March 11, 2006

Raffi Kalenderian

I met Raffi several months before I saw his work. A mutual friend introduced us and he visited my studio, a good visit. We spoke of Greco's eyes. Watery jellied oysters for G-d. I couldn't find an image of them and I worried a little that my imagination was freelancing too much. I don't remember how we came to this, but later as I got to see his new work at Black Dragon Society, I realized how resonant Greco was with Raffi's paintings (and not lliterally just the eyes, but perhaps the eyes as portals...).

Raffi emailed the image:

i found an image that seems to display the jellyfish-like eyes we were talking about oh so long ago.

I replied:

I'm delighted that we spoke of Greco when I hadn't seen your work before. Your stuff is very resonant with the old Cretan/Spaniard. Have you read much of his letters or of the world around him? I haven't myself but now i am curious about his biography and what he was like psychologically. I wonder if he was like E.A. Poe, a Goth thing? I google for bio and find little. He apprenticed under Titian. Or this: "The strangeness of his art has inspired various theories, for example that he was mad or suffered from astigmatism, but his rapturous paintings make complete sense as an expression of the religious fervour of his adopted country. " Or maybe it's about the dynamics of Mannerism, inherently.

Still looking.

Raffi responded:

i too am glad we spoke of el greco. i feel like his
work has so much to offer, whether it's his
immpossibly gelatanous eyeballs, incredibly dynamic
composition, or just his keen sense of the phenomenon.


i have a book of his, that goes into some
biographical information. the one thing that stands
out is that he sounded like quite a diva. he would
spend lavishly, constantly in debt, and argue with
patrons about the price of his work. often there
would be an arbitrator to come in and decide how many
"ducars" (or something like that, i am forgetting the
name of currency) a painting would officially cost.
often the arbitrator would side with el greco, which
pissed off the clergymen or royalty or whoever had to
pay top dollar.


i am planning on painting a tryptic
from my balcony here in highland park. the hills
here, and often the sky, look very much like the
landscape of toledo he painted, and i thought i could
use that menacing cloud scheme as a backdrop for three
portraits of people on patio chairs.

Details here, and here.

He continued:

please feel free to post pics on your blog. it would
be an honor, really. there is something about your
analysis of my paintings that stood out:

The pictorial world automatically snaps to these
coordinates and plots a world... versus a painting
constructed bit for bit and eventually alluding to the
possibility of a world out there.


i think i am projecting, since i think about this
stuff alot, but the first situation describing a
pictoral world which is dictated by a series of
specific plots seems to be the more didactic,
authoritarian approach. whereas the second situation
lends itself more to investigation and participation.
i feel like the painting of the basketball court in
the forrest is a clear cut version of the first
situation, and the portrait of my brother reading on
the bed is more in the second catagory. i think
making both strains of work is important, but i think
i am trying to lean towards the second approach.


Posted by Dennis at March 11, 2006 3:04 PM

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