The journey to my Solo Exhibition in St. lves, the world-renowned center for Contemporary Modern Art.
It is a gentle paradox that, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, for me a single word or two can be worth a new painting. Words, heard or read, sometimes found within a song or a poem, sometimes carefully considered, sometimes no more than a throwaway remark, are so often my starting point.
Around my studio lurk phrases on bits of paper, scribbled lines on the walls, a springboard for visual inspiration, waiting to be translated into abstract images. I see the work I now do as the art of omission, looking to reduce a subject to the minimum that still has resonance and honesty. The image above is titled “Black Trees”; this came from hearing the Nashville singer Kim Richey’s song about traveling and displacement – “don’t know where we’ll sleep tonight, someplace far from here…” – an evocation of a journey through a strange landscape. For me, since I was last in Carmel in 2012, with Tamara in her gallery, my artistic journey has held similar uncertainties about where my work was heading. I had just completed a series of paintings around the subject of migration; a big subject, full of different strands, the movement of animals and people, voluntarily and enforced, culture, music, money, disease. The series was exhibited with the British National Trust, and subsequently some of the paintings are now with collectors in the United States.
Then followed a period when we moved house, travelled – including a wonderful journey into the Atacama Desert – and I had an extended sabbatical from painting. By the time I was ready to paint again, and for me that is an all-consuming commitment, I had lost three very good friends, all artists, kindred spirits, musicians, lovers of wild places. I tried to get fired up by my familiar surroundings, here on Dartmoor in South West England, but failed to find motivation there, and instead painted a series of pieces about friendship, sharing good times, loss and reflection – not morose, more a celebration of what we had.
This set of paintings culminated in an exhibition with the Marine House Gallery in UK, and that marked the time for me to move on again. I decided to put myself in an unknown place for a few weeks, alone, with the thought of trying to paint how it felt to be there, rather than what the landscape looked like. Leaving my wife Viv at home, I travelled north to the Shetlands, wild and remote islands between Scotland and Norway, early in 2017, and rented a cottage for six weeks. I found all I was looking for – wild weather, big seas crashing on black cliffs, and long solitary walks in remote hill country. The paintings that resulted seem to confirm that the landscape won – they are much more about the physical reality of the place, rather than about my philosophical wanderings and confusions.
“…original thinking – if you’re not confused, you’re not thinking clearly.” Tom Peters
I returned from the Shetlands feeling that I had re-found myself as in essence a landscape painter, in that the landscape in its widest sense would always inform my work, and I found a new freedom to make more powerful, intuitive paintings. I have always been fascinated by the underlying scale and geology of the natural world, in which man’s marks form a simple overlay, and this still is reflected in my new work. Jenny Pery wrote about me… “many of his paintings trace the enigmatic marks left by vanished people. He is fascinated by ancient markings on rock, shaman carvings on stones…he works on his canvases as if they were windows through which he can look into the past.”
THE PENWITH SOCIETY AND THE PENWITH GALLERY ST. IVES
Soon after my return from the Shetands I was given the wonderful opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at the Penwith Gallery in St. Ives – a very special privilege for any artist.
The Penwith Society was founded in 1949 by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon, Sven Berin, Bernard Leach and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, amongst others. This association with so many progressive and influential world-renowned artists has given the Penwith Society, and St. Ives, a unique place in British art history.
A charitable company – the Penwith Galleries Limited – was created to arrange a programme of exhibitions and manage the gallery complex, with three public galleries, artist studios, a print workshop, sculpture courtyard, and archive.
STILL PICKING BONES This was a thrilling turn of events for me, which I embraced with full commitment. Fired up by my time in Shetland, I set out to put together a portfolio of the very best work I could do. I avoided my normal practice of a core theme, but gradually it became clear that the new work was becoming a reflection on my long connection with the landscapes I love – the tin mining coast of west Cornwall, my life here on Dartmoor, my hillwalking and climbing days in Wales, the Shetlands, and the wonderful contrasts I have found in Arizona and the Atacama deserts. My very first solo exhibition was titled ‘Picking Bones’- and I’m still out there picking bones! I invited the brilliant ceramicist Laurel Keeley to show her work alongside my thirty-six paintings, as I knew our work would fit together quite beautifully.
The exhibition looked terrific and was very well received. I spent most of my time down around St. lves enjoying being a part of that very special artistic community. Now it is the time for me to once more take stock, reflect on what has been done, on where next I want to head, and wait for the creative juices to flow again. The last few years have been another big part of my journey as an artist; I have loved putting together this exhibition, I know I have given it my best shot, and I know that I’m a lucky guy to have all this in my life. As for what’s next, maybe it could be my time to head back to desert country …. the colors, the distant miles … simplifying, minimizing …. the art of omission.
One can always be amazed by the vision or intuition of some people and the
lack of common sense of others.
In 1933, the young Alfred Barr, co-founder and director of MoMA, bought without blinking, Oskar Schlemmer’s painting “The Bauhaus Staircase” for his museum. It was painted at the end of 1932 at the time when the German government was planning to close the most international and avant-garde institution of the twentieth century.
For his part,
Schlemmer, who worked at the Bauhaus between 1920 and 1929 and was in charge,
above all, of leading the sculpture workshop and later on the Performance
Theater, lamented that he could not achieve his best painting style for his
cutting-edge ideas. In spite of this, and as a protest to the anti-cultural
measures that persecuted artists and quality pedagogues in Germany at the time,
he reacts not with pamphlets but instead with the high level of his pictorial
creation with his famous painting, The Bauhaus Staircase (here corresponds to
put a picture of the picture).
To explain briefly what the famous Bauhaus School of Design, that existed between the years of 1919 and 1933, meant in its time, it must be remembered that shortly before being founded, a great fierce war had just ended, making it clear that a new social structure with greater democratic decision-making and new educational standards was necessary.
Among other things,
the integration of women was favored, giving them the right to vote.
Precisely who gave that right to women among many others were events
linked to the Weimar Republic in 1918.
The city of Weimar
was then a suitable place to try a new pedagogical idea that would push society
based on art towards a more balanced, harmonious, and creative future. It
was then, a hundred years ago, that the state school “Bauhaus” was
founded under the visionary direction of the architect Walter Gropius.
The quality of Gropius as director is shown in the nucleus of teachers that made up his team. In addition to Schlemmer, Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lázló Moholy-Nagy, Gunta Stölzl, Josef and Anni Albers, stood out among others.
As an architect,
Gropius favored the rigorous, clear, and ordered forms of decorative line and
saw in them the principle of a higher order training beyond artistic training.
It was this same general concept of basic construction that he applied to
the school, creating an interdisciplinary character for the freedom of action
of the creative spirit.
In the Bauhaus, the artist had to train and then given freedom, helped by the precision of an experienced technical assistant, with which the artist-teacher on the one hand and the craftsman-assistant on the other constituted a narrow pedagogical unit as the teacher will be the one taught.
sculptors, photographers, choreographers, upholsterers and painters formed a
team. The artistic approach was also applied to the everyday, generating
aesthetic forms for daily use, taking up the idea of William Morris, whom, in conjunction
with John Ruskin founded the Arts and Craft movement of the nineteenth century.
The integration and
high number of women as well as foreigners and natives was an unprecedented
In 1925, 6 years
after its foundation, obscure politicians won a first victory against the
revolutionary artistic movement of the Bauhaus by shortening subsidies in such
a way that the survival of the institution is maintained only with an eviction
and a new beginning in the equally provincial and small town of Dessau.
The first years there
are promising and full of energy, assisted by a building created especially in 1925
by Gropius for the proposed objectives (Schlemmer’s “Bauhaus stairway”
is inspired precisely by that building).
The Bauhaus gains in national and international importance, the teachers and also the students get a greater general recognition. The designs and products of those glorious times of the Bauhaus stand out even today for their modernity, which well gives an idea of how revolutionary it was in its time.
As usual, ideas and situations change and groups vary. After harsh discussions about the planning to follow and a change in the directory, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe takes charge in the 30s to try to save the now called Bauhaus Higher School, but the political situation is progressively growing more unfavorable and soon after, the State subsidies are again drastically cut back forcing the institution to a final eviction to Berlin in 1933, where just a few months later Hitler’s government closes the institution scattering the majority of the artists who made it up around the world.
With just a hint of imagination one could assume that without developments just narrated, for example the Seagram Building (New York, 1958) by the architect Mies van der Rohe, nor the PanAm Building (Manhattan, 1959) by Walter Gropius would never have been built , neither the New Bauhaus and then the School of Design of László Moholy-Nagy in Chicago would have been founded either, nor the art of Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd or Richard Serra would have been what they have been without the pedagogical work of their teacher Josef Albers at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
Seen with the appropriate historical distance and returning to the beginning of this text, it is interesting to note that the intuition and entrepreneurial character of a young art historian such as Alfred Barr gives MoMA the privilege of having a painting that perfectly condenses the idea, place and modernity of the Bauhaus in its time, at the same time that it shows that the lack of common sense and the mediocrity of the powerful arrogant who create the greatest resistance to the development of creative ideas and movements, now and then, display in their resistance a sad and dark example of their intellectual poverty.
Please don’t get me wrong and don’t look for any commercial triggers in my April sharing. This is an appreciation from an art lover and a business woman to someone who truly creates. Since the years have brought us together and you all became treasures of my personal and professional existence, I feel safe to share some of my victories as well as some of my past pains and losses that are sealed in me.
Maybe it is time to open up and share one more layer of the woman to whom you have given the privilege to be there for your art needs, and sometimes even to become your friend. Here is one of the real reasons for my life long dedication to fine art and artists:
The father of my children, a little man I loved with all my heart, died under tragic circumstances and the shadow of his loss is still following me and my children. So, I have this weakness to nurture, praise, and encourage every single person who creates. I suppose this helps me, in a way, to comfort myself and move on with my losses, turning art and culture into something I can’t live without.
I know that the opening section of this writing became too long and personal, and I ask you for your forgiveness about it. Now let us turn to the main article:
It is about one of the most special characters in Carmel, Mary Titus. She is the owner of the studio-gallery right across the street from my gallery. Practically, if I were to use cold business logic, her business is my competition. As you all know I do not follow clichés or rules, even in dealing with you, and I always think art has one single obligation – to bring people, cultures and hearts together.
The rest of it we leave in the hands of Fortuna. We will all get our share in the blessings for being in the fine art business.
The more compassionate and giving we are, the more it comes back to us. That is the mentality I grew up with. Now, back to Mary. It is not a secret that artists are moody, and she is not an exception. Her operating days are odd, and sometimes she locks herself inside her gallery to create. When our paths cross, she welcomes me with her beautiful childlike smile, quickly sharing the news of the town and asking about the state of my business. Her connection with people is as free and unpretentious as her art. There is this genuine connection between the creator and her creation, leaving me with no doubt that the woman right across from my gallery is one of the most precious artists of this town.
Everybody knows how much I adore Carmel. For me it was like discovering a paradise on Earth. Every single thing in the town is very close to my heart. Since the time in the early 90s when I was hired by the local Institute of International Studies as a staff member and a curriculum writer for the languages I know, my weekends were dedicated to discovering and learning about every single corner of the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. Carmel’s founding is related to art and culture and the spirits of its bohemian founders are still browsing here.
I am an outsider and probably always will be. The command of the
language is not complete, and I have given up on trying to improve my Armenian
accent. Nobody here knows that the town I love lives in my poetry
volumes, which have not been translated from Armenian to English yet. Who knows
when my fellow townspeople will discover that there has been a poetess living
among them for over 30 years who has immortalized characters, ocean and birds;
immigrants who have stepped into this town, very early, trying to earn their
portion of life; local police officers who smile and wave every time you pass
them. Every single person without knowing their name become part of my
environmental family, and Mary Titus is one of them. She is a genuine
artist with all her flaws that in the world of creativity become assets:
talkative overactive, silver grey hair, deep philosophical eyes, always genuine,
with a beautiful heart.
It is not easy to situate
creativity and business in the same body. One always dominates the other.
In Mary’s case, the artist is shining way above the business woman. Maybe
that is what makes her so unique and very likeable.
We have been neighbors forever, but last year she touched my
heart when I saw her mourning the life of a little hummingbird that she had
rescued. I saw the silky soul of the person who creates. There was no doubt that she treasures and
appreciates every single living beauty under the sun.
Mary was born in Florida. She is self-taught in the arts freeing her creative spirit from rules and cages. Her works touch and decorate many art lovers’ hearts from all corners of the world: Amsterdam, Africa, Australia, etc. She has many private and corporate collectors spreading the energy of her freedom-loving spirit, heralding everybody that thislittle town of ours still offers: treasures of local based creative minds that think, act, and create as true bohemians.
I am not going to go ahead and list all of Mary’s achievements and awards. That is not my intention. I am only going to share with you one of the paintings she created after learning that I was a going to travel for my latest poetry book signing tour.
She innocently smiled and told me, “I started and finished this painting thinking of you as another woman who creates.”
This little exchange of appreciation once more opens the beauty of her heart, accepting everybody and praising them for their creativity in every form.
Dear Friends and Collectors, the painting above is the one she shared with me, assuring you that Mary is not one of my gallery artists, as my gallery only represents European artists.
Mary Titus is one of the treasures of this town, and I hope this little essay of valuation and appreciation will turn your heads from commercialism and lead you to pay more attention to the town’s genuine, creative spirits.
Mary’s creations are perfect examples of abstract expressionism giving her power to bring our inner and outer emotions together as part of universal beauty. With her magical hand and her incredible humble child-like honesty, she is a creative character who sometimes finds herself in community dramas advocating for the artistic originality of the art offerings of the town because she cares. Mary’s character stands up as a patron of creativity who also beautifully carries the pride of being part of this beautiful environment.
I am concluding my address to you sharing my fears that a lot of valuable people around us come and go because we fail to notice and praise their existence. Yet, we all know one truth, that centuries ago was very well stated by Seneca:
Being in the art industry for over 2 decades, as the owner of one of the oldest galleries in Carmel, and being an observer of creative individuality, I have come across discoveries that have practically stunt me. Such is the case with the artist I am going to tell you about, Andreas Morillo, whom I consider to be one of the golden discoveries of my observant mind.
He is an older familiar face, a local to Carmel. He lives in his own creative wonderland without deadlines, financial struggles, and without competing with anyone.
Andreas lives in a happy home, under the perfect conditions, with the complete freedom to follow the mind.
At his age, his creativity, under ordinary situations could
have already reached its sunset; yet, surprisingly, the time for Andreas is
going backwards. His mind is going
forward. He is diving big into
everything. His ideas are getting
fresher and wider.
Sometimes I find myself analyzing the events of the day and he
pops out, always simple, always kind, and he, somewhat carelessly, brings in
and spreads out, over the gallery floor, his latest batch of surprising art
works without any need for conversation from the two of us.
Andreas has already enjoyed recognition for his landscapes and
seascapes in the Carmel art scene, but I have been the witness of the birth and
surprises of Andreas Morello’s expressionism.
In the shell of a wrinkled body, he is the one who is trying to rip the time from the past that he could have already started a long time ago. The incredible collection of expressions in his works are the product of his restless mind. He is a scholar, a risk taker and, he knows A-Z of the technics of Art. Andreas loves anyone and everything that leaves a mark in the history of contemporary art. He materializes his soul and brushstrokes through restless experimenting and creativity, managing to join people who crate and leave unforgettable marks in the world of art. Andreas, unbeknown to him, is reaching unreachable dreams and, he is going to join the giants.
Do you know why his brave and unusually fresh expressions are there immortalized in his canvas? Who is going to harvest those? Who is going to direct the artist’s destiny? What is the secret for this metamorphosis? Who does he have to worship and thank for his blossoming spring? And who is going to register the unusual merger of his realism and expressionism? Is he going to be working with someone close enough to be introduced properly? I don’t know; but, as someone who feels close to art and creativity, and as person who loves the town and its fruits, I feel I have to hint to my clients a sense of this exotic artist. The rest belongs to you, and the artistic community. What can we wish for him? Longevity and endless flow of creative energy.