“Sting. Sting would be another person who’s a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.— Owen Wilson as Hansel the male model, in the movie Zoolander
The Hansel quote pretty much sums up how I feel about the painter John Currin: don’t have all that much interest in the actual work that John Currin is doing, but I really, really enjoyed the article about him in the January 28 New Yorker (unfortunately, not available online, except for a gallery of his recent work). Currin basically paints collaged scenes of images from internet porn sites in the style of the Old Masters (see the work-in-progress, “The Women Of Franklin Street,” above).
“I’d like to get the sex thing over with, but I realized I’m not done with it….You should never will a change in your work—you have to work an idea to death. I often find that the best things happen when you’re near the end.”
His technique is really fascinating:
The basic design of the new painting, his largest to date, was sketched out first in a grisaille undercoat of white, raw umber, and a binding agent of sun-thickened linseed oil, and Currin has just begun to build up the flesh tones. The faces of the women have very little detail as yet. To give me an idea of where he’s going, he brings over a printout of a photograph of the painting, which he has altered with Photoshop, a method he finds more convenient than drawing. Hanging just to the right of the new painting is a small oil-on-canvas study, fairly rough but with more detail and in color. “Actually, I posed for the body,” he says, indicating the left-hand figure in the painting. He often uses his own hands, arms, or face (viewed in a mirror) for the initial image, in preference to hiring live models. “When I get people to pose for me, it almost never works,” he explains. (This does not apply to his wife, Rachel, whose wide-set hazel eyes, pearly skin, and heart-shaped face he has used again and again in his paintings.)
Actually, the collage, Photoshop, the self-modelling…it reminded me a lot of Alison Bechdel’s technique for Fun Home.
I could really relate to what he had to say about meeting his wife:
“Meeting Rachel changed everything….I came to the conclusion that there is no misery in art. All art is about saying yes, and all art is about its own making. I just became overwhelmingly happy.”
And I dug some of the things he had to say about art-making:
“It doesn’t look good now…but a big part of painting is getting used to things not looking good while you work on them….Some [marks] are accidental and some are intentional. It’s great when the accidental becomes indistinguishable from the intentional. That’s when it begins to seem like a living thing.”
Worth tracking down.