Remember me on this computer
Hillel Kagan
About this artwork
Title
Swirling Figure I
Materials
oil on canvas
Dimensions
h.30cm w.28cm d.0cm
Completed
Feb 2003
Artist

Hillel's Description: Here's That ass I told you about.

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Comments
JP

This one took me by surprise - like a leap into abstraction - it seemed exciting, a progression into an unknown. Did you follow-up on this tendency to see where it led, or am I completely off-track in my musing?

Hillel

Actually JP, if there's any tension in my work at all and I hope there is, it comes from that very conflict of resolving the figaritive with the abstract. I think all art, at least good art is an abstraction. You're right though, sometimes my work, especially the larger ones tighten up way too much for my liking and I paint myself into a corner. That's when I throw my brushes down in despair and run howling and screaming to the nearest liquor store. It's much easier to keep things loose and open in these smaller format paintings where I haven't presented too many hurdles for myself.

JP

Ha-ha I've just now seen that other circular painting of yours, and read your initial comment on how they came about. It makes what I've said above more than a little dumb.

Dumb or not, I'd be very interested to see more exploration in this direction (of abstraction, or her ass - the choice is yours).

JP

Would it make any sense to suggest dump all that figurative baggage (that you're so good at) and just resolve paint on canvas without the tricks? Sometimes I look at artist's work and think talent can turn out to be the worst enemy. I wouldn't have considered that in your case until I saw this painting. My first reaction was wow!
I'm not sure why but I thought to myself this guy's going after something more, beyond, a search for freedom.
Melodramatic huh?

JP

...thought I'd better add this - I don't think abstract work equals liberation. For example, the celebrated "switch" from abstract to figurative by Philip Guston was again about a search for a truth. It went against the NY artworld tendency at the time, but it worked for him.

Hillel

Thanks for the comments J.P. When I get a chance I'll post some of my earlier, more abstract stuff. The funny thing is beneath the surface of them there's all this very resolved imagery that drove me nuts. I guess we all have to follow our own paths. I've tried pure abstraction but it doesn't sustain my interest. Funny you should mention Guston though, because it is all about freedom. He stopped doing his sophisticated abstract impressionist thing and went back to the imagery he loved. It shook up the artworld but you can sense the fun he had doing it and he was an old man. It's the little Gustonesque things I sometimes get that keeps me going.

JP

...yep, and Bacon, Chagall , Fra Angelico (I'd cite for the color) Boccioni, Hopper, and American 50's advertising, amongst others. I'd certainly hate to be the Toronto art critic whose job it is to find your influences. It's just so difficult to pin you down.
There is a definite something "on the edge" about the work, it doesn't allow me relax, but insists on it's own path that's really a tightrope walk. A balancing act between poles? If so, I think the poles of figuration and abstraction is a little too simplistic an argument in this day and age
So just what is this high-wire act you're doing all about, mister Kagan?

Hillel

Wow! My work really seems to open some raw nerve in you. I let those earlier remarks about "figurative baggage", tricks, talent etc. go before because I preferred to think you weren't trying to goad me deliberately but I guess you've forced me to respond. Firstly, thanks for the illustriative company you've put me in. I really don't consider myself worthy. Besides for Bacon with whom the comparison has come up before, the others, although I admire them have had little to do with my growth, if any, as an artist. As for Bacon, I actually was trying to copy Diebenkorn's figurative works in my early paintings but they came out Baconesque. I think it's my rythmic approach to drawing that I developed since student days when I was, compared to my peers, probably amongst the least "talented" guy around. I don't believe in talent either. There is not a one of the "talented" ones I went to school with that are still doing this shit. I've never waivered from my devotion to Cezanne and then Giocometti as my real heroes and inspiration. The innocent eye combined with an ever growing ability to measure from one's inner clock (not that rigid Limey art school plumb line kind of measuring). That for me is where a never-ending supply of new forms and configurations can be discovered. And when and if I can obtain that ability to measure completely unconsciously that's where freedom lies.

Maria

Dear friends, do you really believe there is such a thing as an innocent eye? I am currious.

Hillel

I say "innocent" in the sense of trying to eliminate the mind from the seeing process. The mind has the experience of what a thing is like. It is possible to see just the abstract forms and shapes and to make yourself forget about what the mind knows or remembers. What is a nose? What is an eye ? If you can just see in the abstract you can get closer to the reality. So in that sense I agree the process itself is not really "innocent" as in naive or unknowing. Also in the end you do look at finished work from the perspective of your own sensibilities, the forming of which was definitely not an innocent process.

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