Sunday, August 12, 2012

Geneve Journal: 2 Views

There are 13 days remaining in my Geneve Journal Kickstarter campaign.  

Iconic views of Geneva feature the Jet d'Eau and smart buildings on the bord du lac with the Prealpine Salève rising in the background. 
However, the vista that registers most prominently in my memory of Geneva is that of the Rue de la Cité as it descends in a bend from the vieille ville and essentially terminates in an area where Lac Leman transforms into the Rhone. 
None photos I snapped of it offer a clue to the many visions it provided me on occasion.

The first time an image of the street appears in my sketchbook is on June 19, 1992.   
From my sketchbook, June 19, 1992
From my journal in early Aug, 1992
The view portends a spiral.  An in the memory of my experience, it exists as one - or at least the tail of one. It retracts in an inviting way, like the opening of a  conch shell.  Like a conch shell, too, there's a uniformity to this vessel's walls - marked as they are with the various architectural details and portals of the cheek-by-jowl buildings.  But there's always the question of what alteration may lie in wait just beyond that bend. I have the recollection of an amazing effect of light radiating from the source within.  At other times, the lighting scheme would be reverse, drawing one's eye in, gradually darkening out of sight behind at that fold.  
Nabokov said "The spiral is a spritualized circle..."  In reality, this street is not a spiral, it doesn't really bend that much, save for that portion just at its mouth.  With the aid of Google maps, an overhead vantage gives a truer notion of the street's posture.  There's just a bit less poetry from that perspective, though.  As I'm writing this I'm inventing? or recalling? memories of making the descent along the street, and my memory traces the truth of that satellite image.  
But the bend is the thing and it is what has lodged itself into my experience-memory.  The striking vantage point, as I remember is from across the river where the streets begin to rise again.  I believe that is where I saw the burning bush luminance from that bend which I subsequently tried to render on paper...unsuccessfuly, in a series of reductive attempts at drawing out the vision from memory once I was back in the states.  Thinking of that fleeting ghost image now has set its embers aglow just a bit. 
sketchbook:  July 21, 1992

sketchbook:  Aug 6, 1992

I was consciously transfixed by this street.  I know there exist other drawings that continue the direction of the one above in compressing the vision of the thoroughfare.  
Engraving, dated Aug 21, 1992
The engraving above, one of two done on copper sheets given to me by the artist Henre Presset  and which I printed on the press in his studio is based on the fountain that sits at the base of the Rue de la Cite.
The lure of this rue was such that I approached it as a recurring motif for drawings in a way I hadn't done before.  As mentioned above, this was an exercise - one of my first in reducing a single subject to a singular primary element.  Of the the handful of drawings I remember doing, I've only found two remaining within my cache.  If I can't remember if these were done in Geneva, or back in Colorado...I'm now thinking they were done in GE.

But there's another view of Geneva that, as evidenced by the even more numerous interpretations throughout my sketchbooks and loose works, probably had an even more subterranean presence in my consciousness.  It's this view that I chose to be the "title" image for the Kickstarter project...(link added again here for your pledging convenience.)  It's the view of the interior of a block on Rue du Montchoisy, as seen through the kitchen window of what turned out to be a main home base while in Geneva. 
from the kitchen
The musician and, at the time, violin teacher of Mathias Aubert, Klaus Maurer offered his place to me while he was traveling.  I spent many a moment sitting at the kitchen table, making entire meals out of a baguette slathered with that damn good butter and strawberry jam - or eating spaghetti with ketchup as was the habit of the native young folk I encountered,  with this image projected through the window 

Going through my sketchbook, journal and various works from that time recently, I was a bit surprised to see how much this scene was quite obviously resting firmly in my mind and my eye. 

The gaze of these works is trained on the distant horizon beyond the roof tops. None look down into the courtyard below - of which I have a memory, but no images attached to it....I just know it was there.    Looking at these pieces, it's clear, the view itself was an exercise in assimilating its planes and volumes.

sketchbook: July 12, 1992
As could be expected, there was a real Rear Window aspect to this conglomeration of buildings.  Laundry set out to dry on balconies or rack outside of kitchen windows and the clattering of noise that signals life behind the block are not present in my representations, though.  I think they well might be if I were to explore this kitchen table view again given my current penchant.

sketchbook: "From the kitchen", ink, July 6, 1992

sketchbook: July 29, 1992

sketchbook: Aug 2, 1992

sketchbook: Aug 12, 1992

sketchbook: Aug 4, 1992

This image of a photo of a sketch that I tore out of my sketchbook to give as thanks to Henri Presset for his generousity in availing me the use of his press in his studio.    I think this might be the most successful in embodying the volumetric reality of the scene.  Very Seurat-ish.  I did another such sketch subsequently, below, - a nighttime view - but find it less fulfilling. 

The one above, I really liked.  Mr Presset commented on how he found it the most interesting in my book.  Embarrassingly, I debated over the act of giving to him - the silly covetousness I can still feel for these manufactured things of my own hand, when in reality, do you really miss such a thing?  However, it felt like all I could give that had some significance.  When he slide the drawing into the bottom drawer of a cabinet already piled high with such tributes, a new form embarrassment tinged with the feeling of insignificance arose.   It's a funny scene I've never really gotten my head around, somehow.

sketchbook: Aug 2 or 3, 1992

 At night:  ink above and watercolor below.

tucked in the sketchbook:  receipt dated Aug 6, 1992
The scene, in ink, on the back of a tiny receipt.  I just found this today while thumbing through my sketchbook.  

One aspect that rests at the core of this whole Geneve Journal endeavor is set up a side by side compare/contrast of the hand and sensibility of the 20 year old artist with that of the 40 year old.  I guess I expected there to be more contrast than comparable-ness, but I'm starting to see this is very much not the case.
I think my drawing abilities - and my approach to the process of drawing - are much the same.  The mechanics seem little changed to me.  It could be that having left school, an aspect of my technical capacity was stunted.  I think what can be said to have changed is the focus of my attention - and whatever additive attributes can be said to been gained from aging...and maybe maturing.
Maybe I am stunted, but the arc that connects that past self of one who was rooted in a traditional scheme of representing the seen, but hard pressed to inject a modicum of personal, emotive content into his work without the use of stilted allegory to that someone who upon returning to the states was soley working to embody an emotionally charged, cathartic, visual grammer in his work, a la Ab Ex was indeed short.  So short, in fact the arc was indeed a pivot.  That notion of the pivot has been in my thoughts from the beginning of this reflection.  My lifecourse, if not changed completely, had been switched to another track of the same general heading.  
The arc that was engendered at that moment was the slow curving - possibly spiralic movement, -but who knows how it appears from the satellite's vantage- of awareness as moments distanced by years show signs of synchronicity and then are linked by the hand of maturity,  
That after 20 years, the planted myth of the importance of one iconic monument might be subsumed by another, more deeply felt one. This is all to say that there is that which we consciously embrace and that which grasps us slowly, softly and under our consciousness... like a benign analog to Mitch Hedberg's theory on turtlenecks.  And that might well explain the image I chose to emblazon on the Geneve Journal Kickstarter campaign.

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