Retrospective – The Fauves

So what happened next?

I was introduced to the Fauves, the ‘wild beasts’.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, after Impressionism, Monet, Renoir, Post-Impressionism, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, French art was faced with an exhibition that took the concepts dreamt up by those two previous movements and artists and took them one step further. This was the time of Matisse.

Now, I don’t like Matisse. I see no logic or form in his work that makes any sense to me. Fortunately our project for class was to paint some Australian trees in the Fauvist style. I can handle Australian trees, I love Australian trees.

What I couldn’t handle was the style.

We were instructed to use colour in ways we hadn’t used it before. To play with it, to use purple instead of greens, oranges instead of blues, our imaginations were our only limits. Take those trees and colour them Fauve.

I had no idea what I was doing.

To give myself a little bit of credit, I did have a few distracting things going on in my life outside the studio at the time, but this concept of random colour just threw me.

You see, for me, colour in a painting has logic. Tone and value assign form to the subject. There are rules that govern how colours are used to make that form, how colours interact with each other and work together or against. This seemingly random assignment of colour left me with no structure to build my work on. I can’t indiscriminantly throw colour onto the canvas and expect it to render a subject. There still needed to be some logic in there, but I couldn’t find it, so I got lost.

But despite my lack of confidence, I had to paint the painting so I started with something I could work with, slightly off the assignment, but a place to start nonetheless. I assigned colours to places in the painting that would normally have a different colour but a colour of the same value. By doing this I could render a tree, for example, in reds and purples instead of greens and browns, and still give it dimension and perspective. This is what I came up with…

Fauve WIP1

The sky was originally bright blue and the underpainting was a slapdash affair thrown down with the encouragement to just get the paint down (in other words, I tried to be a little outlandish, but reverted on the second layer to my more realist instincts).

At this point there was much angst about how it wasn’t working. I liked the creek, because, hey, score, made water look like water, but I was still having trouble with assigning colour. Nothing seemed to be working and everything was orange.

So took a different bent the next class and came up with this…

Fauve trees WIP2

Weird is the word for that one. I do like the rocks on the creek, they’ve softened up, but due to the lack of logic in the colouring system, I don’t think it works and I’ll probably line it up for a sanding back, a re-gesso and use the canvas for another painting.

So, here you have it, a total dud. But all was not lost. The next project was on similar lines and I mangled it similarly, but it seems a mangling can be good for the soul…and the painting style.

More tomorrow…

Best wishes,