Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In praise of: Frank Auerbach

Via Paul Litterick, this terrific interview in the FT with my favourite living English painter. He is 81 and has a show of new work on next week in London. Quote unquote:
“I’ve never been moved by a real landscape as I have by paintings of landscape. It’s because every moment is transmitted by human will that we identify ourselves with it. In a painting you re-experience what the painter experienced, one brushstroke over another, it’s like a perpetuum mobile. A photograph is just pixels.”
I have three late-1970s paintings by James Ross that look a bit like Auerbachs: a small self-portrait; a small portrait of his wife, Gretchen Albrecht; and a massive landscape 1.2m square that weighs a ton. The paint in all three is up to a centimetre thick in places. I love them to bits, and remember clearly the impact the portraits had on me when I saw them in a show at Peter McLeavey’s in 1979 – they had the same impact on me as the first McCahon, Hotere and Hanly shows I saw when I discovered NZ art as a student. I have never dared ask James if Auerbach was an influence. Wystan Curnow writes well about some later work here; the most recent work I can find online is here, from a show in Wellington in July this year.

The best source of information on Auerbach is – quelle surprise – Robert Hughes. His monograph Frank Auerbach (Thames & Hudson, 1990) is brilliant, one of the great art books, up there with Richardson on Picasso and Spurling on Matisse. The paperback is now $US280 on Amazon and the hardback is $US345. I’m glad I bought it when I did. 

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