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Monday, 27 May 2013

Act 2, Scene 9

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.

For me, the whole idea of what influences my work and what I don't want to influence it can sometimes get confusing. That's been a big part of the challenge both in my research and in my studio practice. The reading and research challenge my thinking; sometimes I hit upon something I know I can use in the studio. But making those decisions, unconsciously or not is what pushes my own work along, and sometimes trips it up too. It's all part of the fun, and even though I sometimes feel like this way of life sort of grabbed me by the throat – I mean I don't seem to have much choice, I have to make art – if it weren't also fun at times, there'd be no point in it for me.

Yeah, I think when it feels right, it's also fun. You are the gatekeeper of your own personal authenticity, aren't you. I mean that only you can decide exactly what feels like your own identity emerging in the work. And you can feel it right away too if something has crept in because of something you read, or that someone said, but that you sense just is not you. You stand back and look at what you've done, and your head starts ringing with a big "NO, this isn't right!" 

It's also interesting to me that culturally, we may have lost a common symbolic language that, at one time, not only added layers of meaning to art, but that was also nearly universally understood. So just what comprises these layers of meaning now, if not the old symbolism, and just how universally are they understood? I'm thinking about this in terms of what for me is the bigger question. Are all the links we have to other generations of artists simply fading into irrelevance?

I think you are referring to the Christian symbolism that was used for so many centuries both as a way to engage people with the art (Newkirk is nodding), and also to teach them. It's something I have noticed here at the Biennale. Not that I particularly miss the old vocabulary, but I have found it difficult to see a new one emerging. Is it gone, this idea of a common language do you think, or is it just changing? And as you suggest I think, David, are we seeing a trend toward more idiosyncratic art, art that is egocentric and disconnected from any tradition of thought?

Some of the old language refuses to be discarded – ancient Greek mythology, for example, still finds its way into art today. In the past century western society has indeed become increasingly secular. Well, Diego, you would certainly have seen some change in this direction even when you were working at the Spanish Court. The old religious stuff is often of less and less interest both to artists and to their audiences, in my view at least. However, there are new things that show up more frequently in art, and these may be coalescing into something like a broadly understood set of symbols. I'm not sure. Most of the iconic images that come immediately to mind are violent in nature, unfortunately – handguns, for example, or the cloud from an atomic bomb exploding. Then again we have the anti-nuclear peace symbol of the sixties, and that makes frequent comebacks. Everyone takes away much the same inferences from these images, I believe, but whether we'll see a kind of codification of symbols, I don't know. Maybe it doesn't matter. One difficulty I see is the rapid pace of change. How long, for example will the old symbol for a telephone receiver continue to resonate with anyone? ... please pardon the unintentional pun. (shrugs ...) Perhaps I am straying too far from the topic of our conversation. Too many questions, too few answers.

But symbolism is just one of the ways that artists add density and depth to their work. Maybe symbols aren't as important as they once were. Or am I simply out of touch with the artistic conventions of this new multicultural world? He stands, finishes his glass of wine.

I am enjoying this conversation immensely, but the city is winding down for the evening, and I must get some rest ... if I can sleep at all, that is. My mind has begun to wander. What a stimulating day it has been. And what a delicious dinner and a lovely evening we have had. My thanks to you all.

Picasso rises as well. Both men bid the others "buona notte," Picasso with the anachronistic but gallant gesture of bowing to kiss the women's hands – this is greeted with quiet laughter, and maybe some blushing, but no offence is taken.

It has been a great pleasure to meet you all, and (to Holland) I do hope that we'll have time to discuss the ballet, and (to Aitken) to talk more about your work as well, young lady. My curiosity has been aroused. Thank you all. (Reaches out to shake hands with the standing Newkirk, smiles and nods, then turns to push a chair aside as he follows Velazquez).

As the two artists leave the restaurant, speaking quietly in Spanish now, we see them pause as Picasso lights a cigar. Velazquez prefers his snuff as before. They choose a direction and walk away, into shadows broken by the intermittent light of the restaurants and bars still serving so many visitors.