I couldn’t wait to get to New York, home of the expressionists but Philip Guston was not on my wish list of art heroes like De Kooning and Diebenkorn. I’d always been drawn to his work but it wasn’t until I saw his early works en masse that I was hit hard by the oily Guston stick. Paintings on the wall never compare to books. This painting and all I saw of Gustons were fresh, like he painted them and left the room for a break and he would be back soon. It was also the area he left surrounding the push and pull of paint.
It was difficult for others to understand why he left this abstractionist style behind but in the book Night Studio by his daughter Musa Mayer it was what he wanted to do, to take himself out of what was expected by him. So I was pretty impressed by the inclusion of this work of his in the abstract expressionist group. Books just don’t cut it, you have to see the paint strokes. Somewhere in a sketchbook I have made a scribbled note of which painting the one above was but I do know it was a super close up of a work in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
All doubts left when I wandered into this exhibition. I felt a sense of belonging, I was with my people, my painters. I was intimidated, thinking maybe I didn’t belong, that the discussions were above my level of understanding. I could feel the PhD’s in the room like a blast of heat from the urn at morning registration.
I took my seat in the symposium Fairfax Theatre, took out my little sketch book for the odd notes and when Richard Shiff began, my insecurities melted like a De Kooning woman.
As the bulk of people meandered to the grazing room for lunch, I took the opportunity to seek out my De Kooning (Woman V) only to find the room had been transformed into the Abstract Expressionism Exhibition and I was there alone. I was drawn to the end room to find a huge tonal Guston and a work by Peter Upward that left me gobsmacked.
I can’t begin to think how this will inform my work, whether the words of Dr Michael Hill or the analogy of Rothko and the Great Barrier Reef from Michael Leja will impact or whether it’s the unsaid hanging on the walls. As Richard Shiff said – art nestled in silence.
A houseboat, somewhat between Bogeys’ River Queen and a box-like punt was the home of Margaret and Tony Tuckson in the 60′s on an art gathering adventure up the Sepik River in New Guinea.
(Mudman of New Guinea Wikipedia)
Natalie Wilson began with a black and white photo taken circa 1965 of artist Tony Tuckson sketching natives in New Guinea. It gave me chills. The one quality that I envy in artists is bravery. Not only huge bold sweeping gestural marks but bravery of spirit too. I was recently asked who was my mentor or hero. The one person who keeps creeping into my blog tags is Elisabeth Cummings. I’ve spoken before of her bravery in mark making but it is also that adventurous spirit I saw in the Tucksons on their journey into one of the least developed areas of the pacific.
Flicking through the works that have inspired me, it seemed obvious in his paintings that the influence of art on that trip had impacted on his own work.
No62 Four Uprights Red and Black 1965? from Collection Frank Watters (Catalogue Liverpool Street Gallery TUCKSON|TOMESCU 2009
Margaret Tuckson who was present, Bogey’s River Queen felt she had to say that Tony Tuckson had bought what he could for the gallery with the funds he was given despite the Rockafellers bidding at the same time. Tony Tuckson not only purchased wonderful important pieces, he left us with his adventurous spirit in his artwork.
Tony Tuckson 1921-1973 From Reversals Philip Guston Tony Tuckson Catalogue Museum of Modern Art Heide 1994
There were 2 artists when I went to New York that smacked me in the face.
They were Phillip Guston and Cy Twombly. Cy Twombly’s piece in the Art Gallery of New South Wales was controversial. Some hated it but I loved it and when I saw more of his work it only reinforced what I went there to look for.