Rackstraw Downes: a painter


thank you so much for I can't think of a better film to show in the National Gallery I thought maybe I could begin Rima just by by asking you to fill in the the backstory and how how this happened and how how you got to this point where

we're watching such a wonderful thing sure first of all I've been making films about art and architecture maybe like 10 years and about three years ago I kind of started thinking about filming a painter and at first maybe simply because I just finished a film about John Jonas

and in a sheet down a very new type of art so I thought it simply want to film a different type of artist and maybe more traditional art form it's kind of hard to explain but I was like one day his work came to mind I didn't know

much about rock star and his work so I have to do some research on him and then I found that actually what he does is kind of similar to what I'm doing well what I want to do in his work the act of looking is such a crucial

part so I thought if I filmed him and the film could be also about and about the act of looking of salvation and also about what documentary is the difference between the real and nonfiction and or how to look at or how to capture the real world and

what's it like extra to paint under these conditions did you have rules and agreements and what was it all like from from your point of view the whole thing was very nice started now that Rima brought by she left out of her narrative some DVDs of her own

films and played and we played them on my computer and within about two minutes of the very first one which was showed Yoshi coatroom er the dancer teaching what telling one of her dancers and have come me how exactly what movements she wanted to make was so sensitively

filmed and had no feeling of of pedagogy or it was a very human act between these two people in which clearly two people had really tried to understand one another it was some very beautifully filmed and at that moment you know I could just say yes I'll work

with you sure because previously I didn't know anything about rimas work and there was one ounce me and it was I wasn't sure I wanted to get into it bother the tangle of making a film possible bother or tangle I simply told her I go to work every

day that the Sun shines or that it doesn't drain at the same spot and you show up anytime you like do anything you want if we can do it like that to do it well I have a couple of my own little questions and I'm sure that we

have some questions in the audience too one of them was the sequence where you're using google map and you find him I want you to find a couple other places he painted but you know those places don't have any address what I did first was just try to

find those places on Google map I just use Street View and try to look for the image he might be painting and then I just found him and I send an email to him like I found you on Google Maps so it's partly a coincidence and partly evidence

of how much time you spent on the side of the road right there's moments in the film when I wasn't completely sure if I was looking at a painting or looking at the scene through the camera well one thing is that people often say to me your paintings

remind me of photography so much and one interesting thing that I noticed and hear especially when remote filmed me painting a car over the car that had painted the day before – two or three days before and decided to replace with a newer car that it was done

quite rapidly in quite freely and to not have the precision of photography at all and then Remes own photographs especially when she got very close to my face on the back of my hand you see every hair there sort of with its highlight you know shows exactly where

these two art forms don't that was an exciting moment when you quickly repainted that car and little action painting they were never the same yesterday's cars were gone by that time because there all kinds of prohibitions about where you can and can't park alternate days and so on

but it is true that cause even as they go by you paint seven or eight cars one on top of the other each paint you know the front end of the first car that comes by and maybe you paint the trunk of the next one and then the

roof of the next one and so on all my cars are hybrids [Music] you ever tried to paint a moving car yes yes oh yes Jackie of that too I painted a lot of moving cars and those are the ones that are made out of you know cars

replaced themselves so to cows by the way it's quite interesting you usually have a lead cow the cow comes along and two guys are good this tuft the one behind it comes along and has it got that tough two or the next stuff to it so they kept

replacing themselves just as cars driving lanes you know they replace themselves and so you can use the front end of one car and the rear end of the next car to make the same car and you're painting that makes me think of this whole idea of flux and

you know you're watching the river going by and in the movie I think the camera was always fixed not sure there was any shots where there were panning shots were right the camera was was turning or rotating I think I tried to do like a pounding you know

but I didn't work well and I simply didn't like and it felt and if Tess simply didn't like it but I think it tried to shoot a couple of shots but I didn't using the end it seems very appropriate to your subject yeah you're you're a very still

point as you're as you're working I felt the spirit of this film was very close to my own feelings about this whole process of making a painting and that Reimer really got to got it but it isn't a showy thing you know but it does some require to

miss concentration over long periods of time the wind is blowing in two opposite directions in the sky of that painting because I painted on two successive days I changed that afterwards that's all i repainted that sky completely yeah so I think when Reema was filming it well who

actually to a cloud mask coming from the West and a cloud mast coming in from the east yeah I think I remember you know you told me that you are waiting for a nice cloud and I regard those things is very important very serious I feel like constable

he said it's customs brother said when I see a mill painted by my brother John I know that it will go round which is not always the case with most painters how long did you work on that particular scene with the exit to the GW well I start

that one year I made drawings one year and then started the painting the next year and probably finished it the following summer after that but you know that when you say yeah I don't mean the whole year I only mean six or eight weeks of summer and the

days when the Sun shines you know how about some questions I'll just repeat each question briefly how do you pick your locations that's a very good question the very interesting questions it is different there almost every time you could be just going somewhere else to do something quite

different get your own car repaired or something and on the way you go past something that strikes you and you go back and set up and try it out as a drawing and drawing as my test method and just decide whether you think it's a good place to

stand for long periods of time there are all kinds of factors involved and you work take it from there and sometimes it's some you this I believe that there is some hunger inside you that is evolving all the time the precise nature that hunger for certain things and

that you do you when you say here it is I'm going to stop here it's because you've already got some bee in your bonnet but you know pairs up very well with what you're just passing by and so that becomes the subject of the painting so what is

it like when pedestrians stop and watch you I hate it the only trick I've ever found which I learned from somebody who ran across rat walk didn't along a path from the very early morning in Paris and in the opposite direction came one of her heroes Samuel Beckett

then she said what am I going to say the Samuel Beckett now I've got to think up something really good here to get his attention so and they came and as they got close to one another all the sounds we heard are you hearing them and are they

in the in the paintings in a way I can't claim that they are I wish they were so lovely idea and I appreciate your remarks I think that's been interesting I never thought of my painting those terms except that once years ago for a couple of years I

painted musicians rehearsing practicing their part you know in my studio that come to my studio with their instrument and play and I would paint them and one time I had to at once an oboe player and a cello blood cellist and they practiced Vivaldi pieces simple pieces like

that so I remember at the end of one piece I said that was terrific well done they did both broad with laughter and so there was a complete catastrophe we had this restart I said well you know the truth of the matter is I could not hear a

thing well I'm so I think I understand how how much time are you painting versus how much time are you looking at other art basically that ratio gosh seven to one painting and one looking at the other artwork I would say painting is the smaller yeah seven and

then you're go out and you you know paintings a wonderful compared with novel so you can look at them and a couple of seconds you know and getting to have a very quick response to the whole painting all at once or as I said with a novel it

might take you three days to read it full time every day I suppose you could date that from when I entered graduate school in 1961 yeah so since 1961 I've been doing it every day so the question what about the the grid that's indicated on the canvas I

used I first I make drawings if I get a drawing that I like I put a grid over it and I use it to pass the basis of composition for an oil sketch a quick little oil painting done very small rapidly but I you saw one there actually

in the movie Rema photographed one leaning against my easel it was a stick the ground was stained with burnt oh the raw umber and then there was a white line drawing on it's done with white paint in a very small brush and that was done Oh from a

gridded pencil drawing graphite drawing they call it nowadays and then from that stage I grid up the oil sketch and in the studio I make an under painting on a full-size canvas that will then go out on this site every day and I'll make the finished painting on

on site whole of the thing on site and if I find the dimensions change you don't decide anything but you get a you get a first glance of it a first taste of what the composition is going to be like in those further stages and on that you

build well I'm sure if there are other questions you can ambush our our guests and maybe they will not put their finger to their lips but I want to thank both of these artists Rima hamazaki were extra down who are working in different mediums and came together so

beautifully thank you for coming down here [Applause]

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