Sunday, January 18, 2009
Kokoschka: On Making Ugly Art
Kokoschka – Prometheus Triptych (left hand panel) - Courtauld Institute of Art
One thing’s for sure – when you walk into a room with a painting by Oskar Kokoschka in it, you may love it or hate it but you definitely can’t ignore it!
I leafed through my Kokoschka book today in my studio. It isn’t one that I look at often, but I can rely on his work to ‘shake things up’ for me visually. He never fails in this regard.
Today, the question he kept asking me is “do you dare to paint ugly?”
I don’t mean that his work is ugly, but it definitely is unsettling and there is a brutality about it.
So, I buckled down to explore ugliness in painting. I found it quite challenging! In fact, my mind couldn’t even get a handle on what is ugly – what colors, what shapes, what brushstrokes would I use?
Nothing worked – as I used each one, I fell in love with it and it was transformed and no longer ugly … however, it always remained different and jarring.
Now that got me to thinking … if ugly = different, then does beauty = sameness?
And what is sameness?
Boring!! Yes! Now this I understand!! This is something I can paint!
But, Kokoschka took me aside and said “No! It’s been done before”.
Gail Sauter - Journal: A Painter On Painting