Thursday, September 17, 2015

TIME PASSED...TIME PAST

I don't know why it's become so hard to write a blog post or to write anything at all, even a letter. You could say I'm blocked - writer's block, artist's block, blogger's block. Do blockers (those who are talented at blocking other people) ever suffer from blocks? Rhetorical questions aside, putting one word in front of another in some vaguely interesting manner has become a chore to be avoided by any means and there are always plenty of avoidance means at hand. Yet I still have a sense of duty (how vain!) to turn up and remind anyone who happens to be passing by that I'm still here. Or maybe to remind myself that I'm still here.

So: I've been looking through portfolios of my old..very old..drawings and will pin some of them up on this blank wall. It's both annoying and challenging to re-visit these youthful works and conclude that many are better than anything I've done in recent times. I don't believe the theory that artists' best work is created in their youth and anyway I can't speak for anyone else. But I want to look into possible reasons why some  - I've picked out around 100 drawings - of my early works seem to achieve something (I'm not going to try and define that something) which I'm not achieving now.

I can easily teleport myself back to those years (17-18-19 years old) and remember clearly what I felt when I was drawing then. I believed in Art, I was romantically in love with Art, it was my mission. I wasn't hesitant or doubtful but confident in my ability to take on anything Art could throw at me. The first five large drawings below were done from sculptures in the Louvre where my tutor, an √©cole des Beaux Arts professor, would meet me every day and teach me to draw in the classical manner, with plumb line and pencil held out at arm's length to measure proportions: "Aplomb! Proportion!" he would repeat like a mantra. I can still hear it now. Each drawing took weeks and he was wonderfully severe but after a while, when he saw that I was making real progress, we became friends. He said we were now equals and that I could draw "like a man". Yes, this was before feminist consciousness-raising but my joy at this verdict was boundless.

More old drawings to come, next time.

NdA Charcoal. Roman bas-relief, Louvre. 42cm x 47cm  (16.5" x 18.5")
(The
male bits in the facing warrior were missing. Not my doing!)




NdA Charcoal. Roman portrait, Louvre. 48cm x 63cm (19" x 25")



NdA Charcoal. Roman head, Louvre. 48cm x 62cm (19" x23.5")

 
NdA Charcoal. Old Roman Senator, Louvre. 48cm x 63cm (19" x 25")



NdA  Charcoal. Roman bas-relief. 48cm x 62cm (19" x 23.5")


NdA Charcoal. 48cm x 63cm   After El Greco "The Holy Trinity" 
 


NdA Young self, Paris.  32.5cm x 43.5cm Charcoal and wash on oiled paper.

20 comments:

Dick said...

These are so powerful, so characterful. All the present individuality & skill (albeit taking 40 winks) are evident. Don't push too hard, Natalie, you're just resting. Moi aussi - one-and-a-half poems in three months!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dick, you've made my day. Can't rest too long however..otherwise it might be the rest that never ends!

Jean said...

Such fine drawings. I especially like the one 'after El Greco.' What they don't have, though, is the ever-present spark of joy, humour and movement that I associate with your work of more recent years. I find it a bit comforting to know that even the multi-talented and relentlessly prolific souls like you need some down-time every now and then. Meanwhile, yes, it would be lovely to see more of your early work, and read more about your beginnings as an artist.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Jean, very perceptive of you. The humour was there since childhood, I think, but it took quite a long time before I could allow it to penetrate the seriousness of Art, capital A.

Beth said...

Yes, what both these good and perceptive friends just said. I like all of these very much but especially the one after El Greco and the self-portrait. I'd like to press you to articulate what it is that you see here that startled you or particularly admired. I know the feeling, having recently posted some of those early Matisse-like drawings: it's good to look back sometimes, and hopefully we can bring the good qualities or freshness or whatever we see into our present work or consciousness of the "whole self" we now are - because a lot of what we see isn't necessarily about the art, entirely, is it?

And I think a lot of my own ennui about blogging has to do with the lack of commenting and feedback. Maybe a smaller group of us can try to commit to giving more feedback again, the way we used to.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Beth, many thanks. It's hard to pin down exactly what I feel about the stack (many more than these) of drawings I've pulled out to re-connect with. Maybe it's because they seem to be more engaged, more involved in the whole adventure of art as a calling - yes, a mission! Significantly, many of those I've chosen (and will be posting) were done when I was either in art school or in touch with other artists I respected. The sense of belonging in that hallowed world of Art, ancient and modern, was both a stimulus and a challenge. When my life took different turns,sidetracks, I became more isolated and also disillusioned with the 'art scene',distracted by all its isms, innumerable styles and techniques and the difficulty of finding my own voice amidst all that chatter. Well, that's a partial answer. I'll think about it some more.
You're right, it would be great to have more feedback, small group.

marja-leena said...

These are very strong and exciting pieces, Natalie! It's so interesting to go over old work and I've been doing some of that as I reorganize some stuff in the studio. Excellent comments from the others! Look forward to seeing more...

I too have been suffering from blogger's, writer's and artist's block - hopefully just a phase and partly due to tiredness too.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Marja-Leena,thank you. Yes, browsing back through one's early work is educational in a very personal and specific way. Time gives us more objectivity, I think, allowing us to look at the work as if it was done by someone else.

I hope you break through that ubiquitous block and emerge with renewed energy. I wish the same to myself!

Dale said...

I love the self portrait especially. I see what Jean means about the humor. But I have been thinking lately about how often my own humor is self-subversion: an interruption of my flow of thought to incorporate imagined dissents & caveats. Do I really need to interrupt myself that often?

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dale, I'm afraid you're absolutely right. Self-subversion has a lot to do with humour/humor in my case too. But I'm starting to think that the self-subversion may be necessary, if used deliberately as a tool. A way to communicate thoughts/feelings that are either impossibly heavy or too insubstantial to be presented with utmost seriousness. Maybe the injection of humour serves like a kind of yeast?

Catalyst said...

Natalie, as long as you have these to show, you need not worry about being blocked. Wonderful work.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Bruce, thankyou. But moving on from the past is essential, especially when the future is a lot closer than it used to be!

Vincent said...

It doesn't matter. It's you who are the work of art. And I'm only reminding you of something similar that you told me. Which illustrates the point.

Hattie said...

What Jean said. The early drawings are strong,distorted,powerful.They reflect the great effort put into them. They have something,all right. But I much prefer your later work.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Vincent, thank you for the compliment but my work IS me and so it does matter (to me) if it stands still, doesn't evolve. The 'products' which emerge from this evolution, whatever form they take - drawings, paintings, books etc. - are also what will remain of me when I'm gone. It matters to me that they will be the best of which I'm capable...even if nobody were to see them!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Hattie, that's really good to hear but wait until you see the others I'm going to post shortly - they're much more distorted!

Roderick Robinson said...

I swore I'd never write about writers and in particular writer's block. For one thing the phrase disguises its true meaning: reduced to mere petulance it is another way of saying "I can't do it." And who the hell is interested in that?

In my novel Gorgon Times, as you well know, the co-hero is a production engineer, made redundant from a company that makes washing machines. He might, if I'd let him, say he was suffering from production engineers' block. And just think how the liberal arts community would have would have laughed at that. "Oh no," they'd have said, "only writers can have blocks."

Putting them in the same corral as those suffering from constipation.

Very few people are forced to write. It's a voluntary act. Discovering that one can't do it isn't worthy of sympathy. Go out and clear a few drains, I'd say.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Robbie, I agree that whining "I can't do it" isn't worthy of sympathy and just getting on with it is preferable. But the cliché 'writer's (or artist's) block' has some legitimacy and can occur even in those who know very well that they CAN do it and are not at all sorry for themselves. If their creativity is temporarily paralyzed it may be for good reasons. If your profession, your role in life, is to make art, in whatever shape - books, paintings etc - you are subject to forms of uncertainty far more complex than those an engineer, employed or unemployed, may have to face. Yes, he (or she) too may be creative but the tasks he performs are precise, tangible, material. If writing a worthwhile novel, say, was as precise and tangible as building a good washing machine, we'd all be Dostoyevsky. And no, I'm not putting art or creativity on an airy-fairy pedestal. It is indeed 95% perspiration. The remaining 5% is an anarchist.That's the block.

Roderick Robinson said...

"far more complex than..." So artists operate on a higher level do they? Certainly they love to promulgate that view of themselves.

But you're missing the point. Certainly imagination can fail (as it can when designing a new washing machine). But extend the constipation metaphor. Normal people don't make a song and dance about hard stools and artists (the very word is starting to nauseate me; for myself I prefer "hack") should have the common decency not to parade their insy-winsy failures. For one thing it's so banal; "not writing" is a state common to most of the population.

I take it you don't use a washing machine, given it's the product of a lower order of life. Battering your undies with a couple of stones at the side of the river has much more aesthetic potential.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Robbie! We're back to missing the other's point. I guessed you'd respond in this way so that's why I added my last two sentences "..no I'm not putting art on an airy-fairy pedestal..."

"..they love to promulgate that view of themselves." If you read or hear serious artists'(people who actually make things which are generally classified as art, visual or verbal) writing or talking about their work, in any period of art history, then you must know that it's only pretenders who faff about "operating on a higher level". It's not what I was saying at all. If you're nauseated by the word "artist" or "art"and want to use "hack" and "hack-work" that's fine by me.

All I was saying is that it takes a DIFFERENT kind of thinking and working...not a "higher" or more valuable kind....to make a really good novel or painting etc. Yes, I use a washing machine and am grateful to its inventors and manufacturers and yes I know it takes imagination and skill and technique to design and make one and yes, engineers are probably more necessary to civilization than artists/hacks. Yes to all this and all its ramifications. Nevertheless, please re-read the last two senntences of my previous comment, especially: "The remaining 5% is an anarchist.That's the block.