Struck By the Artist’s Words (As Much As the Work?)

Wow. It took me awhile to figure out what I was going to say about the recent John Sargent III show that I saw with a friend of mine at the Tregoning Gallery. In case you were wondering, 1) Yes, Sargent is grandson to THE John Singer Sargent and 2) Yes, the Sargent show coincided with the Pekoc show that I wrote about yesterday.

Sargent’s talent is clear, but I was struck moreso about what he had to say verbally (not only orally, in person, but in text in the xeroxed-program guide/handout, of all things). I kept chiding myself that maybe I couldn’t get all that he had written in his “world view” two-pager by staring at his paintings. It’s obvious that anytime you are able to talk with the artist through his exhibit, you get a much richer view. But how about if his written or spoken thoughts/views/ideas are so compelling that they move you… maybe even moreso than his canvas? This is really odd to say, coming from me, a very visual person (I draw Venn diagrams ALL the time, about anything and everything… at first work-related, it has infiltrated my daily to-do lists).

Perhaps all of this means that he’s a really great writer, and that there’s poetry in his words as well as his art. I once went through life thinking that some artists need/use art as the vehicle to better convey their thoughts. But Sargent is just as gifted writing it all out on two pieces of plain white paper stapled together. Well, at least enough to move me (the visually challenged one? now I’m starting to get a complex!). 

Here are some of Sargent’s pearls of wisdom:

  • “When I began painting, it was enough to create a likeness. Today that is the least of my concerns. A painting must now stand on its own and speak for itself.”
  • “A finished painting… has a visual voice.”
  • “These recent paintings are emerging conversations. They are not conclusions. Ask me today, and I will say what I have to say. In a month, in a year, it will all change.” (This is something I struggle with. I always set my goal and figure out the dots to connect to get there.)
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