs to be approached, not just technically (there are an awful lot of straight lines) but also compositionally, cannot be underestimated. I would spend long periods staring at the painting, trying to work out where the next shape should be placed, knowing that one incorrect angle or placement could throw out the entire energy of the piece, reducing the painting into something mediocre, devoid of its own story.

As it is, and with a few wrong turns rectified along the way, I am delighted with the final composition as it turns out. For me it is a composition rejuvenated, a painting which appears to burst before your eyes. And most importantly it retains, for me, some of the key ingredients of Las Meninas, albeit presenting them in an entirely different way.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Ocho Balcones (No.6): Angled Perspective

This sixth gouache in my collection, Ocho Balcones, is all about angles. Viewed from a seated position in our dining room, and with a door open to the right, the street outside another of our balconies benefits from a sloping reflection and a slightly different perspective from the rest of the collection. And since it is viewed from below, this painting is the first of the set to include the bright blue sky which so often graces the beautiful views we enjoy in our Mallorca home. Glowing with all its unmistakeable Mediterranean glory, the sky marks a striking contrast against the dark interior whose moody shadows frame this 6th balcony view. 

Ocho Balcones No.6: Angled Perspective (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Ocho Balcones No.6: Angled Perspective (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2000-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included on this website without express and written permission from Nicholas de Lacy-Brown is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Honeymoon Suite I: Bedroom at La Colombe d’Or

I knew that staying at La Colombe d’Or would inspire me. It wasn’t just that it happens to be stationed in one of the most exquisite locations in all of the French Riviera, but it has also inspired countless of the world’s most famous modern artists, and I wasn’t going to be the exception. So armed with my handy box of gouache paints, brushes and using the Colombe d’Or’s ashtray for water (sorry Colombe!) I set about painting what most inspired me. And from the very first morning, when I awoke to find light flooding into our bedroom, the rays dancing and undulating as they reflected across from the swimming pool right outside the room, I knew what I would have to paint.

The work which resulted is this one, the first in my Honeymoon Suite series. The painting depicts not only the effect of the light entering through a quaint wooden window into our pastel-coloured room, but also the proximity of the Alexander Calder mobile, and the Braque mosaic, just outside our room, which never failed to excite me. In  the foreground is the little desk which I used to paint this very same painting, breathing the cypress-perfumed air which wafted through the window as I did so.

Honeymoon Suite I: Bedroom at La Colombe d'Or (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Honeymoon Suite I: Bedroom at La Colombe d’Or (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Like so many artists who went before me, I could have stayed in the Colombe d’Or to paint forever.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2000-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included on this website without express and written permission from Nicholas de Lacy-Brown is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Venice: My paintings (Part 1) – The Grand Canal

I have decided to begin the narrative of my recent adventures in Venice, Rome and Naples at Christmas by sharing a few of the paintings I created when I last visited the watery paradise of Venezia in 2007. Painting 5 works in all, 2 of which are featured today, I was drawn, as so many of the best artists have been before me (Turner, Monet, Manet, Canaletto, Whistler, Seurat to name but a few…) to reflect upon the very unique face of a city which simply has no rival elsewhere in the world.

With its liquid reflections doubling up the views of every street, every palazzo and every church; it’s unique style of gothic architecture creating elegant lattice-like facades; it’s canals filled with stripy gondoliers and the elegant gondolas themselves; and for all its magnificent statues and pink lamps and bridges and art-stuffed churches, Venice is just a gift for artists.

Venice I (2007 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Venice I (2007 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Venice III (2007 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Venice III (2007 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

When I last went to the city I came back, somewhat predictably, with a whole pile of photos which then inspired me to turn my hand to painting. These first two canvases focus on two typical Venetian views, both based on a series of photos I took of the Grand Canal. While I look back on these works now and see some degree of naivety in their finish, you can see how fascinated I was with the watery ripples which cast an abstract reimagining in every Venice reflection, as well as with the renowned elegance of those great Grand Canal Palazzos and the gondolas that float onwards before them.

For all the criticism I could give these old works now, someone must have liked them – I sold them both shortly after their completion!

More Venice ahead – so join me soon on The Daily Norm!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Autobiographical Mobile: My painting diary – Day 24: A family tragedy

I set out painting my Autobiographical Mobile in June last year, and wrote my first post on the painting (once I realised it would take me some time to complete) back in August. The intention was to paint a mobile like structure, balancing from its various offshoots both the good and bad experiences of my life so far. In this way, the mobile would tell my story, acting as a autobiographical self-portrait through symbolism alone. Yet when I was planning out the painting back in the summer of last year, I could never have known that when designing how to represent the bad experiences of my life so far that a further, horrendous family tragedy would occur, rocking my world and the lives of my family forever.

Three days before Christmas last year, my brother in law was killed – hit by a car. He left behind my sister and their three children: two year old twins and a 4 year old – all boys. It’s not been something I’ve addressed directly on this blog: before now it felt too soon to address so traumatic an experience on this platform. And even now it’s too tender to describe in words. Yet as with my own road traffic accident five years before, there is no underestimating the relief which artistic representation has given me in being able to work through the pain that tragedy brings.

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When his death occurred, Christmas died. The sparkle, the light, the glory and excitement of Christmas was automatically extinguished like a glass of water poured suddenly over a candle. The continuing presence of the decorations around us felt somehow awkward, almost insulting, like someone wearing bright pink at a funeral. And once those decorations were packed away, the world left behind was in so many ways changed from what it had been when we had taken them out, full of the spirit of Christmas only a few weeks before.

In my home what remained after Christmas had been packed away was my Autobiographical Mobile painting, sat on my easel still incomplete, but already including what I had previously considered to be a completed “bad experiences” side of the mobile. Staring at the painting it dawned on me, that no aspect of this work, like a living breathing organism in our home, was ever going to be finished until the last brushstroke had been applied – in the meantime it was a continuing record of my life, and this grave family tragedy would now have to have its place on the canvas.

Already painted pre-Christmas was what I had thought of as the “family rock” – a large rock in the bottom right of the canvas, against which a small golly-doll, representing my mother, and a caravan representing family childhood holidays are placed. Those representations remain, but now in a different guise. For wrapped around the rock, ensnaring, entangling the family, the doll, and the caravan in its sinuous web is a police ribbon taken straight from an accident scene. Nothing in the family is free from its reach – it is all-encompassing, a symbol of the inescapable consequences of a family death, a loss of life which affects so many, irreparably, now and into the future.

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But the image goes further. Atop the rock, a seagull is standing, trying, hard as it might to break the ribbon away, a tear rolling from its eye as it comes to terms with the struggle. The seagull is my sister. We always used to call seagulls “Cathy’s friends” because they always seemed inexorably attracted to her when we were on beach holidays – maybe something to do with the snacks she was eating! The seagull – my sister – looks upwards in the direction of a cage, and in that cage is a bright yellow bird, trapped with three small babies, imprisoned within the confines of its own destiny: responsibility enclosing the bird with an iron fist.

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Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the painting, a tire track has imprinted itself through the sand, plunging directly into the rock – the impact of the accident, hitting my family hard. None can escape, although some of us got off lighter than others – around the golly (my mother), a manufacturing certificate hangs outside the confines of the police ribbon. It bares a signature. It’s mine.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday Supplement ITALIA – Cityscape IV: Rome

It’s ITALIA Season on the Daily Norm, and after a week of Norms’ adventures down the boot of Italy, and a showcase of my photos of the glorious country, it’s time to feature another of my paintings. I haven’t devoted nearly as much canvas space to Italy as I have to Spain or Paris for example. And now I come to think about it, that really should change. There is frankly so much beauty to inspire me that I could paint Italy for the rest of my life. Perhaps that’s why I have never really begun.

However one work which I did paint in homage to Italy was a simple reflection of Rome’s Forum Romano, against a rich orange and pink sunset. You can just about see St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in the background. The painting formed part of my “Cityscape” series which I painted back in 2007 when I was trying to teach myself how to master oil paints, having been painting for so many years in acrylics. Despite being only “studies”, the resulting collection was so popular that I transformed part of it into limited edition prints back in 2008.

Anyway, without further ado I give you Rome, in sultry silhouette.

Cityscape IV: Rome (2007 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, Oil on canvas)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

BP Portrait Prize – Hyper-photorealism is all very well, but I want to see the Artist’s soul on the canvas

As something of a postscript to my post on Friday about the Queen’s Portrait exhibition is a short note about another exhibition currently showing at the National Portrait Gallery, the BP Portrait Prize (It’s clever marketing that requires an exhibition’s integral name to be precursored by the name of an international petrol conglomerate, although I’m not too sure how happy I am having to represent said marketing on my own blog just by nature of naming the exhibition). Anyway, I digress. The exhibition, which is now in its thirty-thid year, features some 55 works selected from an open submission of 2,187 international entrants. The sole requirement of entry is that the work is a portrait, painted in the last year.

The height of photorealism – Lindsay Lohan © Ben Ashton (2012)

This year, like most years before it, the Judges of the Prize seem to have been unashamedly seduced by the skills of artists painting photorealistically, rather than with soul. It’s now as predicable an aspect of this show as the British summer is full of rain that when you wander into the exhibition, you double-take, wondering whether you have strolled into a photography exhibition rather than a painting one. The artist paints so fantastically well, and plies his craft with such faultless skill, that one cannot see a single brush stroke and one would swear blind, even upon being 10 centimetres distance from the canvas, that this is a photo before you. This is all very well – there is no denying the skill, and absolute kudos needs to be given to these artists for executing the works with such sophistication – but the problem for me is that, if I wanted to see an exhibition of photos, I would be elsewhere. It is also, to my mind, the inherent problem of the annual offerings of the BP Portrait Prize, and what, for me, makes it all a bit boring.

These paintings do not look like paintings, and as such they do not strike me as bursting with the emotional impact that a very paint-plastered canvas exudes. In the manic multitude of Van Gogh’s plentiful brush strokes, you can identify with the bursts of energy expressed by the artist when he went about executing the work, while in the fragmented, abstracted portraits of Picasso, you can identify with an artist bursting with innovation, with a rebellious streak who wants to give more, to change art as we know it, to pioneer new forms of expression.

Swallow, © Alexandra Gardner 2012

By contrast when you look at the works hung in the BP Portrait prize, first you need to challenge your preconception that the work is actually a photograph, and then you spend your time staring at the work wondering how it is painted. But all of this emphasis somewhat takes away from the story of the sitter. The emotion is somehow lost in the perfection. When you can see no sign of an artist’s presence on the canvas, it becomes craftsmanship, and not art. It loses it’s soul. I compare these works to an exquisitely well crafted table – I would glance at the work and admire the virtuosity of the craftsman, but I would not attempt, nor be able to engage with the work in the same way as I can when an artist’s soul is poured onto a canvas.

The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley) © Colin Davidson 2012

There were some exceptions in this year’s show, and it is therefore unsurprising that these were my standout favourites. In Colin Davidson’s The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley), there is a superbly executed focus on his sitter’s melancholy eyes, which are practically photographic, but then as the work spans outwards, it becomes more and more fragmented, as swathes of paint are hastily applied to the canvas, but with no less effect. This work demonstrates both the soul of the sitter, and the passion of the artist, and that is why, for me, it works incredibly well as a portrait worthy of artistic merit. I also liked Alexandra Gardner’s Swallow which had something of the Gauguin about it. Yes it’s just a portrait, but the insertion of the striking yellow wall paper and the presence of a swallow around the sitter’s neck makes you interact with the work, wondering about the significance of the swallow, and no doubt captivated by the use of bold colour, and realism contrasting with the two dimensional black outline which circumnavigates the figure.

Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar, Tokyo
© Carl Randall

However my favourite work of the show was undoubtedly this one, Carl Randall’s Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar, Tokyo. This “group portrait” is startlingly original for a number of reasons: the viewpoint from above, its composition: customers on the right, servers on the left, the slice of city life seen through the window, and the exclusive use of black, white and shades of grey. I love the apathetic, indifferent stares of the customers, minding their own business, indulging in quick dinner in a hostile urban environment, thinking no doubt about work and the pressures around them. On the left we are met with the equally impassive stares of the workers, tired after cooking all day and bored of the relentless monotony of their work. But in the middle of this we have this almost embrace, the only human contact in the whole work, when the worker gives a bowl of food to a customer, or the other way round – because they both hold the bowl with two hands, it is akin to a loving embrace, a fusion of worker and customer, and composition-wise it provides the work with a horizontal variance to otherwise brash vertical lines. Brilliant.

Is that a photo?: Silent Eyes © Antonios Titakis (2012)

If the BP Portrait Prize included more works like this every year, it would be a startlingly interesting show. But as ever with exhibitions judged and chosen by a group of outdated art professionals and even a representative from BP (who clearly knows so much about art) we will continue to be shunned by a group of high-gloss works which, like any photo, reflect the viewer and push him away, rather than a show of works which, because an artist has bared his soul or painted a scene of such dynamic composition and interest, the viewer is captivated and invited in. For me, it’s this relationship between artist and viewer which is not just integral to the power and purpose of art, but central to the very definition of what “art” really is, whether it be triggered by a portrait, a landscape or an abstract clutter. Remove the soul of the artist, and the painting becomes just one more image to add to the ever changing visual landscape of the fast-moving world around us. A fleeting encounter, without a lasting impact.