Cezanne said " What art needs is to re-do Poussin over again after nature.” There is something both nostalgic and unsentimental in that: he was yearning for permanence that could affirm his intuitive sensations, even as the values that had sustained permanence seemed to be evaporating around him.
No moment, of course, can ever be held on to. Something always has to give. But the genius of the whole thing was that painters’ relentlessness in holding on, regardless, had always been framed by a shared Westphalian narrative, which had allowed both the modern world and immutable beauty to be suspended, without irony, in a delicate, artificial harmony for 250 years. For Cezanne and the modernists who followed, that holding on continued to be worthy of affirming.
In these paintings, my “nature” is to see almost everything as an artificial reference: a certain sky is more Corot or Freilicher, sunsets are often Claudes, winter trees in front of buildings have the texture of Pissarro or a brown that is scumbled over a white like in a Kossoff.
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