To the Unknown Helper #25: reflections on Mahler

Edward G. Nilges “State of the Unknown Helper as of 1 August 2010”.

The Grisaille is almost finished…but not quite. There is a banana tree and there are elephant ear leaves in the same plane as the Helper and the little girl and they need to form a space with respect to the rest of the landscape. The lower elephant ears need to catch some light but have been shadowed by the upper in the subtropical monsoon forest that I recreate from the forests in which I live.

In the distance is a lava flow type of rock formation such as I’ve seen and a beach, and then the Tin Hau temple I see at Tung O Wan.

The problem of the Mountain. The mountains of Lamma are covered with trees to the very top but they are of a dark green that doesn’t catch the light.

Balancing the eyes of the child, and gradually bringing out Hello Kitty behind her, my version of her pet cat. I do not even pretend to be able to draw animals worth dick.

Ay will tell you,
The Barge she sat in, like a burnisht Throne
Burnt on the water: the Poope was beaten Gold,
Purple the Sailes: and so perfumed that
The Windes were Loue-sicke.
With them the Owers were Siluer,
Which to the tune of Flutes kept stroke, and made
9The water which they beate, to follow faster;
As amorous of their strokes. For her owne person,
It beggerd all discription, she did lye
In her Pauillion, cloth of Gold, of Tissue,
O’re-picturing that Venus, where we see
The fancie out-worke Nature.

Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

The Helper has found an antique stone bench, nondescript like certain indigenous houses at Tung O, but bearing marks of workmanship.

Principes que tout homme capable de raison peut apprendre

Il ne se donne de visible sans lumiere
Il ne se donne de visible sans moyen transparent
Il ne se donne de visible sans terme
Il ne se donne de visible sans couleur [a bonne temps, MCM]
Il ne se donne de visible sans distance
Il ne se donne de visible sans instrument

Nicholas Poussin, lettre A M. de Chambray, Rome 1er Mars 1665

Edward G. Nilges “Detail of State of the Unknown Helper as of 1 August 2010”.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:1 (no I’m not a Christian: no I’m not a commodity)

Edward G. Nilges “Detail of State of the Unknown Helper as of 1 August 2010”.

It is to raise a question
That raises Ripples on the Pond
Of notions of which we are fond:
What if all was meant to be
Nothing more than you and me
A face, suffused with grace?

Poussin it appears used a middle tone from which to start, deepening the shadows and highlighting. This meant skimping on the monotone grisaille and the result was less close up resolution. However, the great Tiziano Vecelli had taught Europe to get their noses out of the paint and stand back.

One senses that Poussin was torn between Titian’s cheerful proto-Romanticism, in which man actively creates the world, and a classicism which he saw in marble and not in paint: the Roman and Greek world of the given, objectivity. Which is the reason for the close up clumsiness of Poussin’s figures who inhabit a different world than ours, a failed Gnostic attempt to make a better world…that produced instead not a world-that-sucks, just an island with its own problematic.

The nymphs are pleased enough to receive Bacchus to raise, but as “lotus eaters” out of time, they don’t know how to handle the situation on the right side: the death of Narcissus.

But anything is better than Carravaggio, who’s wildly popular today because he’s precise and brutal. Now, Adorno said that gestures, in industrial civilization, become precise and brutal. I’d change that to just brutal, where brutality is ersatz precision.

Computers in fact imprecise (32 or 64 bits for very large or very small numbers is not enough). But they allow us to beat each other with concept clubs such as “internet troll” and this seems precise.

At the cost of being a drawing and not a painting, Botticelli uses the pure egg tempera method that Daniel V. Thompson at Yale derived from Vasari’s and Cennini’s handbooks. The problem with using what would otherwise be the ideal method, tempera and then oil, is that canvas is too flexible to be a safe ground for tempera. You need a wood panel which is heavy and hard to store and ship.

Of course, I use acrylic and not oil since I need the fast drying properties of the former in order to lay down translucent layers quickly. This may present an environmental problem since acrylic gets its marvelous permanence for the same reason there’s a “gyre” of plastic junk in the Pacific. Acrylic is petroleum based.

The most environmentally friendly solution? To be as good with pure yegg tempera as American artists Wyeth and Tooker. You use the yolk which strangely doesn’t make the color yellowish. You can drink the egg whites. But you’re limited in size. The pre-oil masters used fresco for big works and here, you need an entire building.

Computers? You have to start with hand work and upload it or scan it.


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