EOLO PONS--Artist's Studio Visit BIDDINGTON'S CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY--More Paintings
Advice for Art Students
Editor's Note: Born in 1914 with an exhibition career spanning from the 1930's to the present, Eolo Pons is a living master of painting. From 1958-1964, Eolo Pons along with Medardo Pantoja, Jorge Gnecco and Luis Pellegrini founded, designed the 3-year curriculum and taught at the Provincial Fine Arts School in Jujuy (in northern Argentina).
Educated in Buenos Aires in the 1930's, Eolo Pons' knowledge grows from roots in rigorous technical training in drawing, painting, color and composition first at the Academy of Fine Arts "Manuel Belgrano" and later in the Graphics Art School with the influential teacher Lino Anea Spilimbergo. Eolo Pons' attitude toward art and the role of the artist was further formed by a friend/mentor relationship and long correspondence with painter Carlos Giambiagi (1887-1965).
Depending on the way it is apprehended, technique can be either a prison or the key to freedom. Eolo Pons' technical command has liberated him to express whatever he wishes to convey; his understanding of the intent of art guides him to see such skill as the vehicle--not the destination.
Eolo Pons' notebooks date from the 1930's; click on any image to see a more detailed view.
The Uses of Theory and Technique
Eolo Pons: In the studio one day, our group was arguing the merits of Matyla Ghyka's theoretical art treatise, when Spilimbergo interrupted us (a surprising event in itself) and stated emphatically:
"YOU are the book."
He went on to explain that theories and techniques are useful only to the extent that the painter can learn, assimilate and transform those concepts into his own way of seeing.
Eolo Pons, Guitar
Pencil Drawing, 1937
Keeping Work Product
Eolo Pons: My notebooks have served me both as reference and as a tool for teaching my own students. A painter is always changing, but in some ways he is also always the same person. So, ideas or images from one period may develop--or appear spontaneously--much later. You can't know today what may be an important thread at a later time.
Human Form and Gesture: Drawing from Life
Eolo Pons: Through my academic career and later, I studied the human form not only from a theoretical perspective but also in working from live models. Drawing from life is challenging because you don't always get engaged immediately with the pose or the attitude of the model. Sometimes it takes time to see what is in front of you.
Eolo Pons: Good, professional models have always been expensive. Long after we were students, a group of us would pool our funds to hire a model for an evening.
Eolo Pons Standing Nude
Pencil Drawing, 1945
The Role of Memory
Eolo Pons: Sometimes we would ask the model to strike a pose for just a moment and then to leave the room. Some people could produce a drawing, while others would be at a complete loss. This is a useful exercise not only for learning to see quickly and for capturing the essence of the pose, but also for strengthening the memory.
Eolo Pons Man BackEolo Pons: Memory is a vital tool for the painter. It must be constantly cultivated--not just the memory of how things look, but also the memory of how they feel.
Pencil Drawing, 1952
Eolo Pons Market
Oil Painting, 1997
Understanding & Using Color: Color Theory
Eolo Pons: When a student says to me, "This blue isn't working", I tell him to look at the color next to it, that is probably where the adjustment needs to be made, not in the blue itself.
Editor's Note: Color theory, especially the concept of simultaneous contrasts, is sometimes taught using "ColorAid" papers. When we mentioned this development to Eolo Pons, he responded with a look of skepticism--and pity. He then explained that the process of solving color theory problems through actual mixing of paints develops an understanding of color interactions that is indispensable for a painter.
Eolo Pons: Working across the diagonals of these relationships can make interesting color harmonies.
Eolo Pons: This painting is a study in warm terra cottas and pinks with some cool green as contrast.
Spatial Relationships and Structure: Still Life Drawings and Paintings
Eolo Pons: When teaching individual students here in my studio, I would set them about painting a still life--often in black and white. This is not because I expected them to become still life painters, but rather because it is a good way to learn how to compose a picture, to see distribution over a surface and to understand how a part relates to the whole.
Eolo Pons: Working with still life teaches the painter about seeing relationships and planes--what happens when you alter things--and about making selections. This is especially useful for the landscape painter because nature offers so much information. In any painting, selections have to be made about what to leave in, what to throw out. Painting is not about copying nature--it's about making a good painting.
Catalina Chervin: In Eolo Pons' studio we talked a lot about art, and we looked at many books from his large art library. Using a triangle, we would examine the compositional structure in paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Leonardo and Malevich. In the Masters nothing is accidental, everything has its reason.
Editor's Note: From 1978-1983, Catalina Chervin studied privately with Eolo Pons. Chervin, whose works on paper are included in public collections including the Albertina (Vienna), British Museum (London), Brooklyn Museum (New York) and Princeton University Art Museum (New Jersey), also teaches drawing at the Museum of Decorative Arts (Buenos Aires).
Catalina Chervin: With Pons, I learned to think about art. In art school, I had always been "a good girl" trying to make "a nice painting". Pons would make me concentrate on an individual element of a painting, such as tonal relationships or line. It seems like I spent 5 years just painting still lifes--as in this one in greys.
Catalina Chervin: Or in this one composed of colors with similar values--and a little white.
Catalina Chervin: Or in this one where the concern is for linear interest.
Catalina Chervin: Without a foundation in technique, I don't know how anyone could develop his own work. Of course, now I try to avoid resolving a drawing using just technique--now it requires something more. Otherwise, I would just be making the same piece over and over again.
Catalina Chervin Ovid
Pencil Drawing, 2006
A Broader Understanding of Composition
Eolo Pons: A painter has to make choices; it is not possible to express everything in a single work of art. So, a painter has to make many pieces and put into each one whatever he can--whatever that painting requires.
from Eolo Pons Notebooks, 1930's
Eolo Pons Nocturno
Oil Painting, 2002
Eolo Pons: In an artwork, every element is important in itself. But, making a painting is like conducting an orchestra: all the details must be sub-ordinate to the total harmony.
from Eolo Pons Notebooks, 1930's
Eolo Pons: A painter must cultivate his imagination and his perception. When he also has a certain dominion over his materials, then painting can rise to a level of exaltation.
Eolo Pons Nocturno
Oil Painting, 1964
Eolo Pons: Some years ago, an exhibition of early 20th century Russian art traveled here to the National Museum. I walked into a gallery with a round white painting by Moholy Nagy. This round white painting hit me so forcefully that they almost had to pick me up off the floor. The painting had such extraordinary feeling, such a large spirit.
ABOUT THIS FEATURE
CREATIVE PROCESS at Biddington's is designed as a forum for watching art in the making. Usually, this process happens in the privacy of the artist's studio. At BIDDINGTON'S Contemporary Art Gallery, we find it interesting to witness the steps leading to the end product and to listen to artists speaking about their work in the relaxed surroundings of their own studios.
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