Tag Archives: Green Man

ART Green Man Martha King

Green Man Mystery SOLVED

My esteemed China-scholar sister Charlotte Furth solved the question I asked last year.  Who is this wildman, who currently lives in an empty fireplace in our bedroom?  We know how he got into our possession – a purchase by our grandparents, when Asian artifacts were routinely pried from their places of origin in ways that -thankfully- horrify us today.

Here he sits in the bricked up fireplace of our bedroom in Brooklyn. I give him a bit of gin now and then.  I’ve no idea what is in the hand he holds to his chest…
Here he sits in the bricked up fireplace of our bedroom in Brooklyn. I give him a bit of gin now and then. I’ve no idea what is in the hand he holds to his chest…

Charlotte said he is a god of agriculture, Shennong,  and then referred to one of her  colleagues, Susan Naquin at Princeton. Who replied:

You are right. This is Shennong 神農. First agriculturalist, culture hero, associated with medicine, known in pre-Han texts. Absolutely Chinese. I’m less clear about the history of the iconography, and most of the stuff I turned up on medicine on the web is very recent and unrestrainedly imaginative. Be careful.
The statue in question is of a type familiar to me from the late Ming or early Qing, north China, I would call this one relatively unusual and nice, but to most art historians this kind of regional ceramic showing a popular god is not a high-status or high-value item.
This “leaf” outfit is common for Shen-nong as a god…I have seen many similar objects showing instead the god Zhen-wu 真武, or Guan-yin 觀 probably Shanxi province. In the auction-market world, this format (god, seated enclosed in a kind of grotto) and these materials (琉璃瓦 lead-glazed ceramic, in turquoise, cream, aubergine)(alternate palate: green, cream, yellow) are well known.  Some were indeed “architectural” and used on the outsides of pagodas, but I believe yours was intended as a free-standing altar with figure. Halos are common in this format. I presume it is perhaps one foot high? [*YES]
A proper study of the iconography needs doing. What is he holding? At some point Shen-nong holds a yin- yang symbol, perhaps here.
音. Let me see if I can find some comparables, but my best examples are on my othercomputer. The printed-book British Museum catalogue of their ceramics edited by Jessica Harrison-Hall might be your best scholarly reference: J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics – A Catalogue of the late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum (London, British Museum Press, 2001), esp. chapter 13, 18, 19. Though there is  nothing exactly the same.

Withal, he’s just fine in our fireplace.  A friend made a small bowl for his periodic tot of gin — and there he presides.  Thank you, Charlotte and Susan.

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ART Basil King Green Man Martha King museums

Scoring at last: The new Whitney

Late out of the gate? Not to worry.

Yes, the Whitney finally got it right. A museum with space designed for being with works of art, with a glorious lightness, so we see the work, not the housing.   Only later realize the housing makes it so with its careful use of real light and the soft touch of wide-plank pine floors! I wanted to be barefoot. No clanking heels. No chill up the ankles.  No harsh edges either (unless the art proposes them.)

Whitney on the water...
Whitney on the water…

Many museums have flexible wall systems. High ceilings aren’t a surprise. But this one has a flexible boundary between inside and outside, with openings to the outside on every floor.   For a half century New York has been altering its relation with the harbor and the docks—now the city’s shoreline no longer needed for the commerce of loading and unloading freight is public space. We’ve had Chelsea Piers, for sure, but the Whitney is the first building designed to employ the new nearness of river water and open sky.

There just are two flaws: First: elevators. Not enough of them. We were visiting on a non-holiday weekday and there were lines in the front lobby for elevator space. Except for the freight elevator, they were all small (if humorously decorated). Too bad.

The second isn’t a true flaw and can be remedied at lower cost than redoing elevators: No Basil King’s! Born in 1935. Working in New York from 1951 to the present.  From a teenager steeped in Ab Ex ecstasy to the patient development of his still expanding personal vision.

But otherwise, HUZZAH for the Whitney having broken its long curse…from cramped Victorian 8th Street, to being MOMA’s cheap seats slapped onto its backside, to the brutal stone and cement home on Madison Avenue. Free at last. (Except for the pricey admission.)

"Dick T" from The Green Man series, mm/can,  c Basil King
“Dick T” from The Green Man series, mm/can, c Basil King
From "A Pigeon in Delacroix's Garden" series.  Mixed media on canvas, 2013
“Green Birds” from “A Pigeon in Delacroix’s Garden” series. mm/can, c Basil King
Night in the City, mm/can 2010
“Night in the City,” mm/can, c. Basil King
Basil King Green Man Readings Writing

NEWS: Basil King reading at Dia Chelsea on February 10

Basil KingBaz will read from his new book, The Spoken Word/ The Painted Hand –and continuing his quest, he’ll feature the section called, “Looking for the Green Man.”

Front cover of King's The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand
Front cover of King’s The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand

As Kevin Killian just wrote:

“A new installment from Learning to Draw is always a welcome treat, and this one pleases on all levels. Basil’s … mashups of art, culture, and lived experience, both minute and momentous—challenge the reader out of conventional notions of art history, by a continuous attention to detail, thus fulfilling Blake’s prophecy of the scales that fall from one’s eyes when finally one is allowed to see.”

He will be joined by Gregoire Pam Dick. Her latest book, Metaphysical Licks, is also just out this fall, riffing on music history, and more.

Dia Chelsea is at 535 W 22nd Street, NYC. Reservations are recommended. Call 212 989 5566 or visit the Dia website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Green Man Martha King Prose Writing

Old files! Fielding Dawson on Basil King

Cleaning closet and old files, and here emerges a pamphlet with text on Basil’s art by Fielding Dawson, written twenty-five years ago. The pamphlet accompanied  “Paintings from the Cards,” an exhibition of Basil King’s work at Steve Clay’s first New York City shop, Granary Books, 636 Broadway—September 21-October 20, 1989.

There were eleven paintings in the show, all oil on canvas, all done between 1985 and 89, and none captured by digital photographs. There are slides. And the paintings themselves are in storage at Crozier Newark.

Twenty-five years ago, Fielding (and Basil) attributed his angle of vision to a birth accident – as once again we’re doing in re Baz’s spinal-fluid gap (aka salt water ocean) in his right brain – and the amazing overgrowth of  his left brain.

Good to know that today’s neuroscientists have debunked the old left brain/right brain dichotomy. (Left being intuitive, inventive, open to the subconscious and Right being bookkeeper, analyst, grammarian, mathematician.) Instead it’s rosy grey all over with many ways and means to cross talk.

None of that is as interesting as the insight Fielding had on Baz’s paintings which holds up years after Fee left us.  AND in language with punctuation that uncannily captures Fee’s unique vocal presence. It’s as if Fee himself emerged out of that old filing cabinet.  Scroll down for Fee’s essay!

Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his  "Looking for the Green Man"  paintings, 2012.
Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his “Looking for the Green Man” paintings, 2012.

 

Looking for the Green Man,  80"x 54: mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010
Another “Looking for the Green Man,” 80″x 54″ mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010

 

New work  18" x 24" mixed media on Stonehenge paper, Basil King,  2013
From the “Windows” series – 18″ x 24″ mixed media on Stonehenge paper, c Basil King, 2013

 

On Basil King’s Paintings   –   Fielding Dawson

Early work, in an artist’s life, is predictive.

Later, mature work, is reflective, in particular if it’s original.

It is in retrospect we see first clues to the genius of Pollock in that first, small self portrait…more of the same, but as none other, of Mozart, in his first symphony, written at eight, which we hear throughout the piano concertos and in the final work of work, the unfinished Requiem.

And once in a while we’re lucky to have a mature and original artist whose most recent work reflects not only the entire body of his work, but himself as well.  I’ve known Basil since we met at Black Mountain, 1951 or so, so these words are from experience, as well as ideas.

His work is meant to be seen before it is judged, just like Van Gogh’s. Or Soutine. Look at it, see what you see. This work speaks its own story because it’s involved with style.  The way paint is applied is the style of his visions (not true of dozens of painters, from Hals to Rothko: where paint is the medium toward impact).  Basil’s figures are painted on, they do not emerge through. He’s an illustrator after appearances, illustrating what he wants but we might not want, to see.  This work reflects his point of view his way:  he’s the artist, not the apologist.

The responsibility of seeing art is also in the viewer, and here—perhaps as always—to forget Rembrandt and look at Rembrandt’s work, see what you see, if we forget about who painted these paintings, and concentrate on the work, a good understanding is possible.

These odd diffuse presences, on their flat netherworld surfaces: classical shades near the River Styx, silent in their infinite, in part Surreal elongations and distortions—bodies unlike familiar bodies, heads unlike familiar heads, faces and expressions unlike oh ANYTHING as we know it!   For in our Western world it all becomes subjective, while pretty still lifes and landscape posters from the Met and the Louvre, like advertising not an inherent part of our lives, but like Impressionism in clever hands, are preferred, attractive and recognizable, these even beautiful images we imagine are part, perhaps denied, but part of our lives, in an inner, romantic way.  Beauty as inner experience, preferred and enjoyable we wish—WISH! DREAM it to be imbued in us which thereby we pray it becomes REAL, and we do pray.  A subjective prayer toward what the media and the cultured art world have assumed is proper, and nice.

We don’t know how brainwashed we are until we see original work like this, that reaches in, grabs hold, and gives our senses a good rattle.

No matter what we do with it, art was, is and will never be any one way.  It is the one experience of humankind where all the rules can be broken and it will survive, healthy and of its own, intact. And, like nature, it reflects the artist by casting in its reflective way light on aspects of a potential sphere of action many are not aware of, or are aren’t sure…if all things are taken into consideration—brushstroke, size of canvas—all things (his awareness of the edge of the canvas), open all the doors (all his colors appear mixed no use of the primaries), and the artist—with an interested onlooker only an elbow away—will see the inevitable image or composition that is beyond his control but is yet a great part of his life, which so few artists admit:  this other face, or image—identity, that so few painters confront but is such a part of the dynamo…in his concoction where behind his eyes a blend results in a visual transfer of identity to emerge complete with a point of view not unlike, if we put aside Stevenson’s theatrical lab work, born all over again:  Mister Hyde the artist.

Who might regard these paintings as the result of a collective Eyes Closed effort, a stylized pictorial range of human shapes and configurations ignored, if not avoided, but which are with us still and in great numbers there, in Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, so near Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in the blood of Agent Orange children painted through, not from, right through Ethan Allen interiors: through the false color of color television: on opaque backgrounds, foreground image-figures, cartoons, alive by a will greater than their own.

The artist possessor of that will discovered of recent (how old is Basil, fifty-four?), and in conversation in his studio this summer, said that after lifelong upper back problems—causing a slight difference in posture—he saw yet one more in an endless chain of doctors who, with his hands on Basil’s back, asked, had Basil been born in Caesarian birth?  Yes.  Well, this medical gentleman said, he had been lifted out at the wrong angle, causing the spine…on the first day in the world, of the man who painted these paintings.

Fielding Dawson,well-known for his superb short stories, novels and memoirs, is an artist as well, whose collages and drawings have been widely published.

 

 

 

Basil King Green Man Martha King News

Our UK Tour – Green Men everywhere

October 11,  23, and 26

Are there old trees in Brooklyn?  Yes, but not quite like these–

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An oak in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s garden.

We were taken there by our friend poet Elaine Randall, who is among other things a child protection officer for the Canterbury diocese.   So she knows all the employees and every nook and cranny of the building and grounds.

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A yew in an Oxfordshire churchyard.

 

 

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A chestnut on the grounds of what was once Dartington College.We were taken there by poet John Hall who acceded to our wish to see the place despite his sadness at returning to a scene of loss. He even had to pay for parking at a place where he’d served as vice chancellor for two decades…  Dartington College as a haven for art education and exploration is no more.  As gone as Black Mountain College. Currently the Dartington buildings and grounds are used as a conference center. Black Mountain is a children’s summer camp.

 

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Another yew in another churchyard…    The connection is ancient and deliberate. The yews are almost always far older than the church or churchyard and have clearly been cherished by the newer order.  Perhaps not to the extent of sampling the leaves or berries. Yew leaves was a preferred means of suicide for the Romans and had some connection to pre-Christian graveyards possibly as protectors of souls after death.

 

 

 

And green, green everywhere in Devon.

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John Hall took us up the Dart river where these are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will any of these turn up as images in Basil King paintings?    Stay tuned.

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©Basil King, “Looking for the Green Man”  mixed media on paper, 24″ x 40″

 

Basil King Green Man Martha King News

Our UK Tour – Looking for the Green Man

October 23, 2013, outside Oxford

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No visit to the UK without looking for the Green Man. On this day we had the kind assistance of Rebsie Fairholm, the graphic designer for Basil’s publisher, Skylight Press.

From Rebsie’s blog ( http://sulismanoeuvre.blogspot.com/ ) you get a blast of her common sense approach:

  • …the green man is more complicated – and more simple – than modern perception gives him credit for. Usually seen as an incongruous pagan interloper in a Christian setting, either as a symbol of the church’s dominance over old superstitions (if you’re a Christian) or of the enduring survival of natural religion (if you’re a pagan), he is really a universal figure who doesn’t need to be polarized in this way. Reducing him to a “fertility” figure is also doing him a big of a disservice, as he’s more than the face of Beltane bonking. He’s the impulse for growth…

She drove us out to St. Mary Iffley, out in the Oxfordshire countryside, to see a Norman church (somewhat transformed by some later Tudor windows) built about 100 years after the Conquest in 1066, and sheltered by a yew tree, 1500 years old.

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Around the arched doorways, some simple chevrons, some with stylized flowers, others with rows of bird creatures some bearing faint faces in their beaks, and twined above them in a freize, the green man, along with an ouroboros, a merman, centaur-like creatures female and male and more.

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The structure and its grounds emanated solidity, kindness, accommodation, respect, mystery.

A second church we visited much later that afternoon had the opposite effect on us: hostile, savage, dangerous.  Indeed it was equipped with a cops-watch warning and was tightly locked.

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ART Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside)

A Green Man in my Bedroom

Here he sits in the bricked up fireplace of our bedroom in Brooklyn. I give him a bit of gin now and then.  I’ve no idea what is in the hand he holds to his chest…
Here he sits in the bricked up fireplace of our bedroom in Brooklyn. I give him a bit of gin now and then. I’ve no idea what is in the hand he holds to his chest…

He used to be in my grandmother Aggie’s dining room.  He sat in the dark on a heavy mahogany sideboard.  There was enough light for me to see holes that lead inside. They frightened me, or he did.

He was “a temple ornament” Aggie told me without the slightest sense of shame or embarrassment.  I believe he was stolen from somewhere in India and sent to the West to be sold.  What gash was left behind when he was removed can’t possibly be ascertained.  (Plaster with polychrome glaze, clumsy repairs.)

Aggie was born an upper middleclass white woman in Virginia in 1878 and I’m sure she never gave a thought to how or why any of the ancient art came to be in the British Museum or the Metropolitan or the National in Washington, let alone this piece which she bought in an antique shop somewhere. Relics like this are preserved and honored in the West as they might not have been in their home countries, she might have said.  I learned later that an eerily parallel belief buffered Southern white guilt about the capture and enslavement of black people: Better off here, where they have bibles and underpants, than in their home countries.

We didn’t discuss him.  I didn’t ask her why his body is so glossy brown, why he has horns, why his skirt and cape of leaves are so blue, and what those animals and the headless white man are doing at his feet.  Very likely Aggie didn’t know.

Is that bright blue circle behind his head a halo or part of an elaborate ceremonial seat?

After my grandmother died, he ended up in my parents’ house, presiding over the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room, just where my father always set out the cocktail-hour bourbon bottle.  I think my sister was the first to add a few drops of alcohol to the tiny white bowl on one side…and much much later my daughter Hetty made the miniature blue bowl that now sits on the opposite side.

Surely he’s a Green Man. His blue enlightenment gleaming.  Or he’s a Blue Animus, holding sway over monkeys, antelope and goats.

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Does anyone have information to share?

 

 

ART Basil King Martha King

LOOKING: Process, Progress and a Predella

It starts here
It starts here

Basil’s diptych “A Predella for the Green Man”  (mixed media on two canvas panels, together measuring 42 inches high by 12 feet long) is complete. Process and progress from July 2012 to January 2013 was documented in photos by Sanjay Agnihotri and Martha King (with the more amateur shots by MK). See the slide show here. See also the blog page, above.

“Looking for the Green Man”  (mixed media on four canvas panels, 8 feet wide together with the two tallest panels each 74” high) was started in 2009.  We distributed a photo of this work as our holiday greeting in December 2009 (see thumbnail) but early in 2010 Baz hid the painting behind black cloth.

Back in 2009...
Back in 2009…

 

It was off. It was not done. He waited.  In January 2013 when “A Predella” was complete, he was ready to begin again.

The two paintings are now on view in his studio.

Studio table...sometimes waiting is working
Studio table…sometimes waiting is working