Barrick staff member D.K. Sole considers The Brave King, by Damien
“I was standing near the artist when he finished his work. The others were still sticking down their colored paper. We had four or five minutes to go until we had to pack up. But he had stopped. His hands were not moving. When I spoke to him I found out why. He said that he had finished.
He was content to sit quietly for those four or five minutes because he was done. He was not chatting to the rest. He was only sitting.
He told me that he had made a king. The spots at the top were the king’s eyes. The spots below were his cheeks. He had to put them lower than real cheeks because they only looked right when he put them where they were. He seemed embarrassed when he talked about the cheeks. It was as if he thought the explanation was wrong. But I believe that he was right.
(And I thought of Ruskin in his Lectures on Landscape, talking about a colorist’s desire for the right mark in the right place: “down must go my touch of white, green, or dark blue first of all; if afterwards I can make them look round, or like fruit and leaves, it’s all very well; but if I can’t, blue or green they at least shall be.” The king’s cheeks were not what he was talking about, but the instinct was of the same species — the notion of placement.)
That green part was the mustache and the triangle above the mustache was the king’s nose.
As I looked at this Brave King I decided that the four middle-sized circles were the corners of an unspoken interior frame that held the picture in balance. The large yellow circle that touched those four smaller circles was measuring not only their closeness but also the distance between them. The yellow was an expansion and a contraction. It was not completely forceful — the color did not continue across the middle. It was a glowing ring.
The blue brow-shape and the green mustache had been laid out so that they crossed to the left and right of an invisible dividing line that ran down the center of that internal frame. It was as though the two sides of the picture were being weighed and compared.
Even though the sides were not identical there was still the possibility that they might be so, in another time and place where the blue would not be running off the page to the right, and where one end of the green would not have that insouciant kink.
The king is a little deranged and fragile.
He has been constructed out of divergences and opposites. He has spiked shapes and unspiked shapes, infilled circles and unfilled half-circles, and the potential dominance and richness of blue tilts is argued against by the green tilt, which is similar to the angle of the blue but different enough to be independent. The blue brow does not rule the language of tilts in this picture. Nor does the color orange rule the language of circles. The tips of the crown-shaped mustache want to move upward, but the arches in the brows, like the tops of calm doorways, stop them before they can leave the page.
The king is self-contained, and the artist sat with his hands on the table.
What are the tiny black spots doing? What are they? We were packing up and I forgot to ask. The crowd left the Barrick and the tour was done.”
The pictures below were made with the same kinds of materials that went into The Brave King, and they seem to be worth sharing.
To maintain the privacy of the artists we have removed their surnames wherever they appeared on the page.