Everything that has sharp edges, corners and angles is eventually worn and rounded by motion, friction and collision. Over time, the arc is the only destination.
This series emerged from the previous Cello Suites paintings. In particular, I have again chosen the Golden Ratio as a starting point, and I continue to add selected three-dimensional objects to the surface of the paintings.
David Newkirk, winter 2017
Stardust Boogie (Arc 1): The Things I Could Tell You, 2017: acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 in.
Stardust Boogie (Arc 2): No Matter, 2017, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 36 x 42 in.
Stardust Boogie (Arc 3): Wipeout, 2017, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 60 x 48 in.
Stardust Boogie (Arc 4): That Funny Feeling, 2017, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 48 x 36 in.
Stardust Boogie (Arc 5): Spinoff, 2017, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Stardust Boogie (Arc 7): Just the Ticket; acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 2017, 48 x 36 in.
Stardust Boogie (Arc 8): Best Guess, 2017, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 72 in.
The Cello Suites, 2016
The Cello Suites Paintings
As with all my work, these new paintings reflect my interest in the interplay of flat space and depth, and in the balance of the orderly and the chaotic – what we sometimes imagine we can structure in tidy compartments, in contrast to what often falls in messy heaps at our feet. In the case of these new works, I found inspiration in baroque art and music.
Bach wrote his six solo cello suites – each with six movements: prelude, allemande, courante, sarabande, two minuets or two bourrées or two gavottes, and a final gigue – sometime around 1720. From the thousands of possible combinations of notes, keys, time signatures and instrumentation, Bach applied his own remarkable logic and created music that resonates for us in the very human voice of the cello – order from chaos.
Also during the baroque period, early in the eighteenth century, great thinkers like John Locke, Galileo, Hobbes, W.S. Johnson, Isaac Newton, Descartes, Francis Bacon and others had laid the groundwork, and the Enlightenment was well under way. Philosophers and scientists strove to construct orders of thought to replace what they saw as the chaos of an unstructured view of existence.
Much of what we know as baroque art would seem to represent a chaotic point of view rather than an orderly one: high drama, random accident, and diagonal structures that suggest dynamic movement are hallmarks of the style. Bernini wrestled the unruly natural world into submission in marble and bronze and stone. In the draperies that adorn his angels, saints, and mythological beings, we are convinced by the illusions of fluttering cloth – fabric that, were it really cloth – would billow and blow quite uncontrolled. In Bernini’s marble flourishes however, turbulent nature is tamed and orderly.
In composing many of these paintings I began with a drawing of The Golden Ratio (The Golden Section), an ancient set of proportions sometimes described as the most pleasing to human sensibilities, and even thought by some to be of divine origin. Its proportions were used in the design of the Parthenon in Athens, for example, and can be found in works by artists throughout history. I used 'the ratio' in these paintings simply as an initial framework around which to balance competing areas of order and spontaneity.
Although these several factors inspired my efforts, the paintings are neither illustrations of Bach’s cello suites nor homages to Bernini. Instead, they are my attempts to balance the orderly with the chaotic, elegance with mess. Life’s elegant messes interest me, in baroque art and in my own.
The Cello Suites 1, 2016, acrylic & mixed media on panel, 30 x 48 in.
The Cello Suites 5, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in.
The Cello Suites 6, 2016, acrylic and collage on canvas, 48 x 72 in.
The Cello Suites, 8: 2016, acrylic and collage on canvas, 60 x 48 in.
The Cello Suites, 10: 2016, acrylic and collage on canvas, 48 x 60 in.
Selected works from 2015.
Crossroads 2; 2015, acrylic on canvas, 60x48 in.
Crossroads 6; 2015, acrylic on canvas, 60x48 in.
Crossroads: Brunelleschi's Dream; 2015, acrylic on canvas, 60x48
Crossroads: Caprice For Goya: 2015, acrylic on canvas, 60x48
Crossroads: Vincent Sees The Crows: 2015, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Shebang 9, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 60x48 in.
Shebang 10, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 60x48 in.
Water Works 4: 2015, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Shebang 11, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 48x36 in.
Water Works: Darcy's Ditch; 2015, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.
Water Works: GoFish; 2015, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36
In this series, each painting began with a response to a particularly insistent memory. Denon 6, ’76, for example, refers to the gallery in the Louvre that houses the Mona Lisa (Denon 6) and the year in which I first visited the Louvre and approached that wonderful and exhausted portrait, 1976. The River was inspired by my recollection of a funny episode featuring my father in about 1963.
Realizing that memory has informed all of my work, I began looking into some recent research on the subject. Every discipline has its own idiosyncratic vocabulary; in the case of memory research the vocabulary includes, for example, field memories, observer memories, engrams, cues, and encoding, along with many other terms with which I am slowly becoming somewhat familiar … and trying to remember.
In response to certain intense memories (so-called 'flashbulb' memories), after an initial quick sketch, I draw on the canvas with pencil and then with broad strokes of black paint. The drawings are spontaneous and intuitive – rather like the standard art school exercise of making a gesture drawing of the human figure, but in this case without the physical presence of any model.
The black drawings give me a tentative graphic “hook” upon which to build a painting that explores the formal and intellectual concerns with which I have been preoccupied for many years: flat and three-dimensional space; spontaneity and intuition versus methodical orderliness, the achievements of Modernism, and other issues that I have discussed in statements attached to previous bodies of work. Drawing these graphic shapes simply takes me into the theatre of work (the canvas) where the resulting shapes and colours make no overt reference to memories or to anything beyond the perimeters of the canvas. The black graphics are the bones of the paintings.
These works and their titles however, unintentionally have become agents of additional complex encoding of certain memories. Like it or not, I am constructing new cues for the retrieval of certain more complete memory narratives. Perhaps I am stocking the pantry against future need.
David Newkirk, fall 2014
Passengers: The Tempest, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)
Passengers: Woodward Avenue 65, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 in. (91.3 x 61 cm)
Passengers: Hossmeat, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)
Passengers: The Red Priest, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
Passengers: Denon 6, '76, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Passengers: Piano, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)
Passengers: Get Down Rosso 2, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 in. (91.3 x 61 cm)
The Juicetrain Dialogues
Andy Warhol said “Everybody is influenced by everybody.” Many famous artists, including Jasper Johns, Ingres and others have voiced the sentiment that they owe something to other artists. In colloquial parlance, “juice” may mean “payback” or a “cut” of profits to someone. Juice commonly also refers to energy, vitality, and vigor. A train has many links; it moves and is frequently reconfigured, but it is connected from end to end.
This project is a variation on the convention of the sacra conversazione. My intention is to assemble some sense of the “presence” of artists (rather than saints) whose work has influenced my own, and perhaps each other’s – a series of paintings that together will form a cohesive exhibition.
In the studio, each painting is initially a dialogue between a particular artist and me. When several paintings are shown together, the conversation will broaden. Just as early versions of the sacra conversazione proffered the idea of meditative communication among Madonna and Child and attending Christian Saints, my hope is that those who enter this exhibition will imagine the talk that might swirl around them, if indeed some essence of these great artists were present in the space.
This conversation among the Juicetrain artists is a simple idea, about connection and lineage, about the passage of time, about debts being acknowledged. In this imaginary dialogue, the artists “speak” to me and to each other, and I to them. And simple though the idea may be, I find that I am affected by it in complex ways. My sacra conversazione is not about communicating with the dead; it is not a séance. Like the more conventional examples of this idea it is, I suppose, more about veneration and gratitude.
Any new series emerges first from my recent work. For about a year now, I have started each of my paintings with two elements: a background grid, and a large black arabesque painted over the grid. These elements distill the important issues that have interested me for several years now, and which are discussed in statements attached to other bodies of work. To begin this new work, I decided to design the usual black graphic shapes as a kind of monogram (a signature, or a “tag”) to represent the names of artists. The first of these for example, is “Leo” written in reverse. “Oel” is “Leo” spelled backwards, as Leonardo Da Vinci might have written it. Oel is the title of the first painting in the series.
Monograms, signatures, initials and personal marks are among the oldest and most powerful of human mark-making symbols that declare “I am!” The earliest known such marks are in El Castillo cave, Spain, dated to roughly 40,000 years ago. Often in spaghetti western movies the illiterate old prospector is required by a devious villain to “make his mark” on a document that will doubtless lead to ruination. Generally the mark is an “X” that testifies to the prospector’s legal consent. The mark therefore, is a powerful symbol, equal in validity to the actual physical presence and verbal testimony of the prospector. My monograms are forgeries, in that I alone will make the marks. But forgeries too retain power whose source is the genuine owner of the symbolic mark.
David Newkirk, 2013
Dialogues: Edouard, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
Dialogues: John/Jack/John, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
Dialogues: Willem, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
The Juicetrain Dialogues: Diego, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
The Juicetrain Dialogues: Franz, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
The Juicetrain Dialogues: Hans, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
The Juicetrain Dialogues: Mike, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
The Juicetrain Dialogues: Fil, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.3 x 121.9 cm)
Algorithm For a Safecracker, X-4, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in.
Algorithm For a Safecracker, X-10, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 48 in.
Lost Algorithm 5, 2012, acrylic on paper, 30 x 22 in.
Lost Algorithm 1, 2012, acrylic on paper, 30 x 22 in.
Lost Algorithm 2, 2012, acrylic on paper, 30 x 22 in.