Jiri Harcuba and April Surgent
A visit last week to the Hockney on Turner exhibition at the Tate Gallery reminded me of why I love to hear artists talk on the work of other artists. The perspectives are visceral.
“You can sense his arm moving. You can feel his body responding” is how Hockney reflects on Turner’s watercolor sketches.
A week before I’d been sitting on our deck overlooking Portland, sharing a chummy little Brunello di Montalcino with Czech master Jiri Harcuba and emerging American artist April Surgent who were at Bullseye to do a week of fusing and cutting explorations in the studio.
Jiri – the consummate European master – was raving about the energy of April’s work and bemoaning what he considered the “chains” of his own tradition. Of course it was all rubbish. Harcuba’s work has broken barriers for generations. But it was charming to watch the dance of Age yearning for Youth and Youth aspiring to Age.
For nearly a week the studio had been visual drama. Charcoal drawings pinned to walls, dozens of little cutting tests on all the tables, color-overlays, monoprints inked onto paper off the engraved glass, April working large, Jiri working larger.
This was not a collaboration. It was a dialogue, a duel, the kind of energy that good artists draw from each other working side-by-side.
To my horror, Jiri kept saying things like “Look at this [pointing to an engraved sketch of April’s] – it belongs in the Metropolitan!” Well, not yet. But at the Tate last week, looking at the selections Hockney had made of Turner’s rough studies, his enthusiasm for the other’s ‘colour beginnings’, I felt all over again the excitement of talent viewing talent – and relating to it in a way that is enlightening to those of us on the sidelines.