thoughts on the accidental in painting / by Philip Tarlow

1:49 PM: in the emergency room waiting for the doc to see me. scroll down past pics to find out why.

10:10 AM: today is a short day, and i won't be painting. we leave around noon for denver. we'll have a relaxed afternoon in our hotel; tomorrow we have meetings related to actionlab360 and drive home in the afternoon to be back for the caucus on tuesday.

so right now i'm in my studio printing out a doc containing our actionlab360 business plan, which we'll review at the hotel, in preparation for upcoming meetings with potential investors in our company.

it's an unusual day in that it's overcast, so the light is perfect for re-shooting grey 13. the colors you see reproduced here will be truer than yesterday's pics. i decided, since i've got time, to carefully isolate some details, which you see below.

if you were to observe me, spy on me, making mikela's morning coffee, for example, you would likely conclude that i'm detail oriented; consumed by process; possibly even anal

if you were to spy on me working on my grey series, you would see a different side. the one who is in love with chinese poet/calligrapher huang tingjian (1045-1105), deKooning and other friends of the fortuitous accident. there's a lot more i want to say about this. but my head hurts; yesterday the canvas with it's heavy masonite backing fell off the easel onto my head. ron gremillion urged me to have it looked at to preclude a possible subdural hematoma, so we'll stop on the way to denver at the salida heart of the rockies hospital emergency room & get a ct's probably nothing. more once we het to our hotel.

5:27 PM: saw the nurse in the emergency room of heart of the rockies medical center, but an ambulance pulled up and we were told we'd have to wait 2 hours to see the doc. based on the fact that my only symptom is a headache, she felt that as long as i don't have the typical subdural hematoma symptoms, i don't need to worry or have a CT scan, but to be alert for the characteristic symptoms. 

back to my thoughts on the accidental in painting: 

in the two examples i gave: huang tingjian (1045-1105) and deKooning, accidental may not be the most accurate word. of course there was nothing accidental in huang's calligraphy. what sets him apart are his painterly, gestural marks. he varied them based upon how he was feeling in the moment and the meaning of the word or letter he was depicting. you get the sense his whole body was engaged. in one case, in order to emphasize an important point, he made the first letter of a word the entire height of the page. 

deKooning   woman V  1952-3

as for deKooning, he was the archetypal action painter. drips, scumbles, scraping were all part of his process, in which his entire body was engaged. but, as an artist who was classically trained in rotterdam, where he was born, there is always an element of refined, masterful draftsmanship underlying all the wild drips, slashes and scrapes. friends and admirers who saw a painting in process would urge him to leave it alone and not paint over it. not a chance. he painted over many gorgeous surfaces until he felt the painting was resolved. one story i love about deKooning has to do with how bits of newspaper ended up in his paintings. he liked to work wet into wet, so he started pressing newspaper pages onto the wet paint so that when he started working the next day, he could peel them off & work into the still wet oil paint. one day, he decided he like the look of the newspaper in the overall composition, so he left it. 

in both of these examples, there is a balance of fortuitous accident and wild abandon resting on a foundation of classical training. i feel that my years in greece, where i learned from my friend and mentor yannis tsarouchis, and received the benefits of his deep understanding of the byzantine tradition, were my version of classical training.

my experience in nyc, before leaving for greece exposed me to the tail end of the abstract expressionist movement. i met some of the major players and absorbed their energy. that would be my last experience of art in america before my 15 years in greece.

three or four years ago, i launched in to series of abstract paintings based upon plein air studies i had made at a nearby creek. it was a huge release. it was energizing and it was fun. but pure abstraction wasn't me. as soon as vermeer, one of my great heroes and a master of what might be called abstract realism, entered the picture, he became a point of reference for me to get wild and messy while still rooted in my classical training. that's all i have to say about that right now.