0:09MARK GODFREY: Good evening and welcome everybody to Tate Modern. My name’s Mark
0:13Godfrey. I’m one of the curators here. And I work particularly on our North American
0:19collections, so it’s a great pleasure to introduce this event. Tonight is the fourth
0:25in the American Artist Lecture Series. The previous
0:30speakers, some of you might have heard, have been Brice Marden, Maya Lin, and Richard
0:35Tuttle. And tonight, we’re very pleased to
0:37welcome Spencer Finch. I’ll be saying a few words about Spencer in a sec. But I also
0:43wanted to announce that on the 22nd of September, Julie Mehretu will be here and she will
0:49be the fifth speaker in this series. So the American Artist Lecture Series is a
0:55partnership between Art in Embassies, Tate Modern, and the American Embassy in London.
1:01And it seeks to bring the greatest living modern and contemporary American artists to
1:06the UK in the name of cultural diplomacy. And this series would not be possible without
1:11the strong partnership between Art in Embassies and the Tate, and we’d like to
1:17thank in particular Ellen Susman, who’s going to
1:20be saying a couple of words in a minute, who’s the director of Art in Embassies, and all
1:24her team for their hard work and dedication. And
1:29particularly to Virginia Shore and Welmoed Laanstra. I would also like to thank the Ambassador
1:37of the United States of America, and his wife, Mrs. Barzun, for their continued
1:41support and interest in this partnership. Now, Spencer is, as I’m sure many of you
1:49know, an amazing artist based in New York, but
1:52who luckily has had many opportunities to present his work in the UK. A couple of days
1:58ago, a show of his opened at – in Margate at Turner Contemporary. This show is called
2:05“The Skies Can’t Keep Their Secret,” and I’m very much looking forward to seeing
2:09that. He shows in London with the Lisson Gallery,
2:13and has also shown his work at Bloomberg Space, at the Barbican, and in other places.
2:20I kind of fell in love with Spencer’s work years
2:22ago in New York at a show in Postmasters, and was very taken by his interest in starting
2:28off sometimes with kind of legendary color references
2:33and memories ‒ for instance, dawn at Troy ‒ and then his process of rigorously
2:39measuring, scientifically measuring, color and
2:43light, and then finding ways of replicating that in a gallery space with fluorescent lights
2:50and gels, watercolors, and in one case, I can
2:55remember a train set, I think – a train – on a train
3:01set. [LAUGHING] So it’s a great pleasure to have Spencer
3:04with us tonight. And Spencer will be joined in
3:09conversation by Sacha Craddock. And Sacha was responsible for showing Spencer’s work
3:15in Bloomberg Space, where she was the director of exhibitions there and gave us wonderful
3:20shows in London, and has a very strong dialogue with Spencer, as I’m sure you’ll hear
3:27tonight. Sacha is the chair of the board of New Contemporaries and has been since 1996,
3:33and has been the chair of the selection committee for that for all these years. She has
3:38worked also at the Max Wigram Gallery and has been a critic for The Guardian and for
3:42The Times, and currently is writing a book for
3:45Reaktion on British contemporary arts, a publication that I’m sure we will look forward
3:50to. So thank you both. I look forward to the conversation and I now want to introduce Ellen
4:00ELLEN SUSMAN: Thank you all for coming tonight. You are in for an incredible treat
4:07because instead of a talk or a lecture, we’re going to really hear a conversation. Thank
4:11you, Mark, for doing all the heavy lifting via
4:14the introductions and the thanks. I echo the thanks
4:18to the Tate, to the partnership, and of course, to our wonderful Ambassador and his wife to
4:23the UK, Matthew and Brooke Barzun. We are very lucky to have them here. They’re ardent
4:29collectors and they’re passionate about the arts. And in a world today where we look
4:35to have constructive conversations, art is an
4:38awfully good place to start. So I’d like to tell you just one little
4:42bit about the Art in Embassies program and then turn it
4:45over. Art in Embassies was actually started 50 years ago in 1963 by President Kennedy.
4:51It was formalized then. And the idea at the time
4:54was to help ambassadors who were going to post with art for their residences, the idea
4:59being that you could have conversations in these
5:01public spaces that might be difficult and it would give you a place to start. Since
5:07then, and under the continuous leadership of our chief
5:11curator, Virginia Shore, we are doing a lot more now. Our second mission is to help the
5:16new embassies that are going up around the world, and we curate permanent collections.
5:21And in that space, we’re extremely excited to
5:25be watching the new American Embassy going up so close to the Tate here in London, as
5:30we will be moving from Grosvenor Square over
5:33to Nine Elms. It’s a very exciting project for us.
5:36It’s one in which we hope to have, you know, green and LEEDs architecture. It’s one in
5:40which we hope to meld into the exciting city that is London and be a very vibrant part
5:47of it. So, with that little background and knowing
5:51that we’re very grateful, I think we have a lot to
5:54hear about the 9/11 Memorial, which I hope Spencer and Sacha will touch on. And I hope
6:02you enjoy the conversation and the evening. And thank you for coming.
6:04[APPLAUSE] SPENCER FINCH: So should I start?
6:08SACHA CRADDOCK: You start. MR. FINCH: Okay. Thank you, Ellen. Thank you,
6:15Mark. Thank you, everyone who worked so hard on organizing this.
6:20It’s great to be here with Sacha. And I was a little surprised to be selected for
6:28this, but I’m – [LAUGHTER] I really want to sort of do a good
6:34job, and as I was thinking about that, I decided I really didn’t want to speak about
6:42my own work that much. I never thought the day would come, but I’m kind of tired of
6:47hearing myself talk about myself. And so Sacha and I are going to talk about some things
6:56that we’re both interested in, mostly light and
6:59color, through a series of about 30 slides. There will be a few of my own work, just to
7:06cover that base. And – because I’m not quite
7:09as severe as I’d like to think I am. And it’s a little bit
7:15of an experiment. I think we’re not exactly sure what we want to say, but I think it’s
7:21a way of really having it be about ideas, rather
7:27than just a sort of sequence of, “I made this, and
7:32then I did this, and then I did that,” which is not so much fun.
7:36So if we could have – I guess we’re in control, right?
7:38MS. CRADDOCK: Just, before we start, you were going to talk about experiences in the past.
7:45MR. FINCH: Oh. Oh, yeah. I guess the sort of reasoning behind this was when I was in
7:49graduate school, a speaker, who I guess should – a sort of famous American artist came
7:58to speak [LAUGHTER] and I – whose work I admire
8:02very much, even to this day, and this was 25 years ago when I saw him speak. But he
8:08came and he did exactly that. He just said, “I
8:13did this, and then I made that, and then I made that,” and it’s nothing that we couldn’t
8:19have gotten through looking through then a monograph
8:23or now the internet. So hopefully what happens tonight is something that you could
8:27not experience in a different way. MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah.
8:31MR. FINCH: And so that was sort of the impetus for this way of working. And hopefully
8:37there will be some surprises in terms of the images we’ve selected. And also, of course,
8:43there’ll be questions we’ll be happy to answer afterwards.
8:49So this is a work that I just installed at the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero, which
8:56I’m not going to speak about too much, except it’s something I worked incredibly hard
9:02on. It’s a very complex space. It’s sort of
9:08– probably one of the biggest things I’ve ever done.
9:12It’s 2,983 individual watercolors, which I made. It’s called Trying to Remember the
9:17Color of the Sky on That September Morning. And each
9:22of the pieces of paper has magnets on the back and it’s affixed to a grid on this
9:27wall, which is down at bedrock level between the two
9:30volumes of the North and the South Tower. And it took about two months to make all of
9:38the drawings, and that was actually the most fun part of it. I still love making things.
9:45And the less fun part of it was everything else.
9:48And so I did want to show that as one of the most
9:54recent things that I’ve done, and it’s certainly connected to some of the works we’ll
9:59talk about today.
10:00SPENCER FINCH: So should I start? SACHA CRADDOCK: You start.
10:04MR. FINCH: Okay. Thank you, Ellen. Thank you, Mark. Thank you, everyone who worked
10:09so hard on organizing this. It’s great to be here with Sacha. And I
10:14was a little surprised to be selected for this, but I’m –
10:23[LAUGHTER] I really want to sort of do a good job, and as I was thinking about that, I
10:30decided I really didn’t want to speak about my own work that much. I never thought the
10:39day would come, but I’m kind of tired of hearing myself talk about myself. And so Sacha
10:45and I are going to talk about some things that we’re both interested in, mostly light
10:51and color, through a series of about 30 slides.
10:54There will be a few of my own work, just to cover
11:00that base. And – because I’m not quite as severe as I’d like to think I am. And
11:06it’s a little bit of an experiment. I think we’re not exactly
11:10sure what we want to say, but I think it’s a way
11:14of really having it be about ideas, rather than just a sort of sequence of, “I made
11:17this, and then I did this, and then I did that,” which
11:26is not so much fun. So if we could have – I guess we’re in
11:33control, right? MS. CRADDOCK: Just, before we start, you were
11:35going to talk about experiences in the past. MR. FINCH: Oh. Oh, yeah. I guess the sort
11:40of reasoning behind this was when I was in graduate school, a speaker, who I guess should
11:44– a sort of famous American artist came to
11:47speak [LAUGHTER] and I – whose work I admire very much, even to this day, and this was
11:5325 years ago when I saw him speak. But he came and he did exactly that. He just said,
12:00“I did this, and then I made that, and then I
12:03made that,” and it’s nothing that we couldn’t have
12:06gotten through looking through then a monograph or now the internet. So hopefully what
12:10happens tonight is something that you could not experience in a different way.
12:14MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: And so that was sort of the impetus
12:16for this way of working. And hopefully there will be some surprises in terms of the
12:19images we’ve selected. And also, of course, there’ll be questions we’ll be happy to
12:21answer afterwards. So this is a work that I just installed at
12:26the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero, which I’m not going to speak about too much, except
12:30it’s something I worked incredibly hard on.
12:30It’s a very complex space. It’s sort of – probably one of the biggest things I’ve
12:30ever done. It’s 2,983 individual watercolors, which
12:30I made. It’s called Trying to Remember the Color of
12:30the Sky on That September Morning. And each of the pieces of paper has magnets on the
12:30back and it’s affixed to a grid on this wall, which is down at bedrock level between
12:31the two volumes of the North and the South Tower.
12:31And it took about two months to make all of the drawings, and that was actually the most
12:31fun part of it. I still love making things. And
12:31the less fun part of it was everything else. And so I did want to show that as one of the
12:31most recent things that I’ve done, and it’s
12:31certainly connected to some of the works we’ll talk
12:31about today. This is a great – this is one of my favorite
12:31instruments in the world. It’s not really an
12:31artwork. It’s a cyanometer, which is used for measuring the color of the sky. It was
12:32developed by an 18th century alpinist and scientist named Saussure, who is Swiss. And
12:32he carried it up – he was not only the first
12:32person to invent a cyanometer. He was also the first
12:33person to ascend Mont Blanc, and so he took it with him to determine that the blueness
12:33of the sky is actually created by particles in
12:33the atmosphere. And it’s – I mean, it’s kind of a
12:33beautiful abstraction and a wonderful instrument at the same time. And it’s actually – I’ve
12:33never used a cyanometer, but I sort of create my own cyanometers for my own work in
12:33different cases of gradations of color. So it’s kind of an amazing instrument from
12:33a time when people could be like scientists and artists
12:33and alpinists at the same time. It would be sort of hard to do all three of those now,
12:33I think. It would be great, but not so many people
12:33do it. So it’s really a wonderful sort of 18th century thing.
12:33All right. Can we lower the lights a little bit maybe?
12:33MS. CRADDOCK: So, shock-horror. [LAUGHING] Here we have Joseph Wright of Derby’s,
12:33The Iron Forge, and the idea of this relationship we have in talking is that we’ve both
12:34suggested images to each other, and mainly they’re your list, but I, with some help
12:35of other people, shoved a couple more in. And what
12:35we want to do is really, really, with you as well,
12:35go from one place and sort of collectively, instead of us looking like we know something
12:36you don’t know, because we don’t, we’re going to talk about what we both see in this
12:36work. And it purely isn’t going to be only in
12:36terms of light and color, but obviously there’s some
12:36pretty straightforward things here in terms of, for instance, relationship to flame, and
12:36And this is a fantastic piece, and it belongs to Tate, and my kind of excitement about it
12:36really is that it is a nativity in a way, a nativity scene to the Industrial Revolution.
12:36So instead of religion, we have this idea of
12:40the family going into the forge completely unrealistically standing so close to something
12:46quite so absolutely boiling hot. And the family is sort of – the fantastic Wright
12:51of Derby habit of having somebody – you know,
12:54you’ve got the back of someone who’s working on something and then somebody’s looking
12:57out to you. And the idea is that this is a safe and great place. And it’s about the
13:02future or about the present and about a sort of wish.
13:08And so Wright of Derby really, really was the
13:10first person for us to represent in this way. So that’s not really about ‒
13:15MR. FINCH: Yeah, I love Derby’s work, and it’s something – this was the first image
13:19that we talked about when I thought that maybe we
13:20could do something different. And I would love
13:23to – I mean, it would be great just to do a lecture on Joseph Wright of Derby, although
13:28I’d probably run out of things to say in about
13:30two minutes. But I was trying to – one of the
13:34reasons we’re doing this is it forces us to articulate what we like, which I think
13:38it’s a good exercise. And I was thinking about – what
13:42I really like about this is that the work illuminates what it portrays. There’s this
13:49sort of internal integrity to it. And it reminded me – you’re probably not going to agree
13:56with this – but, of Robert Morris’s The Box with the
13:58Sound of Its Own Making. So this is like the painting with [CROSSTALK] the light of its
14:03own illumination. And I love this idea of the
14:06light coming from inside, and there’s some other
14:09examples of work like that. MR. FINCH: It’s so much more interesting
14:45to me than, say, a Caravaggio, where you don’t see the light source. And I think the light
14:49source and whether the light source is in there or
14:51not makes a huge difference to me because of this sort of illusionism of light coming
14:56out of nothing, which for me is totally fascinating.
14:58MS. CRADDOCK: And we’re moving now happily. MR. FINCH: This is my favorite Edward Hopper
15:04painting. And mostly I’m not a huge Hopper fan, but this I love. It’s called
15:09Sun in an Empty Room. It’s a title I’ve stolen for a lot
15:15of different works. And it is just what it is. And Hopper, as you probably know, could
15:21not paint figures very well, or they always looked
15:23kind of clunky. And this is just so – I don’t
15:27know, it’s like all you really need. And it’s – he talked about painting houses
15:33too and being like a house painter.
15:34MS. CRADDOCK: Yes. MR. FINCH: And how that was his sort of goal
15:36in some ways. MS. CRADDOCK: I mean, it’s the sort of – it’s
15:39one of his most – his last – he died four years
15:43later – one of his last paintings. And so he’s in a way doing that thing that you’re
15:48meant to do in art, emptying out, sort of simplifying,
15:52distilling the way we look. But also, when he
15:56was asked by someone, you know, “What’s it about then?” and he said ‒ “What’s
16:01it after? What are you up to?” He said, “I’m after
16:05me.” So we’re thinking about who the subject is.
16:08Are we actually in that room? Are we at this strange angle? Is one – is there a narrative?
16:14He’s trying to take away a narrative. And, as you said, being a kind of a house builder,
16:18very functional. I think it looks a bit bright,
16:21don’t you? Like over-projected or something. MR. FINCH: Yeah, well, maybe. Yeah.
16:25MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah, anyway. MR. FINCH: Yeah, it is. I mean, there’s
16:29a lot of sort of subtlety in the actual painting. MS. CRADDOCK: But it’s full of sad ‒ I
16:31mean, if one wanted to get carried away, you know,
16:36you could say there’s sadness. It’s kind of sexual ‒ God knows what. But we’re
16:41standing on this side, looking into the room.
16:43MR. FINCH: Right. Well I think there is more emotion in that than like Nighthawks at the
16:47Diner, which has all this – is sort of overladen with all this false emotion ‒
16:50MS. CRADDOCK: That’s right. MR. FINCH: Which is such – it just seems
16:53sort of dishonest in some ways, and this just seems sort of – I don’t know. It just
16:57seems totally complete. MS. CRADDOCK: [CROSSTALK] I’ll just say
16:58quickly that what he does is he – when he paints, he actually paints light as an object,
17:03you see. It’s almost as if you’re making a jigsaw
17:06or a construction out of these elements of light. It’s incredibly interesting.
17:09MR. FINCH: Yeah, and the shape. MS. CRADDOCK: It is unusual.
17:11MR. FINCH: And then, of course, all the paint on the walls presumably is the same color,
17:15and the way it’s illuminated, it’s always different. And that’s something that I find
17:18totally fascinating and could look at all day long.
17:22Which brings us to this next piece, which is a work of mine. This is the other one.
17:28And this is a new work. It’s actually up at the show
17:31in Margate. And it was done first at SFMoMA last year, and it’s called Back to Kansas,
17:38and it’s based on The Wizard of Oz. There are about
17:4260 colors taken from the film, The Wizard of Oz. And if you remember the movie, it starts
17:49out in black and white in Kansas. And then in Oz, it turns to technicolor. And then when
17:53Dorothy goes back to Kansas, it goes back to black and white. And so what happens is
17:59it’s really – I’ve made some very boring art
18:03works in my day, and this may take the cake. [LAUGHTER] So what people do – and these
18:11people, by the way, were paid to sit there. [LAUGHTER] You sit at dusk. The work always
18:19has to be shown in a space with natural light. And you sit at dusk and there’s a
18:23little score card and you keep track of when each of
18:27the colors turns to gray. And because our eyes perceive long wavelength reds and oranges
18:35longer in low light than they do short wavelength, the blues and the violets disappear first
18:41and then the oranges and reds disappear later. So it takes about 35 minutes from the time
18:47the first one disappears until the last one disappears. And there are grays. There are
18:5412 or 13 grays that are in there as controls, so
18:57they’re sort of comparisons. So when people are
19:01comparing – and it’s kind of this fun thing, I mean, for me at least because you
19:05look and you say, “Do I still see blue in that or is
19:09it gone?” Or, “Do I still see the red?” And the grays are
19:15there as sort of a control to compare against. And it’s in the format – it’s the aspect
19:20ratio of the original film, of course, and it is, like
19:24cinema, about time and light. So it’s ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: I’m sorry I couldn’t go
19:31to see it last Friday, but tell me, how do people
19:34know what’s going on? MR. FINCH: Well, they have to be told.
19:38MS. CRADDOCK: They get it. MR. FINCH: Well, no. I mean, most people just
19:40walk through. MS. CRADDOCK: Is it written?
19:41MR. FINCH: Yeah, yeah. And there’s a card – there’s a scorecard that sort of explains
19:45it. But it only works once a day, at dusk. I mean,
19:50it could work in reverse at dawn, I guess. MS. CRADDOCK: So it’s really particularly
19:55performative for a short ‒ [CROSSTALK] MR. FINCH: Yeah, I mean, otherwise it’s,
19:58you know, not a bad looking grid for the rest of the
20:01day. [LAUGHTER] MS. CRADDOCK: A grid’s good. A grid is good.
20:03MR. FINCH: But at dusk, it turns into a real action movie. [LAUGHTER]
20:07MS. CRADDOCK: Oh, wow. MR. FINCH: Oh, this is a great one. I didn’t
20:14know this one. No, I love this. It’s Magritte, who
20:18I normally hate, [LAUGHTER] and I was thinking about – I mean, I think Magritte is this
20:24sort of – I think of him as illustrating philosophical
20:28ideas in sort of the worst way as a kind of illustrator, in the way that I think Joseph
20:34Kosuth is also – both artists I loved at one point
20:37and, you know, you turn against people. [LAUGHTER] Or you begin – you love artists you
20:43used to hate. I think Picasso would be an example of that for me. But this is great
20:49because it’s got these internal contradictions.
20:52And I think it’s not just illustrating something. It has
20:55this incredible kind of contradiction in it and that’s what I think is so fantastic
21:02about it. MS. CRADDOCK: It’s amazing. It was suggested
21:05that this might be useful by a clever painter, and what I love about it is the fact
21:13that when we deal with the architecture and the
21:16bottom, we feel strangely safe. Now, how incredible, as a security. It’s the opposite to
21:23creepy. It’s really like listening to “I’ve often walked down the street before,” or
21:28something like that. It’s very, very sweet. And then
21:30you have this contradiction. I suppose one could
21:34look at it forever, but it’s the idea of the manmade light, that kind of light, being
21:40of a sort of protective nature. Not that the stuff that
21:46is real nature, which is just him hacking up a sky,
21:50as per usual, is not protective either. But there is something else here going on.
21:55MR. FINCH: I mean, look at that shadow. MS. CRADDOCK: I know; it’s amazing.
21:56MR. FINCH: From the lamp. It’s incredible. MS. CRADDOCK: It’s very good. I think it’s
22:00sad that you don’t like ‒ I mean, I love early
22:02Magritte. Those early ones are just amazing. The set, the scenes, the stages, where you
22:08have the strange contrast of scale and wallpaper or architect – not later. Anyway, it’s
22:14nice to talk about.
22:15MR. FINCH: Yeah, I’m sure I’m basing my like blanket judgment on very little, as usual.
22:18MS. CRADDOCK: Yes, on the fact there are lots of book covers and things like that.
22:22Okay, and also one little theme that we’re going to constantly have is that there are
22:27two truths, or two sort of truths, happening in
22:29this painting. And then there will be more works
22:31which actually carry this strange contradiction within them. I mean, it’s a bit boring in
22:37art when you’re teaching and people say, “A:
22:39I don’t want to be too straightforward; I want to
22:42obfuscate,” except they don’t use that word. But also, “I want it to be awkward,”
22:47but this is much better than that notion of awkwardness.
22:49MR. FINCH: It’s great. MS. CRADDOCK: We’re going at rattling pace.
22:53MR. FINCH: Are we going okay? MS. CRADDOCK: Well, I think we’re going
22:57fine. MR. FINCH: Okay. Next. That is next.
23:01So now we’re going to talk a little bit about photography. And the one photograph
23:05I really wanted to show doesn’t exist. It’s a photograph
23:08of Crazy Horse and ‒ because no photographs of Crazy Horse exist because he
23:14was never photographed. And he said famously something like – when he was asked
23:20to be photographed or offered a lot of money to be photographed, he said, “Why would
23:25you wish to shorten my life by taking from me my
23:28shadow,” which I think is a beautiful indictment of photography, and also it sort of raises
23:38a lot of issues about truth in photography,
23:42which is, of course, a big topic which we will
23:46discuss at some later time. But this is, in fact, Geronimo, and there’s
23:50a great story about Geronimo being photographed as well in that he was photographed. But he
23:57appears in photographs as at least three different people. And so there’s this idea
24:02of this sort of – the impossibility of capturing this
24:05image of this person, of this amazing person, this amazing face, and a person who sort of
24:13looms large in American history. He was an Apache warrior and was most famous actually
24:23for fighting in what is now Texas and fighting the Mexican army and then ended up like so
24:33many Native Americans, in Oklahoma under U.S. Army “protection.” But I love that it’s
24:42like he was fighting back against this idea of
24:45fixing the image by changing his identity. It’s a
24:52fantastic story. The thing that I’m really interested in
24:57about photography is the sort of basics of photography. I’m sort of against the camera
25:01in many ways, but I love light – reducing it to
25:06light, chemistry, and time, and like this – which this Fox Talbot photograph does.
25:13MS. CRADDOCK: I think that it’s terribly important when we’re talking about what
25:18we’re talking about to deal with very early photography
25:20and the actual literal representation of something that – so, and I just got a lovely
25:26– you know, he had this – I mean, for instance, a
25:30lot of people said – Fox Talbot, no artist. Basically, he was a businessperson. He had
25:35fantastic patents out. He was totally organized. So the idea of him being an artist, the fact
25:39that he represented things in a certain straightforward way – fantastic line-ups of plants, of
25:46china, a ladder, this fantastic relationship to representation. And then he had this fantastic
25:54book of photographs, which is called, The Pencil of Nature. And, “The plates of the
25:59present work impressed by the agency of light alone
26:05without any aid whatsoever from the artist’s pencil.” So, in other words, this is quite
26:12basic, and he invented many of these stances, but
26:18when you look at Fox Talbot photographs now, you just go mad for the joy of the complete,
26:23straightforward representation of something. MR. FINCH: I’ve read so much about objectivity.
26:27MS. CRADDOCK: Exactly. MR. FINCH: I mean, that’s like me saying
26:30it’s objective, which I’m totally against. MS. CRADDOCK: No, no. I’m not getting into
26:32all that. I just really like looking at it. MR. FINCH: Well I guess I can’t really argue
26:35that ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: I like the fact that he’s
26:36not considered an artist really, in formal terms, and
26:40yet we have now very desirable imagery. MR. FINCH: Yeah, I guess we should have changed
26:48that out. But, no, I mean, I think there is this constant back and forth between subjectivity
26:55and objectivity in photography. And the photography I like most is that in which the
27:05work sort of admits its own failings and the limits of its aspirations and also probably
27:14its abilities. And this is an example – this is Walead
27:20Beshty, who works in this way as an artist who I
27:23think is really interesting. So these are, of course, artists working today in that sort
27:28of area of photography. Christopher Williams is someone
27:32else I like a lot, who sort of calls into question a lot of the assumptions about it,
27:38because, of course, we all know that the – especially with Photoshop, everything can
27:43be changed. But still there’s a sort of acceptance
27:46of it as some sort of truth that drives me bananas.
27:48MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. And, I mean, what’s very interesting is that the very relationship
27:55to the material of film is highly political at
27:58times for him. So, for instance, going through mass
28:03amounts of security and finding that the film he’s using has kind of got interference
28:09or has got holes in it, very much interests me. And
28:13also a great quote, “Pictures made by my hand
28:16with the assistance of light,” which is a nice one after that last one, don’t you
28:22think? MR. FINCH: Yeah, that’s perfect, yeah.
28:26MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
28:29MR. FINCH: That was sort of a formal connection. [LAUGHING] This I decided to put in –
28:39this is the Rogier van der Weyden painting that’s at the National Gallery in Washington,
28:44and I was at the National Gallery here the other
28:47day and saw what the, I guess ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: School of.
28:50MR. FINCH: The School of van der Weyden. It’s impossible to see in a photograph, of
28:54course, because photographs always lie, but there is this incredible veil, this translucent
28:59veil in this painting that is one of the most beautiful things in all of art. And this idea
29:06of something being veiled and sort of hidden
29:09and slightly obfuscated and this idea of something being fogged in, I love that. And
29:15this idea of – I mean, it’s, of course, just a
29:18gorgeous, amazing painting on many levels, but I love the veil the most and I can’t
29:26really explain why.
29:27MS. CRADDOCK: Can’t really get – the light is very much from above, isn’t it, so it’s
29:31strange that everything else is extended into this
29:33kind of darkness below. MR. FINCH: Well, yeah, and there, of course,
29:36is that incredible clarity of northern European paintings.
29:40MS. CRADDOCK: Exactly. MR. FINCH: Which it’s really, it’s sort
29:44of an all over light. MS. CRADDOCK: So stuck a bit lost for words
29:48really with this one, it’s so beautiful. Of
29:52course, I’ve got a rather boring point, but the one in London has a painting, The
29:57Christ’s Crown by Thorns on the Back.
30:00MR. FINCH: Ah. [LAUGHTER] MS. CRADDOCK: At the workshop.
30:03MR. FINCH: It’s like a sign of devotion, right?
30:06MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: Okay.
30:10MS. CRADDOCK: Aww. Beautiful. MR. FINCH: And another example of veiling.
30:16This is a Berthe Morisot painting. MS. CRADDOCK: At the workshop.
30:16MR. FINCH: It’s like a sign of devotion, right?
30:18MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: Okay.
30:19MS. CRADDOCK: Aww. Beautiful. MR. FINCH: And another example of veiling.
30:20This is a Berthe Morisot painting. MS. CRADDOCK: And, you know, of course, fascinatingly,
30:22the minute you have a woman’s painting, you get a lot more anecdotal stuff
30:27in the books. “This is her sister, the sister looking at a baby.” But, it’s the most
30:33tender, and repeat of – so we’re just – I mean, one
30:38would be fatuous to overplay, but the fact that the veil is some kind of protection of
30:44the baby, and then also this look, the mother’s
30:47look, is incredibly protective. And the sort of
30:50echoing of the arm. And, of course, the curtain behind, which I think is pretty amazing.
30:56MR. FINCH: Impressionism in general, is something that’s incredibly interesting to me, and
31:03I have a theory that is probably not based at all on fact – of it being something that
31:10was a reaction to photography in some way and this
31:12idea of – especially serial work. I’ve really
31:15been interested in a long time in Monet’s serial work and this idea that his sort of
31:20serial attempts to understand something, whether
31:22it’s a hay stack or a cathedral or a poplar tree,
31:27as a way of trying to understand something from all angles and trying to get at something,
31:33and also admitting that there’s this sort of failure to get it because the light is
31:37always changing, the view is always changing, your
31:40mood is always changing. And the sort of impossibility of that and yet this compulsion
31:44to do it, I think is something that’s such a part
31:47of Impressionism and also of working fast and trying to capture it, I think, is – because
31:53they all worked very quickly.
31:54MS. CRADDOCK: Yes. MR. FINCH: Of course, they went and reworked
31:57sometimes, but it was a very quick way of working, which I find, of course, very modern
32:01and very interesting. And in case you didn’t get enough of folds
32:11and fabric – do you want to talk about this at all?
32:16MS. CRADDOCK: No, you talk about this one. MR. FINCH: So I love – I mean, I love the
32:21sort of folded fabric and painted fabric. I was
32:24trying to – and Sargent especially is such a – I guess it’s sort of a guilty pleasure
32:32in some ways. I mean, I think, don’t people think
32:34that his ‒ [CROSSTALK] MS. CRADDOCK: Where is the guilt? Nothing
32:37in something like this. MR. FINCH: Well, that his talent was wasted
32:40or somehow that he was this virtuoso, that he
32:43spent his incredible talent doing society portraits. I don’t know exactly. There is
32:49a sense that he is – that he’s not to be taken
32:53as seriously as even say like Whistler. But boy could he
33:00paint, and this – especially just painting folding fabric, which is something I love.
33:07It’s something that’s really interesting to me.
33:09I think it’s just a great, great subject. And I was
33:15thinking of Richter and those curtain paintings, the early curtain paintings of Richter, which
33:22I love. I’m not even sure why. It’s sort of basic [INAUDIBLE] but I think it – for
33:26me it has to do with his later move to abstraction and
33:30how it is between abstraction and representation. I think my favorite folds are in that Velasquez
33:37painting of Innocent X, and the famous Pope, that amazing red painting. And I don’t know
33:45what it is exactly about it. And there’s also –
33:49actually in the Veronese show that’s up here, I mean, there’s amazing ‒ like this
33:54patterned fabric. How do you paint that? I mean, I don’t know if it’s enough, but
33:59it’s so intriguing and it’s so – and people who do it well are
34:04really great. I think there’s also – it connects to
34:08a contemporary artist, Tauba Auerbach, who’s someone
34:11who I like a lot who does these paintings of folds. I think it’s really interesting.
34:19I think her show at the ICA is really not so great, I
34:21must say, but I think this – but I think what she is
34:24doing with these folds shows that these subjects, these sort of age old tropes can be
34:32rediscovered and reinvented by people. And, of course, there – people like Dorothea
34:37Rockburne did those folds ‒ she’s sort of overlooked, I think ‒ but those amazing
34:40folds in the ‘60s or ‘70s. Sol LeWitt did those
34:43great folded things. And, I don’t know, it’s like enough
34:48for a whole show – I mean a whole museum. So you might want to work on that, Mark.
34:56Folds and fabric. [LAUGHTER] There you go. Folds and fabric.
35:00It’s beautiful. I mean, it’s a beautiful – it’s really a wonderful painting. I
35:05mean, look at how he could move paint around.
35:07MS. CRADDOCK: Yes. I mean, the only – I mean, I don’t – I don’t know what to
35:11say. MR. FINCH: You don’t like ‒ [CROSSTALK]
35:12MS. CRADDOCK: No, of course I do. I’m sorry. I do. But I can’t bear the fact that we
35:16get into a guilt thing about subject, the fact
35:19that these are society people or the swagger portrait. I mean, they’re brilliant because
35:24of that society. And the lightness of touch and
35:26the sort of relationship to the subject is totally different. But I think we should move
35:30on. MR. FINCH: No, but if you compare it to something
35:32like a Manet painting that has a subject matter like the assassination of Maximillian
35:38or something like that.
35:39MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: In which there is ‒
35:40MS. CRADDOCK: Subject. MR. FINCH: Yeah. And then I think that there’s
35:43‒ MS. CRADDOCK: But, well, you can think of
35:44other Manet paintings that are society ones as
35:46well. MR. FINCH: Right. That’s true.
35:50We’re both right. [LAUGHTER] MS. CRADDOCK: Aww, look at this. Ah.
35:57Okay, Annunciation. Fra Angelico painted a tremendous number of these. This one actually
36:03was done – it’s in the Prado and it was done for San Dominico, the convent in Fiesole.
36:12And the other ones that are super important are
36:14ones, Cell Three, which is in San Marco. But the
36:18important thing about this – we wanted to put this in because it’s really about conveying
36:23information through light, a different kind of a message. Obviously, there are plenty
36:28of fantastically important paintings that tell
36:30you how messages are delivered in very different ways. But we have this light. And the fantastic
36:37thing about Fra Angelico, I mean, it’s truly devotional. Now I’m terribly unreligious,
36:44but – irreligious, I mean, really. But I do get
36:47something particular from this painter that certain other early Renaissance ones don’t
36:53quite do the same thing. So, you know, he really is quite something And this particular
36:57version we’ve got here – we’ve got also on purpose, because there are these other
37:00people, Adam and Eve or whoever, out there [LAUGHTER]
37:04rushing off in a different direction. MR. FINCH: [CROSSTALK] Also what’s great
37:07is then this sort of this idea of like the word of
37:10God. Like trying to make a picture of something invisible is so compelling to me. I assume
37:13that this is what this ray of light is, it’s the word of God.
37:15MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: How do you make a painting of the
37:17word of God? How do you make a painting of something invisible? And I think that that
37:21– or how do you break these sort of conventions of painting that just shows like
37:26one scene or one thing in one moment? Also, like simultaneous narrative paintings, I love,
37:33that show the same person doing three things. MS. CRADDOCK: [CROSSTALK] Like Giovanni di
37:37Paolo, or some of that. MR. FINCH: I think it’s a Botticelli painting
37:40at the Met that’s like three miracles. So it looks
37:43like it’s one landscape but there’s the same – it’s Saint Zenobius, I think, performing
37:48three miracles – he’s a very busy man – doing
37:49them what looks like at the same time, but it’s in
37:51different times. So I love this sort of break with the conventions of how we think pictures
37:58work. And this idea of making a picture of something invisible, to me, is – making
38:04the invisible visible is, of course, pretty interesting.
38:06MS. CRADDOCK: And also, before we move on quickly, just want to say that obviously Fra
38:10Angelico is very much – you talk about breaking convention, but of course he’s carrying
38:13along an earlier convention with him, where you actually have this actual sort of gold
38:19leaf, the material itself, describing the situation.
38:22So, you know, it’s a two-way process here. And
38:26he’s caught. And also, he always puts a column right there in the middle. I mean,
38:32it’s fascinating. And one of them, the one in the
38:35cell two, cell block eight, cell two – or three,
38:39literally has a bare wall at the back, nothing. It’s absolutely brilliant.
38:43Okay. MR. FINCH: Also, the use of gold leaf is really
38:46interesting. MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah.
38:46MR. FINCH: And we’ll get to that maybe later, although we’re running out of – we should
38:48‒ MS. CRADDOCK: Are we running out of time [INAUDIBLE]?
38:51MR. FINCH: Yeah. MS. CRADDOCK: No, no, we’re fine.
38:52MR. FINCH: Okay. MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah, yeah, that’s fine.
38:54MR. FINCH: This is a ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: Oh yeah, we better be a bit
38:57quicker. MR. FINCH: A Reinhardt painting obviously,
39:00which is, of course, impossible to photograph, but he’s – these paintings were incredibly
39:06important to me when I first moved to New York.
39:09I had a job right near MoMA and would go at lunchtime and just sat in front of them, and
39:16they’re so incredible. And I think what’s great about them is that they – there’s
39:20no tricks and they reveal themselves in time, and that
39:24they’re about time, and I’m sure there’s – I
39:25mean, there’s so much that’s been written about them, but they are – I think that
39:29they’re just sort of amazing, amazing works of art.
39:32And I think of sort of mid-century American painters. For me, Reinhardt is sort of the
39:39top. MS. CRADDOCK: He’s the top because he did
39:42so many other things as well: lectured, wrote. Very, very clever. And there is this kind
39:48of completely different relationship – no sort of
39:52overdoing the role of the art object itself. It’s just through time that you pick up
39:57that surface, which is unbelievable. And the build-up
40:00of paint. And it’s so true, and it’s – I mean,
40:04and then he also did brilliant cartoons and all these wonderful things that I adored.
40:07[CROSSTALK] When I was on foundation, it was like discovering cleverness, what art is,
40:13and I think it’s still true. MR. FINCH: Yeah. No, that’s actually an
40:16interesting point about artists who do things outside their work. I think that’s – well.
40:20MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. I mean, completely against what all the kind of hyperbole and
40:26mystification and the personalization and the individualization of artists at that time.
40:31He was really, really right on.
40:32MR. FINCH: And also ‒ and artists as citizens, which I think is really interesting, like
40:36what an artist does – I mean, this is for another
40:39time perhaps, but artists who think work can do
40:43certain things and then artists who do work as citizens, and artists whose work as citizens
40:49is part of their work. And I think that’s really interesting. And it’s like – was
40:53it Barnett Newman who ran for mayor? One of them ran
40:55for mayor, which is kind of fantastic.
40:59Here is a Turrell, which we will dispense with rather quickly.
41:04MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: There’s – someone once told
41:07me that they could tell ‒ a curator told me that
41:11they could tell immediately whether an artist loved or hated Turrell, and he immediately
41:17pegged me as someone who hates Turrell, which is true, and I think – I mean, let me count
41:27the ways. [LAUGHTER] No. That’s not fair. I mean, actually, some of the work I like
41:31alright, but I think it’s really the sort of smoke and mirrors thing about it and that
41:35there’s a sort of gestalt thing that happens that you
41:38sort of understand, especially with these sorts of
41:40works where you have this sort of ‒ this pseudo-spiritual experience.
41:43MS. CRADDOCK: Experience. It’s about experience. MR. FINCH: And then you go stick your head
41:46in this hole in the wall and you realize how it’s
41:49made, and then you never have that same experience again. And I think, for me, the great
41:54thing with great art is the sort of repeatability of it and that you go back and you have a
42:00great experience, and that you have a different experience, and you have a move powerful
42:04experience. And, I mean, if I go back to a Reinhardt now 20 years later, I still get
42:10something totally new out of it. I might even see like
42:12something totally new, and with Turrell, at least
42:14with these works, it doesn’t happen. MS. CRADDOCK: Well I think it’s something
42:18– it’s a very different kind of work. It’s the
42:20notion of being led in, sometimes in kind of sensory deprivation, in order to have sensory
42:24opposite to deprivation apparently. So you’re led in and then the whole idea is that it’s
42:30very important, which I think we’re going to talk about a bit later, just that notion
42:34of total experience. It’s very odd, the relationship
42:36between your life out there and the experience in there, and it’s slightly over the top.
42:41MR. FINCH: Right. Well, this is an example of someone who does it with great success.
42:46This is Bruce Nauman’s green corridor piece, which is one of my favorite works of art in
42:50the world. And why is it different? I guess, well,
42:55there’s no – it’s clear what he’s doing. There’s
42:59no trick to it. You know that it’s this very narrow corridor that you have to walk
43:02through that’s illuminated with these green lights.
43:04And you walk out the other side and the whole world looks magenta.
43:06MS. CRADDOCK: That’s right. MR. FINCH: But you want to do it again and
43:08again and again, like you can’t get enough of it.
43:10You just want to keep walking through that corridor. And it’s something so compelling.
43:14And it also tells you about yourself and it tells you about your body and about your
43:19perception and about the world. I mean, and it’s funny because Nauman is really not
43:24considered a light and space artist, but I think ultimately he is the best light and
43:28space artist we have. And this is really an awesome – it’s
43:32a fantastic work. I mean, it’s ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah.
43:35MR. FINCH: He’s great. MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
43:38MR. FINCH: Yeah, okay. We’ll keep moving. MS. CRADDOCK: Okay, lovely. Lovely, lovely,
43:42lovely. MR. FINCH: Maybe we should have put the curtain
43:44ones in instead of this. Did you want to talk about the ‒
43:46MS. CRADDOCK: No, it’s all – I mean, these are just – they lead us to some of the other
43:52people we’re going to talk about, to the next one – because, to de La Tour.
43:57MR. FINCH: I think we both really like Richter a lot.
44:00MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah, yeah. MR. FINCH: I mean, especially, October 17,
44:021977 – what is the date? MS. CRADDOCK: [CROSSTALK] They’re the most
44:03important historical history paintings around.
44:04MR. FINCH: [CROSSTALK] which I think are fantastic, but.
44:06MS. CRADDOCK: Blow your mind. MR. FINCH: But it didn’t fit with our topic.
44:11MS. CRADDOCK: No. MR. FINCH: These fit with our topic, and I
44:15think also this sort of – again, this sort of hint of
44:21abstraction and that he has this whole other practice of abstraction is totally ‒
44:24MS. CRADDOCK: I mean, he made 25 of these candle paintings. Blimey, he knows how to
44:28do it. MR. FINCH: Yeah.
44:29MS. CRADDOCK: The light – making the light and so on. Anyway, let’s move on.
44:34Ah, this is really important. [CROSSTALK] Yeah, leading on nicely, segue, as they say.
44:42Yes, beautiful de La Tour.
44:44Okay, so you have to think about whether he’d seen Caravaggio. He hadn’t, he’d just
44:49seen pictures by people who’d seen Caravaggio.
44:51MR. FINCH: Oh really? MS. CRADDOCK: Yes, and candlelit scenes, the
44:56fact that completely forgotten – he was totally lost and forgotten forever after he
45:00existed and then suddenly dragged out in the 20th
45:03century. You can see why. Totally straight up. You love this because of the light being
45:09obscured, don’t you? MR. FINCH: Well, yeah, I mean, mostly obscured.
45:14I mean, it’s like – you know, it’s in the
45:17same way of liking that I like the Joseph Wright of Derby. I mean, I know that the subject
45:20matter is quite different, time is different or whatever, but I think this idea of the
45:23light coming from within is so great. And then also
45:27just the sort of – I mean, just how he shows the sort of reflection of the light, the intensity
45:34of the light dropping off. I mean, this reflection here on the table, the reflection
45:38on the clothes, the reflection on the faces. I
45:41mean, it’s really – and that it’s illumination and reflection. I mean, light is so incredibly
45:47complicated, and this idea of painting light. So you’re using a sort of additive technique
45:52to create something that’s actually subtractive
45:54in the way that light works. And so there’s this
45:57sort of contradiction in it that makes it really sort of difficult to do and counterintuitive.
46:02And so it’s kind of amazing because it looks very matter of fact, but it is sort of complex.
46:10MS. CRADDOCK: And we’ve got another one, haven’t we?
46:11MR. FINCH: Yeah. I think we do have two of them. There. Again, it’s just a little bit
46:19of the candle showing.
46:20MS. CRADDOCK: My God. Cool. MR. FINCH: And also then, how do you – I
46:27mean, what kind of black do you use for the dark? I mean, what is that?
46:31MS. CRADDOCK: Well you don’t so much, do you, because you’ve got it all happening
46:34there. MR. FINCH: No, but like on this side of the
46:37sleeve, I mean, that then becomes the sort of
46:39darkest area. MS. CRADDOCK: That’s just discreet. That’s
46:40just the surface. That’s the screen. MR. FINCH: Yeah. I mean, that’s actually
46:43really interesting, that sort of – I mean, that’s like
46:48looking at, you know, this like in the totally dark up there, so it’s like doing that,
46:56which is really kind of great.
46:57MS. CRADDOCK: And it’s slightly blinding as well.
46:58MR. FINCH: So there is some light coming from outside somewhere.
47:00MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. Okay, now this one, you didn’t really want,
47:03did you? MR. FINCH: Well I’m not a huge El Greco
47:06fan. MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah, but you know, it’s a
47:09pretty – I mean, it’s a pretty amazing painting
47:11because it’s so – I mean, we haven’t really got time to find out why you don’t
47:15really go a bundle on El Greco. But I think this is an
47:19amazing painting in many ways because it – well it’s called Fable. It’s very odd. El Greco
47:25did do the youth blowing on an ember before, but
47:29then this idea of bringing that really rather funny-looking person on the right – he’s
47:33just interfering, you know, like in – a bit like
47:36in, you know, Velázquez, those drunks in Velázquez. You know, you feel like you’ve
47:43walked into a bar in Earl’s Court or something like that. There’s a sort of reality about
47:47it. And this guy’s coming in with his toothiness. And then this monkey is just – you know,
47:52probably the fable or the parable is, you know,
47:54the monkey has such wisdom, God knows what, all this stuff, but then the monkey is
47:58intelligent. But then there is this strange collection of heads. Quite exciting.
48:03MR. FINCH: Yeah. I would have preferred a Zurbarán.
48:06MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. Alright. [LAUGHTER] MR. FINCH: Saint Francis.
48:06MS. CRADDOCK: Okay. Yes, I wanted this. MR. FINCH: Yeah, I like this.
48:11MS. CRADDOCK: I’m mad about Ruscha and you are pretty much.
48:15MR. FINCH: Yeah. I love him. MS. CRADDOCK: Totally brilliant. And this
48:22is also in respect for the fact that these were put
48:24in the Venice Biennale years ago in the American Pavilion and it was a very nice show. And
48:31this is a very strange – these series of paintings, Los Angeles County Museum on Fire,
48:39’65-’68, are important because you have this incredible
48:43sort of almost virtuoso architect’s model idea of this stuff going on here. And then
48:49this insane fire going on at the back. I mean, it’s
48:52so fabulous. The fire is really on fire, isn’t it? I mean, it’s really – and yet this
48:58is very, very calm. I mean, it reminds me of a lot of the
49:02other works we’ve seen where, you know, it’s a
49:04bit like the Magritte, where something’s happening and something else is happening
49:07and there’s incongruity, and we’re looking
49:10at this sort of – almost every angle, we’re getting in
49:13every angle. So it looks like what you call an architect’s impression – artist’s
49:17impression, architects use. And then yet we’ve got the
49:20sort of ‒ MR. FINCH: Yeah, it’s also very funny, I
49:24think. MS. CRADDOCK: It’s very funny.
49:24MR. FINCH: So I think that’s really great. MS. CRADDOCK: [CROSSTALK] probably take it
49:25too seriously. MR. FINCH: Yeah. And – but I think fire
49:27is a great subject, and that takes us to the next one,
49:31which is the Turner study of the Houses of Parliament on fire, which I love. They’re
49:36so beautiful. And, I mean, just the idea of using
49:40water to paint fire, I think, is such a weird idea.
49:44MS. CRADDOCK: And the fact that he got in a boat to go and observe this.
49:46MR. FINCH: Yeah. MS. CRADDOCK: He got in a boat and he said,
49:49“Oh, it’s on fire,” and everyone’s going, “Ahh.”
49:51So he said, “Out the way.” He got a boat and went off down to look at it. [LAUGHTER]
49:54So there he was in the middle of the river sort
49:57of observing this fire. MR. FINCH: Yeah, and I must say the studies
50:00I find much more compelling than the finished paintings. I mean, they feel so much more
50:04modern and so much ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: And the finished painting is
50:08overdone because you then look through to Westminster Abbey as if somehow that was still
50:13holding out. MR. FINCH: But this idea of you have this
50:17fire, you have this smoke, you have water, all of
50:19this sort of stuff flowing, which then is rendered in water, of the watercolor, and
50:26the image still holds together. I mean, it’s sort
50:28of a – you know, he’s amazing so. MS. CRADDOCK: Okay. Next one – oh yeah,
50:32lovely. Well, you know, a little bit of – what did
50:37I study – yes, of economic history. MR. FINCH: [LAUGHING]
50:44MS. CRADDOCK: You know, [CROSSTALK] the city workers, seldom painted really, and the
50:51light in it is just unbelievable because it’s sort of bouncing back off. What do you like
50:57MR. FINCH: I think it’s amazing just showing the light coming off the floor, which is – you
51:01don’t usually think of that as being a subject for the reflection of light and this idea
51:04of using this floor and this sort of floor where this
51:07labor is going on with this reflection of ‒
51:09MS. CRADDOCK: Hell of a job. You know, in a way, Caillebotte was very, very formal,
51:14quite a traditional painter. He really did square
51:17out the surface. And a brilliant quote from Zola
51:20about this painting. “A painting that is so accurate that it makes it bourgeois.”
51:24[LAUGHTER] MR. FINCH: Well, high praise in deed.
51:29MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: Okay, we’re nearing the end.
51:34So this is – this brings up gold again. I love this
51:40painting. It’s in Amsterdam and it’s – Wittgenstein has this great line where he talks about
51:48Rembrandt’s gold paintings. I think it was actually The Man With the Golden Helmet, which
51:52is in the Met, where he says, “Rembrandt painted gold but he didn’t use gold paint,”
51:58which is so incredible. And this idea of light actually
52:02coming out of the painting, and the – I mean,
52:07it’s incredible. And this – I mean, this idea of using something, pigment, which absorbs
52:15light – and actually to create the illusion of
52:19light coming out of it and so few people have been
52:22able to do that and Rembrandt is one of the few. And something else about this – you’ll
52:27be glad to hear this – so I was reading this
52:31book, which you probably all know about [LAUGHING] which Sacha’s obsessed with,
52:36Karl Ove Knausgård. MS. CRADDOCK: Oh, yes.
52:39MR. FINCH: But he talks – I’m only on page 40. But he talks about Rembrandt, and
52:43he talks about that – do you remember?
52:44MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah, yeah. MR. FINCH: He talks about the self-portrait
52:46at the National Gallery, where he – you know,
52:49of course, they are amazing, these sort of studies of himself getting older, which are
52:53so intense and so incredible, but Karl Ove says
52:57– he talks about the eyes, and he says the one
53:00thing that doesn’t age is the eye, and it’s this sort of fascinating idea that I never
53:04really thought about, but the eyes in the Rembrandt
53:07self-portraits are the same. MS. CRADDOCK: Yes.
53:09MR. FINCH: And people’s eyes, you don’t see the aging.
53:11MS. CRADDOCK: Everything else goes, and that stays.
53:14MR. FINCH: So aren’t you glad I got [CROSSTALK] MS. CRADDOCK: Thank you, yeah. I absolutely
53:18adore it. I’m not good at talking about Rembrandt at all. I was told you had to turn
53:2440 to really get it. And I have turned 40. MR. FINCH: I think – I also love the self-portraits.
53:31I think that there’s this sense of impermanence.
53:33MS. CRADDOCK: Of course it’s brilliant. I just love it.
53:35MR. FINCH: I mean, just the – I mean, those self-portraits and just this idea of, you
53:42know, the sort of end and the fragility of life
53:46and all of that, which brings me to that other topic
53:48that we’ve been talking about that Sacha’s sick of hearing me talk about, which I’ve
53:52been on a jag about is the Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese
53:55idea of impermanence and this idea of beauty in
53:58its sort of ugly way, and this idea of entropy and deterioration as beauty in a sort of
54:07Buddhist, Daoist way, which is really interesting, I think present in those self-portraits, less
54:12so here. [CROSSTALK] MS. CRADDOCK: Every time you tell me that,
54:15I think it’s something I dip the sushi into. [LAUGHTER]
54:18Ah yeah, this. The Weather Project, 2003. We want to bring, you know, to be very
54:24respectful to where we are. It was here. And also the idea which, you know, this idea of
54:29actually constructing a kind of nature – falsely constructing a nature so that people are
54:36mesmerized and act out in a way. So it’s the idea of using light and this thin mist
54:44of sugar and whatever and water. And yet people were
54:47just very, very into the experience. It’s truly
54:51experiential. So anyway, it takes us slightly back to the
54:54Turell, but it also takes us somewhere else, so it’s
54:56very interesting because it’s just there and no longer. So it’s like – at the end,
55:01that’s all folks, except that was talked about last year
55:06because it was 10 years later. Yeah, yeah. MR. FINCH: I didn’t see it, but it seems
55:11quite amazing. But it is connected to the next
55:14image, which is something I particularly interested in, which is stained glass windows. This
55:21is the rose window from the Cathedral of Saint Denis, where Abbot Suger sort of designed
55:29the first – well, one of the first gothic environments and developed the sort of idea
55:37of stained glass as a way of transmitting sacred
55:43light. So there’s – I don’t really understand it
55:46fully, but there’s this idea of lux being the light, profane light, which is outside,
55:51that then hits the stained glass window and it becoming
55:57lumen and it’s transformed into sacred light. And then once it enters the cathedral and
56:05enters the eye of the believer, it is illumination. And so this idea of light having different
56:12qualities, ranging from profane to sacred is
56:15something that’s really interesting to me, and this idea of it being – of that sort
56:20of difference, and of stained glass, in particular,
56:24having this sort of effect. And in ecclesiastical architecture, of course, it has to do with
56:30the imagery as well and the idea of the image of a
56:34religious scene changing the quality of the light and making it pure inside the cathedral.
56:42But it’s an idea that I really like and I also love looking at these windows.
56:48There’s another piece. This is – you know, that window does everything and this does
56:56very little. This is a piece of light that I really
56:59like. Félix González-Torres sculpture. And this is
57:04sort of the opposite, very Wabi-Sabi. MS. CRADDOCK: Very.
57:07MR. FINCH: And the sort of modesty of it and something that I really like in a lot of work
57:13is art that sort of admits its own poverty in
57:17some way, you know. I think – I can’t remember
57:21who it was, but someone said, “It’s hard to say anything in art as good as saying nothing.”
57:27And it’s something I really believe, and I think that’s always a struggle to try
57:32to say something worthwhile, and I think that work
57:36like this, which is modest and somehow incredibly moving is really powerful.
57:42Do you want to say anything about that? MS. CRADDOCK: No, I agree.
57:49MR. FINCH: Okay. And this is our last slide. MS. CRADDOCK: Ooh. I – you go. [LAUGHTER]
57:59MR. FINCH: No, I mean, of course – the Matisse show, which I saw here, is incredible.
58:07MS. CRADDOCK: Amazing. MR. FINCH: This was not – I mean, what I
58:10was really amazed by, which doesn’t really have
58:12so much to do with light, although it does have to do with blue, is the cut-outs of the
58:16nudes. And it’s so sort of incredible the sort
58:20of complexity of those in something that appears to be
58:22so simple, the sort of movement of a body that’s portrayed with this very, very simple
58:28form. Anyway, it’s really such an exciting show,
58:32and I must say the Richard Hamilton show is also
58:35fantastic. MS. CRADDOCK: It’s amazing.
58:36MR. FINCH: It’s someone who we don’t know so well. He didn’t have such a presence
58:40in the States, but it’s so nice seeing an artist
58:44who was restless and changed and did lots of
58:47interesting, different work, did not have a sort of signature style and really was sort
58:51of committed and, I don’t know, it was really
58:54sort of gratifying to see the Hamilton show. And
58:57the Matisse show is just mind-blowing. So it’s really exciting to see both of those.
59:02MS. CRADDOCK: So do you think we should open – thanks. Should we open up to the floor
59:07for some questions, please. And do wait for the microphone to be brought to you. Anyone
59:14want to go? I mean, ask any – not go, I mean leave. [LAUGHTER]
59:21Mark? AUDIENCE MEMBER: It’s a bit unfair, but
59:32if I could throw two imaginary extra slides up.
59:38One of them would be a glass piece by Roni Horn. And the other one would be one of Zoe
59:43Leonard’s recent camera obscuras. I’d just love to hear what you have to say about
59:51those. MS. CRADDOCK: Roni, the Roni Horn. Which Roni
59:55Horn? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The one that has solid glass
59:58pieces where – MS. CRADDOCK: Speak into the –
60:00AUDIENCE MEMBER: The solid glass pieces. I know that Spencer probably knows them.
60:05MS. CRADDOCK: Yeah. MR. FINCH: Yeah. Roni was my teacher, and
60:09so it’s – and she was someone who had a huge
60:13influence on me, and – I mean, I like the glass pieces, but I feel that she – I mean,
60:24I feel that they’ve gotten a little decorative, weirdly.
60:26MS. CRADDOCK: A bit baroque. MR. FINCH: Which is sort of a weird thing
60:30for Roni. I mean, I guess I also saw them at – it
60:35was at Hauser & Wirth in New York, and there were a lot of them and I think there were
60:39maybe too many of them, and so they didn’t have this sort of presence. And they also
60:44didn’t have this sort of complex, almost non-sight
60:48that some of her objects had had, with some of
60:52the machined steel pieces that she did where she did two arrangements in two different
60:57rooms and there’s this sort of complexity of experiencing those. And I didn’t find
61:02that. These feel more sort of singular, and of course,
61:05they’re beautiful, but they don’t have, for
61:07me, the sort of sense of relationship to the space and the viewer that some of the early
61:18work has or like something like the steel – the sort of flat steel pieces, like there’s
61:26a great one with a Simone Weil quote, “To see a
61:29landscape as it is when I am not there.” It’s just
61:32such a beautiful piece, where you sort of see the form of the letters on the top and
61:36then you get to the other side and you actually see
61:37the letters carved in. So, I mean, I think maybe
61:41they’re too beautiful is – the Zoe Leonard piece, I loved, and I also felt that that
61:53piece at the Whitney was a little bit of a love letter
61:57to the Breuer Building, which is such a beautiful building, to sort of turn it inside out and
62:04turn the project of the city into that building, which is such a great building, and I’m
62:12kind of sad that the Whitney is leaving. MS. CRADDOCK: It’s sad. Any questions or
62:18even just observations? Do wait for the microphone please.
62:24AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t know if I’ve got this right, but when you were talking
62:32about the images, all of the images, it seemed to
62:34me that you were focusing on the physiological characteristics. Would that be a reasonable
62:39– were you describing the effect of light? And I
62:44just wondered – I was particularly struck by the Magritte, which is second or third
62:50slide, and I just wondered whether there was anything
62:52about a psychological resonance of light as a metaphor, whether that played – whether
62:59that was significant for you in any way. MR. FINCH: Yeah, I think it is. I mean, certainly
63:06in the stained glass window, that’s an example. I think that – I mean, the sort
63:11of psychology – certainly, there is a lot of
63:14psychology in the Nauman work, for example. I think it’s a deeply psychological work
63:20and very powerful on a psychological level. I
63:23think of the Magritte as being more sort of philosophical than psychological. And, of
63:30course, there’s overlap there, and of course, the
63:36stained glass window, of course, is I think pretty psychological in a way.
63:44Do you want to ‒ MS. CRADDOCK: What do you think, Simon?
63:53AUDIENCE MEMBER: Well – MS. CRADDOCK: I mean, why did you pick the
63:58Magritte one? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Well, it was just the first
64:01time that – it was the first thing that came
64:04up. MR. FINCH: Yes.
64:05AUDIENCE MEMBER: Because I suppose what you could say is, “Oh yes, there’s a thing
64:10here. It’s daylight at the top and it’s nighttime down at the bottom.” And you can
64:20describe the effect of a bright blue day with clouds
64:26at a sort of descriptive level, and then you can
64:32describe what it’s like at night. And you can see the juxtaposition of the two and that
64:34could be the content of the work. But I wondered
64:35if there was a step beyond that. MS. CRADDOCK: I think there is.
64:36MR. FINCH: I guess it is psychological in the way – the idea of holding two contradictory
64:40ideas in your head at one time, which for me is a fascinating idea. And I think great
64:44works of art do that, and I’m sort of surprised
64:51that a Magritte painting does that, but it does that
64:53for me. MS. CRADDOCK: Could we take the microphone
64:59here please, down here. Oh, here. Oh, it’s coming.
65:07AUDIENCE MEMBER: It’s actually a question about your work at the 9/11 Memorial. I was
65:16wondering if you chose to do the light of the day because the museum is completely
65:21underground and there is very little natural light. And if the artwork is supposed to bring
65:26in light to a space that has an absence of natural light or if ‒ because it is supposed
65:31to be the blue sky of that day or is it almost your
65:36artifact of the thing that you remember about that
65:39day that you’re putting into the museum? MR. FINCH: I mean, I think that they’re
65:45not mutually exclusive. I was trying to do both
65:49things. I mean, it was a – it’s obviously an incredibly loaded site. The pieces – I
65:57did a piece over 20 years ago that was a series of pink
66:00drawings and trying to remember the color of
66:01Jackie Kennedy’s pill box hat, and it was using that idea to talk about memory really
66:14and the idea of memory being so precise in some ways
66:18and also so amorphous in other ways. And the real challenge for me with that work was
66:25to try to do it in an honest way, and 3,000 shades of blue is a lot. I mean, of course,
66:33our eye can see over a million different colors, so
66:36it’s really not so many. But for each of those colors to be convincing to me so that
66:42each time I was starting fresh and really trying to
66:45make a blue that I could feel was convincing, and at
66:50the same time, have there be 3,000 different ones. That was really the challenge.
66:56And also for the piece to be somewhat interactive. It is this sort of blank screen, which is
67:01something I’m sort of interested in in the work as being a sort of screen for a certain
67:07projections. And it also – the piece actually, the proposal started actually as a light
67:17projection of different shades of blue being projected on that wall. And I really felt
67:27that was too much of the format of everything else
67:30which is down there, and there’s a lot of video
67:34documentary stuff. And I also felt that it had to be something devotional for some reason,
67:42that it had to be – I really had to make this myself and do it in a sort of devotional
67:46way to, I mean, sort of honor – I mean, it sounds
67:52corny. I can’t even believe I’m saying it, but to
67:54honor the dead, to honor [CROSSTALK] and also – but it’s also a horrible, horrible place.
68:01To be honest, if I were not involved, I’m not
68:04sure I would go down there. And so, to bring some
68:07sort of light there and some sort of relief was also part of the goal.
68:15AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. AUDIENCE MEMBER: To take it in a more lighthearted
68:33direction, going back to Kansas, how did you face the challenge of putting
68:40it in Margate when sunrise is 4:30 and sunset is
68:469:30, and the gallery’s closed? MS. CRADDOCK: [LAUGHING] I know. Yeah, it
68:49actually will only work I think four times during the exhibition when the gallery is
68:54open late. So, you know, you have to be – you take
68:57what you can get. It’s a piece that I’m really proud of and it is – I mean, it does,
69:03of course, exist during the day as this sort of work
69:09somehow about the Wizard of Oz and about this relationship between black and white and technicolor.
69:14But I really wanted to do it because that David Chipperfield space is so beautiful
69:20and all the work in the show is about changing light, and this is something about changing
69:25light sort of at the end of the day. And if only – if
69:29I had to install it only for it to be experienced once, that actually would have been enough
69:36for me, it’s something I feel so strongly about. And to actually – I don’t think
69:42I’ll be able to be back to experience it, but to sit in that
69:46beautiful space that Chipperfield designed and
69:50watch the sun go down and it get dark I think will just be fantastic. I mean, I think it
69:59could be – I mean, it would be equally fantastic
70:02without my work in it and maybe more fantastic, in fact. And just working in that space during
70:07the installation was a really wonderful experience, the changing light. And it’s
70:13nice to work in a space designed by an architect that is really pro-artist, and I think that
70:21I am sort of somewhat categorical in dividing contemporary architects between art lovers
70:28and art haters. I mean, there are architects who design museums that are really kind of
70:35against artists. I mean, they often think that
70:38they’re artists and do it better than we can. And then there are architects, many great
70:45architects, who are much more sort of generous and really think about art and how it will
70:53exist in their spaces. And I think it’s wonderful. And Chipperfield is one of them.
70:58AUDIENCE MEMBER: It is lovely where it is at the moment, even with just daylight on
71:03it, but it might amuse you to know that people
71:07are taking the cards, which are so generously provided and disappearing into shadowy corners
71:13and dark corners to try and simulate what you said will happen. And it does, even
71:18with just printed cards. MR. FINCH: It’s one of those things – you
71:20know, you can do this at home. [LAUGHTER] You
71:22can take it and – I mean, if one person goes to that exhibition and then as a result,
71:29sits intheir own living room and sort of watches the light change for half an hour, watches
71:33those colors disappear, I’ll feel that it’s
71:35a huge success. AUDIENCE MEMBER: It is a success. Thank you.
71:39MS. CRADDOCK: Any more observations or questions? Oh yes, back there.
71:49AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ve really enjoyed this kind of visual associative way that you’ve
71:56done the lecture, and I was wondering if you could have done an equivalent – maybe not
72:02in a museum – but an equivalent with literary
72:06associations. And I wondered if there’s something that we could take away that you’d
72:10share with us, maybe a passage we could read or something because I know there are
72:14various literary references which come up in
72:16your work, and I don’t feel that’s been touched upon so far. So maybe there’s something
72:19we could go home and read that would give us
72:22an insight into other influences into your work.
72:26MR. FINCH: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot. Well, I’m reading Karl Ove Knausgård right
72:36now, but that’s sort of a new thing. I mean,
72:40one poem that I was thinking about when sort of
72:46working on this is an Auden poem, the poem that he wrote about Henry James, which starts
72:55in a beautiful way, where he actually visits the grave of Henry James in – I think he
73:02ended up being buried in Boston. And he sees the
73:06reflection of the sky in the puddles from the
73:10snow, and then he goes on and sort of talks about the limits of what art can do, and –
73:23actually was – I had it – oh yeah, and he sort of talks about the artist being – he
73:41says, “To be deaf yet determined to sing, to be lame and
73:46blind yet burning for the great good place, to be
73:51radically corrupt but mournfully attracted to the real distinguished thing.” And I
73:56think that it’s – as an artist now working in this
74:02world, this – there is this sense of, you know, being
74:10radically corrupted in whatever ways, I mean, by the market, by whatever. I make a living
74:17from my work, so I am somehow corrupt, I’m sorry to say. But I still feel, for me, that
74:27what I’m most excited about is this sort of mournful
74:32attraction to the real, distinguished thing. I
74:35mean, for me, the most exciting time is still to be in the studio and still to be making
74:39work. And that really gives me hope. And also that
74:43was part of the reason we did the lecture this
74:45way is that I really think it’s important to really keep trying to do different work,
74:52trying to do different things. It’s something that
74:55I loved about the Hamilton show, just sort of when
74:57you see that – when you see that in a career, it’s really exciting. And the artists who’ve
75:01done that are really inspiring for me. And so I think looking at those artists and thinking
75:09about artists who really are truly committed still to the real, distinguished thing. And
75:16it’s hard to find it, but it’s there – you
75:20know, with all this clutter. And, of course, there’s always Emily Dickinson,
75:27you know, if you can’t find anything else. She never fails. And I think what is so incredible
75:35about Emily Dickinson is that she has this thing that the greatest artworks have, that
75:42she is so difficult in a way, but so rewarding. I
75:47mean, I just get so much out of her. And also that she’s – I really think that probably
75:56after Shakespeare, she’s the greatest writer in
75:58the English language and that there is just so
76:00much to go back to and to get out of her. And I don’t claim to be a Dickinson scholar
76:06or anything, but I find it so – how she can
76:11talk about what it is to be human and to take something that is just so sort of prosaic
76:17and make it, you know, there’s a sort of magic that happens and she sort of can describe
76:22the world in a way that makes it sort of miraculous. And she is, I think – yeah, so I guess if
76:33there was one book, it would probably be her. MS. CRADDOCK: I think that’s brilliant what
76:40you said. Thank you. Fantastic. I think we’re going to sort of – you said so many great
76:46things just now, it sort of seems a pity to have any
76:49more questions actually, to be quite honest. So thank you very much. And thank you all