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Friday, 24 May 2013

Act 2, Scene 8

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.

Picasso, addressing this to Aitken
This is quite interesting to me. Jennifer, you say that your knowledge of the history of art and artists is fairly thorough after about 1850, but rather spotty before that (Aitken nods, puts her espresso demitasse back on its saucer). I think that I can accurately describe my work as a distillation of influences that would certainly include Ingres, and our friend Diego, as David pointed out, and then as far back as Filippo Brunelleschi and his seminal work in codifying the rules of perspective, against many of which I purposely rebelled, or that I discarded or interpreted. But also, I have an interest in the art of older and even ancient traditions – Greeks, Minoans, Japanese – and then there are the so-called primitives, the aboriginal artists of many continents. It's all fascinating and irresistible to me.

Yeah, I see that. Probably my studies have kept me so busy, not only making art but researching and writing theses and defending them too, that so far I simply haven't had time or energy to expend on widening my interests much beyond the 20th century. I'm sure it'll happen, but it will take some time.

Jennifer Aitken,Composition12012, foam and tape, approx 10’ x 5’ x 3’

I guess what I am asking is whether it's necessary for an artist to look so broadly and deeply into the past.

Necessary? Is anything necessary? Perhaps looking broadly and deeply, as you put it, is not always and absolutely essential, but how can such interests not be enriching? And how can such enrichment fail to inform one's life, one's art? Seems to me that, as with all experience, this kind of knowledge affords the potential at least, for an artist to offer a more engaging experience to his, or her audience, no? And I believe that to be a good thing. I have seen though, that many people today seem to have difficulty spending time with a painting, or a sculpture, or even with these installations. A quick look, a smile that passes for pleasure, and they are off to the next thing in the gallery. The layers and references of the work, historical or literary or intellectual, often take more time to discover and to appreciate than many today are willing to spend with art.

But there will always be a general-interest audience for art, and a smaller more aware and engaged audience of true art lovers, don't you think? The show of Shary Boyle's porcelains impressed me at the Canadian Pavilion here at the Biennale. David and I plan to spend some time in Tuscany and Umbria. I have only seen reproductions of the Della Robbia altarpieces and I'm especially looking forward to seeing them in the flesh. To my eye, they are absolutely stunning - and I just can't imagine that they are not connected to Boyle's porcelains, that there was no influence there. Just her choice of medium – porcelain – is unusual. I would think that Della Robbia had to be an inspiration on some level. Jen, isn't she one young artist whose work reflects some deeper layers of history?
Shary Boyle
photo by Christopher Wahl

Yeah, I think so. But I guess you'd have to talk to Shary about it. I haven't read anything that connects her with Della Robbia. She does have an interest in ancient mythology. And her work is sometimes described as ecofeminist. Her stuff often deals with very tough subject matter, including abuse. There must be porcelain artists she admires, I'm just not sure about Della Robbia.

The rejection of Pluto, 2008-9, Shary Boyle/Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario