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Category Archives: Inspiration
Jonathan Saiz with Queen Doña Mariana of Austria, 80 x 71 x 8 inches, ©2009
Jonathan Saiz, “widely recognized as one of Denver’s top emerging artists,”* has a great show on view at the plus+gallery through October 17. A week ago last Friday, I went to hear his talk at the gallery.
Saiz is a friendly, unassuming guy, and his talk was of the sort I like most: informal and unrehearsed, just an artist speaking from the heart about his passion and process. This show is called Industry, and it consists of six mixed media pieces constructed of painted metal boxes and parts of machines. Each work features a miniature portrait painstakingly painted by Saiz, set into the work as a diamond is set into a piece of jewelry.
Detail from Queen Doña Mariana of Austria by Jonathan Saiz
Saiz describes the work as a dialog between painting and sculpture. It’s also about contrasts: masculine versus feminine, human versus machine, construction versus destruction. The painted miniatures reference 17th- through 19th-century portrait painting, and the industrial materials represent the “unidentifiable uneasiness and appeal of a contemporary perspective informed by the remnants of the past and the realities of the present.”* Saiz says the huge, powerful constructions function to both protect the image as well as to “kill” it.
The yellow paint color was a serendipitous choice. Known as “safety yellow,” Saiz says he bought seven gallons of the industrial grade paint on sale at a local store. Using this color was a way to create a cohesive grouping of works as well as to create the unmistakable reference to industry, as most viewers will recognize the yellow from its ubiquitous presence in heavy machinery and other industrial uses. Saiz also pays attention to surfaces, painting his boxes with multiple layers of color and then distressing them by “rubbing them on the ground in the parking lot” to reveal hints of turquoise beneath the yellow. The result is an effect of security and permanence, as though these powerful structures have existed for a long time and will continue to do so long after we are all gone.
Saiz spent some time in Paris, where he studied romantic and classical paintings and developed a deep respect for them. He also noticed that many of them were presented with elaborate, ponderous frames, which became a source of inspiration for the idea for setting his small paintings in a contemporary interpretation of the frame. He describes the effect as both humorous and vaguely menacing.
His first love is painting, but he’s looking for different ways to expand his work. The sculpture gives him a different way to approach working, as well as to keep the work from being “too pretty.”
After this talk, many of the gallery patrons continued on to Ironton studios to view the Monumental show, in which large works by five plus+gallery artists, including Saiz, are also on view through the 17th. Saiz’s work in this show is called “Grand Opening,” and it’s a related but very different work from those in the Industry show. Still constructed of multiple boxes, the portrait image in this work comes not from classical painting tradition, but from internet pornography.
Grand Opening, 95 x 142 x 17 inches, ©2009 Jonathan Saiz
Answering questions from viewers in the audience, Saiz described how he makes some of the choices in his work. He explained that he buys paint when it’s on sale, and that, as much as anything else, influenced the colors in this particular work. I found this honesty rather refreshing, as some of my choices are made in much the same way. He also goes against accepted art school methodology, experimenting with materials and finding ways of working that are right for him personally, mixing oil-based enamel with acrylics, house paint, and salt. For example, in this work, he’s layered acrylic over oil, something we’re told in school is very much against the law, violating the “fat over lean” rule. So far no adverse effects have surfaced.
*From the plus+gallery flyer for the show
Monday was museum day. If art museums are your thing, there’s no better place than Paris. By this time, all of the group from school (Metro) had arrived, and we went together to several of the museums. We didn’t go to the Louvre as a group, since it’s just too overwhelming to do in a short amount of time, but some went on their own. I chose not to, because I simply am not into the crowd thing. Maybe some day I’ll get to go again at a time of year when there aren’t so many tourists in town.
Our first stop was the Musée de l’Orangerie, an institution built for the express purpose of housing eight of Monet’s 2×6-meter paintings of waterlilies, known as Nymphéas. We had special arrangements to go at a time when only a couple of small groups were allowed in and were able to avoid the masses of people who come in during the regular hours.
The Monet paintings are installed on curved walls in two oval-shaped rooms lit only by softly diffused natural light coming from overhead skylights covered by fabric filters. Standing in front of these enormous paintings at close range, I began to lose sight of them as paintings. The texture of the brush strokes becomes quite abstracted and is lovely in its own right.
Can you imagine having a studio space large enough to paint something like this and be able to get far enough back from it to see the overall effect?
The Orangerie also has an impressive collection of paintings by Cezanne, Picasso, Renoir, Modigliani, Utrillo, Derain, Soutine, and others. But by far my favorite in the Museum that day was a temporary exhibition of work by contemporary artist Didier Paquignon called Tu rencontreras d’abord les sirènes. I had never heard of Paquignon before, and I couldn’t find much about him online, but more of his work can be seen here. (Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find my notes with the titles of these works, below.)
Two paintings by Didier Paquignon, photographed at Musée de l’Orangerie, July 2009
It seems there is no subject Paquignon can’t render with lively expression and sensitive soulfulness, whether it’s an octopus, an urban landscape, a portrait, or a strangely familiar yet ambiguous interior. His handling of color and light give the work an ethereal glow that apparently can’t be reproduced in print. I was excited to find the exhibition catalog in the museum shop, but then disappointed because the paintings appeared flat and lifeless in the book.
Harry Potter et le Prince de Sang-Mêlé is a big deal here.
A few of my very favorite things: concrete and rust and peeling stuff.
(I’d like to hold a caption-writing contest for this one.)
The last tour for the day was the Centre Pompidou, a vast, multi-storied institution with multiple exhibition halls, research facilities, performance halls, a restaurant, an amazing bookstore, and so on and so forth. My only regret was that we had just a couple of hours here. I probably could have spent 2 or 3 days, quite happily. In addition to an amazing permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, the Pompidou was hosting major retrospective exhibitions of work by both Kandinsky and Calder. I didn’t have time to get through both of them, so, since Kandinsky has always been one of my favorite artists, that was the one I chose. One of the interesting things about the exhibit was that, in addition to the paintings, they included a selection of pages from Kandinsky’s notebooks. I always love seeing a glimpse into another artist’s thought process, but when it’s Kandinsky, well, that’s beyond cool.
The Pompidou structure is also quite interesting. I didn’t get a good shot of it, but you can see one here. You can decide for yourself whether you think it’s awesome or hideous, but regardless, the views from the top are spectacular.
Notre Dame Gargoyles. ©2009 Deidre Adams.
My flight into Paris was an overnight one, so I arrived there at 6 am on a Saturday. Due to various assaults on the senses that take place on flights now, I hadn’t slept at all, so the day was spent in a strange state of mind. Another woman from the group, Laura, came over on the same flight, and we decided that it would be best to stay awake as long as possible so that we could get adjusted to the time difference. The solution: do a lot of walking and see as much as possible the first day!
Our hotel was only a couple of blocks from Notre Dame de Paris, so we started there. Not surprisingly, it’s quite the tourist attraction, with huge crowds everywhere, so I was not inspired to linger. We continued on to Sainte-Chapelle, a 13th-century chapel built to hold relics from the Passion of the Christ brought to France by Louis IX. According to the official literature, “The Holy Relics had belonged to the emperors of Constantinople since the 4th century. In purchasing them, Louis IX added to the prestige of both France and Paris which, in the eyes of medieval Europe, became a ‘New Jerusalem,’ and hence the second capital of Christianity.” More specific details about the architecture and the magnificent stained-glass windows are available here.
Ste. Chapelle. ©2009 Deidre Adams. (Click each image for larger version.)
Continuing on to the west, towards the Tuileries Gardens, we found many more interesting sights.
Once we made it to the Tuileries, I was evidently so overwrought by the numerous young women asking us, “Do you speak English?” that I neglected my picture-taking duties, with the exception of this loner pigeon who didn’t seem to like hanging out with his compatriots:
We made it as far as the Arc de Triomphe, which seemed a fitting place to stop our journey for the day.
You can get to the top by climbing up 234 steps:
From the top viewing platform, you have fantastic views of the city in all directions.