Ever since I visited Buffalo’s Albright Knox Gallery in 1998 and saw a giant “broken plate” painting by Julian Schnabel, I’ve been curious about him, and I really enjoyed his retrospective, which is on at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto until January 2, 2011.
His work won’t be to everyone’s taste because it’s so free and individualistic. Some of the paintings are 22 feet high, but whether large or small everything seems to be on a monumental scale. Schnabel says he was inspired to become an artist after seeing a Rembrandt. It was the glow emanating from the painting that inspired him, and now as a practicing artist, he says, “I know how to lean towards the light” (adding that while he always knows how to start a painting, he doesn’t know how he’s going to finish).
There are paintings done on giant tarpaulins and in the photo of Schnabel with two of his pieces (see above), the one on the right is painted on a sail he bought right off a guy’s boat on the Nile. To the left is a “Big Girl” painting, a rendition of a small picture he bought in a thrift shop, which is also on display at the gallery.
The curator also chose several portraits painted by Schnabel, including one of Gary Oldman as a matador and the twin daughters of Steve Nash, the basketball player. Schnabel describes the shiny finish he applied to their portraits as “liquid glass.” Obviously Carmi isn’t the only one crazy about resin!
Schnabel spends most of his time in his pajamas and slippers even when he’s going out for dinner or shooting one of his movies. I can totally relate to this habit because I’ve worn my nightgown to go shopping on several occasions, although I always wear a coat to cover it up.
You get the feeling that Schnabel really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about his painting, and that’s very liberating and inspiring …to me at least. I came out of the show feeling that I’d never really let go in my own work because I’ve barely scratched the surface of who I am creatively. But instead of feeling overpowered by this insight, I felt energized to go deeper into my imagination and see what happens.
Below: Schnabel with two of his surfer paintings.