Things seen - Helmut Federle

Japanische See im Mondlicht (Japanese Sea in Moonlight), 2009
acrylic on canvas, 60 x 50 cm

There is currently an exhibition of five small paintings by Helmut Federle at Peter Blum Gallery in New York. Sadly I won´t be able to see them in the flesh. There is a very good interview with him in the Brooklyn Rail by John Yau and the painter Chris Martin.



A few days in Malaga. From the window of the plane mountains (and valleys) covered in snow. While most of Spain suffers freezing temperatures Málaga is surprisingly mild, though it is raining on and off. At the Museo Picasso, Sophie Taeuber-Arp: wonderful, really wonderful. The refinement of patterns and structures which nearly always contain “dissident” elements within compositions. Then Picasso. I rarely think about Picasso. When I do see his paintings and drawings, I am naturally, always astonished. There are some great things here, among them: two small pencil drawings. Almost nothing. Female nudes. Reclining. In each a spontaneous flower like scrawl over the stomach area. Strange things. And, something else to think about, not just Picasso´s colour, but the material too. The materiality of the paintings. The Cathedral has a small museum, in reality just two dimly lit rooms…but at the end of the first room is a Ribera: Saint Peter the hermit: a lovely work, his long flowing beard the light etc. And speaking of the Cathedral, how I would love to see it without any of the paraphernalia: clear it all out, relics, confessionals, paintings, statues and all. I would keep the monumental organ…the only thing worthy of being there. Yesterday, I walked to the Centro de Arte Contempóraneo Málaga where I saw Wilhelm Sasnal again (I saw his exhibition recently in Dusseldorf). This is a completely different show with different works. Mixed feelings, but the odd good painting. Other than that, plenty of wandering the streets, sitting in cafes and restaurants etc (The waiters here are slow and indifferent even when you lose your temper with them – “somos humanos, que espera usted?”). Abundant local Christmas Kitsch everywhere, impossible to escape from it. Crowds that slowly move along the streets oblivious to the rain, spilling out of bars or gathering in clusters to watch street performers. Overkill with Christmas lights in the streets. Smoke everywhere from the roast chestnut stands on every street corner. A shop window display: full of textiles draped to create folds. The whole scene framed by the window creating a "painting", an extraordinary painting. I am reading Eyes Of The Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa, one of those books that expresses so well what one has already thought and experienced in one´s own work – the eyes touch, all our senses, our whole body must be engaged in making or contemplating a painting. I am also reading Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard. I admire Thomas Bernhard greatly – his style, his ferocious humour, his constant rant about Austria etc. I hope I can sleep tonight, in this vast hotel. Too much coffee today and too many petty thoughts in my head. Today has been uneventful. Another long lunch. A long siesta followed by a long walk. Tomorrow my journey home.

Snow covered mountains from the plane window.

Portrait of Thomas Bernhard by Joseph Gallus Rittenberg.

Folds in window display 1

Folds in window display 2.

Folds in window display 3.

View of a square in Málaga...the rain, the Christmas lights.

A market stall showing Christmas kitsch.

Wilhelm Sasnal, Cowboys 2 (2004), oil on canvas, 40x40cm.

A painting by
Sophie Taeuber-Arp at the Museo Picasso.

Detail of "Saint Peter the hermit" by José de Ribera.



Can we learn something from form in painting and its processes, from how it inter-relates, transforms, disintergrates, re-forms ,opens up or closes up, its presentation etc?

Things read - Blaise Pascal

Changing the figure, because of our weakness.

Blaise Pascal, Pensées: S484/L582

Things read - Michael Haneke

“If you build an idea into an absolute, it becomes an ideology. And it helps those who have absolutely no possibility of defending themselves to follow this ideology in order to escape their misery. And that’s not a question of the fascism of the right.
It also counts for left-wing fascism and for religious fascism. You could make the same film (The White Ribbon) – in a completely different form of course – about the Islamists of today. There is always someone in a wretched situation who seizes the opportunity, through ideology, to avenge himself, to emerge from his misery and to rectify his life. In the name of a beautiful idea you can become a murderer”

Michael Haneke, the Austrian Film Director, as quoted by Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, 5 October 2009


Things seen - Fergus Feehily

Here are two works by Fergus Feehily shown recently at Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin:

The Hide
Found frame, found
illustration, watercolour on
paper, wood, cloth and
28.5 x 20 x 1.5cm
Courtesy the artist and
Green On Red Gallery,

De Liefde
Oil and acrylic on MDF
and wood, screws
21 x 16.2 x 1.5cm
Courtesy the artist and
Green On Red Gallery,


Two new paintings...

After You, 2009, oil on linen, 160x115cm

Ordunte, 2009, oil and lacquer on wood panel, 142x110cm



Antón Hurtado paid me a visit yesterday. He liked this painting: Passing, 2009, oil & lacquer on wood, 142x110cm, and wanted me to put an image of it on my blog. It has appeared in an earlier state and has undergone a few changes. It has been a very slow piece in the making...



Some paintings I have been working on recently...


I recently had a number of drawings scanned. Here are two of them...

Natural History, 2009, coloured pencil & holes on paper, 32.5x25cm

SonBou - Night, 2007-09, coloured pencil on paper, 32.5x25cm


Things read...

"Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."

Albert Einstein


Things seen - Robert Bordo

Puddles [2009], oil on canvas, 40.6 x 51 cm

See his current exhibition at Mummery&Schnelle in London.


The main railway station in Köln through the window of the train

Dusseldorf, Friday16th. 9.30 am train to Dusseldorf. Cold again. Hard rain. Took a taxi at Dusseldorf station to the K21 museum to meet Josephine Kelliher my gallerist from Dublin. The taxi driver had no idea where the museum was. He finally left me at the Opera House (hard rain continues). From there I walked. Once I had met Josephine at K21 we saw the Wilhelm Sasnal exhibition. I couldn’t really take it seriously. The “bad” paintings were not bad enough to be convincing. What is “bad” painting anyway? At least, I could see none of the surprises that might arise from doing things in the “wrong” way….whatever that might be! Midday: We met Christoph Wedding, one of the artists who has curated Alpha at the main entrance. A drive out to the suburbs to Pilot Projekt für Kunst to see the second part of the show there. Very nice installation. Michael Müller runs the space. He told me that that there are an estimated 10.000 artists in the Dusseldorf area. Very pleasant afternoon. Lunch with Christoph, Hannes Norberg, Josephine, Jürgen Meyer, and Michael Müller and his partner. I had potato dumplings and beef stewed in what seemed to be vinegar, raisons and beer! Later back to Cologne on an "express train" (just 20 minutes) to see Alpha at Drei Raum für Gegenwartskunst where my painting is installed. Later, two or three openings at other galleries. Here are some installation views of Alpha in both venues, images courtesy of Drei Raum für Gegenwartskunst:

Patrick Michael Fitzgerald

Sebastian Freytag & Martina Klein

Christoph Wedding, Andreas Fischer, Petra Herzog

Petra Herzog & Sebastian Freytag

Christoph Wedding

Paul Drissen

Jane Harris

Isabelle Borges & Feliz Schramm (pilot projekt für kunst e.V., Düsseldorf)

Isabelle Borges, Felix Schramm & Jürgen Meyer (pilot projekt für kunst e.V., Düsseldorf)

Lorenzo Pompa, Hannes Norberg, Isabelle Borges & Felix Schramm (pilot projekt für kunst e.V., Düsseldorf)

Complete images of the show at Drei Raum für Gegenwartskunst & Pilot Projekt für Kunst.


Cologne, Thursday 15th. Cold wind. I leave the Chelsea Hotel where apparently, Martin Kippenberger & co used to go drinking in its bar. Nearly run over by a man in a suit on a bicycle. He seemed to think it was my fault and maybe he was right. “Curried sausage with french fries covered in mayonnaise” standing at a bar table in a small cafe – could only eat a quarter of it. The day is bright -clear blue sky... but the shadows do not lose their impenetrable blackness throughout the day mirrowing the blackened towering forms of the Dom as it reaches into the heavens. Early afternoon in Kolumba. I was somewhat sceptical before my visit (the initial hype) but was quite moved, especially in the space where the wooden walkway zigzags over the archaeological remains of the gothic church. The perforations in the exterior walls (distorting and fragmenting the internal and external sound in a beautiful way). A lot to reflect on – the dialogue with the art of the past, exhibiting contemporary art alongside other artefacts, all the problems this might embody, the building itself…how does one define it? It is not a conventional museum and in ways I have not yet assimilated it seems to be imbued with Catholicism: the almost fetishistic treatment of objects and details adhering to a certain idea of beauty. The question is, whether new unexpected meanings can be generated in these contexts and whether the divergence from conventional critical/historical presentations can throw new light on the nature of artefacts and their meanings. I accept the historical aspect of everything we do - but maybe what is most valuable about art is its non-historical qualities (not necessarily universal qualities)...those aspects which allow the work to have a different resonance at different times and places.

Peter Zumthor’s building itself does not leave one indifferent. Here are a few images I took, the perforations in the exterior walls, the zigzag walkway, a display of relics, shadows on the floor made by a display case and some trees in an exterior area:



Off to Köln for a few days tomorrow. Hope to report from there and post some images of the ALPHA group show. In the meantime, two fragments...an image taken the other day: an older painting (slightly reworked) and a very new painting (reds and magenta)...


New paintings...

A group of new paintings is slowly emerging from a difficult, introverted and distracted couple of months. Paintings which are made of small components and elements but which (hopefully) fuse together as one entity. Each painting projected as a unified whole...