Saint-Francis_low

Francisco de Zurbaran, Saint Francis in Meditation, oil on canvas (c. 60 x 39 in.), c. 1636, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Thanks to everyone for your kind messages during these challenging times for all. Throughout the years more and more we realize that many of our lifelong friendships have been built around our workshops. Yes, we are doing well here in the Ottawa countryside. Life can indeed change in a nanosecond! Three weeks ago, we were having drinks in Cartagena with our friends of Studio Colombia Art & Eat. A few days later and for the first time in 20 years, we had to cancel our annual trip to New York City.  And now, our beloved summer art workshops in Italy and France are on standby. But this crisis affecting each and all of us will pass too. In the meantime, what is most important is to keep healthy, busy and creative.

As you already know, I am an art historian professor and art teacher. During our summer painting workshops in Europe, the great immortals of art are always there inspiring my instruction. Alberti’s Della Pittura is essential for teaching a good subject matter, Brunelleschi for perspective drawing, Monet for colors, Picasso for letting go, Duchamp for the importance of the concept, and so forth. I have always said that art history knowledge and art practice go hand in hand. Now we have been told to stay inside, to self-quarantine, to live a moment of solitary confinement, in our own monastic cells.

This brings back memories of medieval philosophy and de facto to Giotto’s frescoes done in Assisi depicting the reclusive life of Saint Francis, and of course, the beautiful works on Saint Francis himself, in meditation, by Zurbarán. It also revives the interconnectedness among history of religion, art, and society. When teaching art history classes to my much younger students, some thought I was crossing the threshold of the political correctness when I was talking about religion. They didn’t realize that their basic genetic fabric was based on religion (Edgar Morin, La Méthode 4 Les idées). For this reason, they keep marrying in churches, later baptizing, and respecting the boundaries of pictorial rectitude when they paint. But that is another story.

In this time of “self-quarantinization”, I am also thinking about all the monastic rules (regola) established since the last fifteen centuries, many of them founded after a pandemic of some kind: the Benedict Rule, the Carthusian Rule, the Franciscan Rule among many other. Despite their origins and differences, most promote contemplation, self-imposed discipline and silence all aimed to accomplish the great “Work of God” (Opus Dei). Let’s see this pandemic as a propitious time to quit this whirlwind of vanity and consumerism. A moment of silence and meditation so needed for our well-being and our own great human work (Opus Humanum), no matter what it is. During times of self-isolation, Boccaccio wrote his Decameron, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, Newton theorized his theory of gravity and so on.

In our studio, at our easel or our desk, the time is right for deepening personal truths, so essential for future artistic endeavors. The time is favorable for revamping our own publications including our artistic statements and websites. The time is appropriate to devote ourselves to serious art readings. In brief, a time to search, a time to find a new equilibrium.

But this isolation is temporary as we all need to live in the community for emotional, social and economic reasons. Knowledge has to be spread. So, let’s enjoy this moment of solitary confinement to refine our ideas, so later we can share them. Covid-19 will be part of history!

 

4 Comments

  1. Mimi Placencia

    Well said. I appreciate your historical perspective. And anyone devoted to their art expression will continue their work.

    A group of us started a “Covid 19 – 2 week challenge” to paint every day and share on Facebook in this group. This kind of support is important specially at a time like this.

    Your message comes at a good time as well. I’ve been thinking about you and Monica and your welfare. I am glad that you were safe and continuing your work as an inspirational teacher. Mimi Placencia

     
    Reply
  2. Heather Wadrop

    Thank you Yves. Indeed now, for me, it is the time to review the past. To be reflective: my work, my art, my family, friends and relationships with others and yes even my life. Then to look at the present time. How can I maximise my efforts. I’m unable to leave the house and have been house locked for weeks already. So I will review the past and glean from it what I may, and can, and then move on ensuring I maximise my time and efforts.
    Your influence on me has been immense. Five years ago you introduced us to the history of art. The times we spent in galleries and Churches were not wasted on me. Then the practical side of letting go…scoop and apply…laughter, companionships. Joy and I were totally engaged in all and everything that occurred.
    I will move forward and in to the future more aware now of what possibilities there are.
    I will not paint for the sake of something to do. I will not paint with thoughts of what it could or should be or if it is right! I will paint with freedom and for myself. I will spend time on the history of art. I will diversify. I will look to my family and friends and ensure they too are managing in these hard times. My only concern is that I can not put my hand out to help others in a practical sense. The old nurse in me is crying to be out there.
    Provence or not; time and circumstances will decide.
    My very best wishes to you both and your circle of families and friends.
    Heather…from still a sunny South Australia.

     
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  3. Denise Lombard

    Thank you, Yves, always inspirational words from you. We are calling this time “Splendid Isolation” as we enjoy each other( even after 58 years of marriage), bask in the late sunshine in our garden, and keep busy with all the tasks neglected for too long.
    My big challenge is to clear out my Art room so with it clean, tidy and organised I can start painting with new inspiration! We send you our love, keep safe and well! John and Denise Lombard

     
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We all make art! It is part of culture. It is deeply rooted in human nature as a way of communicating with others. We all need to tell our stories because it is stories that link us all. We are all one, one creative mind! Though, all unique and equipped with unique ways of expressing ourselves. We live in constant search of that unique liberating voice. At Walk the Arts we aim to facilitate our art makers to explore new territories. Our painting classes and art history trips on three continents are meant to be rounded art experiences among small groups of like-minded adults. We offer an environment that fosters creativity. As we always say, art as religion is just a matter of faith. This blog is about living fully the experience of art, about finding our single artistic path, about the joy of art-making. We believe that making art accessible to all will lead to a betterment of our society.

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Radical-polemicist-radical or capitalist-strategist?

 

In conclusion, it is our fundamental nature that is responsible for this preponderance of bad news in the media. It is up to us to make a conscious effort to try to arrive at a more balanced discourse while keeping a critical mind. Our stress level would certainly decrease.

The bastard of Marcel Duchamp: Contemporary Art

 

In short, I could go on and on to recount Madame Sourgins’ whiny whims, but it is time to conclude. She is accurate to write that the pleasures of culture are “delayed joys” which require cultural awareness and some knowledge. Visual arts, like all cultural expressions, reflect the society and the times in which we live. Walk the Arts’ artists are aware of what is being done in the field of contemporary art, good or bad. It is up to them to choose whether or not to venture into the contemporary department. But it is important to acknowledge that there is no turning back. Contemporary art is here to stay.  

May I see the instructor’s works?

 

So why do we attend a painting workshop In Tuscany, Provence or South America? We attend a workshop to learn from each other, to share our passion, to live an art experience and to enjoy the power of knowledge through creation. This is what we offer at Walk the Arts.

Meaningful journeys.

 

At Walk the Arts we aim to surpass easily-found knowledge on YouTube such as how “to mix your greens”, even “how to paint an Italian landscape”; and if you can learn the latter in a video, why attending a painting workshop in Tuscany? This reality has encouraged us to become a conduit of art knowledge, not a mere repeater of it.

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We agree that a completed work can bring a great sense of boredom, even disappointment, or a sense of euphoria that encourages pursuing a career as an artist. We have a choice; “Well done! What do I paint now as my next subject? Or “WOW! How can I push this canvas so it becomes better and more complex in the reflection of my time and my life?”

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Here’s a curious paradox: stopping time by painting quickly. Can one set a trap to catch the moment’s impression? Can the artist’s canvas trap the beauty and the wonder of observed events which melt all too quickly in the flow of time? Can time be halted? Yes, says Michael Findlay, obviously, this is what artists do…

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