American Artist Lecture Series: Spencer Finch

Artist Spencer Finch, whose Moonlight window installation is currently on display through 2016 at Winfield House, the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence London, was the fourth speaker in the American Artist Lecture Series, a partnership between Art in Embassies (AIE), Tate Modern and US Embassy London. This partnership welcomes audiences of young artists and scholars in a lecture hall format. For his lecture on May 29, 2014, Finch decided that he wanted to change the format. He invited curator and critic Sacha Craddock to join him at the Starr Auditorium for a conversation about inspiration in contemporary art, which resulted in a very lively and interesting discussion about the inspiration in contemporary art, with many students in attendance. Curator of International Art at Tate Modern Mark Godfrey made the introductions.

Full Transcript

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
3:57Susman. [APPLAUSE]
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
12:36so on.
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.
28:29MR. 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
50:56about it?
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
76:53for coming.

AuthorTATE Modern
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