Studio – Hans Heiner Buhr

On the Studio

I think I dream, as every artist often does, of the perfect studio. The place outside of the noisy world, the place to be alone with your crap art, the place with the changing day light, with the huge ceilings, where you can wander around and think and listen to your favorite music. Listen to Rakhmaninov, to Rammstein or the Art of Noise. That perfect place should be somewhat hidden with only a few chosen people and friends that know where it is. They can come by without any notification and bring a bottle of wine as a rule. Those were the times in East Germany, when phone land lines were mostly broken and cell phones not yet invented. You would stop by the studio of your friend, teacher, or master, wondering if he might be there, and if he would be free for a nice afternoon talk. If he wasn’t there you’d leave a postcard as a message at the closed door, and maybe after a few weeks, you’d get a postcard back as an answer or not.

I still plan to build the perfect studio for myself, because most studios are really not very perfect: too small, often too dark, too expensive happens as well, bad neighbors, bad smells or just a place with a bad karma. Now, half a year ago by chance, I started to rent a nice space that is right in the center of Tbilisi in Georgia. I look down from the studio’s windows to the entrance of the National Bank. I don’t think the banksters down there have any need for art, and I can not imagine what the banksters would make of me watching them from my studio up here. It is very noisy most of the day because of an important crossroad below, and it is difficult to bear the hot temperatures. I do my best paintings in a cold studio at Wintertimes. I try not to drink Alcohol, but tea.

I share the 4 or 5 rooms with another artist who is living there, Nugzari Natenadze. He has a free, pure, and poor life in that studio. He borrows my paint and brushes sometimes, which I hate, but he is laughing at this life and he loves me and my works. One time he brought two kilos of bacon fat from his village in Western Georgia to eat, and after a while, it started to rot and made the whole space unbearable to me. I got so sick from that smell that I could not work there anymore for a while.

A good studio should have a good light. Most artists prefer Northern light as the one that is the smoothest and less changing during the daytime. Often that wish for perfect light is a pure luxury, and the situation needs to be improved somehow. Light is central to color and form, and a bad light can be the reason for a bad work. Not always. Even worse is a light too bright, like a full Summer sun light, which can kill every mood for painting.

My “best” studios often had been those places where I was living and working together, and by far the best, was the Villa Marie in Dresden at the foot of the Blue Wonder Bridge over the river Elbe. More important than the light, the heating, or the size of the space is for me an inspiring view from the windows. When looking out of my window from that studio I saw young women on their horses galloping over the meadows along the Elbe. One day I called to the most beautiful rider. She was tall with long hair and she had a quick wit. She came to my studio to model, and over a glass of sweet wine, I painted her classy profile.

A good studio of course must have a big comfortable sofa for the models and it must be in general a beautiful space to make us happy. Only a free and happy heart can make a good work, don’t you think so? When I was poor and young, 25 years ago, I dreamed of an ATM in my studio that would spit out 25 bucks a day to keep the money problems from my painting day. But those poor days were also lucky days and I get nostalgic when my fingers glide over the paint drubbles of my early works.

I have a small office, located on a so-called Italian balcony in Old Tbilisi. I can see from the balcony eight old Georgian and Armenian churches. Some of them had been destroyed by Tamerlane in the 14th century, and then twice more in the next century. In my so-called ‘office‘ I do my daily Email and Computer “Art” work, I optimize my images, make digital collages, animated gif’s, upload to Youtube and follow the newest creations in the world of the Internet. I am actually in this space more often, than in my studio, so I also paint here, or rearrange works of my collection on my walls. I get many good ideas for my art here, but the realization in paint is on another page.

I think from time to time it is important to make an exhausting work session of 2 – 3 days straight in the studio. I haven’t done that in a while, and I miss it; completely ignoring time and space, being just a slave of your art, sleeping in a dirty corner or on your sofa, getting hungry and ignoring it. And making some really huge steps forward in your art, attacking the Unknown, the Hinterland, the real Niemandsland. Also to get loose, to throw away your vanities, fears, and the arty fuck ghosts, to let your inner freedom join your best talent and vision.

Then your friends coming by, joking and bringing you back to reality.

Keeping your independance with a studio is probably even much more essential. If you’re lucky to have your own family they can really give the artist lots of love and support, but a family also takes time away … and energy and faith. They pull you back to the real life and money track. The studio allows me to be alone or to invite models and keep a distance between art and life.

My son in my studio, 2004

A friend came over to model

Back in Georgia again in 2010, I tend to think that the studio space is less important, making many of my best works sometimes under the free sky in open air. The studio is usually where the artist makes his work. Another good place is this open balcony in Eastern Georgia, happily looking out at the ripe wine grapes.

With a Mediterranean climate there is often not a need for a studio, as long as you have a way to transport your various paints and canvases from one place to the other. We often drive from the capital Tbilisi to various places in the country side. Here you see us working in our Eastern Georgia hide out, at the Art Villa Pona Khechili’s balcony. There is almost no way to spend any money, again a good situation to get hungry for art.

Shall we paint a landscape, or from our inner landscape ? The world – our studio ?

Landscape in Eastern Georgia, Kakheti region, Caucasus

This post was edited by Henri. “On my studios” – the unedited original version is online here: http://heinerbuhr.de/on-my-studios.htm

Hans is an artist, theorist and painter living in Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. For more information about Hans you can check in at the Art Club Caucasus, Heiner Blogspot, or on Facebook. Hans also has published a new book about his work entitled The Horse Thief from Sayat-Nova-Street.

Studio – New Series

The new gallery season has started here in New York, kicked off with quite a bit of fanfare. But the truth behind the big show is that things do not look that much different from the way they did last season, or the season before, or the decade before, if you like. Big money is making sure that everything stays the same, and the galleries continue to suck up to the prevailing tastes. Cracking the monthly nut of rent, salaries and expenses keeps everyone in check. Aesthetic change is slow to show itself, if it shows itself at all these days. As for me, well, I’ll be frank, I’m exhausted from the sameness of what I’m seeing. Crickey mate, even Jonathan Jones is re-thinking his dismissal of Damien Hirst mainly because of Hirst’s recent financial “set-backs.” I feel like I’m trapped in a Ground Hog Day. So I turn to my studio and deliberately work to be different, to build on what I’ve made already, to deepen what I see.

I’m not the only one of course. There are many artists, everywhere, working diligently, pushing into their own visions. I wanted to have a look at that sort of commitment, and find out what drives others into their studios, how they come to see themselves in those spaces, how and why they make their work there. All of the artists in this series have bravery and dedication to their artistic lives that I believe to be be both honorable and commendable. What I found interesting in reading their blogs and seeing their work posted in progress was their growing understanding of what they were trying to accomplish and how they were going about it, the sacrifices and choices they were making – not only in their works, but in their lives. It takes guts my friends. They are a far flung bunch of aesthetes working, seeing, thinking and living in their studios as artists, theorists and human beings. I know you’ll enjoy what they have to say and what they show us of their lives.

Studio begins…

reality_more intimate

“Some think that so much of today’s art mirrors and thus criticizes decadence; not so. It’s just decadent, full stop. It serves no critical function. It is part of the problem. The Art World dutifully copies our money driven, celebrity obsessed, entertainment culture. The same fixation on fame, the same obedience to mass media that jostles for our attention with its noise and wow and flutter… If Art can’t tell us about the world we live in, then I don’t believe there’s much point in having it. And that is something we’re going to have to face more and more as the years go on. That nasty question that never used to be asked because the assumption was always that it was answered long ago – What good is Art? What use is Art? What does it do? Is it worth actually doing? And Art, that is completely moneterized in the way it’s getting these days, is going to have to answer these questions, or it’s going to die.” Robert Hughes The Mona Lisa Curse

The Ecstasy of Touch

Bernini placed a golden arrow in the hands of a laughing cherub standing over a woman lost in her own ecstasy. It’s truly a perverse spectacle, incomprehensible really; a Baroque metastasis spilling into a Roman church, carved during the years when any deviation from doctrine could lead one to the stake. But at certain moments in one’s life anything and everything must be possible – even if it leads to the stake. Dave Hickey described that moment of realization best – “getting young,” he called it. Bernini was middle aged, out of favor, and looking for some grand challenge to begin an aesthetic redemption. In other words he had nothing to lose. The striking thing, even though Theresa is awash in those lovingly carved flowing robes, is the pure physical presence of her body undulating beneath. We can see her torso moving toward that spear, feel her limbs overcome by the heat of the moment, her hands and feet alive and otherworldly. It’s amazing to think that these textures of soft flesh, rough materials, flowing hair and glistening sweat, are all carved from marble – hammered, chiseled and polished. To see life, to feel it, and then translate it in this way is phenomenal. Unfortunately, this sort of vision comes from a kind of visual intimacy and fleshy passion that we don’t seem to be able to create or experience in Art any more.

In our Postmodern world we are adept at replicating convincing forms of media realism and abstraction. We understand and expect the illusions of the lens and we have grown complacent to the realities that they affirm. Look no further than our televisual world and soon you’ll believe that you too can walk 16 feet up a wall and kick a villain in the head. We have become smugly convinced that we live in this world without illusions, hard realists of binary data that we are. But in the 17th Century illusion was never the reality. Illusion could be used to screw with the idea of “reality” in such a heated way that these visionary frictions threatened to burn down the very foundations of accepted and comfortable society. For instance, when Caravaggio’s dead virgin was first shown to the Carmelites who had commissioned the painting, they were genuinely disturbed by the new “realism” that confronted them – never mind the pointed rumors made up by his jealous enemies that the model for the virgin was actually a dead prostitute. Caravaggio had succeeded in portraying a new visual reality, and the church quickly retreated. They were afraid of the implications of what Caravaggio’s reality might mean to their carefully crafted worldview. It was dangerous. This sublime painting was rejected.

For both of these artists with nothing to lose, illusion, reality and vision are connected through truly intimate, physical moments. The work is grounded by visual touch. How to explain? The eye moves over things, around things, into things, under things. Hard sight pushes into corners, it loses it’s way, it pulls back, tries again. It feels the cloth, either rough or smooth, it strokes the skin, it feels the warmth of the light, it shapes the dark. There can be immense pleasure in watching a shadow move across a form or clocking the changing light in a room; colors heat up or cool down, hues harden or melt, values ebb and flow. All of this “play” is how one sees – drawing on one’s intimate memories and experiences to involve one’s senses in the vision before one. Both of these artists understood these kinds of connections between vision and paint, the hand moving as the eye guides, memory playing through the forms, hues and values. Am I speaking of realism? Absolutely not. I am speaking of reality. The intimate connection between what one sees, what one understands, what one feels, and what one fashions. This kind of connection is raw, full, thick and alive. This is what used to be called touch.

Today, we have televisually recorded, paid-in-full, un-ironic sex with our collectors. And after you get into bed with the “money” well, the idea of visual touch is pretty much a non-issue. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are still a number of artists adamant about the idea of “touch” in their work, but it really doesn’t have quite the visual impact it used to have among artists. Touch when applied without vision is retrograde, reactionary, dissolute, and passe. It is a mannerism. In reality touch has become a euphemism for any engagement on the surface/screen of the program. It’s become part of the digitization of our senses, a marketing gimmick for products of all kind, whether on a hand held computer or the walls of a Chelsea gallery. We are quickly finding that our sensual existence is being truncated, boxed and stored – seeing into scanning, touching into tapping. We type on our keyboards, we tap the touch screens or we click the mouse to open “things,” to grab and manipulate “things.” Touch no longer moves around the surfaces of the things in our world. We don’t mold or feel or stroke or grasp things. We don’t indulge in the opulence and sensuousness of the 3rd dimension. We’ve replaced physical touch with an algorithm, an equation of approximation of what touch might be. And in doing so we have become blind to the thickness of things, we have cut the tactile connection to our physical memories. We can’t imagine how far back the darkness goes, how that warm light feels on the cool skin or how deep that golden arrow might plunge, how perverse and erotic that spasm might feel. For most Postmodernists, this sort of intimacy is always second hand. It has become impossible to stand in front of Theresa and say, “…Well, if that’s divine love, I know all about it.”

Unlike the gasping and shuddering Theresa, we refuse to directly perceive that our passionate existence is tied to a visual understanding and an ecstatic touch. As Postmoderns we don’t find pleasure in the direct experience of life. It is too messy, too unwieldy, too inconsistent, too upsetting. We prefer a mediated experience, and we have become adept at replicating the effects of things, the optics of things. We build machines and design programs to approximate the effects of fleshy intimacies. It is far easier to control the ground than to confront the subject, the other. The idea of “touch” or “sight” has been sealed into the lens/program and it’s projected on the surface of our screens. De Kooning’s scrapes and smears or Pollock’s drips and flows look unsophisticated, distant and naive when we confront them in person. They don’t have the sheen of projected light or the slickness of our touch screens. These primary things, these lived moments, these fleshy memories, no matter how we might try to re-live them as appropriations or replications, will never grip us like the first hand experience of reality. They will never transform into lived experience, never stretch us as artists. Touch, visual touch, was always specific, encompassing and real before the mannerisms and ironies. Today that very same idea of touch has been emptied out, become nothing more than a technique, a found object for use in a programmed commercial enterprise.

“We are our own Devil”

Georgina found ecstacy… not necessarily in the arms of her on screen lovers, but through the view of the lens. She was/is enflamed by her own image appearing on the screen, the otherness of her projected existence, and the “reality” of her electronic ephemerality. It excites her, it frees her, and with her absolute physical belief in this dissociative communion, she leads us directly into the Superflat reality of her ecstasy. Georgina is not experiencing otherworldly bliss like Bernini’s Theresa. She is performing it for the lens, she is channeling, broadcasting her ecstasy in order to find herself in the program. She is never, really, out of control, never quite in touch. Georgina is our Saint Theresa, pierced over and over again, not with the sharpness of a golden arrow, but through and through with the blunt all-seeing lens. I began this reality series with Georgina because she was/is “real” in ways that we all are real these days, as Theresa was in hers. Georgina is our patron saint.

60 years later after the ascendence of Abstract Expressionism and “American-type Painting” we are Postmoderns one and all. Modernism and it’s legacy has been so thoroughly debased and absorbed into the popular artistic lexicon, that most all of its former aesthetic and theoretical power is now nothing more than a discredited entertainment. To put it in Greenberg’s words – Modernism, in this time, our time, is nothing but absolute Kitsch, a wasted and failed legacy. Postmodernism continues to cannibalize this debunked history, diminishing its faded meanings with each conceptual contextual permutation while creating its own legacy of decadent ersatz art. The realities of painting and vision are changing once again, and Warhol’s machine can no longer dispense a convincing reality. It is time to imagine our own Theresa, to give ourselves up to a grinning angel. Some of us are no longer able to BE Postmodernists. We can no longer paint like Postmoderns. We can no longer think like Postmoderns. WE don’t want retro thought or rear guard aesthetics – we want to see in new ways, beyond the Modern, the Postmodern, beyond the narrow confines of our art history. It has come time to risk our own visual lives, to risk the stake, just as Delacroix, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Bernini did when they faced Robert Hughes’ “nasty question.” It is time to “get young.”

This is the end of reality…

Quick, Dirty and Newsy

OK, the waves are rising and some Friends of Henri have decided to surf along with the tsunami of openings!
So here’s the quick and dirty scoop:

Mario Naves, artist and critic, is having a show of new work at Elizabeth Harris Gallery opening on September 9.

Jackie Saccoccio opens a new show with Jeffrey Gibson at Samson Projects in Boston.

Mark Wiener is in a group show entitled Mystery Tour at Tompkins Square Gallery opening on the September 11th.
PLUS: Mark and Linda DiGusta, editors of Resolve40 Art Magazine, have an article posted in the Huffington Post about the “art phenom” that is Governor’s Island!

Enjoy the new Season and best of luck to everyone!

addendum:

I can’t compliment enough the recent criticism by Christian Viveros-Fauné in the Village Voice – tough, in-your-face, and razor sharp. The recent article on Warhol’s late work now on show at the Brooklyn Museum is superlative.

“What the faithful extolled then has become art-world catechism today. There’s Warhol’s forgiving celebration of superficiality as “the most brilliant mirror of our times,” his conflation of radical and blue-chip art, and the rock-sure faith in his escalating prices. Put in strictly Catholic terms, that is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of the Warhol cult. It’s enough to make one wish out loud for a glimpse of Martin Luther.”

Bracing!