Lectures, Presentations and Exhibition Walkthroughs
He Left A Paper Trail: Core Matter, Subject Matter and Object Matter
Studio Practice: Developing Ideas
Drawing: Looking At Masters
SUUM CUIQUE VENENUM • To Each His Own Poison
Filmed, edited and produced by Anna Lancaster • Butler Center for Arkansas Studies • Central Arkansas Library System, September 2, 2015. Additional film clips by Doubletroublets Productions • Post-production by David Bailin and Warren Criswell, March 2016.
Robert Ashley • 1930-2014 Back in 1984 I completed my master's thesis Robert Ashley's Atalanta (Acts of God): The Architecture of Perception. I spent many hours interviewing Robert Ashley and was saddened by his death this March 2014. I have decided to post several articles I wrote on his opera for television as a memorial to his work and his music. Click on the images to view the writings.
David Bailin • San Francisco Symphony Notes • November 1983
David Bailin • Formations • volume 2, number 1 • Spring 1985
David Bailin • Master's Thesis • Spring 1984
Ashley image from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/10716244/Robert-Ashley-That-rare-thing-a-great-American-opera-composer.html Album cover detail from http://www.lovely.com
An artist friend of mind mentioned that as artists we really paint the same painting over and over again. Subject and Object matter may change but the Core matter does not. Patterns of work, approach, organization, and deep themes appear over and over again. As much as we think we make progress, the progress is a fog of technical mastery and emotional depth. What makes us artists, what drives us to spend hours in the studio, what brings us to manic highs and depressive lows? Warren Criswell calls it our addiction–the art drug. The art drug results in the high we get when we complete a solid piece of work. Its the low we experience after a show is hung. It is the ever increasing need for storage and money for supplies. But that’s just the psychological and physical affects of the art habit. The real frustration of art isn’t the work per se. After a while, we can forget about technical issues. We can push the material to do what we want and get what we want. The real frustration of art is the realization that all of our previous work is past and moribund and that every thing we make will come from that pile of past work.
I was looking over paintings I had made in 1972. Typical student work: attempting to make something original by negating every thing I had learned about good painting and combining two disparate styles: Clifford Still and Phillip Guston.
But what struck me was how close those paintings looked and felt to my current thumbnails. The same self-enclosed stories, the diagrammatic elements of the work and the space between each idea or impulse. This was an aesthetic epiphany. As artists, we change the subject matter (the story) and the object matter (the elements) but we can’t change the core matter– the indescribable and intangible chemical, electrical, biological makeup of our psyche -the conglomeration of memories and emotions that require expression.
We may never come to grasp or even understand what that core is but it remains stubbornly fixed and reinforced throughout our lives. The frustration, therefore, is how important that core is to creating our subject matter and how insignificant our subject matter is to expressing it. The art drug is the need, the compulsion, to express the core through our work so well and completely so as never to have to experience it again.