Miriam Cosic had a look for The Australian
“Consider Henri Matisse. The first thing that comes to mind is colour, right? Riotous, joyful colour. Bright reds, fecund greens, azure blues, thrown together without inhibition.
The dramatic colours of the European south seem to have had an almost erotic appeal to the straitlaced northerner.
The second thing to come to mind may be spontaneity. Matisse’s paintings have a kind of naivety, the wildness of the fauvist movement he helped inaugurate in the early years of the 20th century. That happy term fauve originated in the chagrined remark of a conservative critic at the 1905 Salon d’Automne in Paris at which Matisse’s circle showed their groundbreaking paintings: wild beasts, the critic called them.
Beneath Matisse’s explosive imagery, however, lay a taste for convention and discipline. He practically kept office hours, in startling contrast to his crazier libertine colleagues, and after the first blip of a love child born when he was young, was married to the same woman — monogamously, they say, or almost so — for 41 years.
His discipline manifested itself clearly in his drawing. He drew every day, as a technical exercise to keep his hand and eye co-ordinated, as an investigation of ideas and as preparation for everything.
Drawing is an intense, intimate activity. “The simplicity of a sketch, the comparative rapidity with which it is produced, the concentration of meaning demanded by its rigid economy of means, render it more symbolical, more like the hieroglyph of its maker’s mind, than any finished work can be,” 19th-century British critic J. A. Symonds wrote of Michelangelo’s drawings.
Queensland artist William Robinson, an admirer of Matisse whose own work swings between ironically sketched lithographs and dizzyingly grand painted landscapes, calls it thinking aloud, or talking to oneself.
“I’m trying to understand the form of the thing I’m looking at,” he says, searching to define the activity exactly. “To consolidate something which, if I don’t put it down on paper, may become an intangible memory that I can’t reach again.”
A little later he says of all artists as they draw: “What we’re trying to do is possess the subject, whether it’s a still life or a landscape. We’re trying to have some personal ownership of it.”
Read on at The Australian