Brice Marden: American Artist Lecture Series

Art in Embassies (AIE) introduce the AIE American Artists Lecture Series in 2012, a three year programmatic collaboration among Art in Embassies, the Tate Modern Museum, and Embassy London – building relationships and sharing ideas in support of cultural diplomacy. This innagural lecture features internationally regarded artist Brice Marden.

Full Transcript

0:08 MARKO DANIEL, TATE MODERN: Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
0:11 Welcome to Tate Modern.
0:13 My name is Marko Daniel, I am the convener of adult programs,
0:16 and it gives me great pleasure to welcome you here this evening
0:20 for tonight’s first event in our new series
0:25 of conversations and talks by artists,
0:28 The American Artist Lecture Series.
0:31 This is a program that we have developed together with Marjorie Susman,
0:36 wife of the U.S. Ambassador in London, whose brainchild this was,
0:41 and we started talking about it just over a year ago,
0:44 and it seemed such a brilliant idea, that we’ve now started this,
0:49 and we’re doing a series of twice yearly talks by artists,
0:56 starting tonight with Brice Marden, and, in fact, the next one in the series
1:02 will be Maya Lin on the 15th of October.
1:07 For tonight though, I just wanted to welcome you all here,
1:10 and welcome of course our fellow partners in this project,
1:16 but also give you just a few words of kind of housekeeping advice.
1:21 Please turn off your mobile phones or set them to silent
1:27 ‒ and we’ll have the ‒
1:28 a couple of introductions here now and then a presentation by Brice Marden,
1:34 followed by a conversation with Nick Serota and time for questions.
1:37 When it comes to question time, please raise your hand
1:41 if you want to ask a question, and we will bring
1:45 a roving microphone to you, so that everybody can hear you.
1:48 For now though, I just wanted to say again how delighted we are to be working with
1:53 the American Embassy here in London and with the Art in Embassies Program.
2:00 Following me now, the second introduction of the evening will be from Virginia Shore,
2:08 who is the head of the Art in Embassies Program,
2:13 Virginia over to you.
2:18 MS. VIRGINIA SHORE, CHIEF CURATOR AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ART IN EMBASSIES PROGRAM:
2:22 Good evening, it’s wonderful to be here.
2:25 This has been about a year, as Marko said, it’s incredible to work with the Tate Modern
2:31 and with the London Embassy,
2:33 Marjorie Susman came up with this idea
2:36 about a year ago.
2:37 Our program is ̶
2:39 our 50th anniversary is this year,
2:40 so we’re coming up with all sorts of new programs
2:43 and ways to enhance what we’ve been doing
2:46 for the past 50 years.
2:48 We curate art exhibitions for the ambassadors’ residences
2:52 all over the world and now our program has grown in the last decade,
2:57 in the right direction we think, and now we actually,
3:00 it’s not just about American artists anymore,
3:02 it’s also about artists from the host countries
3:04 so with every new embassy or consulate that we’re building,
3:09 we have a team of people who curate site specific exhibitions
3:14 that are permanent.
3:16 We commission work, and the program is now truly
3:20 become about cross cultural exchange, so it’s moving in the right direction,
3:25 and we’re all so excited.
3:27 I just wanted to say thank you to the Tate Modern.
3:30 Marko’s been incredible to work with, and Sir Nicholas Serota, and Chris Durkan,
3:35 and the team and the London Embassy,
3:37 Marjorie Susman and Helen and Lynn and Monique
3:40 and the whole team there and our director.
3:43 I’m the Chief Curator and Deputy Director
3:45 and our director, Beth Desoritz, who’s sitting here in the audience as well,
3:51 it’s so great to be here, and this is one of six lectures
3:54 that we’re so excited to do and thank you for coming
3:58 and we hope we’ll see you again on the 15th and now let me introduce Marjorie Susman.
4:03 Thank you.
4:05 Wait, most importantly, I forgot to intro ‒ to thank the artist.
4:09 When we got together – when we got together 8 months ago
4:13 and were trying to figure out how we were going to do this
4:15 and who the artist would be, truly at the top of each one of our lists,
4:20 we all wanted to aim high, and we put Brice Marden down
4:23 never knowing whether it would really happen
4:25 and it – it has, and we’re all so incredibly grateful
4:28 that you’re here, and it’s very exciting, so thank you.
4:34 (applause)
4:37 MARJORIE SUSMAN: Last August, sitting on our porch
4:42 at our home in Nantucket,
4:44 I told my friend and philanthropist,
4:48 Agnus Gund,
4:50 of my dream of bringing the most iconic
4:53 American artist to London.
4:57 What a way to celebrate America’s greatness in creativity.
5:02 What a way to expand our London Embassy’s
5:06 commitment to use American modern and contemporary art
5:10 as a form of cultural outreach and wider diplomacy.
5:15 Aggi’s enthusiasm matched mine. We exchanged a flurry of ideas.
5:21 She encouraged me forward to think big.
5:26 On returning to London, I went straight at it.
5:31 With Virginia Shore of the Art in Embassy program
5:35 and Marko Daniel of the Tate Modern
5:38 the result of our collaboration is the American Artist Lecture Series.
5:45 For me, it was essential that the inaugural lecturer
5:49 be a rockstar of the art world.
5:53 The overwhelming choice of our – of our whole partnership
5:58 was that we should launch the initiative with Brice Marden,
6:03 one of the most influential artists of our times.
6:08 In the early 1960’s, while a graduate student at Yale,
6:13 Brice developed a way of painting that is distinctly his own.
6:17 Public recognition was swift.
6:21 Almost immediately his work was seen as powerful and important.
6:28 By age 36, he had a survey of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
6:36 Over 30 years on, his impact is undiminished
6:41 and his gifts to us continue to be profound,
6:45 engaging, and challenging.
6:47 During an interview, when asked, “Who do you paint for?”
6:54 Marden answered, “I paint because it’s my work,
6:58 “and I paint because I believe it’s the best way
7:01 “that I can pass my time as a human being,
7:06 “and I paint for myself, and I paint for my wife
7:10 “and I paint for anyone that’s willing to look at it,
7:15 “really at heart, for anybody who wants to see it,
7:20 and when I say see it, I mean see it. I don’t just mean look at it.”
7:27 Brice is an artist whom all the art world
7:30 holds in highest regard, and that is rare indeed.
7:35 We are privileged that his wife Helen
7:39 and daughter Mirabelle are here with us this evening.
7:43 It’s an honor and a yearlong dream to introduce my hero, Brice Marden.
7:49 But first, I’d like to –
7:53 to bring Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate
7:57 forward to say a few words himself. Thank you.
8:03 (applause)
8:07 SIR NICHOLAS SEROTA, DIRECTOR, TATE:
8:10 Marjorie, ladies and gentlemen.
8:14 I was in Chicago over the weekend
8:17 for the opening of the Lichtenstein exhibition,
8:19 which comes to Tate Modern in February,
8:22 and I got off a plane last night
8:24 and I woke up this morning with complete jet lag
8:26 and walked into a door, if anyone wants to,
8:28 I don’t want you all to be spending the next half hour
8:32 speculating as to why I look as I do.
8:38 What Marjorie didn’t say of course was that both she and Lou, as…
8:43 are not only the American Ambassador and his wife in this country,
8:47 but also great collectors and passionately committed
8:51 to the visual arts.
8:53 We’ve been particularly fortunate in London over the last six or seven years
8:56 in having Ambassadors follow each other in the American Embassy
9:00 who have had a passion for the visual arts,
9:03 Bob and Maria Tuttle and now, Lou and Marjorie Susman.
9:08 But, it was Marjorie’s initiative, as she said, to initiate this series,
9:15 and we’re really incredibly grateful to you Marjorie for the impetus
9:19 that you’ve given us.
9:20 And on the screen, we’re going to, for the first part of this talk
9:25 and conversation, show some images of Brice’s work,
9:29 just to refresh your memories and memory is very important
9:33 in his work, of course.
9:35 And also for those of you who aren’t familiar with the work,
9:39 just to give you some sense of an overview both as here on paper
9:44 and then later in the sequence on canvas.
9:49 In 1974, Brice produced a series of notes, drawings that was, together with some text,
9:59 and amongst the text he said,
10:01 “Painters are amongst the priests, worker priests of the cult of man,
10:07 searching to understand but never to know.”
10:11 I often think that curators and critics spend their time
10:16 trying to pin down artists, and artists spend most of their career
10:21 trying to escape being pinned down.
10:25 And if you look in most of the standard histories of the last 40 years,
10:32 or if you look in a source like Wikipedia, Brice is always described as a minimalist.
10:40 I think that the images on the screen, and indeed probably the conversation today,
10:46 will make it apparent that he is also, as Wikipedia says, difficult to categorize.
10:53 That I see as a great strength, and in my experience
10:59 over a long period of looking at his work,
11:01 I have consistently found myself surprised by what I see.
11:07 And only last week, I went to see a show of paintings
11:13 that Brice has made recently, works that Brice has made recently
11:17 on marble in Chelsea, New York,
11:22 the second time that he’s produced a series of works on marble,
11:26 most of which have been made I think in Hydra,
11:29 where he spends part of every year.
11:32 But then along the street, there was a small gallery space,
11:39 within it, a single painting comprising nine canvases in different,
11:46 and barely different, hues of blue, abutting one another,
11:52 plain surfaces, each 24 inches by 18, in a line, hung low,
12:03 and to the side a small shard of a ceramic pot,
12:09 and I learned that, this was clear, a new work by Brice Marden
12:14 although many people would probably regard it
12:18 in certain ways as closer to some of the earlier works
12:24 that are seen on the screen here.
12:27 The two were brought together because Brice had a memory
12:33 of a very extraordinary group of ceramics that he had seen in China.
12:40 These were ceramics made in the 11th Century A.D.,
12:45 and the blues in which have been described as the color of the sky after rain,
12:55 and the paintings were made in memory of his experience
13:01 of having seen that – those shards and indeed the presence of a single shard
13:10 in the room was in a sense an evocation of that.
13:14 I dwell here really, largely because I think it’s characteristic of his work
13:20 to keep moving, almost like pebbles in a hand.
13:26 A whole series of ideas and concepts, many of which,
13:30 notwithstanding the changing physical appearance of his work,
13:35 have been consistent over a very, very long period.
13:40 As early as 1963, in his master’s thesis at Yale,
13:47 he could write,
13:48 “I began to concentrate on this idea of rectangles”,
13:52 and then he went on,
13:55 “I consider color as tonality, edge as interpretations
14:01 “and meetings of shapes, space as the lack of it
14:06 “in naturalistic terms, technicalities as permanence,
14:14 paint as surface, light atmosphere”
14:18 no as there, just light atmosphere,
14:24 “form as poetry mystery, that unexplainable
14:30 thing that good painting has.”
14:33 Well if it was there in ’63, 50 years ago, I would argue it’s still there.
14:42 Again, just to remind you, Brice grew up in –
14:47 outside New York, upstate.
14:51 He went to Boston as a student, where he saw and fell in love
15:00 with a great many of the Spanish masters in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,
15:05 and we might come back to his particular attraction
15:08 to Spanish painting, I think, in our conversation.
15:12 He studied after Boston, at Yale, where his fellow students
15:16 included Richard Serra, Chuck Close, Robert Mangold, Nancy Graves
15:22 and Michael Craig-Martin.
15:27 From the mid ’60s, he began to make what Wikipedia and others
15:33 regard as his characteristic paintings,
15:35 those made in oil with turpentine and beeswax, not on the screen,
15:42 but I think probably will be on the screen shortly.
15:46 He worked as an assistant to Robert Rauschenberg
15:51 for four years in the late ’60s.
15:56 In ’71, he went for the first time to Hydra in Greece
16:00 and in a way that marks the beginning of his engagement
16:03 with ancient cultures.
16:06 ’72 he visited the Rothko Chapel, recently inaugurated in Houston,
16:16 and from ’78 until ’85 he worked on plans for a series,
16:25 a group of windows in the cathedral in Basel.
16:29 These were never realized, following a disagreement
16:33 between various elements of the commissioning body
16:37 in Basel, very sadly.
16:38 But they became a very important moment
16:41 in his career and led on to a different kind of drawing,
16:46 a different kind of way of working, a new and bolder use of color,
16:53 which culminated in a series of larger works and indeed a series of larger paintings,
17:00 they’re called “Mountain Series”, one of which will come up shortly.
17:05 And over the last 10 or 15 years, he’s continued to develop these paintings
17:10 with a calligraphic element, but also increasingly
17:15 and most sumptuously, very, very rich color.
17:20 As I say, he moves, I have said, he moves from New York to Hydra,
17:27 but he also has studios outside of New York
17:29 in Pennsylvania and upstate overlooking the Hudson.
17:35 And it is his communion with nature,
17:39 which I think has become ever more present in his work.
17:42 And I think that’s probably enough from me at this stage, just to set the scene,
17:47 and I’d like to invite Brice Marden to say a few words
17:53 and to introduce his work through some notes that he has made
17:57 in the course of being in the studio, Brice.
18:00 (applause)
18:28 BRICE MARDEN: Yellow bark acacia, fever acacia,
18:35 wet areas, misty white blue green,
18:40 yellow greens, umber stems,
18:44 yellow bark fever acacia.
18:46 Darker, warmer greens, jades, umbers, soft yellows,
18:59 white blue green up to dark blue green.
19:04 Dark warm green.
19:06 It’s a note from Lake Manyara in Tanzania.
19:13 The title of this talk is,
19:17 “This is what I do, and this is what I try to do.”
19:26 I’ve just been in Hydra, Greece,
19:36 where there is the tail end of the spring bursts of wildflowers
19:40 and the return of some warming sun.
19:45 In a walled garden, I made notes for this talk.
19:49 Roses, jasmine, lavender blooming.
19:53 I was working a painting on marble, started last summer.
20:05 I was with my beautiful wife.
20:08 We read poems by Greek poets, drank coffee, ate fruit.
20:16 Close to ideal.
20:18 I arrive here in London (laughter) and find my notes way too romantic,
20:31 complicated, and confused.
20:35 Things like my embrace of the square, infinite possibilities evolving
20:46 into repetitious clichés, belief in the hand, arm to body,
20:56 so trained as it may be, can still deliver individuality
21:01 or through muscularity, express and deliver the inner workings
21:10 of the human with infinite subtlety, the hand to human connection.
21:19 Dance, inner expression brought out, the jasmine window,
21:28 capturing the evocation, being about something,
21:33 not a picture of it.
21:35 Detachment, transformation, is balance form.
21:45 Perfect balance, to follow the dictates of the image.
21:51 Ambiguity, inquiétant, oppositional forces, opposites,
22:01 equals, yin- yang, acknowledged and allowed to turn into feelings
22:04 creating an elevated sense, which puts you back in touch
22:09 with being human in this environment.
22:15 Subject matter.
22:20 I acknowledge nature and form as my guides.
22:28 Form is in-correctable. Form is the in-correctable attainment.
22:38 Stop the motion, freeze the energy, only to show the motion,
22:45 keep it moving, retaining the energy, perpetuate the validity of vagueness.
22:59 I thought that was pretty funny myself. (laughter)
23:02 “Pictures must be miraculous” – Mark Rothko.
23:10 In the Acropolis museum, the Greek light on the marble
23:13 of the sculptures, it’s working, everything becomes enhanced,
23:19 the Peplos Kore, in perspective.
23:22 In the distance, Giacomedi, the specifics of her subtleties,
23:29 the light, the marble.
23:32 Images quivering on the brink of becoming alive.
23:46 I like to work within given restraints.
23:49 A given shape, a wall, a specific space.
23:54 I like number systems.
23:56 I work with a grid of four and three, four representing the elements
24:02 and three representing the trinity, and I had a numerologist friend
24:10 who told me my number was six.
24:13 And so I made a painting called the “Propitious Garden of Plane Image”,
24:20 and plane image is just another way I refer to myself or the studio or whatever.
24:36 So I had – the painting was made up of six panels,
24:39 each with six colors, they were 4 by 6 which is 24 which is six.
24:47 I was beginning to feel this some sort of ultimate self-portrait.
24:51 I showed two of them in a show at the Modern in New York.
24:59 I invited my friend Jeffrey to come to the opening,
25:02 and he said, “Why was I invited?”
25:05 I said, “You said my number was six, I made all these paintings.” (laughter)
25:12 He said, “Your number’s 15.” (laughter) So now I’m working on 15, (laughter)
25:23 I call them stelae paintings.
25:27 There’s a poet named Von Segalen, who is very interesting guy.
25:31 He was doctor who – he was the guy
25:34 that bought all the Gauguins that came up for auction in Tahiti
25:36 after Gauguin died, and he was an early Orientalist
25:44 and he wrote a group of poems based on these stelae,
25:48 which are these stone tablets they put up with sort of instructional,
25:53 either poetry or just instructions on how to deal with your life.
26:00 So I have five of these in three different studios,
26:06 each with five, three lines of five characters,
26:12 and I’m working them in the different studios
26:14 because I want to see what the differences will be
26:18 by being in different places.
26:20 So I have a group in Nevis, in the Caribbean,
26:22 we have this beautiful little hotel,
26:25 if you want to come stay, just give us a call,
26:33 and I have a set in New York City, and I have a set at upstate in Tivoli.
26:40 They haven’t gone very far, but it’s a plan.
26:46 Avoidance of the givens, the square, the perfect abstraction,
26:53 always keep things a little bit off.
26:56 Acceptance of the given, my recent embrace of the square.
27:03 I had these extra 6 by 8 foot canvases around the studio,
27:06 and I’ve been doing these horizontal paintings
27:08 that I just turned vertical, did a 6 by 6 foot square
27:12 and it didn’t look square so that’s become part of what I’m making
27:18 a painting to be titled, “The Moss Sutra”.
27:22 It consists of a large center panel,
27:23 9 feet by 15 feet, four side panels, 8 feet by 6 feet each.
27:32 The center panel is divided into four horizontals, four horizontal areas,
27:36 the largest being the center, which holds a grid of 35 vertical lines
27:47 of five characters each.
27:49 I took this from a piece of calligraphy that an expert told me was a sutra.
27:54 I love a moss, and a favorite image of mine is the dry stone waterfall
28:03 in the moss garden Saiho-ji in Kyoto.
28:09 The side panels are to be painted as the seasons, terra verde under all,
28:19 season color, yellow, green, red, blue as ground color.
28:28 A formal system, a cycle of blue on yellow,
28:35 yellow on green, green on red, red on blue.
28:38 Then, red on spring, blue on summer, yellow on autumn, green on winter.
28:47 Then, green on spring, red on summer, blue on autumn, yellow on winter.
28:57 All panels have all seasons.
29:03 Through this layering, one hopes, diverse drawing opportunities, will open up.
29:19 All layers – all these layers are joinings of characters, characters,
29:23 I don’t know how I can say it, I got quotes around it here,
29:28 they’re like my – my own fictitious calligraphy.
29:33 The layering process when the image reveals itself
29:38 by coming up, emerging from positive application,
29:44 that’s where I draw something down,
29:51 negation, which is I usually get the whole thing worked
29:53 and then paint over the whole thing, scrape it down
29:58 and see what starts talking to me.
30:02 Search, reapplication, negation, search, explain.
30:18 “The ultimate aim of painting is not decorative beauty, but truth.
30:24 “What is truth?
30:26 “It must not be confused with formal resemblance.
30:31 “Indeed formal resemblance only reaches the appearance of things.
30:36 Or as the function of truth is to capture their essence.”
30:41 That’s by Shi Tao. Thank you.
30:46 (applause)
30:56 SIR SEROTA: We should be live. Is that working?
31:00 Are we getting – Brice do you want to test yours?
31:03 MR. MARDEN: Hello. Hello.
31:06 SIR SEROTA: Yep. Okay.
31:09 Brice, you declaimed the way, explain a moment ago,
31:16 and I don’t think any of us were expecting explanations as such.
31:21 But, I suppose I want to begin really by obviously reflecting on both
31:28 a couple of comments I made, but also the way in which you
31:34 consistently seem to come back to certain themes in the work,
31:39 and especially, I suppose, let’s start with the idea
31:43 of your relationship with nature and the seasons.
31:47 I mean, that’s something which is present from a very early moment.
31:52 There was a painting, “Nebraska”, for instance,
31:55 which is quite frequently referred to in the literature
31:59 as a painting that records, not your view of,
32:04 but your experience of traveling across that country
32:10 and then you were talking a moment ago about the quality of being in a courtyard
32:17 or a garden in Hydra.
32:19 How does that – what is the process that leads that
32:22 into being translated into a painting?
32:25 Does it begin with drawing, do you go straight to the painting?
32:35 MR. MARDEN: There’s different –
32:37 there’s different ways, you know.
32:40 Sometimes it’s much more formal.
32:43 Like this one, “The Moss Sutra”, the one I was talking about,
32:46 I mean it was a – the…
32:49 sometimes you make works in groups.
32:55 I would like a group because we always just break all the groups up,
33:04 and it’s how I tried to come up with some group and it’s –
33:10 I’m just kind of ending up with this bigger and bigger painting and –
33:18 and that you know, I gave a talk in Houston
33:22 at the Rothko Chapel last year,
33:24 and this is the first time I ever gave a talk with the whole thing
33:27 was written you know, and most of it, a lot of it was written by other people,
33:35 and I just read it. (laughter)
33:37 But, as I put it together, and I have a painting in the Menil Museum
33:41 called “The Seasons”, which I made for an exhibition
33:45 they did down there with David Novros, myself and Rothko,
33:48 where they presented the optional Rothko panels. And…
33:51 SIR SEROTA: …that’s the painting with four panels…
33:55 MR. MARDEN: Yeah it’s four you know.
33:57 And I thought, you know I said, you know, I don’t know
34:01 what was going on with my mind then.
34:03 It doesn’t look that much like “The Seasons” to me,
34:08 so I thought, I give it another stab.
34:15 And I have all these ideas about it and you know,
34:18 and I’ve worked a drawing that’s this big and I’ve worked a drawing that’s this big
34:22 and then now I’m working on a really big finished drawing
34:30 and the formality of the task.
34:37 I’m a little, I’m at the point where this ends.
34:42 And I go back, I’ve got to start figuring
34:44 well what is going to happen, how am I going to turn these things
34:48 into “The Seasons” and I figure every time
34:50 I give it another hit, each season will get
34:56 a little bit more specific about you know,
34:59 the color will get a little bit more specific about the season.
35:05 But then I’m mixing all these colors together.
35:08 It’s a – well, you know – I just don’t know what’s going to happen.
35:16 But, you know.
35:17 SIR SEROTA: So why didn’t that earlier painting
35:21 look like “The Seasons” any longer?
35:24 MR. MARDEN: I went down there,
35:27 I painted it and put it in the show and it was a show,
35:30 you know David Novros
35:31 does these big installations, room installations, they’re really beautiful.
35:37 And so I did these four panels and I was – there was a real time deadline thing,
35:48 so I did these four smaller panels where I put a color on the big panel
35:54 and then I would correct it on the little panel.
35:57 And I put the little panels were on the side then the big, and then the side.
36:01 So it was like a cyclical kind of thing. And I told Mrs. de Menil, I said,
36:12 “I’ll show it, but I want to work on it some more.”
36:16 And she said, fine, and she gave me a studio down there,
36:21 and then I went on this long trip with Novros, driving around the southwest,
36:25 and you know the southwest color is like a whole different thing.
36:28 And you know you’re looking at cottonwood trees.
36:30 I never see cottonwood trees up north, you know.
36:34 And it’s like this really soft thing and so I think that maybe,
36:39 so I come back and I repaint the painting, I was – stayed in Houston for like weeks
36:43 working on this thing and I said, “Mrs. de Menil, it’s ready.”
36:48 And she comes, she had this great voice,
36:52 she would come in and just lie down on the floor
36:55 and look at the painting and she said, “You ruined my beautiful painting.”
37:00 (laughter)
37:02 I said, “Oh God”, but she kept it so.
37:09 But that doesn’t – that doesn’t answer the question. (laughter)
37:13 Am I, I’m now upstate, I have this studio in Tivoli, New York,
37:18 and I’m basically looking at the classic Hudson river landscape,
37:22 you know the school at Hudson river, and I just think well I’m here
37:29 and I’m working and I’m looking at it every day and it’s got to have some effect.
37:34 And it is having an effect. I mean you know, I look at –
37:36 there’s two studios, one’s down by the river and the other one is much higher
37:41 and so you get this real expanse.
37:43 And I think that’s where like this long painting,
37:46 this “Ru Ware” painting, this idea of something like a long thing.
37:49 And…
37:54 SIR SEROTA: So those two studios, up and down,
37:59 one is closer to the water, the other is closer to the sky.
38:02 MR. MARDEN: I can hear the water in the down studio,
38:05 it’s wonderful.
38:07 And the one up above is, you know, and you get these things,
38:10 you get these sunsets.
38:12 You get the Catskills in the background, you know this classic Thomas Cole,
38:18 I’m 10 miles away from Olana, which was Frederick Church’s house.
38:24 But you know, I don’t want to push it,
38:26 I don’t want to say do a Hudson river landscape,
38:30 but I know it’s having an effect.
38:33 I mean going through spring up there is like so incredible
38:39 that you just have to make paintings of it.
38:41 SIR SEROTA: So do you move yourself
38:44 from studio to studio according to season?
38:47 MR. MARDEN: No.
38:49 I mean, I go to Greece in the summer but as I said I was just there.
38:54 And this is an incredible time to be in Greece,
38:57 they have more wildflowers than any other European country,
39:03 and you know, they’re out. It’s just, and it’s cool.
39:09 It was – it was really beautiful.
39:13 But being there was almost like I was so surprised,
39:16 I’ve been going there like 30 something years,
39:18 and it was almost as though I’d never been there.
39:23 And we’re reading these Greek poets,
39:24 you know, Seferis and Cavafy, Ledus you know
39:29 looking at the, you know, lavender, and bay leaves.
39:35 It was truly inspirational, and then also going
39:39 to the new Acropolis Museum and the way the light
39:42 comes into that museum and hits these sculptures is,
39:46 it’s so moving, and I have this thing about the Peplos Kore,
39:51 I think it’s this sculpture, you look at that
39:57 and it gets that close to becoming alive.
40:01 And I think that at a certain point that really was part of the idea.
40:06 And, you, you walk in and you just see this room,
40:14 with one unbelievable piece of sculpture after another, and the light coming in
40:18 and hitting it is exquisite. Yeah.
40:22 SIR SEROTA: You were known as someone
40:26 who took drugs a great deal, at certain moments,
40:30 and I’m sitting here wondering whether nature has replaced that for you.
40:34 (laughter)
40:36 MR. MARDEN: No, no, not really.
40:38 It was nice to take drugs in union with nature. (laughter)
40:46 I don’t take drugs too much anymore because they just make me too tired.
40:54 You know.
40:55 You’d wake up in the morning and you’re asleep on the floor
40:58 in the studio, you know.
40:59 Jesus, something is a little wrong here.
41:01 So I really haven’t been – I don’t do too much.
41:03 SIR SEROTA: So in the mid ‘80s
41:06 you went to the Far East,
41:09 if not for the first time at least for an extended period.
41:13 And from that moment onwards really, your engagement with
41:16 well Japanese calligraphy, Chinese poetry, and Chinese
41:22 and Japanese landscape painting became profounded.
41:26 Did that fundamentally change the way you thought about nature
41:30 and the experience of nature?
41:35 MR. MARDEN: Well, you could –
41:38 I mean it added to the way you think about it.
41:42 I mean or…
41:43 SIR SEROTA: So what did it add?
41:45 MR. MARDEN: Well it’s just this whole thing
41:47 about the, you’re looking at the gardens and it’s about this idea about landscape
41:52 and the energies in the landscape.
41:53 I love this whole idea of the energy in the landscape and, you know
42:02 and then there’s this kind of abstraction, the rocks, and they’ve been collecting
42:07 the scholar’s rocks and you know drawing them.
42:12 And they sort of represent how these energies are moving
42:16 through the earth.
42:18 A lot of Taoist stuff but I’m, I don’t, I’m not a good scholar
42:24 and researcher on these things, but I know people that are
42:35 and I ask them questions, you know.
42:38 Like – yeah. I think – I mean, going into it, I had a note.
42:43 I didn’t put it in about how you can
42:46 just see it growing, how it just grew.
42:49 It just came up out of the earth. And…
42:52 SIR SEROTA: The landform you mean?
42:55 MR. MARDEN: Yeah, and just those energies.
42:59 It’s just so exciting and powerful and you try and get it in the painting.
43:05 And painting is, it’s as I said, transformative.
43:11 So you’re taking that kind of idea, you’re representing it, and…
43:17 SIR SEROTA: Do you find it easier
43:20 to get the energy into the drawing than into the painting?
43:24 MR. MARDEN: Yeah.
43:28 Drawing is much more immediate
43:31 and so there’s less between you and what you’re doing.
43:34 There’s no… It’s immediate, so you can convey a kind of energy…
43:40 I mean we talk about it, you know, the hands and the body thing.
43:44 It’s closer when you draw.
43:46 The thing about painting is it’s just richer
43:49 because the material and color.
43:57 But I love going out and drawing in, I say, in nature.
44:00 I don’t draw trees and stuff. Not yet.
44:07 There’s this thing going on up in the country.
44:12 It’s sort of become strange, cause I have this… I call it a garden.
44:20 And I have this big rock out behind the studio
44:23 and I’ve just been stripping the rock.
44:27 So it looks like a rock that will be sitting on a table in the studio… except, it’s big.
44:32 And, you know working with that…
44:40 Gary Tinterow said,
44:42 “While you’re up in the country have you taken up gardening?”
44:48 And I said, “No”. He said, “You will.” (laughter)
44:50 And I think this is sorta gardening,
44:54 you plant a lot of junipers or something.
44:57 SIR SEROTA: So you do draw out in the nature,
45:01 out in the landscape?
45:04 MR. MARDEN: Oh yeah. Yes.
45:05 SIR SEROTA: But in small notebooks?
45:07 And then what happens? You come back in the studio and…?
45:12 MR. MARDEN: You build it up.
45:16 It gets bigger, you know, let me look…it’s gone,
45:27 but the Chicago painting. There’s a big… I did a group of paintings called “Letters”,
45:35 and I was on the same trip where I saw the “Ru Ware”
45:40 there was a group of Sung Dynasty letters
45:43 by guys like Mifu, Su Shi, and they’re just classics of Chinese calligraphy.
45:56 And I started doing drawings, you know, I left Taipei, doing drawings,
46:02 and they were little calligraphic drawings.
46:04 And I will have a book and I’ll get every page in the book started
46:15 and then I go to the one I think needs the most work and I work on that.
46:19 And I ended up with this group of drawings that were based on the letters
46:26 and then I made some bigger drawings and then I decided to make a group of paintings
46:32 so I did smaller paintings and then I made these big paintings.
46:36 SIR SEROTA: So is it a struggle to get the energy
46:40 of the drawings into the paintings?
46:42 MR. MARDEN: One of the reasons I like to make big paintings
46:45 is that I don’t think people do it well.
46:49 You know they turn into machines
46:53 and it’s hard to keep like an energy in it.
47:01 They go a little cold.
47:05 And so that’s one of the reasons I like to work on the big ones.
47:18 SIR SEROTA: You talk about –
47:20 you did talk about the importance of seeing the Pollock show
47:23 in the late ‘50s shortly after his death, at the Museum of Modern Art.
47:28 He continues to be a challenge to you, does he?
47:32 MR. MARDEN: Well the whole thing
47:35 about having the image emerge, that’s what Pollock does.
47:43 You know, everybody else applies the image to the surface.
47:50 Pollock let the image come up out of the painting.
47:55 And that’s why I do this – you hit it, you paint over it…you know,
48:00 and then when you paint over it, you go back in, you pick out things you like,
48:05 or whatever, and you’re letting it talk to you and –
48:13 you know, you’re working with it.
48:16 I mean, I… But I’ve got to the point with this painting where I did all this stuff
48:22 and this is all supposed to happen and it’s not happening. You’ve got one little section.
48:27 SIR SEROTA: This is the moss painting?
48:31 MR. MARDEN: Yeah. You just gotta go at it.
48:34 You know, that’s…
48:35 SIR SEROTA: But several of your cycles of painting –
48:38 I mean even the “Cold Mountain” paintings,
48:40 which went relatively quickly – were three or four years work. Five years work maybe?
48:44 Or the “Letters” have been three years’ work?
48:48 I mean that’s not…
48:49 MR. MARDEN: Yeah, the “Letters” were I guess about three.
48:53 Yeah they take a long time, but you’re working, like,
49:00 how many, big “Letters”, I think it was five.
49:03 They’re big…they were…I got this studio.
49:08 This is another thing about restraints and all that.
49:12 And when we got this place in Tivoli, there was this big barn-like structure. It wasn’t a barn.
49:18 And the guy who was fixing it up, he just wanted to have
49:22 really great parties.
49:24 And he had these…there are these beautiful windows which were based on the windows
49:28 Jefferson designed for Monticello and they were triple-tiered windows.
49:31 So you could open these things, and they were nine feet high…opening.
49:39 And leaning against the wall were these three panels
49:43 and they were 4 by 8’s, I guess. And they just looked perfect in the studio.
49:49 So I said oh… call up… send me five, 4 by… you know, 8 by 12 paintings
49:59 and then it took me years to get them started.
50:03 I mean, just enormous and then you know it came up
50:12 and you know that’s when I really got serious about spending time up there.
50:23 Now I try… I keep telling myself I am living there but I’m not really.
50:30 I have a lot of the major stuff that’s going on up there.
50:34 I still have the studio in New York although when I go to New York
50:40 I’m there for two or three days.
50:41 I’m not getting as much work done. But it’s this thing, it’s evolving.
50:46 SIR SEROTA: But if you are working
50:49 on these cycles of four or five paintings and they take so long
50:55 and you know that the next cycle is gonna take four, five years,
50:59 what is the trigger that actually gets you to commit
51:03 to beginning that cycle?
51:07 MR. MARDEN: This “Moss Sutra” thing.
51:13 SIR SEROTA: Yeah.
51:15 MR. MARDEN: My brother died.
51:17 And it was a, basically, an unexpected element.
51:19 He wasn’t hit by a bus…
51:22 …he got sick… which makes, brings on all these feelings of mortality.
51:31 And this coincides with this offer to do this thing, this big project.
51:36 I figure, well, this might be my last thing.
51:40 You gotta get serious. Because it’s harder to work when you’re old.
51:48 You know, I mean… climb up the ladder all the time. And so, that had a lot to do with it.
51:57 But since then, since I started the painting
52:01 and working on an optional painting in New York, and I’m working two…
52:04 This whole thing has turned into a group, but I don’t really have it all going.
52:14 But I – when these things they go you just get into it and you just can’t stop.
52:18 SIR SEROTA: And are the paintings
52:20 always in contrast to Pollock against the wall?
52:24 MR. MARDEN: Always against the wall.
52:27 SIR SEROTA: Always vertical or virtually vertical, or on the wall?
52:30 MR. MARDEN: Yeah, yeah. 2 by 4s underneath.
52:34 I hang them on the wall more often now.
52:37 I used to never do it. I always like the kind of surprise –
52:41 you work the painting for a long time and then you say, “Oh it’s finished”,
52:44 and then you hang it up and say, “Oh, eww”, I didn’t know that was going to happen!”
52:51 But now I am putting them up more.
52:58 SIR SEROTA: So, how do you know when they’re finished?
53:07 I mean, drawing stops but a painting doesn’t stop. Does it? Go on.
53:18 MR. MARDEN: Well…
53:20 SIR SEROTA: Or should I say it’s easier to let go a drawing perhaps
53:25 or is it easier to let go a drawing?
53:28 Sometimes you’ve worked on drawings for years.
53:32 MR. MARDEN: Yes, yeah…yeah.
53:36 Well, I could be glib and say, “Well the show is coming up.”
53:42 That stops it. (laughter)
53:43 But that really isn’t what does it. It’s…I mean with this “Ru Ware”,
53:48 this blue, this “Ru Ware” painting it was just a total surprise to me,
53:51 one day I just looked at it and I said… and, you know,
53:53 I had this whole plan for this painting,
53:55 I was doing all this kind of stuff and I just looked at it one day
53:58 and it was finished.
54:00 And…but then I had like a mark on one panel,
54:03 so I had to repaint the panel and so, they all had the exact same
54:10 number of coats on it and so with one having
54:13 an additional coat of paint on it, gave it a different surface,
54:16 so I had to repaint the whole thing but I had…you’re getting very…
54:21 you have these trays you know and you have the various colors in them
54:27 and so it’s not…it’s a little bit more orderly in the studio now.
54:35 You know, now I’m actually, you know, say in Greece,
54:39 I was working with these marble things and that thing’s heavy.
54:43 I couldn’t even think about… so you have to get three guys
54:48 to come in and take…all you wanna do is lift it up against the wall
54:54 instead of having it laying on the floor
54:57 and so, I’m thinking much more of like help in the studio.
54:59 But, I’ve always been sort of… I like to do everything myself.
55:08 Yeah. I mean I don’t stretch… I don’t do that but…
55:15 I mean it’s mine, I want it to be mine.
55:18 SIR SEROTA: So, I mean being…how…
55:22 do you go into the studio for regular hours or do you…
55:26 MR. MARDEN: Not really, no.
55:29 SIR SEROTA: Insist.
55:31 Put yourself in there for five hours and see what happens?
55:34 How does that work for you? Do you have a regular pattern?
55:38 MR. MARDEN: I’m always forcing myself to work.
55:42 Yeah. Come on…get in there.
55:45 And then, one thing to be in there and then it’s another thing to be…
55:49 to really work and… but then there are lots of situations
55:55 you start doing certain things and you have to…there’s a start and a finish.
56:00 You have to do it, you can’t just leave it.
56:02 Say, if you’re repainting the whole canvas, you know,
56:06 and I always use these little painting knives it’s the same…I forget what the number is,
56:13 I was gonna put it in the lecture but I forgot.
56:16 So, you’re going over this huge thing, you know, some…
56:20 and you know every inch of this thing is being worked by this…
56:28 and I keep thinking that puts more of me into the painting and I like that…
56:35 like, you know, I have this painting which, it’s up in New York now and it’s…
56:44 it’s called the “Polke Letter” and I was working on it,
56:48 I was working on a group of paintings and it was the most complicated one
56:52 with all these lines, it was just awful,
56:54 way out of control and then polka dotted
56:58 and I said, “I’ll do this for Polke”, cause I think Polke
57:02 is just a really great, great artist.
57:06 So, I put a color at each intersection, you know, so it had sort of like,
57:13 you could say, polka dots or you know, they weren’t really dots,
57:17 they were lines but and you know, it went to this and this and this…
57:21 but it kept going and going and going and it really ended up all that was gone
57:25 and it ended up, you know, a very kinda greyed misty painting
57:30 with a…I thought the drawing was really quite refined, and, but you…
57:41 you know, I was always thinking of when you’re working on it and you know,
57:47 you just, I just feel that gets into the painting.
57:53 And I used to talk more about the magical objects and bla, bla, bla,
58:00 you know, but I don’t do that too much anymore…but I still believe it.
58:10 I mean, I believe, I believe, painting can do things
58:14 that hasn’t even begun to do and I think this is real power in the image.
58:20 And, I, you know, I haven’t been there but I was talking to this friend
58:26 who’s been in the caves, you know, and why do they make these things, you know,
58:31 then I put pictures on the wall, you know, and they worried about the animals…
58:37 there’s something evolving out of the earth and their whole relationship with it
58:43 and it’s a very, very strong powerful thing.
58:48 And, I think it still…it happens with art.
58:53 I mean people don’t talk about it too much sort of unfashionable
58:57 and it’s one of the reasons I like the Art in Embassies thing,
59:05 you know, it’s nice to have this stuff around, you know, people that probably
59:10 don’t even look at it much or are exposed to it
59:14 and then these things… they’re up there…they’re working.
59:17 I had a friend who used to deal in Native American objects
59:27 and he invited Carlos Castaneda to come to his house
59:31 and Carlos Castaneda comes and he goes, “This is not working.”
59:36 “This is working.”
59:39 You know, I mean there is…you know, I…
59:45 it’s like I keep telling the story of this “Fang Head” in the Metropolitan Museum,
59:52 which they don’t, they refuse to tell anybody, but the Plexiglas box keeps breaking…(laughter)
59:57 Now, I don’t know if this is true or not but I love to tell people this, you know,
60:04 like…
60:06 cause those things are really powerful,
60:10 you know…and you try to, you know, and you put it in a Plexiglas box,
60:15 it’s…it’s hard. (laughter)
60:18 I mean I can be, you know, with all this trouble in Mali,
60:24 in Mali, they’re the most unbelievable artists.
60:27 Yeah. But so much of their art was about controlling the people.
60:33 Well, I’m carrying on.
60:36 SIR SEROTA: You’re not.
60:39 You’re…but so do you see yourself as being…
60:45 I mean you’ve just been talking about art of rage
60:48 and culture and [inaudible].
60:51 Do you also see yourself as extending the modernist tradition?
60:55 MR. MARDEN: Very much so.
60:59 I mean, I am, I am, I am not breaking with the modernist tradition.
61:03 I believe the modernist tradition is still trying to figure out more
61:07 and more powerful ways of making pictures.
61:12 And, I think the artists are working very hard at it.
61:17 And it’s exciting. It’s an exciting time.
61:21 I don’t stay in touch that much.
61:24 I mean, you know, sure you go see lots of things and…
61:30 but I don’t know what younger artists are doing.
61:34 You know, you… but I have faith in them.
61:40 I mean you do this stuff enough, and you’re alone in the studio
61:45 and you just like going like this and you just have to be thinking all the time
61:49 and everything you do is a decision.
61:53 You know, so your brain starts working in a certain way and I mean, you know,
62:02 worker priests and the bla, bla, bla, but you know,
62:08 this stuff is just not some commercial property, you know.
62:13 This is really powerful stuff.
62:15 I mean, you remember, remember when “Blue Poles” was here?
62:18 I mean it still just like goes through my mind
62:21 you know and it was so incredible. Ah!
62:25 SIR SEROTA: So, why is plane image your alter ego?
62:33 MR. MARDEN: (laughter)
62:36 You know, because I’m… that’s basically what I work with.
62:39 It’s the plane, and then the image.
62:42 SIR SEROTA: …you know, you visit his studio
62:45 and there’s little plate, nameplate on the door,
62:47 which says, not Brice Marden but, Plane Image, P-L-A-N-E Image.
62:51 Just explain that.
62:53 MR. MARDEN: It used to say Inc. (laughter)
62:56 SIR SEROTA: Inc. You’ve given up commerce.
63:00 So, what is plane image?
63:02 MR. MARDEN: Well, the whole modernist idea
63:06 is you’re working on this flat plane and the thing is to connect this image
63:15 with the plane in a very, very powerful way.
63:24 And, so, I forget when I did that I came up with a name,
63:32 I forget what I was doing, but…
63:35 SIR SEROTA: You came up with it early.
63:41 MR. MARDEN: Yeah, it was in the ’70s or something.
63:46 But that’s what I just find amazing, a painter like Ryman, he’s just right up there
63:55 and he’s just pushing it more forward. And he does it with a cunning…
64:02 it’s almost like, you know, I keep saying how he’s a Romero, you know,
64:07 but it’s…those things are so… he did a show in New York last year
64:11 and I was like, he paints on these various pieces of paper and he paints…
64:16 chooses his paints and the whole thing is…
64:19 it’s just amazing and he’s right up there on the plane.
64:22 And I always thought that’s what was great about Warhol.
64:29 That Warhol figured out a way to represent the image
64:36 in a much closer to the plane by, you know, that silk screen thing
64:40 and it’s right up there and there’s a physicality to it
64:44 and yet, boom, there’s that image and I just..
64:47 I, I always thought that’s his major thing.
64:50 Now you know everybody runs around, Warhol, Warhol, you know,
64:53 but I thought that was a real modernist leap. Yeah.
64:57 SIR SEROTA: Let’s leap into the audience
65:04 and pick up a few questions.
65:12 One at the back there.
65:17 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello, hi.
65:20 I was just wondering, I was looking at your work earlier today,
65:24 and I just actually happened to have taken a Japanese art exam at my school,
65:32 and I notice a lot of overlap of what you do
65:36 with Zen Buddhism and spirituality
65:39 as a focal point in your art.
65:42 And I was just wondering why do you invest
65:46 such a strong interest in Zen Buddhism?
65:50 Because when we think of art of the 1960s, we think of, you know, pop art,
65:55 we think of a shift towards more secular trends,
65:59 and I just wanted to know why this is so important to you
66:02 and if you could just explain it a little bit.
66:07 MR. MARDEN: I just respond to it, you know,
66:12 and you know, you know I’m… I sort of come out of the late ’50s,
66:17 and there was this whole Beat thing going on,
66:21 and that was very, very much Zen oriented.
66:26 There were aspects of abstract expressions in them that way,
66:30 but then also, you start looking into it and the things they say,
66:35 what they believe in and, you know…
66:38 it has an effect on you.
66:41 I mean it’s like, well…I was gonna say, Shi Tao, but he’s Chinese,
66:50 but he wrote a book on how to paint and it’s extraordinary. You know.
66:58 And it is about these ideas, about energy and all, you know,
67:05 it’s…the Zen…I always, you know, wanna go sit, you know,
67:12 and learn more about Zen, you know, and you know
67:16 I have more half read chapters of Suzuki, you know, it’s just, you gotta, you gotta…
67:25 you need a teacher, you gotta, you know, if you’re gonna get it in that way,
67:29 you know, but I figured, well, I can paint. I’ll just paint.
67:34 SIR SEROTA: You remind me of a moment
67:36 when Tate Modern opened
67:39 and I took the Queen through the displays ‒ you won’t anticipate this, I’m sure ‒
67:45 but we walked into the Rothko room and she turned to me and she said,
67:49 “Is this man into Zen?” (laughter)
67:53 MR. MARDEN: Fabulous. (laughter)
67:58 SIR SEROTA: The other moment was
68:01 when having introduced her
68:03 to Bridget Riley,
68:06 we walked out and down the stairs and she said to me,
68:10 “I really couldn’t see that woman much as I wanted to talk to her,
68:15 there was so much dazzle.” (laughter)
68:19 Sorry. Another question.
68:22 There was a question back here. Just up there.
68:28 PARTICIPANT: Could I ask you to wait for the mic?
68:33 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.
68:35 You talked about the difference between applying the image
68:38 to the surface or letting the image emerge,
68:41 letting it come up.
68:43 And, forgive me, because this assumes that sometimes you have bad days,
68:47 but do you think that it is possible with a painting to get to a point
68:52 where you have killed the surface and that painting is ruined
68:57 or do you feel that any painting can be saved?
69:01 Can be brought back from that?
69:03 MR. MARDEN: Yeah. That’s the way I work.
69:05 I don’t throw anything away.
69:07 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, that was my question.
69:08 MR. MARDEN: I mean, you know, it’s…I’m cheap.
69:10 SIR SEROTA: Scrape it down.
69:13 AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, he doesn’t have to be…
69:15 MR. MARDEN: Scrape it up, you know,
69:18 sand it down, you know… just go back into it.
69:22 I mean, that’s, I had a painting up in the country and it was like,
69:25 it was the last painting in this letter group
69:28 and I had it right on the verge and it…there was a color thing going on,
69:35 it was just wonderful and I said, and I went in to the studio
69:40 like for about three days and, well…for the logic of the painting
69:46 I had to try just one little line that let… and I did it and it didn’t work.
69:57 So, I painted over the whole thing and just went back in
70:00 and repainted the painting.
70:02 You know, I have all the colors there and you know, I repainted.
70:06 Every time you do it, it looks different but…
70:10 and I started repainting the whole thing
70:12 and bla, bla, bla, and you know, it’s gone.
70:15 And so, I go back and I just got a whole fresh start.
70:21 You know, rather than trying to save it or something.
70:30 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Could I ask about your drawing?
70:38 Why sticks?
70:41 MR. MARDEN: I was living in a house
70:46 that had these ailanthus trees
70:49 in the backyard and, oh… it’s so beautiful and graceful,
70:52 it would be a great thing to draw with, you know.
70:56 They really weren’t. (laughter)
71:06 But…but I did draw with them.
71:12 I mean there’s that great drawing up there,
71:15 you know, “Mirabosa”.
71:18 And I just got into it, I mean, I liked the idea
71:22 you could be in the distance, you know, and work the painting.
71:26 Also there are a lot of accidents that happen, which is very convenient…
71:29 you know, and I use that a lot, cause you get these drips
71:34 and splashes and stuff, cause it’s hard to control it.
71:37 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Was that just a period of time
71:43 that you happened to do it but that’s not common practice?
71:46 SIR SEROTA: It continues, doesn’t it?
71:48 MR. MARDEN: No, I still do it. I always draw with sticks…
71:50 and I had a friend named Anthony Kingsmill, he says, “Build with the bricks at hand”,
71:55 you know and there’s always sticks around.
71:58 You know, all you need is ink and a pad, and you can find something to draw with.
72:04 Yeah, yeah.
72:05 SIR SEROTA: So, which are the better sticks
72:07 if ailanthus are not?
72:09 MR. MARDEN: …bamboo is not very good.
72:17 You know, things like oak and…
72:19 SIR SEROTA: Too rigid?
72:21 Why is it not good?
72:22 MR. MARDEN: It is, it’s a little too rigid.
72:25 And, you know, you have to have, find, you know, the tip of the stick
72:32 has to be able to hold the ink or you have to able to manipulate it
72:36 in a certain way and, you know, if you can’t, I usually just break it off
72:43 and try again, but harder sticks are better, you know.
72:49 Like, it’s really a drag when you’re working your drawing and your stick, you know,
72:55 gets soft. (laughter) Pardon me. (laughter)
72:59 You know, and you have to give up a stick half way through the drawing,
73:04 it’s really a drag. (laughter)
73:07 SIR SEROTA: Follow that.
73:09 In the middle, back… no come to you in a moment…
73:14 MR. MARDEN: And there’s also the thing you know
73:16 like, the pictures of Matisse, drawing with a stick,
73:20 but he had a piece of charcoal tied onto the end of it
73:23 but there is a thing when you’re like, you’re far away,
73:28 and it also occurs at the time I needed glasses.
73:35 So you have a different kind of focus when you’re using some sort of long thing,
73:39 but you know, the way my drawings go, they usually start from, you know,
73:43 like with a long stick, far away, and the closer I get to being finished,
73:47 the stick gets shorter and shorter and I get right on top of it.
73:55 SIR SEROTA: Center here.
73:55 AUDIENCE MEMBER: I was wondering if there’s anything
73:58 that you might call technology that you’ve reacted to very strongly?
74:02 Like, you know, you get into a really nice car,
74:07 a Mercedes or something, and you think that that might affect
74:12 the way you paint?
74:14 MR. MARDEN: No. (laughter)
74:17 Cars get you from one place to another.
74:22 I mean. I’m not a big technology person.
74:27 I still like pliers, a hammer and a screwdriver.
74:34 You know, but…I mean, I’m impressed with the stuff that’s going on
74:39 and what I really think is one of the great things that’s happened,
74:43 I think recently, is artists are really beginning to control
74:51 a lot of the technological stuff.
74:54 You know, a guy like Wade Guyton,
74:56 I think he…he… he’s not victimized by the machine.
75:02 You know. I mean, I think that’s happening.
75:07 I’m sure it’s happening but a lot of artists
75:09 I don’t know much about. But, it’s exciting.
75:15 SIR SEROTA: Question here.
75:19 Try and get the mic to you.. just coming along there…just here.
75:23 AUDIENCE MEMBER: You said you like to work given a certain
75:29 set of restrictions or something.
75:31 I was wondering if that makes you feel freer if you have those sort of restrictions
75:36 and also maybe a freedom to get lost or do you always know what you’re doing
75:43 when you’re…when you’re working?
75:43 MR. MARDEN: No, no I don’t always know
75:45 what I’m doing and I, you know.
75:53 But the restrictions thing, it’s nice to have something
75:55 you have to work around. It’s not a rule.
75:59 You know, and if I want to get rid of it, I just do.
76:01 That’s the great thing, you know, there’s no rules.
76:06 But, it’s a great thing, but yet you know you gotta keep remembering it.
76:12 SIR SEROTA: Back there.
76:16 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you very much for this.
76:24 Picking up on this idea on restrictions, I wanted to ask you something about control.
76:30 Because while you were reading your notes there was something that kept recurring…
76:36 this stopping motion or freezing energy.
76:39 And so I wanted to ask you what does it mean control
76:43 and what do you have control over, is it the image in its process,
76:49 is it forms, shapes or plane?
76:51 MR MARDEN: Well, you’re trying
76:54 to have control over everything.
76:55 That’s what …you know, and when it’s all controlled
76:58 then the picture is done.
77:00 It’s ideas, it’s color… you know there’s all these things…
77:07 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Sorry.
77:10 Is it controlling something that emerges because then in your conversation,
77:16 you talked a lot about something almost intuitive of the image.
77:19 MR. MARDEN: Yeah, I mean that’s the big thing.
77:21 Is intuition.
77:22 Every mark I make is intuitive, it’s not…it isn’t intuitive…
77:27 I make a lot of marks, I use a ruler, you know, but when I say these characters,
77:33 you know, it’s purely intuitive, and…well, it’s not purely intuitive because
77:39 I also say you know watch out for the repetitious cliché,
77:44 cause you know you’re doing it for 50 years and you know you gotta watch out.
77:51 But that’s exercise in control. If you successfully watch out for that.
78:01 Yeah, I mean, you know, you’re sort of in this dialogue, you know,
78:08 you want this image to emerge, you want to be…you’re not its victim
78:16 but you have to be…keep yourself in a position to acknowledge it.
78:27 Is that any help? Eh… (laughter)
78:35 SIR SEROTA: This dialogue you have with a painting,
78:43 is anyone else ever involved?
78:45 Does anyone else come in the studio and comment…do you listen to anyone else
78:49 or is it only you that has to be satisfied?
78:52 MR. MARDEN: I have long conversations with David Novros.
78:57 And David and I once… he’s really wonderful…
79:04 the Native Americans had this thing, they would have someone in the tribe
79:07 that was the contrarian.
79:10 He would wear a mask on the back of his head,
79:12 would walk around backwards and he fought against every idea that came up
79:16 and David’s sort of that way, and it’s really great to talk with him.
79:20 I mean he set himself outside… he set himself outside of the art situation.
79:26 He doesn’t show that much and he refuses to make portable,
79:32 bourgeois objects, [inaudible] and really, and you talk with him,
79:38 and we have a lot of fun.
79:41 And he said, well, like on the big letter paintings,
79:46 he said, you know, you should stop
79:48 doing these big paintings cause you know…
79:50 I said, “Why?”
79:50 And he said, “Well, you have this great touch and you lose it in the big paintings.”
79:54 And nobody said anything close to that to me
80:00 when the show was up or…
80:06 And then also my wife is very good. She sort of infers it.
80:14 You know, you can (laughter)…
80:17 you know, “Are you sure about that?”
80:22 Or, you know, (laughter) and she is really good,
80:25 she’s herself a very, very good painter. Very good painter.
80:35 And…Mirabelle is doing pretty good, she’s coming along great.
80:42 I mean she has this very good eye.
80:45 She’s my daughter and it’s like one of those things,
80:50 you know, like..she will say something… what? Wow, that’s right on.
80:58 But that’s a big help. But you know, it’s not…not a lot of people.
81:15 Course, you always remember the bad criticism.
81:21 AUDIENCE MEMBER: You just touched on something
81:24 that I was thinking about as you were speaking
81:26 in reference to those large four by eight sheets
81:28 that were leaning up against the wall in your studio
81:31 that you took years to start working on.
81:34 If you start with the small drawings and then work them up into larger
81:37 and larger things and then you get to these very large paintings,
81:39 do you find that there’s a loss between the small drawings,
81:43 that are so immediate and have that touch,
81:45 and the larger drawings that you perhaps use your systems
81:49 to devise in a way that might sort of undercut
81:53 or undermine that spontaneity and that intuition?
81:58 MR. MARDEN: No…I don’t…no…I don’t, I don’t find it.
82:04 I mean they’re different and by the time it gets into like doing the bigger things,
82:09 certain things have evolved that aren’t in the drawings
82:13 but wouldn’t have evolved without the drawings. Yeah…
82:25 SIR SEROTA: When you’re making the paintings
82:28 you don’t as well set aside the drawings,
82:31 these paintings are works that you continue, as you said,
82:34 in the studio for several years and you’re continuing to draw
82:37 which, in some way, informs the paintings as they evolve.
82:41 MR. MARDEN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
82:44 And I do a lot of drawing in Nevis
82:46 and I do a lot of drawing in Pennsylvania,
82:50 and they’re different environments, you know.
82:54 And a lot of the drawing…
82:56 I mean, I really believe in the idea of the finished drawing.
83:00 I don’t think every drawing should be some sort of study or a thing like that.
83:05 I mean, I think drawing is… of it as a final kind of material.
83:09 You know, if I make a lot of drawings I really, you know, I take a long time
83:17 and I go from studio to studio,
83:23 and they somewhat separate from the paintings
83:26 but they all really are related to the paintings. Yeah.
83:33 SIR SEROTA: Another question at the back, there.
83:39 AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello again.
83:43 So, I was just wondering.
83:47 So the Tate Modern has two shows on at the moment,
83:50 the Damien Hirst exhibition and the Yayoi Kusama exhibition,
83:55 and this is sort of a two part question because they’re both…
83:59 it’s two different questions but… at the Tate Modern.
84:03 And I was just wondering, the first question had to do
84:07 with Damien Hirst.
84:08 And I was wondering what your thoughts were
84:10 because one of the things which you were talking about
84:14 in your discussion was your concern with making a canvas too large
84:18 because it’ll appear mechanical and, of course, that’s one of the major concerns
84:24 which a lot of critics have with Damien Hirst for example,
84:26 that it becomes too mechanical or he becomes too dehumanized
84:31 from his process.
84:32 So, that was my first question. What your thoughts are on Damien Hirst?
84:37 And, second question has to do with Yayoi Kusama,
84:42 who I know was based in New York City in the 1960s, when you were there.
84:46 And I was just wondering what your thoughts were on her,
84:49 especially since in a way she’s the antithesis to Damien Hirst
84:53 in that way that she was making enormous infinity net paintings
84:57 which were very visceral and more along the lines
84:59 of what you’re doing.
85:00 So, I was just wondering what your thoughts are
85:03 on those two artists and the exhibitions here at the Tate Modern?
85:06 MR. MARDEN: I haven’t seen the shows
85:08 but Kusama had a show in Boston,
85:14 and it must have been like the late ’50s,
85:16 big, white paintings, and one of the most impressive shows I’ve ever seen.
85:21 It’s…you know…these kinda loopy things… it was really…and it sort of predates everybody.
85:28 You know, they were amazing.
85:37 With Damien Hirst, I mean what the dot show in New York,
85:41 I just…I didn’t go see them all but I was really surprised at how good they were.
85:46 You know, you’re very willing to go and say…haaaa,
85:50 you know, this and that.
85:54 But, those, I think…most…you know they were very delicately held their sizes.
86:02 I was impressed, you know.
86:02 I wanted to see the one here but I wasn’t feeling well today (laughter)
86:10 …too much formaldehyde. (laughter)
86:13 SIR SEROTA: Well, having Brice Marden
86:17 expressing surprise of the delicacy of Damien Hirst
86:21 is probably a good way of concluding. (laughter)
86:24 And so, I think we’ll call it a day there, but thank you all very much for coming.
86:28 Brice, thank you. Thank you. (applause)

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