Monday, July 30, 2018

Busy Paintings from the Nineteen Eighties

Ken Kiff
Triptych: Shadows
acrylic paint, oil paint and pastel on board
Tate Gallery

George Warner Allen
The Return from Cythera
oil paint and tempera on canvas
Tate Gallery

Gillian Ayres
Antony and Cleopatra
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Derrick Greaves
Falling I
1984-85, 1992-93
oil paint and acrylic paint and paper on canvas
Tate Gallery


My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time

he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk to me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

– W.S. Merwin, from Opening the Hand (Atheneum, 1983)

Anselm Kiefer
Urd, Verdandi, Skuld (The Norns)
oil paint, shellac, emulsion and fibre on canvas
Tate Gallery

Anselm Kiefer
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Bridget Riley
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

John McLean
acrylic paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

R.B. Kitaj
Cecil Court, London, W.C. 2 (The Refugees)
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

R.B. Kitaj
The Wedding
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Howard Hodgkin
oil paint on panel
Tate Gallery


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how you can ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

– W.S. Merwin, from Opening the Hand (Atheneum, 1983)

John Hoyland
Gadal 10.11.86
acrylic paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Rita Donagh
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Georg Baselitz
Folkdance Melancholia
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery