I’ve just returned from organising another painting trip in Auribeau sur Siagne for members of the beginners art classes I organise here in Bristol. I haven’t pushed them very heavily this year because I thought people would be just too skint so it was a nice suprise to find that there was sufficient interest from people who’d been on the previous trips to justify running another one anyway.
I was even able to do a bit of painting myself this time. I’d imagined that a lot of people down here would be so used to seeing people paint that I could slip by pretty much unnoticed but actually the locals were very friendly and interested to see what I was doing not at all bored with the cliche of somebody sitting down and trying to pain their beautiful landscape.
The Jim Dine exhibition was a nice suprise. Although he’s a big name, as big as somebody like Raushenburg really, it’s hard to see any of his big works in the U.K..   It was held at the gallery in Guy Pieters gallery in St Paul de Vence, a kind of commerical exhibition space but with a friendly museum type ethos. They were very happy when asked to let me take some photos of the exhibits.
Jim Dine belongs to a generation of artists  (Jasper Johns, Raushenburg and Claes Oldenburg were others) that could be classified as pop artists because of their interest in day to day mass produced objects even though they still used the painterly surfaces of the Abstract Expressionists.    A motif that he has been using for some time now is that of a a bathrobe based on a Life magazine photograph.  The show in St Paul de Vence has some nice examples. During the seventies he moved to the United Kingdom and embarked on an intensive programme of life drawing using charcoal, again quite radical for an artist from his background. They remind me of similar things by R.B. Kitaj albeit not as good technically.(I always felt that Kitaj was influenced by him) Some of them were erased so vigorously that he’d go through the paper which he’d  remedy by sticking more paper over the top before continuing working.  When I was at art college during the Eighties large scale charcoal drawings done on Arches paper a la Dine were quite the thing.
I’ve always liked Dine for the personal threads in his work. It’s hard to imagine an artist such as Jasper Johns using montages of tools in his pictures because they reminded him of his fathers commercial paint store and his grandfather’s hardware store let alone undergoing analysis three times.  His inclusion of still-lifey elements such as pot plants, flowers, skulls and teapot against a broadly painted background make his work seem odly intimate compared to the bombast in a painter such as Raushenburg.
He’s also a true multimedia artist whose oeuvre includes ceramics, sculpture, poetry and photography as well as painting.
For someone who has made drawing such a prominent part of his practice I do find myself wishing he could draw just a teensy weensy bit better than he does but hey, some of Cezanne’s drawing isn’t exactly brilliant.  I’d still rather have a Dine skull than a Damian Hurst one.