I’ve spent most of this year playing round with sources, styles, and techniques. Worthwhile, but to the extent that I’d gotten so far away from what I like about painting I couldn’t quite remember what that was. There was a lack of catharsis, which was part of why I was experimenting, and part of why I create: it was exercise.

Reading a (rather too Frencherly written) book on Nicolas de Staël—whom I discovered recently via Robert Hughes’ (rather insightfuly written) book on Frank Helmut Auerbach—was the wake-up moment.

Nicolas de Staël - Portrait of Anne
Nicolas de Staël – Portrait of Anne
Nicolas de Staël - Football Players
Nicolas de Staël – Football Players

Seeing (some) of his paintings, particularly the two paintings above, did what I find most art I really like does, and that is remind me of something inside myself. The artists I most like are the ones I feel I share something with. I am attracted to the way de Staël straddles abstraction and description. All his paintings come from his eye, but he describes what he sees in near-geometric forms. There’s tension, and contradiction in his work that I feel very sympathetic with. But there is also a distance that I want to avoid.

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