Skip to main content

On a Philip Guston-related story

The Meditation on Philip Guston that I posted on July 12th reminds me of something that happened towards the end of my MA. I studied in Barcelona, Spain, under the auspices of Winchester School of Art’s European MA in Fine Art. WSA owned a building right in the heart of the Barrio Gotico, just a few steps away from the Picasso Museum on Carrer Montcada. They also had a set of studios in the Poble Nou section of the city, which is a few miles north-east of the centre, right next to the beach. My studio was in the Poble Nou building, and while I could produce thousands of words of memories about my time there, I’ll just say that it was quite pleasant to take a break at midday, walk ten minutes to the beach, and sit on the sand listening to Beethoven on my Sony Walkman.

The school used to fly in artists to give a talk and conduct studio visits with us. One of these was John Walker, a fine English artist who has lived in the USA for many years. I remember him walking up the stairs to my studio, which was in a sort of half-loft area of a converted factory. He looked at my paintings, said encouraging things, and then sat on a chair and proceeded to tell an anecdote about Philip Guston, which went something like this:

“When I first moved to New England in the 1970s, I discovered that Philip Guston was my neighbour. I started to visit him, and I would walk across the snowy fields in winter and drink whisky with him in the mornings. He gave me a great piece of advice that I am now passing on to you: A painting should always hit you in the eye from across the room.”

Naturally I was impressed that Walker had been friends with such a renowned American painter, and I was also a little flattered that this piece of advice from the Master was being passed on to me. After the studio visit was over, I rushed into the bar close to the studio to meet my friends, two of whom had had visits from Walker before me. I started excitedly to tell them about the transcendent experience that had just occurred, but I was interrupted by Friend One, who said: “Did he tell you the Philip Guston story?”

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.