Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Poet in Cinema

I have talked about the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky on this blog before. His film,  Andrei Rublov is the best movie about art making and perhaps my favourite movie. If you have not seen it I highly recommend it. You can watch it online here:

Tarkovsky's views on art are very interesting and go counter to what we are told is art in our post-modern culture. I, for one, find myself agreeing with him.

Part One:

Part Two:

A link to a condensed version on Vimeo:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Superficiality of Modern Art and Architecture

"There is no such thing as understanding art in any period apart from the philosophy of that period.  Philosophy inspires art, and art reflects philosophy.  We can never tell what the art of an age is unless we know what is the thought of the age.  If the thought is lofty and spiritual, art will be lofty and spiritual; if the thought is base and material, art will be base and material.  If the thought is of the heavens and heavenly, art will be of the heavens and heavenly; if the thought is of the earth and earthly, art will be of the earth and earthly.  In that period of Grecian history, for example, when Plato and Socrates and Aristotle were giving eternal truths to men, the clear lines of the Parthenon and the airy Ionic of the Erechtheion served as so many petrified incarnations of their thought.  Closer to our own times, when Rousseau set loose this exaltation of the ego and the romanticism of sense-passion, artists were found drinking at his fountain the shallow drafts of hatred for academic tradition, a license of inspiration, and a glorification of fleshy sensibilities.  And now in our own day, what is the philosophical inspiration of Futurism and its wild love of novelty and 'absolute commencements,' motion for motion's sake, but the thought of Henri Bergson?  What is the philosophical inspiration of Cubism, with is unrelated blocks, but the philosophy of Pluralism, which maintains that the multiple does not imply the unit?  What is the whole inspiration of modern art but a Subjectivism introduced by Kant and his school, the heritage of which is a belief that no work of art itself is beautiful, but that it is our psychic or mental states that are beautiful, either because we project these states to the object, which is the Einf├╝hlung theory, or because they harmonize with the tastes and commandments of society, which is the sociological theory, or because they produce intersecting reactions, which is the Pragmatic theory?  If modern philosophy explains modern art, medieval philosophy explains medieval art.  If we are to understand why they painted and why they sculptured and why they built a certain way, we must ask ourselves how they thought, for art is the lyrical expression of philosophy.  Their civilization was much different from our own; in the thirteenth century, Christendom knew but one Church.  There was just one Faith, one Lord, one Baptism, one Church.  Since it was one in its rule of faith, it is easy to extract those basic principles of medieval life which served as the inspiration of their art.  These principles are threefold: (1) Impersonalism, (20 Dogmatism, and (3) Sacramentalism."
-Old Errors and New Labels by Fulton J. Sheen, c. 1931.

In architecture is reflected a philosophy of life. The philosophical basis of the contemporary world is materialism, that is, the negation of the spirit. If, however, no other world exists, only what can be seen, palpated and scientifically analyzed, then it is clear that there can never be architectural ornamentation as ornamentation is a symbol of communication with the immaterial through matter. Ornamentation implies or assumes that there is another world beyond this around us. The buildings of modern architecture therefore resemble glass cages and boxes of giant shoes, built on stilts. They are purely functional buildings since the only function in a materialistic civilization is the business or exchange of things of this world.

When civilization was inspired by a more joyful philosophy, when things visible were appreciated as external expressions of invisible things, the architecture was ennobled with countless ornaments: the pelican feeding the children with the very blood of its veins symbolized the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; the lion breathing life into dead offspring represented the Resurrection; the fox, peering at the door of his den, served as a prescient warning of Satan's traps. With his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Our Lord said that if the men were steadfast in their faith in God, even the very stones would proclaim His triumph. This actually came to pass in the the Gothic cathedrals!

Now, the stones no longer speak, because men today do not believe in the existence of another world, do not expect for themselves other destination than the same of inert stones. With faith in the spiritual lost, architecture ceases to express or symbolize.

Fulteen J. Sheen. Os problemas da vida. Porto: Livraria Fugierinhas, 1956, p. 66.

*my addition

I was unable to find this passage in the original English.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Recipe for Tempera Putrido

Tempera putrido is like 'white-out' for oil painters. It is a white that can be used for corrections in a painting where you have to paint a light over a dark. The putrido will dry quickly and will not become transparent over time as a regular white would.

This recipe came to me via John Angel who had a tube of it in his fridge back in the early 2000's. I was responsible for moving his home to a new apartment and I forgot the tube of putrido.  It worked wonderfully and so I am not sure if I will ever live it down.

You will need both tempera white and oil white:

Tempera white - Mix together: 1 part egg yolk, 1 part water and 1 part pigment.

Oil white - white pigment ground thickly into stand oil.

The  pigment can be titanium white or lead white although lead pigment is highly toxic if breathed in.

Then: one part oil white ground in one part tempera white will give you tempera putrido. Tube it and  store it in the fridge.

Here is an old BBC video of Pietro Annigoni, John Angel's maestro, mixing tempera colours for his painting.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Steps in the Production of a Painting Video

I just started playing around with some new video software and have put together some videos on the painting process, mostly aimed at helping my students.

Here is one on the steps in the production of a painting:

Here is  "Big Form Modelling a Bouguereau".

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Painter and the City

Antonio Amandeu Conceicao Cruz was born in Porto and lived there his entire life. He took as his subject matter his hometown and spent a lifetime chasing the wet and mysterious light, characteristics of Porto.

In 1956 the great Portuguese director Manuoel de Oliveira produced the film "O Pintor e a Cidade". A beautiful silent film alternating scenes of the painter, the city and the artwork.
A simple love letter to one of my favourite cities.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Interview about Sacred Art

The Kolbe times recently interviewed me about my role in the Sacred Art program at St. Mary's College in Calgary, Canada.
A New Renaissance:The Sacred Arts
More information on St. Mary's Sacred Art program

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Great Statement about Beauty

Dr. Elizabeth Lev is one of my favourite art historians. An American based out of Rome, she speaks about art history with one foot thoroughly planted in the theology of the Catholic Church.
She recently did a TEDtalk about the Sistine Chapel in which she describes it as, "..a great statement about how beauty truly can speak to us all, through time and through geographic space."

If you enjoyed that there are longer talks about the Sistine Chapel and more on youtube:

Dr. Lev's website.

I also recommend her book, "A Body for Glory" which looks at the representation of the human body through art history through the lens of Pope John Paul's "Theology of the Body".