Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Thirty-six years ago....?

Where did thirty-six years go...?

At 8.30a.m. on October 30th, thirty-six years ago, my eldest son Christopher King Perryman was born. Through my tears of joy, my most urgent thought was, I must draw this little miracle! Now, many drawings, paintings and photos later, I wonder where time went.....

My first sketch of Chris, eight hours old. I was in tears.
I am going to play a little joke on you!
At four, practising with Mami, who is sadly no longer with us.
At nine, trying to keep a straight face during a watercolour sketch in a tent, on vacation.
Chris at fifteen. The left-hand side of his face betrays the subtle humour. On his right the quiet thinker. Try covering up each half alternately. This works with almost anybody, if you're wondering about the makeup of their personality.

The humourist was there very early on, and the musicality, the acting ability and ultimately, the hilarious "Brokstukken" Comedy-Trio theatre show - and more: like most actors, he's multi-tasking. He's always so busy - I'm lucky if I can even get a glimpse of him on television! But I'm proud that I can always phone him in a crisis, for wise advice. Check out the link: www.chriskingperryman.nl. (King after his mother, the American cellist Vivian King).
At thirty-six, Chris the actor. The two sides are still there.

The strong sense of humour in the Perryman family may get pushed to extremes, as when I had just solved a technical problem: "Hey Pop, you're not as stupid as you look!" (translation: "Thanks Pop - love you"). Happy birthday Chris! Love you too!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A man full of rhythm

A man full of music, rhythm and wisdom. 

It's a fascinating challenge to portray a multi-talented Dutch musician like Michael de Roo, who has brought so many people together for music or dance performances, or to share spiritual ideas in his search for alternative philosophies.  Since we met in 1978, he has become one of my best friends, full of warmth, wisdom and humour. Michael opened my eyes to much contemporary music, especially works in which he excelled as a percussionist. He was the founder of the Dutch Circle Percussion ensemble in 1973, that by the eighties had become world-famous. It was named after Luciano's Circles, the highlight of their very first programme.
"Circles", for vocalist, harp and percussion, by Luciano Berio (texts by e.e.cummings), 
watercolour & ink, 70 x 50cm, 1978. Collection of Michael de Roo.

It was inevitable that Michael would develop a relationship with the Japanese KODO ensemble. When working with the Netherlands Dance Theater, Michael was the one who drew the attention of choreographer Jirí Kylián to Maki Ishii's suite for percussion (1984) inspired by the story of Kaguyahime (the Japanese fairytale of the moon princess who came down to bring peace to the earthlings, only to provoke conflict). This led to Kylián's creation of the internationally acclaimed 65 min. masterpiece of modern dance and percussion, a production in which Michael still plays a major role, as the conductor. 

So, although I had listened to some of Michael's favourites in preparation for this portrait (Berg, Berio, Prokofiev, Bartok), the brushwork in my portrait of Michael was driven by the rhythms and colours of Kaguyahime. From the very first sweeping stroke - an echo of the huge Odaiko drum. Ever since the première of that masterpiece in The Hague in 1988, where I made sketches for five paintings of this work (see below), it still fascinates me. Those multiple percussive rhythms made my brushes dance playfully across Michael's shirt as well. Yet, this man saturated with rhythm stands calmly, listening, friendly, wise, his thoughtful blue eyes reflecting insights from his amazing multi-cultural life. 
Michael de Roo, watercolour, 67 x 48cm, 2014.

Below, three of the Kaguyahime series, watercolour and oil pastel, 75 x 50cm, 1989

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Violinist needs a good home

Violinist needs a good home

Julia Fischer, watercolour 80 x 50cm, 2006

It's eight years since I painted the now world famous violinist Julia Fischer. I wanted to avoid the rather smooth sweet girlish images used in much publicity and CD packaging today. I saw here a very determined young woman with amazing range of musical skills. She came to my Amsterdam studio (with the dress over her arm) and practised first Bach (if I remember rightly), then Tschaikovsky for an upcoming concert with her mentor the late lamented conductor Yakov Kreizberg. 

There's something about that profile that shows her "going places". As with every musician, you have to be careful to get certain things right - her 1742 Guadagnini, her bow arm, her cool poise and strong presence. I made her skin-colours a little darker, closer to the golden tones of her violin. As I painted, a sort of V-shape emerged, balanced right on the point where the bow touches the strings; then another one, formed by the elbow and fingers of her left hand. In fact there's a whole geometry in my composition that reflects her own composure.

Then of course, the painting has to vibrate with energy, to sing! I believe it does. But you know what? That sound has been stifled for the past eight years, because the painting is still lying a dark drawer in my studio, waiting for a good home! Anybody?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Every portrait tells a story

Every portrait tells a story
Margaret Green, watercolour, 60 x 40cm.

This season appears to be one of portrait commissions. It’s a real privilege to be entrusted with the image - in effect the life story of my subjects. Painted in Amsterdam, this recent portrait shows a visionary musician, gazing into the distance. In her mind’s eye she sees Kecskemét (Hungary), where she had just completed her MA at the Kodály Pedagogical Institute. I like that fond gaze, reflecting yet ambitious.

We can see that she has the maturity of one who has wrestled with life for quite a few years, but the portrait also depicts a great newly discovered joy in her musical life. She already played the piano, French Horn, and sang. And now she believes fervently in the Kodály-inspired approach to music education and hopes to inject new life into efforts to spread his philosophy in England. This portrait is an ode to the sensitivity, strength and aspirations of this woman, surrounded by music.
Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, pedagogue, linguist, and philosopher, a friend and colleague of the composer Béla Bartók. In the nineteen-thirties he embarked on a long-term project to reform music teaching in Hungary's lower and middle schools. His work resulted in the publication of several highly influential books on a child-developmental approach to the experience of music, that gradually spread internationally. The full story can easily be found on internet.