The new issue of Turps Banana is out (always exciting). It opens with a conversation between Mark Greenwold and Peter Saul. Greenwold’s work is new to me and I don’t yet have eyes for it, but Saul’s I’ve known for years. His paintings are among those I associate with interesting “wrongness” (maybe everyone their own list, mine includes: vache period Magritte; late Picabia; The Hairy Who painters; the Bad Painting exhibition; Jim Shaw’s collection of Thrift Store Paintings; some Kippenberger and Oehlen; Manuel Ocampo; some Mike Kelley; Robert Crumb when he apes “modern art”; Carroll Dunnham). I’ve previously written about this wrongness here. It is something to do with transgressing “good” taste, whatever that might be (sometimes a straw man, sometimes an almost insurmountable consensus). What I call “wrongness” definitely does not require knowingness. Outsider art (like Henry Darger’s) proves that one does not always need to know the rules before breaking them. But in Saul’s case, it’s interesting that he certainly does know the ways in which his paintings are transgressive.
Here are some Saul quotes from the Turps Banana article. I find these interesting in relation to the “wrongness” that I see and appreciate in Saul’s work. Emphasise my own:
“… At that moment , it seemed all known, professional artists wanted to be involved in the plastic elements of art – line, colour, space, form, etc; what I thought of as ‘technique’ – and tried hard to avoid that ‘other’ thing we call content, story, psychology, history, etc. So here was a chance to distinguish myself by doing something wrong, …”
“… Suburban Home is a swell subject, an opportunity to make a lot of architectural mistakes, and have the wrong attitude in general; …”
Wrongness is in the eye of the beholder. I often get a “wrongness” reaction to my own work (bad colour, bad composition, poor choice of subject matter, banality). That never feels good, at least initially. Occasionally I embrace it. More often I partially repress it in process – which can be counter-productive as it usually results in work that’s neither enjoyably “right”, nor interestingly “wrong” (all totally subjective, of course). So far, I’ve largely dodged the issue by approaching my paintings as “exercises”, “experiments”, and “doodles”, but I don’t wish to take that noncommittal position indefinitely (or maybe I should, who knows!).
In regard to picture content, these words from Saul encourage me to consider a lighter and less guarded approach.
“… my imagination doesn’t worry me any. … I turn my imagination loose. I can think any thought. It’s OK! If my picture needs something really, really horrible, I can think it up right away with real enthusiasm and not worry that it’s something I might not want to do. … Anything can be pictured; doesn’t mean it should, could, or would happen. It’s only a picture. … I like to laugh and curse while I work, and modern art is a field of enjoyment for me.”