Saturday, August 08, 2009

I just read the two Asher Lev books by Chaim Potok, they offer a great insight into art and especially abstract art.

Educational notes from the book “The gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok.

Page 135

He talks here about art:

“… Art begins when someone interprets, when someone sees the world through his own eyes. Art happens when what is seen becomes mixed with the inside of the person who is seeing it. If an exciting new way of seeing an old object results, well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? That’s the beginning of serious art. Here, let me show you what I mean.”

I erased the rams. I looked carefully for a moment at Miss Sullivan: high cheekbones, thin straight nose, oval features, dark eyes, dark hair combed back flat into a French twist. “Here are the different ways three great modern artists would have seen and drawn the same person. The first one is an artist named Matisse.”

I wrote his name on the blackboard. Over the name I drew in a single continuous line with blue chalk the face of Miss Sullivan. It leaped, instantly recognizable, from the chalk onto the blackboard. There was a stirring throughout the room, and murmurs of surprise and recognition.

“The second is by an artist named Modigliani.”

I spelled out his name on the blackboard and in red chalk drew Miss Sullivan, high-necked and with exaggeratedly high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes, emphasizing through the cylindricality of her neck the charm and refinement I sensed in her bearing.

“The third artist is Picasso. How many of you have heard of Picasso?” Hands went up. “Good. Almost as many as have heard of Asher Lev.” Rev Greenspan joined in the general laughter.

I wrote the Spaniard’s name on the blackboard, and I drew Miss Sullivan in ochre as he had once painted Gertrude Stein: solid, sculpted, Iberian, a creature more stone than flesh bur with eyes that penetrated into the farthest future. I looked over my shoulder and saw Miss Sullivan staring open-mouthed at the drawing. You thought of inviting me here, Miss Sullivan. The power of art, Miss Sullivan. On your young and lovely flesh.

“Three different ways of seeing the same person,” I said. “It makes life richer to be able to see different and exciting ways.

On pages 211 & 212 he discusses the technical language of art. I found this very educational, as someone who does not know very much about the theory of abstract painting:

“… Max and I talk for some while in the technical language of art – linear accents, surface patterns, passage, movement patterns, multiple centers of interest, distribution of space, bridging tension points, space and surface control, techniques of texturing, color movement, graphic balance. Max puts on his goggles, strikes a match, and touches the flame to the blowtorch. The torch spurts into life with a hard popping sound. I talk to him quietly as he works the carborundum over the surface of the plate, softening it with the flame, then spreading, smoothing, leveling, gouging, pitting, raising, lowering, streaking – so the thick paper will be alive with a textured surface that is a unity with its colors and forms…”

There is a reference to a book on page 296:

“Letters to His Son Lucien by Camille Pissaro”

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