top of page
  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson


A piece of writing which I much admire is the collection of essays, MUSICAL THOUGHTS AND AFTERTHOUGHTS, by the great pianist Alfred Brendel.

I hope that Mr Brendel will not mind me borrowing an element of his title for my article today.

In my daily and extensive reading about Art, I am constantly reminded of subjects about which I have written previously in this blog. Today I would like to reflect a little on some of those and, if this inspires newer followers to search some of my earlier posts, or my longer-standing readers to revisit them, I would be happy.

On December 28th, 2022, I wrote of ABSTRACT ART AND REALITY.

I ponder on this subject every time I paint. I firmly believe that Abstract Art, though it presents to the viewer material that is non-representational, can postulate a reality in itself. I make that painting; you look at it. While you contemplate the painting, it is reality. In its purity, it is more real, I would argue, than a painting which seeks to represent – say – a tree.

I would never seek to denigrate the painter of a tree, or a face. The greatest examples of representational painting move me profoundly, but abstraction presents the viewer with a challenge. We can lay ourselves open to a challenge, or we can walk away. That is reality, as are the non-figurative marks and forms which draw us into a contemplation of the canvas.

On my first visit to the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, UK in 1984, I experienced a seismic shift in the way I appreciated art. Alongside establishing a visceral connection with the work of Francis Bacon in front of which I stood transfixed, I became strongly drawn to the sculptures and drawings of Alberto Giacometti, who wrote:

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.”

PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN (1965) - Alberto Giacometti

In BEING TRUE TO ONESELF IN ART, I quoted David Bowie's conviction that we should never make art to fulfil another person's brief. Any art form, be it visual, tactile, musical, the written or the spoken word, is a means of self-expression, and a deeply personal one. In THE VISUAL ARTS AND PERMANENCE I discussed the degree to which an artist 'lays his soul bare' on the canvas.

Picasso saw art as a way of keeping a diary, and you can't get much braver than publishing your diary during your lifetime! Though I also see my work in this way, as an abstractionist I can retain command over the mystery. Every one of my paintings, however, carries a statement about my life, veiled though it may be.

In my most recent article, DARK VERSUS LIGHT I referred to an essential artistic duality, a Yin and Yang. I have since read that Leonardo Da Vinci believed that: “A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”

This is as beautiful a statement as the one one made by Ernst Bacon in his astutely provocative book, NOTES ON THE PIANO that, contrary to the popular understanding that use of the sustaining pedal in piano playing applies a modification to it's sound, the reverse is true. No other stringed instrument possesses dampers – all are able to let their sound ring until it decays. Only a piano string has its tone castrated by a damper. It is the damper that brings about the modification. With the dampers raised – that is, with the sustaining pedal applied – the sound is free to develop, to resonate, to blend in sympathetic vibration, to be set free. As with Leonardo's observation, this is the opposite of what we are taught.

A final thought, and a new painting:

Abstract art predominantly expresses feelings. In ELEANOR AND PARK (2012), Rainbow Rowell writes “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”


Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page