Monday, December 6, 2010

on Art and Artists

A few days ago, I came upon a book written by the artist Raymond Mason (1922-2010) "At Work in Paris: on Art and Artists." The painter who became a sculptor was born in England and lived in France for most of his productive life.

In this book, Mason talks about artists he met, interacted with, admired ...or not. The final product is a great medley of characters from Giacometti to Balthus, along with Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse and more, also the Who's Who of the time, including art collectors, gallery owners and art critics. The book is a candid report of daily, sometimes mundane conversations, in-depth analysis of the works from artists like Rodin, Giotto, Jacques-Louis David, also here and there texts related to Mason's works, written for exhibitions catalogues.

Several chapters are dedicated to Giacometti. Mason had great respect for the artist, 20 years older, who he considered one of his masters. His writings make us also appreciate the man, modest, generous with others, detached from daily preoccupations and money, driven by his work.

The notes related to Balthus are enlightening for me, I never understood the artist. Mason states that his first meeting with Balthus changed his life and he recognized "the second pillar, with Giacometti, on which a new art of the figure and the figurative world could be built."

Dubuffet is described as heartless, Picasso cruel and superficial, Cartier-Bresson optimistic...

One day, Giacometti interrupted Mason: "You are just a mondain."
A few photographs of the works from Mason made me reflect about the writer...His work appears populist and he was trying to be understood and appreciated by all viewers, regardless of their backgrounds. The sculptor is a great critic of other artists but has little insight about his own productions. At some point he compares his works with Giotto's.

Mason was not afraid and made his opinions known, discarded Minimalism and embraced figurative art reintroducing colors to sculptures.

The book is entertaining, it starts like a biography, but very quickly becomes a succession of sometimes disconnected short chapters. The author knows how to sprinkle some humour and makes us reflect about art.

"La Foule Illuminee" Andre Mason

"Girl at a Window" Balthus

"Walking Man II" Alberto Giacometti

"The Departure of Fruit and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris, 28 February 1969" (1969-1971) Andre Mason

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