Artist's Favourites by Elizabeth Peyton
I have so many favorites ... a mountain of favorites ... well so here is the peak of my mountain of favorites ... things I’m living and breathing, very inspired by, and grateful to be on the same earth as .... None of them may be “new” but perhaps they are new to you or nice to be reminded of ... so many artworks can be felt completely anew, depending on the moment one collides with them ...
Flaubert could really be 1 through 5 of my top favorites. I’m completely fascinated by how he came to write Madame Bovary ... in 1849, after a five-day, nonstop reading of his first novel The Temptation of Saint Anthony to his two best friends, who promptly advised him to “throw it into the fire”, Flaubert set off on a three-year journey to the Middle East and Egypt (aged 27) and it seems that here – in the face of the reality of places he had written about in a most breathless and romantic manner before seeing them – he came upon a way of writing that came from setting his two eyes on what was before him and trusting the coming together of his consciousness and the world in front of him, letting it happen like a minimalist collision, an understated explosion of such pure beauty ... the breathtaking didn’t need qualifiers, just the right eyes to make you see it .... Since rereading Madame Bovary eight years ago, Flaubert has never been far from my mind ... lately he has felt very close again as I read the translation of Madame Bovary by Lydia Davis and also reread Flaubert in Egypt, a volume of his letters translated by Francis Steegmuller. Reading the letters, written to various friends, his lover/confidante Louise Colet, and, at length, his mother, you get to hear his uncompromising, rich, and elegant beautiful thinking ... so comforting ... so knowing ... though dagger-sharp against falseness and cynicism. Madame Bovary is precise, and so disciplined ... we are right inside Emma, riding in the dappled sun with our bonnet strings flowing ... but we know it is so utterly wrong, so suffocating ... a kind of romanticism that is poison. I reread it some time after my father passed away and felt like I was struggling with that idea of romanticism and Flaubert helped me out of it – helped me understand ... there is no life without darkness, decay, death, and, in the main, change ... . The romance novels that fueled Emma’s yearnings gave her – quite like Princess Diana – an expectation of love that could never be fulfilled or fulfilling ... . (Two other books that rounded this out for me are: We by Robert A. Johnson, which is a Jungian analysis of the old myth of Tristan and Isolde; and In Praise of Shadows by Jun‘ichiro Tanizaki.)
RECENT DANISH MUSIC
If you haven’t noticed it yet ... there is an explosion of amazing music coming out Denmark now ... all kinds of music ... guitar to industrial/everything mixed together ... from bands like Lower, Iceage, Vår, Lust for Youth, Marching Church, and so many more ... a powerfully local close community ... with so much integrity and love ... making music that sounds like nothing else ... .
THE ENGLISH CONCERT
There aren’t many things as powerful as seeing something very old feel very contemporary and alive... . The first few minutes of seeing this baroque orchestra perform Handel’s Alcina were jarring ... old in that way that three-hundred-something-year-old things that have been taken care of can be. It’s small, it’s delicate, it brings its ancient air with it ... but at the same time it was being played in the joyous freedom the orchestra’s players brought to it ... . The emotion in it ... the deep lightness ... I’m speechless actually ....
KLARA LIDEN “IT’S COMPLICATED”, REENA SPAULINGS, NEW YORK
It seems to me rare to see artwork that is generous, honest, beautiful in a completely unmediated way. In Yvonne Rainer’s memoir I think she says, with regard to how she came to start dancing, that she felt the most honest thing she knew was from the interior of her body to the outer edges of her skin. Klara uses this truth so powerfully – using herself, putting herself into her work. Her body is its own explanation and reason. Whether she is filming herself or building furniture, it’s all from the inner to outer edges of her being and contains all the dimensions of her humanness so beautifully.
DAVID BOWIE "HEATHEN"
This is definitely not new but happily new to me. It’s from 2001 – made in New York City before and after 11 September. The melancholy and ache in his voice with the beautiful synth soft rock (I don’t mean that in a bad way at all!) is so beautiful ... . In all of later Bowie, his voice contains his age, which seems so im- portant: I NEED to know what that sounds like. “Slip Away” is the heartbreaker for me ... so many other great songs on it ... ahhh and the cover!
Elizabeth Peyton, born in 1965, gained prominence in the 1990s for her portraits of friends, celebrities and historical figures. She developed an unmistakeable style for these small-format works depicting androgynous figures, applying oil paint in washy glazes to make them shine almost like crystals. Her most recent exhibitions include a solo show at the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden in 2013 as well as group shows at the New Museum in New York or the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles. She is represented by Sadie Coles, neugerriemschneider, Gladstone, Regen Projects, and Gagosian. She lives in New York.