Friday, January 27, 2012

WEEK #44 / Still Life with French Porcelain Hand

Still Life with French Porcelain Hand
James Aponovich
oil on panel, 10" x 8", 2012


At Christmas, one of the presents that we gave to our daughter Ana was, of course, a gift certificate to some place or other. While shopping, I discovered this porcelain hand at an antique shop and thought it would be clever to place the certificate in the hand. Bad idea. Her reaction to the hand was that it was "kinda creepy". She kept the gift card and returned the hand, thank you very much. O.K., I thought, maybe I'll find a use for it, then I found a discarded postage stamp sheet picked clean of stamps. Hmmmm.


The grid on the stamp sheet impressed me with it's clean lines,both straight and revealing a perforated border. It had a cool whiteness. The Minimalist painter Agnes Martin immediately came to mind.

Agnes Martin
acrylic on canvas, 1997

Minimalism, as an art form, carries a complete economy of means. Nothing is superficial. I, on the other hand, am a Representational painter so it is difficult not to tell stories, whether you want to or not. With Minimalism it is almost impossible to "read into" a painting, even the Abstract Expressionists could not avoid that.


Along with the eye, the human hand is loaded with symbolism. In the position of the porcelain it can mean STOP! or peace. The "Hand of God" was portrayed by artists in the Middle Ages as a hand in the sky. In Buddhism the hand of Buddha with fingers out stretched would symbolize the turning of the Wheel of Dharma. In almost every city, for ten bucks you can have someone read your past and tell your future by looking at your hand.

Bronze Hand
Yemen, 100-300 AD.
British Museum

This Arabian hand was an offering to God, or more precisely, a god. It stood in for the real thing. To lay your hand down to God was a serious business.


Joseph Cornell
Hotel de la Duchesse-Anne, 1957

The master of the found object was Joseph Cornell who led a very private, pedestrian life in Queens, New York, yet produced the most amazing visual poetry from random objects.


My first New York art dealer was Allan Stone. One day he had me visit him at his home just outside the city. I had never seen so much art stuffed into one house before, DeKoonings all over the place, a major Franz Kline painting behind not over the sofa! So much art that there were only narrow paths leading through the rooms. Of course I was awestruck and slack jawed and as I was walking and looking, I nearly kicked a box that was on the floor....
a Joseph Cornell box!
This painting is my homage to Joseph Cornell.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

WEEK # 43 / The White Sofa

The White Sofa
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 14" x 16", 2012

Monty Python's Flying Circus

Due to a lifting of a deadline and accumulating snow outside, I am finding myself in need of a getaway. The problem is that I am still "chained to the easel" until this project is finished, so artistically anyway, I am going to Rome.
Beth and I share adjoining studios and by chance we are both working from drawings we did on our last trip to Rome.

The White Sofa
James Aponovich
pencil on Arches paper, 9.5" x 10.5", 2010

Hanging in our kitchen is a drawing I did a couple of years ago when I was a Visiting Artist at The American Academy in Rome. The Academy is housed in a magnificent group of buildings on the Gianicolo Hill overlooking Trastevere and the rest of Rome. The views are stunning. This drawing is of the interior of our apartment "Il Cortile", the courtyard, in the McKim, Mead and White building. It indeed overlooks the main courtyard with huge cypresses and a Paul Manship fountain. The rooms are brilliant white with deep Florentine Red tile floors. This sofa is in the living room and is the first thing you see as you enter.

Interior of Cortile apartment

Usually, Beth and I would start our day downstairs at the Bar/Cafe for a cappuccino and cornetto while trying to catch up on world news and baseball scores back home. As many places are closed during mid day we would spend our mornings walking down into Rome to visit galleries, churches,ruins, markets,restaurants and just about everything else we could absorb.
In Umbria we draw everyday. Here we looked and looked. Late in the afternoon I would draw for a few hours. Don't ask me why, but I was fascinated by this sofa. Technically it's an interior but I just view it as a big still life.


I really treasured my time at The Academy. I felt quite at home there, it's more like a monastery with writers, architects, historians, musicians and, oh yeah, artists concentrating on their work. The quiet beauty is intoxicating and I look forward to returning.

Friday, January 13, 2012

WEEK # 42 / Tulips in a Bronze Vase

Tulips in a Bronze Vase
James Aponovich
Oil on panel, 7" x 5", 2012

The central theme of the new, large painting that I am working on, now titled
Appledore Still Life , Incoming Fog, is a blue cloisonne vas loaded with heavy parrot tulips.This painting , Tulips in a Bronze Vase, is a study for that painting. It now has a life of it's own.


The flowers are in a bronze vase that I recently found in an antique shop. I love the surface and the historical significance of bronze, an ancient alloy of tin and copper. In portraying the tulips I am aiming to accentuate their physical appearance, how gravity presses them one onto another.
Each flower is delicate and fragile, their petals tear easily. The metal vase is heavy, cold and hard, the ultimate contrast. The background is dark, the flowers burning embers. For a small painting it is very, very heavy.

2012 copyright James Aponovich
All content, text and images copyright James Aponovich and cannot be used without permission.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week #41 / Tidal Pool

Tidal Pool
James Aponovich
Oil on canvas, 8" x 12", 2012

When I paint on site I use very few materials. It begins with a pencil drawing, fairly detailed, on canvas, followed by oil washes that are transparent and gradually built up.The technique is basically what is known as grisaille, a monochromatic painting.
This is an oil sketch painted with sepia and indigo blue. Sepia originally was derived from the ink sack of the cuttlefish, so it seems fitting to use it on this edge of the land, beginning of the seascape painting. This is a study for the "great Appledore" painting and it represents the core theme of this piece, the juxtaposition of rock and sea with the lush vitality of flowers and fruit. It is a thematic polarity. There is no debris, no flotsam, no jetsam, a pure primordial world.
I have painted this to set the stage for the environment: rock,sea,and sky. I am becoming more and more absorbed into the painting. It is a necessary condition.

Copyright 2012 James Aponovich
All content and Aponovich images are copyright and cannot be used
without permission.